Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: music
Wednesday, 23 March 2011 10:09

Music as a Marker of Human Migrations

Debate on the question of how and why music varies cross-culturally was recently reawakened by the provocative claim that traces of the ancient migration of anatomically modern humans out of Africa can be heard in contemporary songs (Grauer 2006). Grauer‟s claim drew on data from the landmark Cantometrics Project (Lomax 1968), which remains the only global scientific study of human song. At the time, Lomax‟s causal interpretation of the correlation between culture and music – for example, male dominance causing nasal singing – was highly criticized even by other members of the Cantometrics Project (e.g., Erickson 1976).

While Grauer‟s recent migratory interpretation avoids Lomax‟s pitfall, many of the original criticisms of the Cantometrics Project resurfaced in skepticism about music‟s time-depth as a migration marker (e.g., Stock 2006). Could the acoustic surface of music really reflect ancient connections between cultures? If so, are these reflected in performance features (“singing”) or in the structural features (“song”) traditionally emphasized in Western musicology?

Lomax himself was highly critical of the use of Western musical notation in ethnomusicology, which he saw as emphasizing surface structural features at the expense of deeper performance features. He spent his life developing a performance-oriented approach that was concerned “not with songs abstracted from the stream of vocalizing we encountered on the tapes, but with the stream itself, with „singing‟” (Lomax 1980). Nevertheless, the Cantometric classification scheme that Lomax and Grauer (1968) developed contained roughly equal numbers of features devoted to “songs” and “singing”.

Our own view differs from both Lomax‟s and his critics‟ in that we propose that the structural features of song should have the greatest time-depth to track migrations, especially when applied to group performance in choral songs. Our reasoning is that structural features such as melody, texture and form require greater consensus among singers than the more idiosyncratic variation that goes into performance, such as timbre or ornamentation. Hence, features like scales and rhythms should be more stable over time than features like nasality or rubato.

These claims are testable. As a case-study to examine music‟s time-depth in the context of human migrations , we have examined the traditional choral music of the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan, who have been well-studied in terms of music, genetics, and migrations. (Loh 1982; Trejaut et al. 2005; Diamond 2000). Our primary aim, therefore, was to use existing information about the relative patterns of genetic and musical similarity among the Taiwanese aboriginal tribes to empirically test for the first time whether song structure or singing style has the time-depth required for studying human migrations. Our basic method was to compare music – a marker of unknown time-depth – against the best available marker with a well-established time-depth, namely mitochondrial DNA (Oppenheimer 2004).

METHOD

Participants

Of the 14 officially recognized tribes of Taiwan, eight had a sufficient number of both genetic and musical samples to permit comparative analysis: Amis, Bunun, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiyat, Tao (Yami), and Tsou.

Materials

Genetics: Partial mtDNA sequences for 531 individuals from these eight tribes were taken from the dataset of Trejaut et al. (2005).

Music: YW and SB obtained 364 traditional songs from these eight tribes from commercial and archival ethnomusicological recordings. Restricting our sample to adult, choral songs left 222 songs for analysis. Sample sizes were: Amis=56, Bunun=31, Paiwan=28, Puyuma=32, Rukai=33, Saisiyat=14, Tao=13, Tsou=15.

Procedure

Distances between samples: Pairwise distances between individual a) genetic, and b) musical samples were calculated based on the number of pair-wise differences between a) mtDNA nucleotide sequences, and b) Cantometric classifications. This is the simplest possible distance measurement, as it makes no evolutionary assumptions about how those differences arose. We reserve more complicated methods that incorporate models of musical and genetic evolution for future studies.

Cantometric classification of the songs was done by VG. Two separate musical distance-matrices were calculated: one using the 15 song-structure characters from Cantometrics, the other using the 14 singing-style characters (see Figure 1 for details about these features). Eight Cantometric characters related to instruments alone were excluded from this analysis.

Distances between populations: For both genetics and music, the 28 possible pairwise distances among the 8 tribes were calculated using an Analysis of Molecular Variance (AMOVA) framework (Excoffier, Smouse, and Quattro 1992). These distances were measured using a statistic called FST, which represents the proportion of variability among individual samples that is due to among-population differences. Thus, it explicitly incorporates within-population heterogeneity, avoiding the assumptions of within-

population homogeneity that plagued Lomax‟s original statistical methodology (e.g., Henry 1968; Leroi and Swire 2006).

Figure 1. Organization of the 15 song-structure (red) and 14 singing-style (blue) Cantometric classification features used in this analysis. Note that our method focuses on the vocal component of the music and therefore ignores 8 classification features related to instruments.

Correlations: The statistical significance of the correlations between musical and genetic distances was tested using the permutation-based Mantel test (Mantel 1967) using 10,000 permutations, with the threshold for significance set at p < 0.05 (one-tailed). This test controls for the fact that the 28 pairwise distances among the eight tribes are not independent of one another.

RESULTS

Correlations between genetic and musical distances were highly significant (see Figure 2), suggesting that patterns of genetic similarity among the 8 tribes were matched by corresponding patterns of musical similarity. This observation makes a strong case for music having an ancient time-depth in analyses of human migrations.

