Showing all posts tagged: music

This Never Happened, a mobile phone free music festival, coming to Australia

25 June 2023

Audience at a live music show facing the stage

Image courtesy of Pexels.

Should mobile phones be banned at music festivals? What sort of question is that? After all, is not recording the happenings of the day, be it video clips, or photos, and sharing them online, part and parcel of the music festival experience? Well it is, but doing so also has a downside. Just ask anyone who’s standing towards the back of the audience. The wall of held up arms and mobile phones might be about all they see of the show.

How’s that meant to be fun? But that’s not all. Evidence suggests recording certain events or experiences, by filming or photographing them, may diminish our ability to remember said occasions later on. So perhaps live music events would be more memorable, and more enjoyable for all concerned, if everyone left their phones at the ticket office?

That’s what Sydney based Australian event promotor Pia Del Mastro is betting on. Del Mastro is collaborating with American musician and electronic music producer Daniel Goldstein, also known as Lane 8, to bring such a rare creature, a music festival that does not allow the use of mobile phones, to Australia, in July 2023. The event, aptly enough, is called This Never Happened.

Lane 8 has been organising mobile phone free music festivals for several years overseas, and Del Mastro says they would be a first in Australia, in the mobile phone era. Lane 8 observed audiences were more engaged and immersed in the show, and gave their full attention to the bands performing, when they weren’t thinking about a device in their hand, which all makes sense.

It still remains to be seen how Australian festival goers will take to such a radical proposition. I’ve been to the occasional preview film screening, or product launch, where attendees needed to leave their phones at the front desk, but we were only without our devices for a couple of hours.

But This Never Happened will differ. Revellers will instead keep their phone, but be given a sticker to place over the camera lens. Del Mastro expects a degree of peer pressure, together with the phone-free spirit of the event, will see most of those present keep their devices pocketed away.

But we’ll find out soon. The first This Never Happened event takes place in Melbourne, on Friday 14 July 2023. I get the feeling though audiences, once they lose themselves to the music, will embrace the concept with open arms, and open eyes.


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Only human artists, not AI creators will receive Grammy awards

19 June 2023

The Recording Academy of the United States recently amended their rules to stipulate that only human artists and creators can receive Grammy awards. Speaking in a recent interview, Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, said AI musical compositions can be entered for consideration, but at this stage no awards will be presented to such works.

At this point, we are going to allow AI music and content to be submitted, but the GRAMMYs will only be allowed to go to human creators who have contributed creatively in the appropriate categories. If there’s an AI voice singing the song or AI instrumentation, we’ll consider it. But in a songwriting-based category, it has to have been written mostly by a human. Same goes for performance categories – only a human performer can be considered for a GRAMMY.

The 2024 Grammy Awards are scheduled to take place on Wednesday 31 January 2024.


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The Beatles get by with a little help from AI with new song

14 June 2023

Guitar and amplifier, image by Firmbee

Image courtesy of Firmbee.

With emphasis on the word little. Recent comments made by Sir Paul McCartney, bass player and co-songwriter of defunct 1960s British music act the Beatles, that AI has brought about a “new” song by the band, are perhaps a tad misconstrued. AI technology has indeed assisted in the production of a previously unreleased Beatles song, but application of the technology was somewhat limited.

In 1978 John Lennon, late Beatles guitarist and co-songwriter, recorded a number of demo songs in his New York home, using a portable audio cassette player, variously called a boombox or ghettoblaster. In 1995, when the remaining members of the Beatles were preparing to release the Beatles Anthology, they considered using Lennon’s demo songs as a basis for some new Beatles tracks. This resulted in the inclusion of two songs, Real Love, and Free as a Bird, in the Anthology set.

Starr, Harrison, and McCartney also wanted to include a third track from Lennon’s demo tape, called Now And Then, but there was a problem: the quality of Lennon’s vocals on the recording wasn’t the greatest. Despite their best efforts to tidy up the singing, the group — George Harrison in particular — wasn’t happy with the result. So the idea was shelved.

