Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Roundup

A lot of blogs gather news bits and random notes for easy consumption. I've avoided that approach to this point, but thought I'd offer up some recent items that may interest you. We'll call it the Roundup:

Pete Opens Lifehouse (from Billboard)

Pete Townshend's decades-old vision of creating musical portraits through technology has come to fruition. On April 25th Pete unveiled his music creation, now dubbed the Lifehouse Method, to a small gathering of journalists in London.

The Method is an Internet-based software program that enables the user -- or "sitter" -- to generate music from unique, inputted data. The sitter can upload four strands of personal information into the system, consisting of a digital photo, a rhythm, a sound and a voice.

Townhend explained that the project was the culmination of an idea which had percolated since his art school days in the 1960s. The concept was first introduced in the early 1970s via music intended for the Townshend-penned "Lifehouse" song cycle and planned concept album, which eventually morphed into the Who's "Who's Next" album. More here

Raconteurs Recording Again (from Billboard)

Jack White is a busy man. The Raconteurs are in Nashville working on the follow-up to their 2006 debut "Broken Boy Soldiers" and hope to have a new album out sometime next year.

The group, which features White, Brendan Benson, and Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler of The Greenhornes, has been recording at Blackbird Studio in Nashville and currently has 12 songs written.

The group is attempting to get as much of the as yet unnamed sophomore album done before the White Stripes start touring in support of their next album, "Icky Thump," due June 19 on Third Man Records/Warner Bros. Records. That outing also is slated to begin in June.

Dylan is Tireless

Now that James Brown is gone, Bob Dylan maybe the the hardest working man in the business. Dylan is in the midst of a European tour, and will hit the road in the States beginning with a June 22-23 stand at the Borgata in Atlantic City, and running through July 28, including festival appearances in Canada. He also has a new song, "Huck's Tune," on the just-released "Lucky You" soundtrack (Columbia) and will return to his excellent XM Satellite Radio show, "Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour," in September.

Here are Dylan's Summer North American tour dates. The bad news for me, nothing really near Chicago. The good news is that Bob has been playing the guitar on stage again for the first time in a few years. Hmmm. Maybe a trip to the Toledo Zoo is in order....

June 22-23: Atlantic City, N.J. (Borgata)
June 24: Hershey, Pa. (Hersheypark Stadium)
June 26: Northampton, Mass. (Pines Theater)
June 27: Uncasville, Conn. (Mohegan Sun)
June 29: Wantagh, N.Y. (Jones Beach)
June 30: Bethel, N.Y. (Bethel Woods Center)
July 1: Essex Junction, Vt. (Champlain Valley Expo)
July 3: Quebec City, Quebec (Colisee Pepsi)
July 4: Montreal (Festival Intn'l de Jazz)
July 5: Ottawa, Ontario (Cisco Systems Bluesfest)
July 7-8: Rama, Ontario (Casino Rama)
July 10: Interlochen, Mich. (Kresge Auditorium)
July 11: Sterling Heights, Mich. (Freedom Hill Amphitheatre)
July 12: Toledo, Ohio (Toledo Zoo)
July 14: Cleveland (Plain Dealer Pavilion)
July 15: Indianapolis (The Lawn at White River)
July 16: Kansas City, Mo. (Starlight Theatre)
July 26: Costa Mesa, Calif. (Pacific Amphitheatre)
July 27: Paso Robles, Calif. (Mid-State Fair Grandstand)
July 28: Kelseyville, Calif. (Konocti Field Amphitheatre)

U2 and Marvel Team-Up

Marvel Studios is working on a Broadway musical starring the Spider-Man, which will be directed by Tony winner Julie Taymor, with U2's Bono and the Edge creating new music and lyrics for the project. Maybe Bono will reprise his role as Mephisto or the muscle dude from the ill-fated Popmart Tour.

mp3: Mofo, a U2 song you may have overlooked

Wilco Weebles

We've got action figures of Hendrix and Cobain, but I never would have expected little toy figurines of my favorite alt-country/impressionist rock band. Thanks to Portland based company UNKL, these little guys will be available soon. I must admit in browsing this site some of this stuff is kind of fun.

Signs of the Apocalypse
And finally, the Chicago Tribune recently reported that a 13-year old girl in Pennsylvania claims to send nearly 8,000 text messages a month on her cell phone, and in a contest was able to text "supercalifragilisticexpealadocious" (from Mary Poppins) in 15 seconds. For her efforts, she won $15,000. Oh my gawd......

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Everything's Gone Green

I've been holding out on posting the next 'color themed playlist', hoping to tie it in with Spring. The weather here in Chicago has been cold and bleak, but finally it looks like we've turned the corner. Some random facts about green, in case you didn't know:

Green symbolizes eternity, harmony, posterity, and of course a link to nature and growth. It is the easiest color on the eye and can improve vision. It is a calming, refreshing color. People waiting to appear on TV sit in "green rooms" to relax. Hospitals often use green because it relaxes patients. Brides in the Middle Ages wore green to symbolize fertility. Dark green is masculine, conservative, and implies wealth. Green has also been known to bring bad luck;racing drivers generally avoid green cars.

