Mind the Gap: July 2010 Archives
At a colleague's suggestion, yesterday I signed up for Thomas Cott's daily email digest of news you can use. It was waiting in my inbox this morning right on schedule, and the very top item blew my mind:
Blogging about the process of choreography - ugh!
Posted by editor-in-chief Wendy Perron on Dance Magazine's blog, July 26, 2010
There's an annoying new trend of blogging about the process of making a dance. I am talking about young choreographers, anxious to be in the public eye, who think that writing about what happened that day in the studio will somehow 1) bring them a wider audience and/or 2) make them a better choreographer. I realize a blog is a good way to keep your website alive and to involve your potential audience. But explaining how you make a dance, the problems you encounter and how you solve them, is not going to help either you as the choreographer or your potential audience.
This struck me a really odd position to take in our Facebookified Twitterverse, so I was super curious to find out how the dance community responded to this post. Alas it does not appear that Dance Magazine allows comments, though a few readers have published blog posts re: on separate sites. Perron's original post is worth reading in full, as in it she gets deeper into specifics on exactly why she worries about this reliance on words when it comes to creating fresh art. Her thoughts were really interesting to me, particularly because she's cautioning young artists to pull in the reigns and that's not a message I come across very often. Usually it's about how to be more, do more, and say more, all in the hope of reaching more, teaching more, and selling more.
So, to blog or not to blog about process, that is an interesting question in the messy rule-breaking world of creative expression. Did Perron intend this as dance-specific advice, particularly needed due to its physical nature? How important is the "pre-verbal place" in other types of creative work? I personally thought Perron's admonishment to knock the blogging off was a little harsh, but the seemingly always-distracted-by-blinking-technology side of me understands that she has a point. It was a point that was only amplified later in the day by Paul Graham's piece on cigarettes, heroin, crack, and Facebook.
I can't help myself: I keep imagining how this would have rocked the classical music world if some nice lady string quartet had made it...
Sxip may live in New York City...
and if you do too, you'll have the chance to check out his new record at the City Winery release party tomorrow night.
I, however, live in Baltimore, so I will be taking myself on a tour of sonic adventure 'round these parts this evening. With Whartscape in full swing, you'd think there was hardly room for any more music in this zip code, but indeed we'll be getting Zappa, Glass, and a guest beat courtesy Shodekeh at the BSO's early show, and then we'll all follow Sho' over to the Windup Space to catch a tour stop featuring Londoners Gabriel Prokofiev, GeNIA, and Powerplant.
Besides the warm and fuzzy feeling it might give us (hey, who doesn't like to read that famous people agree with them?), what kind of public relations and/or political influence does this kind of activity and attendant media coverage accomplish for the cause of the performing arts in America? Several of the folks chatting over on this week's special AJ Creative Rights and Artists blog have mentioned that we may not be the best people to work on public policy/legislative changes and perhaps our quite limited resources would be better placed elsewhere. But it makes me wonder: Do Michele Obama's actions carry any real impact, or are they just a nice story for the Arts & Living section?
I didn't think it was possible, but I am now even more confused:
How is Creative Commons, the organization behind those easy-to-comprehend, web-friendly copyright licenses that are designed for use by non-lawyer humans (which arguably means people who can't afford lawyers are now more empowered to put their work out there on exactly the terms that they want) "anti-copyright"? Don't these licenses actually help people follow copyright by spelling out for them--not in complex legalese, but in clear pictograms attached to a special content search tool, for goodness sake--exactly what kinds of usages a creator says are permitted and which are not? In a growing low-budget/high-distro/pro-am world, this kind of development seems essential to maintaining order. When I see "All Rights Reserved" on a site that distributes content under a full range of copyright options, it doesn't dilute it. If anything, it actually carries a great deal more weight to me because I know that the declared copyright wasn't just the default position--it was proactively chosen to say, "Hey, I mean it, do not assume you can just put this on your blog/in your video. I said All Rights Reserved. No touchy!"
And while we're on this, how is challenging someone to a debate the same as "silencing" that person? Wouldn't that only work if they then refused to participate? Oh, wait...
I'll be visiting with the folks over at the ArtsJournal group blog "Where are the Artists?" this week, so Mind the Gap will probably be a little quiet. Since it seems like the topics of art, technology, and creative rights are near and dear to a lot of readers here, I hope you'll come by and join in too.
UPDATE: I'll index my contributions below...
Check your kid's iPod tonight, parents: sonic i-Dosing is apparently threatening the nation's youth, leading impressionable teens down a dangerous path towards harder drugs (La Monte Young? Francisco López? Bob Marley?).