AI technology however has recently been able to extract Lennon’s vocals from his forty-five year old demo recording, and elevate the quality to a level McCartney and Starr, the surviving band members, are satisfied with. But that was the limit of AI’s part in bringing about this new — and according to McCartney — final Beatles song. The song, and it’s still not certain that it is Now And Then — though Beatles pundits believe it is — is expected to be released later in 2023.

Unless there are other forgotten, or lost, demo tapes made by Beatles members, lying undiscovered somewhere, it is to be hoped whatever track is eventually released, is indeed the last “new” material we hear from the old Liverpool musicians. I say that as I have the concern AI will surely manufacture additional, unauthorised, tracks that mimic the sound and style of the Fab Four, and be passed off as “newly discovered” lost recordings made by the band, by unscrupulous parties.


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Half the buyers of vinyl records do not have a record player

3 May 2023

Vinyl record on a record player turntable

Image courtesy of SanderSmit.

I was pleased to see the back of my (admittedly modest) collection of vinyl records a decade or two ago. I was not a fan of the format. The records (and their covers) needed to be handled with great care, the vinyl seemed to scratch all too easily, and, like a large number of paper books, were an imposition when it came to moving house.

Such concerns are of little importance to others though. Last year, sales of vinyl records surged by twenty percent, compared to the year before. 2022 was indeed a good year for vinyl, with sales at their highest since 1988. Despite the resurgence vinyl records are enjoying though, sales today remain a shadow of what they were during the 1970’s.

But here’s the thing, even though sales of vinyl are skyrocketing, fifty percent of buyers do not have a turntable, or a record player. This according to research conducted by Luminate, a company analysing music sales data, says Abby Jones, writing for Consequence:

Luminate’s “Top Entertainment Trends for 2023” report found that of the 3,900 US-based respondents surveyed, “50% of consumers who have bought vinyl in the past 12 months own a record player, compared to 15% among music listeners overall.” So — feel free to double-check our math here — that would indicate that 50% of vinyl buyers over the past year have no way to play those records at home.

So what goes here then? Record players are still available. So why not buy one to enjoy the music you’ve bought? Are some buyers of vinyl treating the format like a tradable commodity, and attempting to speculate on their value?


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More than a Spotify genre, Glitchcore explored and defined

24 April 2023

Glitcgcore, Glitch artwork by Enrique Meseguer

Image courtesy of Enrique Meseguer.

Too Long; Didn’t Read: Glitchcore is a type of electronic music that features noisy digital artefacts including distortion, static, crackle, interference, and other warning sounds that means something’s not right. But there’s nothing wrong with the music itself. Read on for more of the story…

Twenty five years ago — give or take — a web design trend called “TV lines” was all the rage. Like all fads, it was short lived, but if you were a web designer who was anyone, the graphics on your website had to feature TV lines. The effect would have looked a little like the image above, created by Enrique Meseguer, and conveyed the impression your image was a screen-grab from a TV show.

Although images with TV lines have largely disappeared from the web, it can be argued their influence lingers, albeit non-visually, in the form of Glitchcore music. As the name suggests, Glitchcore is a genre that blends what are considered to be inharmonious noises, caused by errors of some sort, into the mix. These anomalies include distortion, static, crackle, interference, and other noisy artefacts. But Glitchcore is more than an amalgamation of discordant sounds, it’s also a blend of other genres, according to

Glitchcore is a genre of electronic music that combines elements of glitch, IDM, and breakcore. It is characterized by its chaotic and unpredictable sound, often featuring heavily distorted and chopped up samples, rapid-fire drum patterns, and complex, syncopated rhythms.

Yeech, syncopated rhythms. I sucked at syncopated strumming during my guitar playing days. But back to Glitchcore, which actually owes little to mellow, mostly unobtrusive, TV lines, than it does to boldly coloured, garish online memes, and Glitch art. Like Glitchcore music, Glitch artists make use of visual digital defects, in their artworks. And while Glitch art sounds like a contemporary movement, it isn’t. Instances of the form can be traced back to 1935, when experimental New Zealand filmmaker Len Lye incorporated analogue flaws into his short film, A Colour Box.