To examine the “song” vs. “singing” comparison, the two panels of Figure 2 show the correlations between genetics and either song structure (Panel A) or singing style (panel B). Both correlations were significant. However, features of song structure accounted for twice as much variance in genetic distance as did features of singing style (song structure: r2=0.27, singing style: r2=0.13).

Figure 2. Scatterplots of the 28 pairwise genetic and musical distances among 8 Taiwanese aboriginal tribes. Genetic distances (y-axis) are based on an Analysis of Molecular Variance (AMOVA) of 531 mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. Analagous musical distances (x-axis) were calculated from 222 traditional choral songs using Cantometric characters of either A) song structure or B) singing style (i.e., performance). Statistical significance of distance-matrix correlations is based on Mantel‟s (1967) test.

DISCUSSION

Our main finding was that musical similarities among the 8 tribes were significantly correlated with genetic similarities. This provides the first empirical support for Grauer‟s (2006) claim that music has the time-depth required for use as a marker in studying prehistoric human migrations. Consistent with our predictions, the correlations with genetics were stronger when calculated using features of song structure compared to singing style, contrary to Lomax. However, the differences between these features were not nearly as striking as we had predicted. The simplest interpretation is that both singing and songs are useful as migration markers, which makes the overall case for using music as a marker even more persuasive. It allows for a pluralism of musical features that Lomax discounted, most especially with regard to structural features.

Our findings in Taiwan lend strong provisional support for music‟s time-depth in the case of a relatively recent (~6,000 years ago) migration. Whether music‟s time-depth reaches as far back as Grauer‟s Out-of-Africa claim, however, remains an open empirical question.

 

References

Diamond J. (2000). Taiwan‟s gift to the world. Nature, 403, pp. 709-710.
Erickson E.E. (1976). Tradition and evolution in song style: A reanalysis of Cantometric data. Cross-Cultural Research, 11, pp. 277-308.
Excoffier L., Smouse P.E., and Quattro J.M. (1992). Analysis of molecular variance inferred from metric distances among DNA haplotypes: Application to human mitochondrial DNA restriction data. Genetics, 131, pp. 479-491.
Grauer V. (2006). Echoes of our forgotten ancestors. The World of Music, 48, pp. 5-59.
Henry E.O. (1976). The variety of music in a North Indian village: Reassessing Cantometrics. Ethnomusicology, 20, pp. 49-66.
Leroi A.M. and Swire J. (2006). The recovery of the past. The World of Music, 48, pp. 43-54.
Loh I. (1982). The tribal music of Taiwan: With special reference to the Ami and Puyuma tribes. Ph.D. dissertation: University of California Los Angeles
Lomax A. (1980). Factors of musical style. In S. Diamond (ed.), Theory & practice: Essays presented to Gene Weltfish (pp. 29-58). The Hague: Mouton.
Lomax A. (ed.) (1968). Folk song style and culture. New Brunswick: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Lomax A. and Grauer V. (1968). The Cantometric coding book. In A. Lomax (ed.), Folk song style and culture (pp. 34-74). New Brunswick: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Mantel N. (1967). The detection of disease clustering and a generalized regression approach. Cancer Research, 27, pp. 209-220.
Oppenheimer S. (2004) The "express train from Taiwan to Polynesia": On the congruence of proxy lines of evidence. World Archaeology, 36, pp. 591-600.
Stock J.P.J. (2006). Clues from our present peers? A response to Victor Grauer. The World of Music, 48, pp. 73-91.
Trejaut J.A., Kivisild T., Loo J.H., Lee C.L., et al. (2005). Traces of archaic mitochondrial lineages persist in Austronesian-speaking Formosan populations. PLoS Biology, 3, pp. 1362-1372.

 

Patrick Savage(1), Tom Rzeszutek(1), Victor Grauer(2), Ying-fen Wang(3), Jean Trejaut(4), Marie Lin(4), and Steven Brown(1)

(1) Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University, Canada
(2) Independent scholar, Pittsburgh, USA
(3) Graduate Institute of Musicology, National Taiwan University, Taiwan
(4) Transfusion Medicine Laboratory, Mackay Memorial Hospital, Taiwan

Photo: Cathy Chuang


Sunday, 31 October 2010 00:00

The Un-Bollywood

“We are fed up”.

So says one of the Nats, a community of street performers in eastern India, featured in the documentary King of India.  As itinerant performers existing on the margins of society, the Nats pass through the markets, street corners and fairs of metropolitan India, eeking out a living by putting on shows. Another day, another dirty slab of concrete, another set of headstands and tightrope walking.  Possessing the dual charms of athleticism and cuteness, the child performers grind out their show several times a day, hoping to bring in enough rupees to keep their family afloat. The kids’ energetic dance and acrobat routines are driven by rhythms pounded out an old drum and tin plate rattling against the ground.  Squint your eyes, muffle your ears and maybe you might mistake it for a big ticket Bollywood number.  Or maybe not.  The dust and desperation of these children is the Un-Bollywood.  The throbbing beats and gyrating hips filtered through the dusty melange of Kolkata’s backstreets offers us a different story altogether.

