Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Week 14

Here is a summary of my thoughts on the reading for Week 14, the introduction of The Cognition of Basic Musical Structures.

Temperley makes the statement that music students and musically inclined people know and recognize music structure such as tone, scales, and key. They are generally agreed upon and much research has been done legitimizing each of them. Temperley wants to explore the cognition of these musical structures, meaning he wants to know how the human brain processes and allocates this musical information.

Music must be analyzed as it goes, as it swells and changes throughout and Temperley's research model reflects that. It is explained that music cognition not only requires theories and disciplines from psychology and musicology, but linguistics as well. Part of this involves studying the syntax and notation of music. Temperley's study will determine how people read, determine, and interpret musical input such as tone and key into cognitive functions in their brain. This will partially be studied by trying to differentiate between "experienced" listeners, those who are familiar with music theory, and inexperienced listeners.

It seems that Temperley is trying to nail down how different people hear the same piece of music and how their experience and cognition affects that. Interestingly, Temperley reminds us that one can sing and remember a melody if he or she hears it enough, so perhaps we innately have the ability to hear pitches and pitch changes at the least.

Temperly also explains the difficulty in studying certain aspects of music. Dynamics, for example, can be quantified in numbers and computers, but timbre is a different element altogether. The "richness" of a sound can't exactly be measured, so Temperley acknowledges this weakness. He also explains the necessity of studying one's reactions and cognition throughout a musical piece, following the "route" they take by listening to it. By taking only one part of one's understanding of a musical piece, one can only deduce a small part of the listener's reaction.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Week 13

This is a summary of my thoughts on various articles assigned during Week 13.

Counting Down to Number One by Hakanen

This article discusses the uses of music charts in the music industry. Heatseekers charts, for example, map out new artists who are picking up steam and selling a lot of records. The other charts, Hakanen argues, are a look into the music industry and its consumers. The chart itself defines what is popular in the music business. Some researchers find that music has changed society more than any other, with its uses anywhere from being played and controlled by royalty to being played and controlled by ClearChannel. Before the advent of copywright laws, there was little incentive for musicians to write their own songs, as they made more playing well known folk songs. With the popularity of radio and the phonograph, songs began to be ranked against each other, reducing the importance of publisher loyalties. This began a need for performers to get 'pay for play,' meaning receiving royalties if their songs were popular and played on the radio.

Having charts changed consumers, not only in how they perceived the popularity of an artist, but it began making individuals identify with one particular genre of music. Hakanen argues that the charts are separated into different genres to give more power to more types of music. Instead of all music being ranked against each other, this genre separation shows the consumer more popular options. Charts unfortunately reduce a complex art form into a consumable chart used for capitalistic gain.

Human-Centered Musical Studies by Stefani

Stefani proposes Music Human Rights, a code to which music and musical culture must conform. It seems to be a philanthropic idea that embodies various ideals to come together and create an inclusive and unique musicology. This musicology would call upon all individuals, those who call themselves musicians and non-musicians, to come together and produce and art that can truly be called "human." If this is the correct interpretation, I call it commendable but heady, idealistic, and farfetched. That is, unless this is a satirical article.

Analysing Popular Music by Tagg

Tagg begins the article by saying the academic study of popular music is often mocked and not taken seriously. Many academics incorrectly assume their society is exclusive and does not have room for new fields of study. Tagg argues the importance of popular music by pointing out the hundreds of new technologies that music produces and inspires. Musicology is rooted in sociological studies, and like the social science, it helps understand the behaviors and tendencies of groups of people. Tagg does point out inconsistencies and challenges in the study of popular music, such as attributing human behavior to it when there could be many other factors in play. Tagg breaks down each element of music that must be taken into account when studying it, anywhere from timbre to instrument to time period of the piece. One of the ways Tagg suggests testing theories and the moods music convey is to take two pieces with similarities and change certain aspects of them such as the key and the duration of certain notes. This way, the isolated variable can be tested. Through these studies, Tagg has come up with a strong argument for music being able to convey a certain message or feeling to the listener. He concludes by saying his method of research is a bit too overwhelming to properly teach, but he says it remains a viable method of analyzing music from a social science perspective.

Music, History, Democracy by Oliver

This article chronicles a music conference in 1989 that interestingly had to separate culturally due to scheduling conflicts and room conflicts. Despite fascinating papers on popular Nigerian music and Hungarian opera, the conference was dubbed overambitious and underprepared. Perhaps this could be one of the examples showing that the study of music has not been taken seriously and that there is still much to be done for the study to gain respect in the academic community.

Music for Human Rights website

It seems this website has changed, or at least its address has. They are currently celebrating John Lennon's 70th birthday and his contributions to the world via a few albums. Interestingly, Ozzy Osbourne has recorded "How?" by John Lennon in his honor.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Week 12

This is a summary of my thoughts on Week 12's readings from Music is Your Business and on Music Markup Language.