But Glitch art became more prominent in the early twenty-first century, when digital artists began to embrace errors and unwanted visual artefacts, spewed out by digital technologies, and crafted artworks from them. A Glitchcore musician then might look at a work of glitch art — refer again to Meseguer’s image above — and wonder how it could be rendered as a musical piece.

Musically, Glitchcore is seen as subgenre of Glitch music. Or Hyperpop, depending on who you ask. Glitch music became popular in the 1990s, but its origins can be traced back to the second decade of the twentieth century. In 1913, Luigi Russolo, an Italian artist and composer, produced The Art of Noises (L’arte dei rumori), a Futurist manifesto, which was considered by some to be the basis of noise music. Here, anything, particularly machinery, that made noise, could, somehow, be used in a musical composition.

Hyperpop (think of the music of Charli XCX), meanwhile, emerged about ten years ago, even though the term was first used in 1988 by a music writer named Don Shewey, when describing the Cocteau Twins, an erstwhile Scottish act. Wikipedia defines Hyperpop thusly:

Hyperpop reflects an exaggerated, eclectic, and self-referential approach to pop music and typically employs elements such as brash synth melodies, Auto-Tuned “earworm” vocals, and excessive compression and distortion, as well as surrealist or nostalgic references to 2000s Internet culture and the Web 2.0 era.

Glitchcore become more widely heard in 2020. And like Hyperpop, the name also seems to have preceded the music, if this excerpt from the March 2001 edition of SPIN magazine (and might they be referring to Matthew Herbert here?) is anything to go by:

Herbert is a former piano prodigy and Exeter drama student who went from touring with UK big bands to freaking clubbers with samplers and kitchen utensils, and his cozy records merge glitchcore buzz and tech-house heat.

So, there, at last we have it, an explanation of Glitchcore. Assuming the genre, subgenre, in fact exists, something Cat Zhang, writing for Pitchfork, says is debatable. And given its smorgasbord of genre ingredients, I can see where the doubters are coming from. Spotify, however, has no such misgivings. It’s a verified genre to them, as people perusing their annual Spotify Wrapped music listening reports would have noticed.

In case Glitchcore is new to you, as it was to me, here’s a small selection of the music to check out: Money Machine by 100 gecs, Ethanol by Madge, and This World is Sick by IC3PEAK. I should say a language warning may apply to some of these tracks.

And on the off chance the existence of Glitchcore is blowing your mind, and you think there’s too many music genres, and subgenres already, bear in mind some one hundred and twenty three thousand new songs are released daily across the world. That’s daily with a D. If that’s the case, there’s going be a whole lot more music genres coming to Spotify Wrapped in the future.


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100,000 plus new songs released daily, so what to listen to?

4 April 2023

By some estimates, one hundred and twenty three thousand new songs are released across the globe every day. That’s surely more music than any person could listen to in a lifetime. In a seemingly arts saturated world though, American jazz critic and music historian, Ted Gioia, contends the problem isn’t necessarily with supply, but rather demand. This means creating more demand driven initiatives, in other words, finding new ways of putting this new music in front of audiences.

Yet almost every arts-related institution in the world is focused on the supply side, almost to an obsessive degree. This feels good — we love giving money to artists. But even from a purely financial standpoint, these programs don’t do half as much good as genuine audience expansion. If you offered a musician the choice between a hundred dollars and a hundred new fans, they absolutely benefit more from the latter. It’s a no-brainer. In fact, musicians probably make more from just one loyal fan.

This is something we see with fiction publishing in Australia, and likely worldwide. As I’ve written before, a first-time writer of a literary fiction novel in Australia might expect to see a maximum of two thousand sales of that book. Australia doesn’t have the biggest of populations, but surely there’d be more interest in a book than that. In a somewhat supply saturated market, granted. As Gioia says, it is demand driven initiatives that are needed.