 

The King of India is just one of several films about India and South Asia that were screening at the 7th Taiwan International Documentary Festival in Taichung.  These depictions of struggle are far removed from the all-singing, all-dancing entertainment juggernaut that is Bollywood.  In addition to King of India, I also saw Dreaming Taj Mahal and three of the Journeys with Kabir tetralogy.

 

Dreaming Taj Mahal tells the story of a Pakistani driver, Haidar, whose lifelong dream is to visit India’s Taj Mahal. Frustrated by small-minded village life, government propaganda and the semipermeable membrane of the Indo/Pak border, Haidar never gives up his dream of visiting the Taj.  He lives in a world where fear of the Other conspires to trap him.  The restrictive duality based on Hindu and Muslim differences that shapes Indo/Pak relations is nothing new though, Kabir had already dealt with similar issues in an altogether different era.

 

Kabir was a poet who lived 500 years ago in India and the Journeys with Kabir films look at his contested legacy.  Kabir sought a more inclusive society through religious tolerance.  His poems have long existed in an oral tradition and are kept alive in many different ways.  The director, Shabnam Virmani, stated “the more people I meet, the more Kabirs I meet”. Almost everyone seems to have a different interpretation of Kabir’s poems, from the universal view of the protagonist, Dalit (untouchable) folk musician Prahlad Tipanya, to the more dogmatic and exclusivist position of some of the pundits and experts met on the roads and rails of India. The Journeys with Kabir filmsoffer a probing look into the forces that shape contemporary India, from communalism to globalisation, with an ever-present folk soundtrack.  For fans of Indian folk music, the Kabir movies are worth watching for the extensive concert footage alone.

 

These stories are given time to unfold and are uncluttered, especially Journeys with Kabir.  The characters have space to talk, to let their feelings flow.  The ambient (and not so ambient) sounds of India reverberate throughout – car horns, train station announcements, heated finger-waving discussions.  The India shown here is the flipside of years of economic development.  Those in the village and those who have moved from the village to the city in search of a better life aren’t shown to be sharing in the spoils of India’s growth.  They survive in a world where the politics of caste continue to shape one’s destiny.

 

As opposed to the glitzy glamour Bollywood, these movies are better seen in the context of subaltern studies.  Writers in the subaltern studies group have long attempted to give a voice to those who are neglected by most historical accounts, an approach that can be equally applied to film.

 

For several decades writers from the subaltern studies group have been generating a view of history that locates the place of minority, repressed or low class people within the context of post-colonial societies.  The work of these writers can help explain how the lower castes remain on the fringes of Indian history.  Evolving from the work of Antonio Gramsci, subaltern refers to non-elite or subordinated groups.  A large number of groups have this status in India as they are marginalised by their caste or other socio-economic factors.  According to Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak[1], the existence of the subaltern is an unavoidable product of the discourse generated by elites.  This discourse in India has been primarily concerned with the democratic progress towards modernity and is found in the media and history books.  The subaltern is thus “marginalized not because of any conscious intentions but because they represent moments or points at which the archive that the historian mines develops a degree of intractability with respect to the aims of professional history”[2].

 

The characters in these movies all occupy the role of the subaltern.  Be it the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan, the struggle for equality for the lower castes or the ferocious forces of globalisation that threaten to leave large portions of the Indian population behind as the country modernises, these events are so large that the voices of the marginalised can be easily drowned out.  Watching the Indian selection from the 7th Taiwan International Documentary Festival won’t necessarily be an entertaining couple of hours, but it will be eye opening.  The frustrations of the characters in these movies say so much more about the unfortunate reality of so many in India than your average Bollywood extravaganza could ever hope to.

You can watch the Journeys with Kabir tetralogy at http://www.cultureunplugged.com/

 


[1] Gyatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography” in Ranajit Guha (editor), Subaltern Studies IV, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1985.

[2] Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Minority Histories, Subaltern Pasts” in Saurabh Dube (editor), Postcolonial Passages: Contemporary History-writing on India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2004.

 


Wednesday, 21 July 2010 16:58

All aboard the Coromandel Express

Coromandel Express formed in early 2010.  The group takes its name from the Indian train - 'The Coromandel Express' - that links Kolkata in the north with Chennai in the south.  With Page Byassee (蘇珮卿) on flute, harp and vocals and Cody Byassee (白克迪) on kanjira and percussion representing south Indian music and Yo (金光亮平) on sitar and Waka (若池敏弘) on tabla representing that of the north, the sounds of Coromandel Express reflects the cross-country journey of its namesake train.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010 00:00

When hip-hop meets traditional Taiwanese music

Kou Chou Ching is a hip-hop band formed in Taiwan in 2003. They blend rap lyrics sung in Taiwanese, Hakka and Mandarin with musical samples from diverse traditional Taiwanese sources and live Eastern instruments such as suona and bong-ze.

