YouTube goldmine

Because my YouTube mega-post is meant to collect new music videos of interest, not simply sound recordings, I’m not including in there anything from scriabinwasmydad’s channel, but seriously, you have to check it out. A real goldmine of new music uploads (all piano music I think) – composers include Finnissy, Durkó (!), Stockhausen, Rzewski, Eastman … Listening to each of Finnissy’s Verdi Transcriptions with the first page of the score is a real treat.

Tony Conrad at Tate Modern

Tony Conrad weekend at the Tate has just passed. I went to the Saturday and Sunday events – showings of some of his 1980s video work, a late night performance in the Turbine Hall, and a round table discussion with Branden Joseph, author of this recent book. I didn’t see any of the early films though cos they were on at the same time as EXAUDI at Spitalfields (more on which to follow).

Conrad’s video work was all new to me, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of some of it. Films like No Europe (positing the idea that white Americans appeared as native aborigines, rather than European immigrants – and thus had a whole bunch of white, middle class sensibilities but no skills, tools or culture appropriate for working the land) were funny but seemed totally out of place among the more experimental stuff to do with the audience/medium/artist relationship (which I found more interesting – eg Concord Ultimatum, Redressing Down and In Line).

The musical performance was much more interesting to me. Very troubling, but very powerful too. The easiest way to describe it is to show you – here are a few photos someone has posted to flickr. And I took a few very amateur sound recordings on my mp3 player:

1. – transition between ‘vinyl shish kebab’ and droning strings
2. – droning strings
3. – more droning strings – towards the end; also walking around so you get some sense of the ‘power noise’ vs ‘drone’ aspects of the sound design.

The performers were on the bridge/balcony that is in the middle of the Turbine Hall, and the performance area was shrouded on its two open sides with these massive white sheets. They were raised just enough that you could see the performers underneath, but they were also backlit and their shadows projected 40-foot high onto these screens. You could walk under the bridge and see these projections from either end of the Hall. Each end of the hall was surrounded by an immense soundsystem that amplified the performers – and emphasised different channels of the sound output (so more noise at one end than the other).

Basically the performance was in three chunks, two shortish, one much longer. In the first (which I didn’t record, but some of the photos show) TC was using a HUGE power drill to bore holes into blocks of wood and reels of film stock – recreating Boring Film. This film was projected onto the screens later in the set.

In the second he got out his vinyl kebab – basically a stack of LPs attached to a long drill bit, attached to the drill itself. So the records are spinning at 100s of rpm or whatever, and TC is playing them with two handheld tone arms. You get some of this at the start of the first extract.

The third section was much more conventional – essentially lots of string drones that ebbed and flowed and generated lots of lovely difference tones. There was also a ton of noise overlaid with effects pedals, drills, electric hums etc (some of which were generated by the Tate’s one remaining turbine itself).

The whole lot was deafeningly loud. Moving around the hall was physically oppressive, especially as you walked in and out of range of the various speakers. The first section, with TC’s shadow (with his hat) looming like a maniac with a drill, was terrifying.Rainforests, glaciers and Xenakis are awesome; Conrad is frightening, like climate change. On my way home I was physically discomfited – not just ringing ears, but ringing skin. I had to wash the sound off me before I could sleep.

This all threw up a bunch of issues that bothered me. By design, any installation in the Turbine Hall is a massive ego trip; this one in particular in which the figure of the artist (literally) looms so large over his subjected audience. The commitment of resources – not just electricity etc but also the physical investment of people’s ear drums – I found very troubling. The actual aesthetic point didn’t seem enough; the best justification from an audience point of view was a sort of blissed out, transcendentalism (accompanied by a total submission to TC’s will) – which is kind of unsatisfactory. But then again, it was an extraordinary experience that I’m glad to have had, and I don’t doubt TC’s artistic sincerity – there was nothing cheap or tawdry here.

In the round table on Sunday afternoon, some of these questions were put to TC, who was unusually unconvincing in his response – he argued that this all had to be seen in the context of his complete output, which has always tackled issues of power etc. He also mentioned sado-masochism, but I didn’t really get that since the issues of consent and so on in an S&M context and in an art gallery seem quite different to me. I’d be interested to hear thoughts from anyone else who was there.

classicLive Launches Internet Concerts

In the inbox this morning:

classicLive sells tickets for Internet concerts by top world orchestras

classicLive is a new Internet portal – an international network offering live concerts by some of the world’s finest orchestras. The system requirement for this service providing TV-standard images and almost CD-standard sound is broadband access of only 1Mb. Access for the portal concerts at can be purchased online by credit card per day, week and 30 days.

classicLive is a unique concept providing access to many great orchestras via a single portal. The first classicLive concert webcast will be from the Sibelius Festival in Lahti, Finland on September 6, when the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under its Chief Conductor Osmo Vänskä will be performing the Kullervo Symphony by Jean Sibelius. All orchestral concerts from the festival will be streamed live and concert webcasts continue throughout the season.

