Archive for the ‘MySpace/YouTube/Etc.’ Category

A curious coincidence:

This morning I posted on my Design Observer blog about the waveform as a visual symbol of music (and sound), noting the role of SoundCloud in the spread of this stealth iconography. An hour or so later, I happened upon the below: User Gizmo has uploaded the intro to a rendition of “SJI” to SoundCloud. You can hear it — and see it — below.

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One of the more unanticipated sub-themes of “SJI”-mining has been the recurrence of the song’s role as a burlesque number. Back in 2006 this site featured a Q&A with the former “September Rose” on that subject. In 2009 I posted a video of one Charlotte Treuse performing to SJI, and later added some further details about the contemporary performer and the context in which she performs. With that as background, I will now share with you a more recent burlesque performance using “SJI,” featuring Miss Bruise Violet — described in the intro to the video below as “the green-haired wonder.” Those of you who feel suitably mature: check it out.

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By the ever-popular Some Guy, but weirdly enjoyable. Gorgeous uke.

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Via friend of no notes Alex Rawls and his colleagues at Offbeat:

“St James Infirmary” by Jeremy “Mojo” Phipps and the Outsiders feat. Maddie Ruthless on the latest CD Looters 2011.

Billed as “St James Infirmary (Dub) by Jeremy Phipps and the Outsiders feat. Maddie Ruthless,” it sounds more ska/reggae than dub to me, but I’m not exactly an expert. (Feel free to set me straight in the comments.) Anyway, Ruthless has a nice voice and the vibe, whatever its proper label, is excellent. Worth a listen!

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A MetaFilter link to a Fred Astaire/Jonah Jones “SJI” rendition on YouTube (mentioned on this site in 2007), sparks some chatter about the tune, with various MeFi-ers naming their favorite versions and so on. Some unusual picks in there, for sure.

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I get a Google News Alert once a week, designed to ferret out any developments in the world of “St. James Infirmary.” This week it turned up something on what I guess is a music-sharing site called Acid Planet, where it appears music-makers are able to post their creations. One such creator, identified as The Incomplete Orchestra, has up a really great remix of “SJI,” using the famous 1928 Louis Armstrong version as a starting point for a long, mesmerizing, soulful re-imagining of the tune, with quiet hip-hop flourishes and a slow-trance beat. I really like it.

You can listen to it here.

To my great annoyance, you cannot download it, however. What a drag! I’d love to have this in my iTunes library, so I didn’t have to go to one specific site every time I wanted to hear it again. Oh well.

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On the Ed Sullivan show (noted earlier):

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Things have been a little frantic around no notes HQ lately, hoping to find time soon to deal with a backlog of interesting “SJI” versions and so on.

Meanwhile here’s a brief follow-up to the recent post about tech-folk music: A group called The Mentalists doing the MGMT song “Kids,” on their iPhones, using apps Ocarina, Retro Synth, miniSynth, and DigiDrummer Lite (according to PSFK.)

The first 30-45 seconds will give you the basic idea.

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One of the essays in Letters from New Orleans is about jazz funerals, and as I’ve noted before “SJI” is frequently played in jazz funerals in New Orleans. So that’s my excuse for mentioning a couple of Soup Greens links: Here is the author of that blog performing “Flee As A Bird” — “a morbid bluesy number with a Spanish tinge that was published in 1857. I discovered it because Jelly Roll Morton quotes it in ‘Dead Man Blues.’” More info if you click that link.

Second link: Some videos, of which two interested me: clips of jazz funerals, from 2006, and 2007. The first, I gather, is for a former city council member, but I don’t know who. The second, a longer and more impressive clip, is for Kerwin James, the New Birth Brass Band tuba player. Suffice it to say, many jazz funerals are a good deal more modest … but just as moving.

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I’ve been reading a book called Sweet Songs For Gentle Americans, about parlor music in the 19th century. I’m trying to get a better handle on the music business, as it were, in the era before recording. And also on the

I guess if “folk” refers to non-professional musicians performing mostly traditional songs, parlor music is non-professional musicians playing, predominantly, pop hits of the time. I’m not done with the book, so more later, but it’s interesting to read how, say, a professional touring singer from Europe would in effect drive sheet-music sales for the tunes he or she performed.

What I’m thinking about at the moment is that parlor music is home-based entertainment, based partly on performance, on mastering a skill. (And presumably on listening, too, if some family members or guests are not playing along.) But it’s also about tapping into some perceived broader cultural goings-on: The popular hits of the day, as it were. So it’s not folk creativity, per se, but it’s also pretty distinct from listening to records or the radio.

These days the idea of “the  parlor room” doesn’t really resonate. But plenty of homes have a “media room,” and even those that don’t are increasingly likely to contain various tech tools that allow non-musically-trained people to participate in music creation or music making — sort of. I’m thinking of things like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. These things also connect a kind of individual performance and skill-mastery with broader cultural context. The skill isn’t playing an instrument, and I think more of the songs on those games are “classic” rather than current, but still.

Not long ago I read a Wall Street Journal article about a game, if that’s the right word, called Wii Music. Obviously, it’s for the Wii, and was created by Shigeru Miyamoto, whose resume stretches back to Donkey Kong all the way up to being “the brains behind” the Wii console (per the article). Unlike Rock Band Guitar Hero, Wii Music is an “improvisation game that doesn’t keep track of scores.”

Mr. Miyamoto said his goal is to make games more than just a form of entertainment. Wii Music, he said, has educational value as a tool to teach music theory. In the game, players choose from 60 instruments to improvise and record songs like “Yankee Doodle” and “La Cucaracha.” …

Though multiple players can form an ensemble to play music in the Wii Music game, Mr. Miyamoto said the more interesting aspect for him is the ability for a player to record six separate parts to a song with different instruments and combine them to form an original recording.

“Traditional music games are fun as games, but I wanted to relay the joy of music itself,” said Mr. Miyamoto, adding that he hopes the game will help spawn future musicians.

Apparently it isn’t selling particularly well. But you have to figure that one way or another, this kind of thing will catch on. It just seems so in line with the mania for tech-ennabled self-expresssion, with a relatively low skill-mastery threshold. (I’m not insulting game or tech culture, but I think it’s fair to say that a lot of creator-entertainment innovation is fundamentally about making things easier for more people to do.)

Meanwhile, it turns out that some people have already been using the Wii to create original music — and there’s an example right here in Savannah: The Wiitles.

In this performance, at Savannah cafe The Sentient Bean, the group members (each wearing a white lab coat) explain how they’re creating various instrument sounds with Wii remotes and software called Max/MSP, which is running on a laptop behind them. Then they perform a sort of moody and atmospheric tune, as the bop around the stage (and into the audience) with their litte controllers. It’s kind of interesting.

A Youtube commenter offers the assessment: “Real instruments -> overrated.”

The video below is more like, you know, a music video, with the Wiitles performing what I assume is an original composition, a poppy ditty called “Robot Love,” with their Wii-MaxMSP setup. Amusingly, they’ve edited in some stadium-crowd footage to campily suggest that they’re performing before a huge audience.

In a way this video is less impressive because, unlike the live performance, you don’t get as a clear a sense that they’re actually making music by waving remotes around.

On the other hand, this might be the truer encapsulation of a contemporary descendant of parlor music. Hacker-ish use of tech tools to make original music, but broadly referencing mass ideas (the pop song; the arena; the music video), with its ultimate manifestation not being an ephemeral moment of performance, but a fairly slick and cleverly edited media document, uploaded to Youtube and available to a theoretically unlimited audience, forever: That’s media-room music.

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