In this interview with eRenlai in Chinese, Kou Chou Chin's two MCs, fishLIN and Fan-Chiang, introduce their very singular conception of hip-hop, detail their interest for Taiwanese musical traditions, and evoke the very diverse reactions to their music.


Tuesday, 29 June 2010 20:54

Josh Homme and the rise of manufactured mystique

I have watched two seemingly distinct phenomenon over the last 15 years with considerable interest: the growth of the internet from a niche tool of academics and geeks to a brobdignagian digital life form; and Josh Homme’s transition from cult desert guitarist to supergroup-worthy rock god.  As people around the world now begin to ponder the long-term influence of the internet on society, I believe that analysis of Josh Homme’s career and can help shed some light on this evolution, in particular with regard to the mystique of artists.

Fifteen years ago, I was a curious high school student, who, among other teenage pursuits, was discovering the world of rock and roll.  Having dipped my toes into grunge, g-funk and somewhat mystifyingly, grindcore, I was trying to find my way in the mid-90s alternative music market.  In 1995 I bought a heavy metal compilation that featured One Inch Man[i] by Kyuss, a short-lived rock band from Palm Springs California featuring the then 22 year-old Josh Homme on guitar.  I was instantly transfixed.  This bass heavy track rode a groove that got my head bobbing while at the same had heavy enough riffs to make me feel tough.  Vicarious toughness through music was important to me at that age.  As my funds permitted, I bought all four Kyuss albums and listened to them endlessly.  In fact, 15 years later I still listen to Kyuss quite frequently.  They were that good.

In an odd turn events, only one week after discovering Kyuss, I read in Hot Metal magazine that they had just recently broken up.  At this stage I was still about 18 months away from using the internet.  Information on Kyuss was almost non-existent.  I found a band profile in a second hand copy of Hot Metal from a few years prior but other than that, nothing.  Apart from albums in record stores, an underground band that died in 1995 had little chance of maintaining any sort of profile.  With that being the case, to me Kyuss was nothing more than a well-orchestrated collection of highly listenable sounds.

 

In late 1996 I graduated from high school, eager to enjoy a summer of parties and cricket.  As events transpired, the only guy I knew who had internet access was having a party and I was invited. Sambucca and Southern Comfort were drunk up on the roof, girls were kissed and garden furniture was broken. I even have hazy memories of watching the clip for Wannabe by the Spice Girls. Wiiiild times, let me tell you my friend.  Early in the night I managed to get in a session on the internet – something to me that up until that stage was nothing more than a nebulous idea that media pundits liked to talk about – either as some whiz-bang medium of the future or as a dangerous forum for disseminating The Terrorist Handbook.  None of these options took my fancy.  For me, the internet was there to find out about Kyuss.

I discovered a website lovingly put together by a Kyuss devotee and printed off some fan-made guitar tablature.  At this party I also saw Kyuss film clips for the first time.  The band was a strange looking bunch, swaggering around the California desert belting out psychedelic metal riffs.  In the Green Machine filmclip, Josh Homme cut a very unfashionable figure – shorts and boots worn together have never been very rock and roll[ii].

Three months later I was enrolled at university and the internet was suddenly at my finger tips.  None of my lecturers had worked out how to use the internet as an educational tool and most of the content on it was made by amateurs.  In spite of this, the internet was a revelation to me (like it is to most) and I spent many an hour using Hotbot to scour the neighbourhoods of Geocities, as one did on the Information Superhighway in 1997.

Over the next two years I eagerly checked Kyuss fan sites, hoping for news on upcoming projects.  Occasionally there was a tidbit – Homme and his mates were jamming in the desert, the singer had a new band, the bass player had opened a pet store in Palm Springs, the old drummer was playing with Fu Manchu and so on.  But these stories were rare, and there appeared to be no system for digitally disseminating them.  It was more or less gossip or info culled from Californian street press and then uploaded on to fan sites.  And there were only a handful of these sites on the whole World Wide Web where I needed to look to find out anything, most of which were not much more than digital versions of zines.

Following Kyuss riding off into the sun, Josh Homme re-emerged in 1997 with Queens of the Stoneage, dropping the first track on the silly genre-naming compilation Burn One Up: Music for Stoners.  For those in Australia and without the internet, this event would likely have largely gone unnoticed.  When their debut album appeared a year later the only clue that Queens and Kyuss had some sort of connection was the sticker on the CD case – “Featuring ex-members of Kyuss”.  At this stage there was very little promotional material about Homme’s new band, who were dragging themselves around Europe playing small clubs and festival side stages.