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Why do people only listen to old music as they get older?

27 February 2023

There’s all sorts of reasons, but a lack of time to seek out new compositions, and not simply a love of “old music”, is one:

One explanation for the age-based reduction in music consumption simply posits that responsibility-laden adults may have less discretionary time to explore their musical interests than younger people.

This is where good old radio can help. Switch to station that plays newer, less familiar, music, while you’re working or driving. Since radio playlists are generally repetitive, new favourites will gradually worm their way into your ear.


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2022 Hottest 100 music the worst to dance to in a decade

7 February 2023

An analysis of songs in Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown for 2022, which was aired on 28 January 2023, reveals them to among the worst to dance to in almost a decade, say Mark Doman, Katia Shatoba, and Thomas Brettell, writing for ABC News.

The same research shows 1995 to be the worst on record for Hottest 100 danceability, though a steady rise follows thereafter. This can likely be attributed to the greater presence of electronica and dance music in countdowns from the late nineties onwards, as those genres began to flourish.

The winning track — Flume’s Say Nothing, featuring MAY-A — was also the least-dancey track to win the countdown since Muse’s six-minute, prog rock epic Knights of Cydonia in 2007. Data also shows that the average tempo of the 2022 Hottest 100 was the second-fastest on record since counting began back in 1993.

At this stage the drop in Hottest 100 song danceability looks more like a blip. The long term trend shows a rise, even if 2022 danceability is markedly lower than the peak recorded in 2019.


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Simone Young, Knowing the Score, a film by Janine Hosking

30 January 2023

Conductors are synonymous with classical music performances, yet at the first recital I went to, a show by the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) in 2009, at the Sydney Opera House, no conductor was present. Instead, ACO artistic director, and lead violin player, Richard Tognetti, led proceedings.

To many people though, a conductor is something of a mystery. Why does there need to be someone waving a stick, called a baton, at the orchestra? Do the musicians not know what to do? Did they not practice the pieces prior to the show? The ACO manages without a conductor, why then can’t anyone else? And how on earth can performers at a distance from the conductor even discern the many, swift, and seemingly all too subtle, baton gestures?

Further, why are conductors accorded a special status? Why are they treated to a separate round of applause, upon making a separate entrance to the auditorium, after the musicians have already assembled on stage? That conductors effectively only came into being about two hundred years ago, only adds to the enigma. Prior to 1820, orchestras were similar to the ACO, and directed themselves. It was only as orchestras grew in size though, did the need for a separate person to lead the musicians manifest itself.

Knowing the Score, trailer, a documentary about the life and work of Australian conductor Simone Young, may answer some of these questions. While early conductors were the subject of derision, particularly from musicians who felt they served no real purpose, Young has also encountered her share of naysayers. Despite this, Young, presently chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, is regarded as one of the world’s leading orchestral conductors.

Knowing the Score, directed by Australian documentary maker Janine Hosking, opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday 16 February 2023. The world premiere takes place at the Ritz Cinema in Randwick, Sydney, on Sunday 5 February 2023, and features a Q&A session with Young following the screening.


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Flume, Hilltop Hoods, make their mark in 2022 Hottest 100

30 January 2023

Sydney DJ and electronic musician Flume topped the 2022 Triple J Hottest 100, with his track Say Nothing, a collaboration with Australian singer-songwriter MAY-A. It’s the second time a Flume track has reached number one in the Hottest 100, a feat matched only by defunct Brisbane rock band Powderfinger, over twenty years ago.

Meanwhile veteran Adelaide hop hop act Hilltop Hoods, made countdown history by notching their twenty-third entry in the music poll, with Show Business, which charted at number seventy-one. Previously Powderfinger, and American rockers Foo Fighters, had shared the record for the most Hottest 100 entries, with twenty-two tracks each.


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