Though this NPR report seems to dispel the notion that sound can produce a digital high on par with ingested chemicals, parents viewing the evening news clip posted below about these aural drugs (scary footage discovered via @nightafternight) are being advised to be vigilant! (Internet commenters, however, suspect that the whole affair is little more than one of those
sneaky teen plots to make adults look like fools, on par with wolf packs.)
According to Mashable:
A fan named Johannes S. Beals tweeted, "Can U Ask my girlfriend to marry me? Her name is Angela A. Hutt-Chamberlin" to Old Spice. The following video popped up on YouTube within an hour, and Old Spice tweeted it at Beals.
Within the hour? Now that's some impressive performance production work.
I just checked and it looks like the photographers are making a "base royalty rate of 20%" on sales. Though I don't know what kind of paychecks that translates into, this is a model for how artists can be compensated for the use of their materials by "made it at my kitchen table" shops like mine. Hopefully, everyone is benefiting satisfactorily from the arrangement.
A couple days ago I caught a Mashable post about a music service that would be offering a similar deal for similar usages: Friendly Music, a division of Rumblefish. Here is what they say they're offering:
Friendly Music, a new website by Rumblefish Inc., is a product of the explosive mix generated by seasoned software geeks and haggard music licensing professionals. We challenged one another to reduce the inefficiencies of the music licensing business as it related to the most pervasive new media trend: User Generated Content. To us, it did not make sense for music licensing to take longer and generate more headaches than the creative production itself. So, we joined our powers to create a service called Friendly Music- a website that hosts a comprehensive catalog of copyright-cleared songs, providing music to create the perfect soundtrack for User Generated Content like online videos, photos and slideshows.
We began with the basics. First, we built a fast and easy to search website that contains thousands of original songs, to satisfy musical tastes from all around the world, or just around the corner. We then took on the more challenging aspect of educating the public on the hard work it takes to make music, and why artists deserve to be compensated for their creativity. Media creators will be glad to know that, unlike their personal digital music collection, Friendly Music offers 100% legal, and all rights-cleared music for their personal and custom, online media creations.
Now, as you might imagine, this is not a catalog of Ke$ha, Katy Perry, and Justin Bieber tracks, so if you're looking to echo certain contemporary cultural touchstones, this won't help you or your hip baby who just wants to cutely dance to Beyonce. Sorting through stock music takes a lot more time and commitment than scanning through visual images, so it will remain tempting to flip through your mental rolodex/iTunes library and use what you know (and know you can't license/pay for). Still, I hope people respond so that what Friendly Music is offering takes off and can grow and improve. They are partnered with YouTube, so there is a billboard out to the public. The search and sorting function on Friendly Music's site seems pretty useful and intuitive to me, so if you're a non-commercial creator who just needs a "country" or "Vivaldi" sounding track, this may put some of your legal/ethical headaches behind you. Plus, it seems like a reasonably priced, easy-to-use way to encourage people to slide back off blatant piracy trends. I've always suspected that if people had an efficient way to compensate the creators of work they wanted to use, they would do so. It will take more than Friendly Music, but I hope the launch of sites like this indicates that we're on our way there.
I sometimes misjudge friends' musical interests and take them along to an opera I've snagged tickets to attend. Whatever masterpiece of the repertoire we've camped out in the plush seats to hear, when we compare notes at intermission, I get the distinct impression that the experience of listening to people sing like that to advance basic plot points sounds pretty much like this to them:
Still, considering that we live in an era when television shows like The Bachelor and Jersey Shore are mainstream cultural touchstones, we are clearly not a people who got "too serious" for song and dance routines or who are too jaded to appreciate over-the-top melodrama.
Which makes me wonder: Clearly the operatic masterworks continue to move a select crew, and Disney has done its thing to the American musical. But is there a new "Grand Opera, 21st-century style" idea buried in the zeitgeist somewhere, sitting on a high E flat just waiting to get out?
Integrity. Soulfulness. Beauty. Proportion. Form. Elegance. Grace. Balance. Flexibility. Spontaneity.
When asked what defines her artistic journey, Augusta Read Thomas doesn't hesitate even for a second. "Those are probably the ten words that leap to my mind about this 30 years of writing music so far," she says.
Later, I go back and count them. Ten.
I have no idea how she did that, but after a few hours in her company chatting about her life and work and the inspiration that drives it all, this level of attention to detail and clarity of purpose are not surprising in the least. Descriptors like "extremely specific" and "incredibly nuanced" become touchstones as we talk. Like her music, Thomas speaks in clear, concise paragraphs that reveal her voracious appetite for sound, both consuming it and creating it. Perhaps most fascinating are the warring tensions inherent in her own work: she is prolific yet perfectionistic, a composer of carefully notated music but also one seeking the energy of spontaneous creation. Continue to the interview...