Queens of the Stoneage toiled in the musical underground over the next 5 years.  Another album, R[iii], was released in 2000 and despite getting some play on alternative radio stations in Australia, it seemed that most of the band’s followers were all Kyuss fans first, Queens fans second.  Queens were still yet to cross over into the mainstream.  This changed in 2002 when ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl and ex-Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan came on board. Queens released Songs for the Deaf[iv] and then became alterna-rock royalty.  For the rest of the decade the band chugged along, releasing albums, enduring personnel problems, all the while maintaining a solid fan base through regular tours and a generally positive critical response.  This success made Homme a bonafide star and brought public attention to his previously underground side projects, such as the Desert Sessions and the Eagles of Death Metal.  While it would appear in the eyes of most critics and many casual listeners that Queens will never top Songs for the Deaf, the band has still managed to somehow straddle the line between commercial acclaim and critical success, all the while producing a distinctive sound.

Of course, over the duration of the 2000s, the internet swelled with more and more folks getting online.  As magazines and newspapers shifted their content into digital format and tried to work out how to keep making a buck, music blogs grew to become the arbiters of trends and memes.  And then there was the explosion in social media (mySpace, facebook, youtube, twitter et al) that, theoretically at least, allowed people across the world to access media with ease that most of them couldn’t conceive of 15 years earlier.  I certainly couldn’t have predicted this digital landscape when I first heard One Inch Man and wondered who Kyuss were and how they could make such transcendent music.

Now I can log onto youtube and watch Kyuss performing live in the Californian desert at one of their legendary ‘generator parties’[v].  Once upon a time I knew that these videos existed but not being familiar with the obscure world of tape trading (what tapes did I have to trade?) these gigs stayed a mystery to me.  As did the performance at the Bizarre Festival in 1995[vi] or the Italian TV gig from around the same time[vii].  For my friends and I, the unattainability of these shows created an aura of mystery.  We certainly weren’t at the shows and had no chance of watching them.  This let our imaginations run wild.  We already had the soundtrack – then we just had to dream of the desert, the drama and the drugs.

Now I can watch all these videos from the comfort of my sofa.  Beyond the initial investment of a laptop, modem and internet access, the world of Kyuss is at my fingertips.  My Taipei apartment couldn’t be further from the shifting sands of California’s Sky Valley but the internet has knocked down that time/space barrier.  That Kyuss’ history has been uploaded is fantastic and in some ways I wish it had happened 15 years ago when my curiosity was at its peak.  But then my appreciation of the band might not have become what it did.  My imagination had to fill in the gaps.

From the few interviews that I was able to read back in the day, I built up an image of Josh Homme.  He came across as chill, and didn’t seem to have the agro that is part and parcel of the metal world.  Then when Queens first started getting press, he claimed to want to create music that makes girls dance, a noble desire in the sweaty dude-filled moshpit that is the world of rock.

Now I can find out almost anything I want about the man.  From Homme’s collection of weird guitars[viii] to the somewhat infamous footage of him loosing his cool at a concert in 2008[ix].  Everything is there, pixellated and ready to download.  Fortunately Homme has maintained his sharp sense of humour and while he has developed something of a rock star attitude, he generally comes across as a likeable guy, someone you could sink a beer or two with.

What does this mean?  Without his ever-growing web presence I think it would be harder for Homme to maintain his career. The music audience has come to expect a steady stream of interviews, live footage and miscellanea to sustain interest in an artist.  Fan-made clips and shaky camera phone recordings augment the glut of professional digital media available, padding out an already large cyber presence.  But by no means has Homme saturated the market.  In the current climate of Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber and their ilk he still remains on the fringe, even with Them Crooked Vultures, his latest project where he has reunited with Dave Grohl and rounded out the band with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin.

TCV hit the ground the running and over a period of months went from nothing more than an intriguing concept flagged on a blog post to headlining venues and festivals around the globe.  Tantalising fans with a well-conceived drip feed of studio footage and live clips, TCV (and their management) cleverly used modern communication channels to drum up interest prior to their album’s release.  In a world where illegal downloads threaten the livelihoods of all those involved with recorded music such an approach is now necessary.

This manufactured mystique captured the public’s attention but ultimately left me feeling a bit hollow.  Yes, I watched a bunch of youtube clips and got the gist of what was going on.  But of all Homme’s many projects over the last 15 years (he is a truly prolific collaborator) this one left me the least intrigued.  The whole gestation of TCV had been manipulated to the extent that when the band finally entered my world, I didn’t really care.  There was no magic.  Despite the behind the scenes spontaneity that Homme, Jones and Grohl undoubtedly experienced, I felt like the whole product was being force fed to me.  Not that TCV is a bad band – their tunes seem to be more or less worthy given the group’s much heralded genetics – it’s just that they somehow seem to lack that magic that Homme’s earlier recordings have.

As it becomes easier to build up an extensive archive of an artist, where every recording and performance can be downloaded, where every interview and blog post can be scrutinized, artists have become more accessible than ever before.  Fans have almost instant access to the minutiae of their idols.  It is easier for established artists to step away from this trend.  Their fanbase is already established.  But struggling artists seeking to make a name for themselves need to harness the digital media machine to get their ‘product’ out there.  To do this and somehow maintain an aura of mystery seems to me to be a challenge.  With over-exposure it is easy to tire of an artist and move on to the next emerging sound, of which there will be always be a dozen emerging micro-genres to pick and choose from.

