Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wifi Networks with Attention-Getting Names...

Lauren Collins mentions some in this New Yorker piece (not available free online).  For instance, "Stop Cooking Indian!!!," "We Can Hear You Having Sex," and "DieTrustfundersDie."

In other news, the New Yorker seems to have pretty much turned into a slightly more thoughtful version of Time Magazine (or at least what Time was a few decades ago).  These days they most just publish fairly short articles on public events.  The lead pieces in the last two issues have been about "Occupy Wall Street."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sonny Rollins Interview for the PBS Newshour

(Transcript here).  Rollins is in Washington, DC, to receive a Kennedy Center Honor this weekend.  Here are some out-takes that weren't included in the Newshour T.V. broadcast:

His description of Charlie Parker's musical contribution at 4:00 is interesting... seems like he thinks it was about unifying the music with long-range structural connections.

More on Rollins here, here, here, and here.

Joseph Cornell's "A Legend for Fountains"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Possible Summer Reading for Rioting Penn State Students?

These studious folks could warm up with Katha Pollitt's recent column, in which she politely suggests that Penn State Officials "Cancel the season. Fire everybody involved in the child abuse scandal," and then goes a step further:
Maybe cancel college football too. In no other country’s university system, after all, does sports play anything like the central role it does in American academic life. Men do not go to Oxford to play cricket; the Sorbonne does not field a nationally celebrated soccer team. Even in the most sports-mad countries, sports is sports and education is education. That’s a better system. 
...and then perhaps they could spend some time perusing Taylor Branch's widely publicized piece for The Atlantic, which includes the following anecdote involving a former Penn State president:
"I'm not hiding,"  Sonny Vaccaro told a closed hearing at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 2001. “We want to put our materials on the bodies of your athletes, and the best way to do that is buy your school. Or buy your coach.” ... [S]ince signing his pioneering shoe contract with Michael Jordan in 1984, [Vaccaro] had built sponsorship empires successively at Nike, Adidas, and Reebok. ...
 “Why,” asked Bryce Jordan, the president emeritus of Penn State, “should a university be an advertising medium for your industry?”
Vaccaro did not blink. “They shouldn’t, sir,” he replied. “You sold your souls, and you’re going to continue selling them. You can be very moral and righteous in asking me that question, sir,” Vaccaro added with irrepressible good cheer, “but there’s not one of you in this room that’s going to turn down any of our money. You’re going to take it. I can only offer it.”
...and finally they could dip into Murray Sperber's Beer and Circus.

Through the Grapevine...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hendrik Hertzberg at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival

While he was in college, New Yorker political commentator Hendrik Hertzberg reported on the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival for the Harvard Crimson.  (The review was co-authored by someone identified only as R.K.I.).  Read the entire review here.

Among the performances Hertzberg heard were Thelonious Monk with Pee Wee Russell (download the full set here):

...and the Martial Solal trio (listen on Grooveshark here).  He also heard the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Cannonball Adderley, Nina Simone, and Sonny Rollins with Coleman Hawkins.  But evidently he left after Jimmy Smith's set on the final night and consequently didn't catch the John Coltrane Quartet, who closed out the weekend:

The Newport festival line-up that year was:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's Official: Publishers Hate Libraries

Penguin is the latest publisher to suspend e-book availability for library users.  According to this report: 
Publishers have become increasingly nervous about the growing use of e-books by library users, who can check out the books remotely without ever entering a library. The concern is that consumers who own e-readers will stop buying e-books and begin borrowing them for free instead.
Naturally, publishers have always wished that people would buy their books instead of borrowing them from libraries or purchasing them second-hand.  But until now, owing to the "first-sale doctrine" (without which libraries as we know them couldn't exist), they haven't found a technological or legal means of preventing this practice (although they have been able to charge libraries much higher fees for periodical subscriptions than what they charge individual subscribers).  Now, with e-books, they can do what they've always wanted to do, because when you purchase an e-book you don't receive anything but a license to use the content subject to various conditions.  Next time you buy a $9.99 e-book for your Kindle or iPad, bear in mind that you might be able to borrow a print copy from your local library for free.

Interestingly, the "first-sale doctrine" has recently been cited as legal grounds for re-selling digital music files...  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hatchet Jobs on Jobs?

So now, after all the understandable adulation in the wake of the sad, premature death of Steve Jobs, come the contrarians, such as Malcolm Gladwell, who argues in this article that, rather than being a visionary innovator, "Jobs was someone who took other people’s ideas and changed them [and] he did not like it when the same thing was done to him."  And then there's Eric Alterman, who charges in this column that Jobs "treated the people who actually manufacture Apple products like serfs and hoarded his $8.3 billion fortune to no apparent purpose."  I guess Gladwell and Alterman are taking to heart the 1990s Apple slogan: "Think Different."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Mosaic Boxed Set... and a Thought on Coleman Hawkins's Dark Ages

Mosaic records will soon be releasing an eight-disk boxed set of Coleman Hawkins recordings spanning the years from 1922–47.  Interestingly, the collection contains none of the sides that Hawkins made while he lived in Europe from 1934–39.  Perhaps there were licensing issues that prevented Mosaic from releasing any tracks from this period, when the saxophonist was in his prime; he made about fifty of them, according to this and this.  Unfortunately, this omission is likely to reinforce the rather closed-minded misperception in American circles that comparatively little of significance occurred in the jazz world outside of the U.S. before the end of World War II.  From reading a lot of jazz history texts, you could be forgiven for thinking that Hawkins vanished from the face of the earth for five years only to reappear out of the blue in New York in 1939 to record "Body and Soul."  Meanwhile, he was happily playing things like this, filmed in the Netherlands in 1935:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Milford Graves on Humans and Animals

"If you pay attention to nature, especially animals, you can learn a lot.  Animals give their offspring a small introduction and then leave them alone.  Humans have a way of trying to take charge of each other, and to try to clone each other.  A dog or a cat doesn't say to their offspring, 'OK, kitten or puppy, it's time for class now—I'm going to give you a test on how to do this or that.'  An animal will say: 'Watch me.'"