There are four fronts of the music industry that lead to success of an artist. The first front is Artist and Product Development. This involves establishing who you are as an artist and what your image is. The product development has to do with selling music, such as an artist's website or live show sales. The second front is promotion, which means getting airplay. The third front is publicity which entails making press packs and doing research into opportunities. The fourth front is performance, which involves finding venues and touring. The authors argue that the four fronts are interrelated and can be enhanced by the Internet.

Next, the authors discuss how much the industry has changed in thirty or forty years. There are more new music releases than ever, the CD sales industry is confusing and quite possibly floundering, and the advent of the internet has made it easier than ever to distribute music, but very difficult to get noticed. The authors argue that it is easier to get on the radio now with Internet radio and stations becoming increasingly supportive of independent artists. Clear Channel's dominance of the music industry has affected both radio play and live performances, reducing the number of opportunities available to independent artists. Establishing one's career by one's self remains the way to get signed by a label. This makes sense to me, if a label representative sees that an artist is already successful, signing them would be a small risk and that artist could in theory only get bigger.

Music Markup Language

MML is a music language that helps turn MIDI into a more human-friendly language. Much like HTML, if used properly, MML can be translated into text, sheet music, and a bevy of other formats. It seems that this would help preserve music that is not traditionally notated, and I can't do anything but praise their efforts for doing so.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Week 11

This is a summary of my thoughts on Sound Tracks Chapters 1 and 11.

Sound Tracks seeks to discover and study music geographically, meaning that the authors will take an academic look at music through culture, music scenes, artist distribution, and other aspects. Connell and Gibson write that music is largely ignored in academic circles because it is nebulous. Looking back to Sacks' writing, it certainly does seem that music is one art form that is most mysterious both scientifically and philosophically. Whereas film for example has been picked apart and studied extensively, music remains an underappreciated art form in the academic world.

Part of the reason, the authors argue, is that music is an abstract and always changing entity. It is difficult to pin down and truly study because it is so integrated into our lives, whether playing over the loudspeakers in a store or playing in the background of a television show. Another part of the problem in the academic of study of music, experts say is that we as a society are quick to reveal our own musical tastes even in a way that could be described as snobbish. Perhaps since music is such a personal and special experience, it is more difficult for experts to be unbiased in their criticisms and observations of music.

The authors describe how music can be both fixed and fluid. Fixed music is through headphones, or through a speaker. Fluidity is more complex, the authors describe it as the soundwaves that music makes or the cash flow from a successful musician or the "buzz" surrounding a new artist that spreads like wildfire. The authors also discuss physical fluidity of music through actual geography, discussing the "hearths" of music, such as the southern United States and jazz. Interestingly, the authors posit that socioeconomic factors determine what type of musical 'scene' a culture might have.

Next, the authors discuss the digitization of music. Corporate conglomerations control much of the music industry and this affects the globalization of music and the way it is sold. Since these conglomerates are "infotainment" industries who control many different forms of media and products, it is argued that they do not necessarily know what is best for the music industry and that they control what consumers hear. The authors cite manufactured artists like the Backstreet Boys suggesting that there is a standardization of the industry and copious amounts of marketing to the right consumer. However, the advent of mp3s and the internet has allowed some artists to circumvent the harsh controlling ways of the conglomerates.

The digitization of recording and of mp3s started allowing artists without corporate money to make professional sounding music in their own homes or for a much less expensive investment. This affects the geography of music, this cuts down on music epicenters and spreads the source or "hearth" of music much further around. Mp3s also allow artists to distribute their music all over the world, which further decentralizes music hubs. Interstingly, house music and techno is hardly centralized at all, partially due to its lack of lyrics. Artists from all over the world including Germany, Japan, and Brazil all contribute to this type of music. This discontinued reliance on major labels and the increase of piracy of music has perhaps started a new age in music in which independence and DIY methods are the norm.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Week 10

This is a summary of my thoughts for Chapters 19 and 20 in Steve Gordon's The Future of the Music Business and the visual complexity website.

The Future of the Music Business

Nearing the end of the book, Gordon writes a chapter on peer to peer music websites that allow unlimited free music trading such as the old Napster, Kazaa, and Grokster. Gordon interestingly chronicles the movement of the industry from singles to albums and back to singles again with the advent of iTunes. In an interview with Wayne Rosso, he describes the downfall of Napster partially being that a central part of the system kept a log of all the files and the court ruled that Fanning and company could have prevented the music that was copyrighted from being there. Interestingly, it seems that internet speed has moved the peer to peer and music downloading zeitgeist further now that downloading music takes seconds rather than minutes or hours. I seem to recall downloading music on Napster back when it was popular and waiting an entire day for everything to download. Also, Rosso says that Apple does not make its money from iTunes, they make their money by selling compatible iPods. I find this an interesting business model and explains why other similar services have failed. Even Microsoft set up the Zune Marketplace for their portable music device, but it seems unpopular as well. Rosso makes an interesting point that people do need to pay money for music, but the price that the record companies set may not necessarily be right. Perhaps this is why the 'name your price' model has worked for artists like Radiohead.