Who knows, Homme is an artist who fortunately shows no sign of burning out after two decades of recording.  There will no doubt be much more to come from him.  And sure enough, I’ll be at my keyboard, waiting for news of the next project he has up his sleeve.  I just hope that it blows in like a cloud of sand from the desert rather than appear on my twitter feed as a micro-managed meme.

(Photo by Craig Carper, source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/giarc80/3976623459/)


[i] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAXGu81Rk1g - ‘One Inch Man’ from And the Circus Leave Town (Kyuss, 1995)

[ii] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc-7FXzbeA0 - ‘Green Machine’ from Blues for the Red Sun (Kyuss, 1992)

[iii] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAXPUN2z2CE - ‘Feelgood Hit of the Summer’ from R (Queens of the Stoneage, 2000)

[iv] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s88r_q7oufE - ‘No One Knows’ from Songs for the Deaf (Queens of the Stoneage, 2002)

[v] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPFhyd3fabs - generator party in the Californian desert (Kyuss, c.1993)

[vi] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pMfqZGg-FA ‘Gardenia’ from Welcome to Sky Valley, live in 1995 (Kyuss, 1994)

[vii] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j4A2iGgQQk ‘Asteroid’ from Welcome to Sky Valley, live on Videomusic (Kyuss, 1994)

[viii] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vY_O3eo1m1Q ‘Josh Homme’s cathedral pipe guitar’

[ix] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfZm32tpWY8 - ‘Josh Homme (QOTSA) pissed off @ Norwegian Wood’


Wednesday, 19 May 2010 15:03

Tabla, Tala and the Universe (Part 2)

Born in Japan, Waka is now based in Taipei where he teaches and performs the tabla, a well known Indian drum.  He has spent much time in India learning the tabla and now travels throughout Taiwan and Asia performing with all types of musicians, from Indian classical to rock.

In this fascinating interview Waka introduces the tabla and proceeds to elaborate on the philosophy of classical Indian music.


Wednesday, 28 October 2009 00:00

Poetry on Progo

While Cruising throught Yogyakarta Province on my rented Honda Mio, I came across Yoyo Jewe. Perceiving the Indonesian judicial system as rife with corruption, Yoyo, the former law student gave up a life of material benefits to dedicate himself to the arts. He now focuses on poetry, dance and performance. Here we are at an Artists retreat on the Progo River, near the wondrous Borobodur Temple. After some blissful nude swimming in the river, we decided to make and film a poetry performance on a raft. Here Yoyo reads ’The Secret of the Fruit’ in English. Accompanying on the harmonicas are Yasmi Setiawati and Rumah Seni...


Tuesday, 27 October 2009 20:43

An Eclectic Musician

I was born in 1975 in Bursa, the fifth most populated city in Turkey, but I have been living in Istanbul for the last 20 years. I started playing the guitar when I was eleven years old and took private lessons on guitar, jazz theory, composition, and performance within an ensemble. I graduated as an industrial engineer and continued my education with a Master’s degree in sound engineering and electroacoustic composition at the Music for Advanced Studies Department at Istanbul Technical University. Currently, I am working on my doctorate degree at the same institution where I have had the chance to study theory and the practice of sound engineering and electroacoustic composition with accomplished American professors. I have always been interested in the recording process, and started recording my demos when I was fifteen years old. Since then, I have recorded and released three solo albums in the United States and accomplished various other projects all around the world. I have received numerous prizes for my works from international competitions such as Luigi Russolo and MUSICA NOVA; I have also participated at prestigious contemporary and jazz music festivals like Huddersfield, Futura, Nuit Bleu, Sonorities, Visiones Sonoras and Akbank Jazz Festival. My album “Altered Realities” has been included in the “Best albums of 2007” in the All About Jazz, Textura and Cyclic Defrost magazines.

Meeting Luo Chao-yun
We have a common friend Otto Castro from Costa Rica. He is an electroacoustic composer and I have known him from the 2007 Sonoimagenes Festival that took place in Buenos Aires. When I listened to some of her performances on her MySpace page, I was very impressed. I thought it would be great if we could record together. I was not sure if we would be able to finish an album in such a short period of time, but when we started playing together at my studio, I became convinced that we could record some great things. Because I respect the far Eastern way of life, philosophy, aesthetics, art and culture in particular, I was very much impressed by her. The way she communicated with me through music and the musical space, allowed me to have incredible improvisation. I have never seen and heard such a thing. Also, the way she listened during the recording session at the university studio was something to watch. It was as if her soul traveled to another dimension at that moment.

Before collaborating with Chao-yun, I was not very familiar with Chinese traditional music, but I knew the works of composers such as Tan Dun, Ge Gan-ru. I have definitely enjoyed the sounds of instruments like erhu, ruan, and guan. The playing techniques, the timbres of some of the traditional Chinese instruments resemble the traditional Turkish instruments. So even though I do not have a thorough background about Chinese music, a general idea of the aesthetics and the timbres has been in my subconscious.

