Showing posts from October, 2013

Lecture notes on Fan Funding

The Internet has always held lots of promises for musicians. In theory they can communicate directly with the fans, using social media sites like MySpace (a failure), Bandcamp (more successful) or Facebook. The problem though, has been turning likes into bucks. For a long time prescence on the Net was almost synonymous with putting up your music for free, getting virtually nothing back. But now things are changing.

In a lecture for my music history students today, I spent some time talking about so-called fan funding, or crowdfunding for music, and this post is a summary of some of the points from this lecture.

Crowdfunding, a paralell to the crowdsourcing that has given us for instance Wikipedia, has been around for some years, but has mainly had its impact in software development and technology. The arts are slowly coming to grips with the potentials. A great success story which often is told is about Amanda Palmer, one of my favorite artists, who in a campaign to f…

Last words to Lou Reed

One of the most significant voices in the history of popular music died today. Lou Reed proved again and again that music is not about technical brilliance, but about timing and control. Lou Reed's musicality was as present in the silences between the notes as in the notes he sang. His matter of fact, speech like presentation provoked the most enormous emotion. His simple melodies contained the most intense beauty. Rest in peace, Lou Reed.

Review of Lera Auerbach - The Blind

A review I've written about Lera Auerbach's opera The Blind (based on Maurice Maeterlink's play) was published today at, a Norwegian website for performing arts and culture politics. In the review I conclude that Auerbach's work is closer to the music theatre than the opera, especially in this perticular staging of the work where the spectators are blindfolded throughout the performance. This makes the story of the drama explicit, but some times maybe also overshadowing the experience of the music. The review is in Norwegian, and the English translation of the title is "A Sensory Experience"

A brief history of popular music #4 (1980s and 90s)

The futuristic 1980s and 90s
A decade of flashy colors, yuppies, bad hairstyle and gated snare drums. The 1980s is also the era of the catchiest of pop tunes. And of course - it is the decade of the music video. The Buggles' Video Killed the Radio Star is from 1979, but no song says "welcome to the futuristic 1980s" better. The singer Trevor Horn is also one of the star producers of the decade, being the hand between super hits like Frankie Goes to Hollywoods Relax (1983), Yes' Owner of a Lonley Heart (1984) and Grace Jones' Slave to the Rhythm (1985).

During the first years of the decade, synth pop dominated charts with their melodic danceable futuristic electronic pathos filled beat based music. One among many possible examples: Depche Mode - Shake the Disease from 1985. 

The 1980s is also the decade where the band gradually disappears from the charts, and was replaced by machines. We see it in the Depeche Mode video (3 guys with synthesizers, one finger each, o…

A brief history of popular muisc #3 (1970s)

1970s: From arena rock to discoBy the end of 1970 the hippie era is definitely over. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin both dies in 1970 only 27 years old, and are followed by Jim Morrison (at the same age!) in 1971. The 1970s are characterized by really big money entering the music business, stadion concerts, flashy costumes, glam, prog, disco, punk, synthesizers and the album as the primary aesthetical unit.

The ultimate album? Pink Floyds The Dark Side of the MoonIt might be a bit stupid to post a youtube-video with an excerpt from an album to use as an example of the album as an aesthetical unit, but there you go - it's the Internet. LPs of between 35 and 45 minutes become the symphony of rock and pop in the 1970s. On an album a band or a singer can demonstrate a more or less coherent unit of songs and musical ideas, as the composers of the 18th and 19th century did in the symphony. It is no coincidence that the length of a symphony and an album is approximately the same. 45 minute…

A brief history of popular music #2 (1950s and 1960s)

1940s continued: Frank Sinatra is the first pop idol
Stardom and idols are cruical to pop muisc, and Frank Sinatra was the first. Here he is, young and damn handsome in 1944.

1950s: Rock changes the face of music Rock'n roll is the first true youth music, and even if there were music rebellions before - street fights and youthful recklessness became integrated in the rock'n roll aesthetic.

The first rock recording is supposedly Jackie Brenston's rockin and for its time sexually explicit Rocket 88 from 1951 (one year before the first recording of Rock Around the Clock!).

In 1955 there were street riots between reckless youths and police in Oslo in front of the ticket office for a Louis Armstrong concert. The same year the film Blackboard Jungle (featuring the now famous Rock Around the Clock) had its premiere in the US, and Armstrong wasn't so much to riot about any more. Next time Norwegian media reported about youth riots were at the Norwegian premiere of the film. S…

A brief history of popular music #1

In a lecture next week I will give a brief introduction to the history of popular music. I'm considering using the Guardian's "Timeline of modern music - ALL GENRES" as a starting point. In 45 minutes I have no chance what so ever to cover anything else than the very basics, so giving the students this infograph will hopefully inspire them to look further into the layers of history. The Guardian is proving again and again that they are very good on music history.

In a series of posts I will present the examples that I will discuss in my lecture. 
1910s: Varieté artists as recording stars
The first gramophone star of Norway - Adolf Østbye - made his first recordings in 1904.

Some of the recordings were popular songs, other were jokes or stories that Østbye performed on his variety shows. This marvelous video shows one of Østby's 7'' gramophone records being played on a period record player. 

And of course - I'm going to mention Caruso, the first milli…

Some videos of Nordheim for solo instruments

Nordheim's "Flashing" is well established in the modern accordion repertory, and virtuoso Ksenija Sidorova's rendering of the piece is just amazing.

Cello Clamavi - Nordheim's marvellous work for solo cello, played by Brian Carter.

Trombone There are no versions of theHunting or the Return of the Snark out in the videosphere, except for this  jazz quartet version of the Hunting of the Snark by the group NYNDK:

Cello, Trombone and MIDI piano The work Vevnad combines much of Nordheim's ideas for trombone, cello and the piano, and reveals what is probably a fascination for Colon Nancarrow.

ViolinPartita for Paul (1985) in a great version, which also displays Nordheim's often used 15 seconds delay technique the last movement. Emma Steele on violin.

The last movement of Partita for Paul, "Individualisierte Höhenmessung der lagen," played by Peter Herresthal:

Tre voci This video of the chamber cantata Tre voci also highlights some of Nordhe…

Arne Nordheim's ballets

Arne Nordheim loved working with dance, and between 1962 and 1979 as many as eight ballets were performed to his music. I say "performed to the music of" because he didn't write all of the pieces specifically for the ballet format. The ballets are:
Ivo Cramér: Katharsis, 1962Ivo Cramér: Favola, 1965 Robert Cohan: Stages, 1971, to the music of Coloraizone og WarzawaGlen Tetley: Beaches (Strender), 1974, to the music of Response and SolitaireJiři Kylián: Stool Game, 1974, to the music of SolitaireJiři Kylián: Ariadne, 1977. A concert adaptation of the ballet is known as Tempora Nocits (1979)Glen Tetley: Greening, 1975, to the music of the 1973 orchestral work with the same nameGlen Tetley: The Tempest, 1979
Cramér's Favola from 1965 is a funny piece. It is a TV-ballet, commissioned by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (the first large scale TV commission that Nordheim got), also featuring voice and electronics. The work is made in the best 1960s experimental style,…