Sometimes green denotes envy and a lack of experience; for example, a 'greenhorn' is a novice. Green has become a symbol of fate and randomness, both positive and negative. Gaming tables have been green since at least the eighteenth century. In some circumstances, green is associated with instability, uncertainty and ephemerality, be it in relation to love, hope, or youth.

Dark green is associated with ambition, greed, and jealousy.
Yellow-green can indicate sickness or cowardice.
Olive green is the traditional color of peace.

Please enjoy the following green playlist, which, by the way, would not be possible without the use of finetune, an excellent streaming audio site. As you may know, free streaming audio is in jeopardy. See one of my earlier posts and please consider learning about the issue and signing the petition at SaveNetRadio.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

My New Toy

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I recently purchased a digital SLR camera. Over the years I've tried to elevate my photography beyond the point-and-click snapshot, but always stumbled over the technology. These days, the camera does most of the work, and the price of digital SLRs has finally mellowed a bit. At the moment, I have almost no idea what I'm doing or what the full capability of this camera is (it's a Nikon D40 by the way), but I've already taken some of the best photographs of my life. Click on the image for a few more recent shots. I'll post the best ones every so often.

You belong among the wildflowers...


Friday, April 13, 2007

Green Thoughts - Greenland is Melting

I’ve just returned from an architectural conference where the theme was sustainable design. Pervading through the lectures were warnings of apocalyptic doom due to global warming, as if we needed any further motivation to design with energy conservation and ecological responsibility in mind. The warnings reminded me of an article I read recently in the New York Times. A trivia question: What country has the greatest length of coastline? I’m pretty sure the answer is Greenland with over 27,000 miles, and according to recent reports, the coastline may be growing, or at least changing. Due to global warming glacial ice is receding, resulting in new islands that were thought to be peninsulas, and exposure of new land forms.

When I was a kid, mapmaking fascinated me, but I wondered how the cartographers earned a living. I mean, once the landforms are drawn, what else is there to do? This was before I understood political boundaries and other aspects of maps, but I never expected that landforms would change within my lifetime. As explorers rush to Greenland to discover new islands, the reason for this geographical change may be slighted.

Scientists had believed that the effect of global warming on glacial ice was minimal, but recent developments suggest otherwise. The impact of arctic ice melting on the sea level is catastrophic for island nations and coastline inhabitants, particularly low-lying areas such as Bangladesh, or I suppose, New Orleans. I will admit that some of the media coverage on global warming leans toward extremist ranting, but there is no denying the reality of Greenland’s ice melt.

Check out the full NYT article:
The Warming of Greenland

I do remember this is a primarily a music blog, so here’s a remotely relevant little ditty: Girl From Ipanema Goes to Greenland


Monday, April 09, 2007

New Music Monday - The Redwalls

Ok, the Redwalls are not new, in fact they have been playing together for about 10 years. I bring them up here because the band is not well known, and they have recently been dropped by their record label. The Redwalls are originally from Deerfield, IL, just a hop, skip and jump from my home. The music is strongly influenced by Dylan, the Beatles, the Kinks and host of other 60's pop and rock artists. Their first record sounds like what might have happened if Dylan sat in with the Beatles during the Rubber Soul sessions. Recent tunes have more of a garage rock flavor, but more British then American. The influences are obvious, but written and performed in a way that suggests a clear reverence for this music and not a lack of originality. The band makes no bones about their derivative style, preferring to simply write and play the kind of music they like.

The Redwalls have completed songs for a new record, but have no label to release it at the moment. They were at SXSW last month playing live and looking for a new deal, and hopefully things will turn around for this band soon. Check out some of their tunes at The Redwalls.

Listen to Memories

Buy The Redwalls


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Once upon a time, radio was a free avenue to great new music. Not the Top 40 AM stations that repeated the same playlist incessantly, but the edgy FM stations that played the music I wanted to hear, even if I didn’t realize it at that moment. Today, most FM stations are wastelands of programmed repetition. In order to find new artists and true alternatives, one must seek out the occasional hourly program on Sunday nights, or seek out low-wattage college radio. This is precisely why I’ve embraced streaming audio through alternative FM stations nationwide, and the various playlist web-sites like Finetune and Pandora that I’ve previously discussed. Virtually all of the music I’ve purchased last year by new artists (or at least new to me) I’ve discovered in this manner. Now, the Copyright Royalty Board is proposing drastic modifications to the royalty system for streaming audio that threatens to extinguish the entire premise of free on-line radio. This pisses me off. I’m willing to endure a few ads on the music sites I frequent, but according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, the income from these ads will barely scratch the surface.

Basically, the old royalty system provides for a percentage of a station’s revenue, in the area of 12 percent. The revised system accounts for a per song, per listener fee, which would translate to at least a ten-fold increase in royalties for most stations. For Pandora, which operates by allowing users to create their own ‘channels’, the system mandates a $500 minimum per channel, resulting in a $3.5 billion fee, based on it’s 6 million users. Obviously this would render Pandora not economically viable.

Although many in the industry believe that a compromise will be reached, it seems likely that big changes are near. For more information, I urge you to check Bill Goldsmith's blog at Radio Paradise.

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