About the CD recorded with Luo Chao-yun (CD released with Renlai Monthly n.65)
We recorded for three days at my studio. I played the electric guitar with live electronics. Then, we recorded for a day at the MIAM studios, where I played the prepared piano on some pieces and electric guitar on others. We did not discuss anything before these recording sessions, and we did not know what would happen and I loved that feeling. It forces you to listen to the other musician much more deeply. In our case, I think this approach worked really well.

Future projects
I have received a commission for a new electroacoustic composition based on the soundscape of Istanbul , which will be premiered at the Novelum Festival in November. Another project that I am excited about is a new musical theatre/opera commissioned by the Bregenz Contemporary Festival, that will be premiered in fall 2010. Also, I will start composing for two new feature movies in November. I am about to finish mixing the duo albums that I recorded with Elliott Sharp, British percussionist Pete Lockett, American accordionist Michael Ward Bergeman, American saxophonist Neil Leonard, and American guitarists Bill Walker and Craig Green. Also an ambient album with Robert Scott Thompson will be released around January 2010. Lastly, I am recording new material for duo albums with Per Boysen, Leo Abrahams and my upcoming solo guitar and live electronics record.
I have not been to Asia unfortunately, but of course I plan to come. A tour with Luo in China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan would be great after the release of this record.





Saturday, 29 August 2009 02:42

Chinese music goes to the sea

The Traditional Chinese Music Orchestra is possibly Shanghai’s most exciting musical formation. While firmly rooted in tradition and relying on impressive scholarship, its musicians are also keen to introduce their public to new repertories, to mix up styles, times and places, and thus to display the diversity of China’s cultures. This is also a showcase of Shanghai’s spirit: where the river goes to the sea, all waters, all traditions mix up and take new dimensions and shapes. Shanghai has always been a place where cultures cross and fertilize in new, creative synthesis. There is something oceanic in the sound that comes from this orchestra as well as from the astounding variety of its repertory. Discover Chinese music as you never heard it before!

This documentary Seaside Serenade, Shanghai Traditional Chinese Music Orchestra was produced by AZ Cultural Enterprise in August 2009.


Monday, 01 June 2009 20:12

A Spiritual Dialogue with Art

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'OPA’ means in Portuguese ’Prayer Through the Arts’. Originally founded in 1976 by a Jesuit from Paraguay, Fr. Iraguay, it is based in the city of Salvador (Bahia).
Visit OPA website



Saturday, 29 March 2008 01:35

We and You - A Musical Dialogue between Latin America and Asia

Jose Duarte participated in the first music CD released by Renlai in April 2008 (distributed with the issue #48).

Can you tell us about your Asian musical approach?

I was born in San Jose, Costa Rica in 1979. Since childhood, the surrounding sounds have always caught my attention. Loud noises like the ones produced by airplanes were scaring me, and I was hiding in a closet till it was silent again. I really enjoy music of all kinds and this helped me out to open up my mind and discover new ways of expressing myself through sound. I stayed in Taiwan for three years, and I went also to the Philippines, Japan and Korea.

Being in Asia opened my ears to new sounds. One of the strongest influences on me was the religious music I heard in Taiwan, especially from the Buddhist tradition. I was very impressed about by the way Buddhists make use of long chants to meditate. When I came to Taiwan I wanted to form an instrumental rock band just like the one I had in Costa Rica. But I started to get involved in other kinds of bands that gave me the chance to explore other styles. And, while in Hsinchu, I have met Luo Chao-Yun (駱昭勻) who interprets the Pipa in the piece called The Wind of Hsinchu included in this CD. Also I had collaborations with Janelle Chang (張宜蓁) who plays the Satar (A Uygur instrument from Xinjiang province) in Constant Change also part of the tracks of this CD.

I also participated in the improvisation band of the Music Institute where I was studying. There we played guitar along with Western instruments and Chinese instruments like the Gucheng and Sheng. I want to thank Prof. Hsing-Chwen Hsin (辛幸純) and Prof. Chao-Ming Tung (董昭民) who encouraged me in participate in this project.  At the end of my stay in Taiwan, I finally formed an instrumental rock band called Paparazzi Band.

When you composed the music for this CD, what was your main inspiration?

My musical section of the CD comprises a set of three guitar pieces composed before arriving in Taiwan. All of them composed for Nylon String Guitar, which is our favorite instrument in most of Latin America. The first two are made of five tone scales. These scales for us are immediately associated with Chinese music. The third piece, is a composition made for strumming the guitar, which associates with many different styles from Spain and Latin America. The other pieces were composed during my last year in Taiwan. All of them mix different Western and Eastern instruments.

What about the Proyecto Sonorum?

Proyecto Sonorum is an international music network meant to work as a bridge between Latin-America and Asia. This is how I contacted with composer Fabian Torres (Colombia) who I have never met in person.

(Photo courtesy of Pablo Murillo)



 

CD Track List

Fabian Torres

1. Eternal warrior dance with the animals (2008) 6:12
The chant of the monk sounds like the scream of Mother Earth, accompanied with kalimbas and traditional afro-Colombian rhythms.