The second orchestra to appear on classicLive, on September 25, will be the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra under General Music Director Zoltán Kocsis. In addition to works by Bartók and Brahms the concert will include Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 3 with Alexei Volodin as the soloist.

Along with these two orchestras, a Letter of Intent has been signed by the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Stockholm Royal Philharmonic. Other possible partners include the Philharmonia Orchestra from London, the Mariinsky Theatre and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Each classicLive concert will first be streamed live via the Internet all over the world. Following brief editing it will then be visible and audible on demand at any time during the next three weeks. The rapid repertoire turnover will thus maintain interest in the portal among classicLive subscribers.

“The short-range objective is to create a limited premier classicLive league of no more than15 orchestras,” says Tuomas Kinberg, General Manager of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra. “There will be mainly one orchestra from each country. One thing the members of this organically-growing network will have in common is that they will all be among the very finest orchestras their country has to offer. We are very proud to be part of this network.”

Osmo Vänskä, also Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra, considers this service a historical moment. “classicLive offers a platform where, for the first time, great, dynamic orchestras can provide concerts to music lovers around the world.”

“No doubt, we are writing music history,” Géza Kovács the Director General of the Hungarian National Philharmonic agrees. “Nowadays when we often feel that classical music is in danger and when more and more people use Internet, classicLive offers real value for millions of people. We are proud to be a member of this ‘exclusive club’ where the main rule is to give people the joy of music on the highest level.”

classicLive is the first major commercial producer of classical music content on the Internet. The pioneering nature is what appeals to the number-one ensembles in various countries. David Whelton, Managing Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra says:

“As the first orchestra to present a live concert webcast, the Philharmonia Orchestra is delighted to offer its support to classicLive in launching this exciting new initiative, which will bring the highest quality live concerts to a new global audience. We are in very positive discussions with classicLive about becoming active partners in this project and wish them every success.”

Roy McEwan, Managing Director of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, said:

“classicLive opens up a whole range of exciting opportunities in bringing classical music of the highest quality to audiences across the world. We wish this adventurous new initiative well on its launch and look forward to exploring further the prospects of being part of classicLive”.

Valery Gergiev, the Artistic & General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre, emphasises the importance of reaching the global audiences:

“The Mariinsky Theatre supports all efforts to overcome the obstacles of distance and borders, to bring performances of great music to the doorsteps of faraway audiences.”

“The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra is very excited at the chance of being involved in classicLive,” says Executive and Artistic Director Stefan Forsberg. “The idea of providing concerts on the web corresponds completely with our ambition of being an orchestra in touch with the future. We are thrilled at the possibility to make the music of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic accessible to as many people as possible worldwide.”

classicLive offers new potential in the field of music education, as Pieter Pryck, the Manager of Artistic Department of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, says:

“classicLive is the most fascinating and modern medium to bring classical music to everybody; young people especially.”

Conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste, who will begin as Artistic Advisor of the Lahti Symphony in 2008, sees the value of classicLive as new approach to the concert tradition.

“I am glad to participate in this visionary effort that will bring classical music to music lovers and new audiences all over the world. This exciting new media format will show classical music as part of our daily life and will help to generate new audiences.”

Main responsibility for the service lies with Saltarello Ltd. The technical platform and operations are being supplied by TietoEnator Corp., another Finnish company.

“We have developed the concept for the classicLive portal, the visual image and the streaming technology in close partnership with Saltarello,” reports Kalle Simola, Consultant, from TietoEnator Digital Innovations. “Designing this unique subscriber service has been both interesting and challenging, combining the planning of a good consumer experience, our streaming technology know-how and the construction of the portal’s technical platform.”

Each network orchestra will be responsible for the initial production of its Internet concert streaming videos in accordance with the high artistic and technical quality specifications applying to portal concerts. The portal language is English.

I have, like, no earthly idea what you’re talking about

Y’all seen this, right?

Q. Mr. President, music is one of our largest exports the country has. Currently, every country in the world — except China, Iran, North Korea, Rwanda and the United States — pay a statutory royalty to the performing artists for radio and television air play. Would your administration consider changing our laws to align it with the rest of the world?

THE PRESIDENT: Help. (Laughter.) Maybe you’ve never had a President say this — I have, like, no earthly idea what you’re talking about. (Laughter and applause.) Sounds like we’re keeping interesting company, you know? (Laughter.)

Look, I’ll give you the old classic: contact my office, will you? (Laughter.) I really don’t — I’m totally out of my lane. I like listening to country music, if that helps. (Laughter.)

Sheesh. (Hat tip – hypebot.)

Update, 13/8/07: Hey, and now there’s a video! (Thanks Daniel)