The Andy Warhol Authentication Board Closes

This article about the demise of the Andy Warhol Foundation's authentication board underplays the extent of the controversy surrounding the board's actions in recent years.  The board had been "deauthenticating" accepted Warhol works—including one that had been reproduced as the front cover of the artist's catalogue raisonée while he was still alive—rendering them worthless.  For more details, see Richard Dorment's New York Review of Books articles here, here, and here, and also this exchange in the letters page.  For the philosophical context, see Arthur Danto's classic essay "The Art World."

Here's a nice documentary on the whole saga:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Boycott Routledge and Ashgate

Scholars in the humanities and social sciences might consider boycotting profit-driven academic publishers such as Routledge and Ashgate, who aren't affiliated with university presses and publish huge quantities of academic scholarship of highly variable quality—the admittedly imperfect peer-review process seems to be administered even less judiciously than usual—at usorious prices.  Let's continue  to institutionalize a reliable peer-review process for free, open-access online journals so that tenure and promotion committees will respect them and college professors and instructors will be able to keep their jobs without resorting to publishing with presses that charge extortionate prices that neither individuals nor many libraries can afford.  Not that university presses are much better, what with all the $150-plus volumes they're putting out.  Now that I think about it, perhaps we could agree not to buy or cite anything priced at over $100.  A less extreme but more subversive approach would be to include the list price of each volume whenever we cite it in a footnote or bibliography.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ray Charles... ABC

Bruno Latour

James Wood, Personal Libraries, and the Age of the iPad

In this short essay (not available free online), James Wood reflects on his late father-in-law's four-thousand-volume personal library, doubting whether one's books really say anything profound about oneself, and musing on the emotion-laden task of dispersing a departed loved one's collection.  Though the words "iPad" and "kindle" are conspicuously absent from this essay—perhaps because Woods wished, consciously or not, to present his reflections from a pre-digital perspective—it's hard to avoid thinking that the onset of the age of the e-book is what makes Wood's piece especially poignant and autumnal.

How will we pass on our e-book libraries to our children and grandchildren?  We don't actually own our e-books—we only purchase a digital license—so we don't have the ability to freely lend, bequeath, or re-sell them to others, as we do with "real" books, which we own outright.  And will e-book formats even remain viable in the longterm?  (You can still read a Gutenberg bible today, more than five hundred years after its publication.)  Or will they soon become obsolete, requiring us to repeatedly re-purchase the same books in new formats, as we did with recorded music?

Chick Corea at the Pompidou Center

"Elektric City," from 1986 (note the view of Notre Dame and the Pantheon at 1:30):


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Joan Didion: Money was the Clincher?

It's rare for a serious author to be completely forthright in stating that money is their overriding creative incentive.  But that's just what Joan Didion apparently acknowledged in this interview about her new book Blue Nights:
Didion decided to return her advance to Alfred A. Knopf and abandon the book, which is titled after the long blue twilights of spring. “I thought, ‘I can just give the money back,’” she explains. Her agent and friend Lynn Nesbit suggested that she finish the book first and then talk about whether to publish it. Other friends urged her on. Didion tells me she finally looked at her book contract and saw how much she would have to return. “I could have bought an apartment with it,” she says. So she went back to writing the book.
Here's an interview from 2000:

David Pogue on You Rock

Since recorded music has little marketplace value in and of itself in the age of online file sharing, music  increasingly gets commodified as an adjunct to other, more commercially viable, media.  One consequence is that music sometimes ends up being reviewed in the mainstream by critics who have precious little experience writing about music (and maybe even scant interest in music at all).  For example, Bjork's recent album, Biophilia, was reviewed by the New York Times's video-game critic.  And now comes technology critic David Pogue reviewing the new You Rock, which appears to be the latest development in the convergence of video games and "real" (whatever that means) musical instruments (see Kiri Miller's forthcoming book, Playing Alongfor more details).

So, I guess it's almost inevitable that we end up reading gaffes such as the following, from Mr. Pogue:
the You Rock lets you do some stunts you can’t do on a real guitar, like Tap Mode. That’s when you don’t pluck the strings at all. Instead, you play entirely on the neck, as though it’s a weird sort of fretted keyboard.
Hmm... I guess this means folks like Stanley Jordan and Eddie Van Halen are pretty much just chopped liver?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Adieu, André Hodeir

The great violinist, composer, novelist, and critic André Hodeir, who founded the field of jazz analysis, has died at the age of ninety, according to some early news reports.  I wrote about him briefly back in January.

Here is Hodeir's 1952 musique concrète masterpiece, Jazz et Jazz, featuring Martial Solal:

Here he plays the violin, at the age of twenty-one:

...and here is the complete text of his book Jazz: Its Evolution and Essence.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tom Waits's Vocal Exercises

Start listening at 12:30...

Terry Gross compares Waits's exercises to  Kurt Schwitters's Ursonate (listen here, and see the score here).