2. Paradox (2007) 11:13
A gamelan cumbia. Flute, Kalimba and live Djembe.

3. San Agustin: The stone paradox (2007) 6:00
A Taoist contemplation of the San Agustin archaeological park in Colombia.

Jose Duarte

4. Pieza 1 1:14
5. Pieza 2 1:24
6. Pieza 3 2:29
Three pieces for Guitar Solo (2004): (Daniel Vega, Nylon String and Electric Guitar) (Otto Castro, Solo arrangement on Pieza 3)

7. The Wind of Hsinchu (2007) 6:26
(Luo Chao-Yun, Pipa; Jose Duarte, strings in CSOUND)

8.Improvisation (2007) 2:35
(Paparazzi Band)

9.Constant Change (2007) 5:47
(Paparazzi Band, and Janelle Chang, Satar (Uyghur instrument))

 

 

 


Thursday, 13 March 2008 23:45

When I was a kid, records were my teddy bears

Have you ever bought music on the Internet? I purchased my first couple of MP3s on the Web last week and it was the most depressing shopping experiment I have ever had. No illustrations or liner notes. Not even a receipt that I could have kept as a souvenir in case my computer would be destroyed by a killer virus. Just a file on my desktop, which name consisted of a series of random letters and numbers. That is not what the whole music industry had promised me. Music purchased on the Internet was supposed to be the future of music: a future where my shelves would not be clogged up with plastic CD boxes anymore, where my favorite song would not systematically be corrupted by scratches, and where I would only listen to the music I like, instead of having to buy those full-length albums in which half the tracks are rubbish. But for me, this future looks like more of a regression.

For Walter Benjamin, the mechanical reproduction of works of art (films, records or photographs) had led to the erasure of their sacred value. Now, the digitalization of such devices leads to a further loss: that of our affective attachment to all these daily objects, vinyl records, CDs and cassettes that used to clog up our shelves. The thrilling sensation of unfolding a new disc and putting it gently on the record player has been replaced by a cold and impersonal click on your mouse. The whole ritual that constituted our listening experience is vanishing as our old musical objects are being replaced by immaterial files. In these dark digital ages, maybe the time has come to sing a happy requiem to our old and beloved records – before we import them all in our iTunes libraries.

Among my memories of childhood, some of the most vivid lie in these countless hours spent in my elder brother’s room, browsing through his huge rock and punk records collection. I was only five or six years old by that time, and I would probably have received a good pair of smacks if I had dared to put any of those black acetate discs on the record player. But however, I was still allowed to watch the covers, and that is how I discovered most of what were to become my favorite bands and artists: by looking at pictures printed on 12-inch cardboard squares. For the middle-class child that I was living in a cozy suburb where the only annoyances where the dogs and pigeons’ droppings that made the streets look like Jackson Pollock paintings, such images were like these exotic names you discover when reading an atlas: sources of dream, curiosity and excitement. At a time when reading a book gave me the most terrible headaches, record covers were like a window wide open to the world, from where I could glance at white rockers and black jazzmen, leather jackets and three-piece suits, sexy girls and freckle-faced kids. They were also a way for me to develop a rather personal culture: before the age of ten I was already able to namedrop a few hundred names of bands whose music I still had not listened to.

I can still remember vividly some particular items of such sulfurous iconography. There were the covers that paralyzed me with fright, like these Motörhead LPs full of skulls and fat bikers. There were also the mysterious ones: this big yellow banana on a Velvet Underground record drawn by a guy called Andy Warhol; or that immaculate disc by P.I.L. with just a dark triangle of hair in the middle. But my favorite covers were definitely these of David Bowie’s records: each of them seemed to portrait a different person. The young guy that still looked like any other folk singer on Space Oddity suddenly became an androgynous character on the front illustration of Aladdin Sane, before turning into a strange creature, half-man half-beast on the Diamond Dogs cover. As a channel for Bowie’s perpetual self-reinvention, these covers conveyed an almost mythological meaning that in many respects exceeded the music itself. Looking at such a rich and extravagant iconography, I think now that my teenage fascination for rock stars was created as much by images as by the music itself.

So whatever the future of music looks like, I will still cherish my good old vinyl records. LPs are not just about music and sound – they also have a smell and a specific touch quality. I guess they also have a taste, although I never tried to eat any of those old plates. But most importantly, they are primarily ritual objects. Here is my problem with computer-purchased music: I’d like to take care of my MP3s, to clean the fingerprints on their surface and to store them in nice comfortable boxes. I also would like to be able to break them, to make scratches on them, to dirty their covers with my graffiti. MP3s make me anxious: they make me fear of a world where objects would have disappeared, where books and records and all sorts of devices would become simple digital artifacts displayed on a screen. I want to have my bookshelves clogged up with things, even the most useless ones. Because objects do not only fill empty spaces on your bookshelves: they are living parts of your memories, they belong to your heart and flesh, they make you feel less lonely when you are alone. When I was a kid, records were my teddy bears.



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