Next, Steve Gordon explores music in virtual worlds with Mike Lawson. Lawson performs music on Second Life, a virtual world in which musicians can perform for virtual audiences with a microphone and a bit of planning. Lawson and a few friends play in a virtual blues club and make money from donations from other Second Lifers. Lawson says the appeal is being able to play at home in his own studio and have a much wider audience to play to regardless. There is also the ability to stream one's music outside of the virtual world, so interested listeners do not necessarily have to be in Second Life. Interestingly, there are no other virtual worlds or platforms that allow for virtual musicianship, but I would not be surprised if there is one in the making.

Visual Complexity

I tried the Graph Theory website, which allows users to use multiple solo violin samples and link them to each other to create a composition. The selections made affect the future performances of the piece. I think this is a very cool idea, although there are some inherent problems with it. I assume it's all written in the same key so each piece can fit together, but without deciding what goes where, notes that sound good together and resolution notes may not occur. Then again, maybe the creators of the website are hoping users choose resolution notes and samples that sound cohesive together.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Week 9

This is a summary of my thoughts on Week 9's readings, which includes Chapters 14, 15, and 16 in Gordon's The Future of the Music Business and various website reviews.

The Future of the Music Business

Gordon interviews John Buckman, the owner of Magnatune, a record company that bills itself as "not evil." They do not use arbitrary DRM rules and seem to give their artists a lot of freedom. The contracts with artists are nonexclusive, meaning in theory that the artists could pick up another label or independently sell their merchandise and music. The website allows users to listen to an entire mp3 stream of an album. John Buckman the owner, then hopes that people are interested to get a high quality physical copy with which to listen to the album elsewhere. Buckman also splits the profits with artists 50/50, which judging from other record contracts Gordon has chronicled, is unheard of. I think it's interesting that Apple and iTunes currently dominates the online music market and aren't terribly friendly to indie labels. Buckman was lucky enough to garner enough interest in his website that Apple became interested in helping him. It seems like quite a hurdle.

Gordon's next subject, Creative Commons, is a term used to describe a community in which musicians can build upon and use each other's music without fear of financial difficulties and lawsuits. Thomas Goetz from Wired magazine released an issue with a CD full of Creative Commons-licensed music, meaning subscribers could freely take that music and improve upon it, remix it, sample it, or any other variety of changes without recourse from the artists or labels. There are "Some Rights Reserved," meaning Creative Commons does not give complete control over a track. For example, one song might allow sampling by anyone while another may only allow noncommercial use. Goetz makes the argument that all musicians are thieves, always being inspired by other artists. This is only a continuation of using other musicians as muses and makes it much easier to sample and enjoy the music of others.

Gordon speaks next with Derek Sivers, founder of CDBaby. CDBaby is an online music retailer. Sivers got his start by building the website to sell his own music online, with credit card capabilities and a "shopping cart" feature. Sivers also runs Hostbaby, a hosting site in which a band can have their own .com domain name for a reasonable price. CDBaby's connection with iTunes is much like Magnatune's, in which Apple came to them. It seems that this is the only way to compete with iTunes is to essentially buddy up with them on their own terms. Many companies come to CDBaby asking to be able to distribute their catalog and some want to "cherry pick," or choose a certain number of the best artists. CDBaby does not allow this and only sells on an all or nothing approach.

Global Music Archive

I found this to be a particularly user-friendly and helpful archive. There are very specific collections included in this archive, such as a Ugandan popular music cassette collection and East African music collections. According to the website, they will also be including an Indigenous Mexican music archive. My browser unfortunately did not recognize the player the website used to listen to the music. Also, I assume East African music is obscure and difficult to search for, so they should have designed an archive that highlights the collection rather than giving users a search bar.

International Alliance for Women in Music

This website is a coalition to raise awareness of women's contributions to music. I found it insightful and interesting that they have a link to names to request to radio shows. Although they say they request both contemporary and classical musicians, most seem to be classical. They also hold an annual concert, which seems like a good way to raise awareness.

Photographs from the Golden Age of Jazz

This website allows you to search for photographs, but also offers a few links with which to browse: by venue, by artist, or by subject. I browsed by Carnegie Hall and found a picture of Charlie Parker playing a gig. It seems to be a small collection, but a cool little piece of history that the Library of Congress has successfully digitized.

Trouser Press

This is a British alternative rock magazine archive. In the reviews alone, there is enough material to get lost for days. I read a lengthy and cohesive chronicle of the Smashing Pumpkins' career and discography, the writers not-so-cheekily calling Billy Corgan a megalomaniac. Great website, lots of reviews, easily found search bar.

Voices from the Dust Bowl

Another highly specific music collection, archivists from the Library of Congress took the time to convert almost 18 hours of Dust Bowl farmers in 1940 and 1941 singing folk-story type songs. In most, there is no musical backing, just country-like flat voices of farmers singing tales or telling stories. The website is not terribly easy to navigate, but it is an impressive collection.

Virtual Instrument Museum

This is a searchable archive of most of the instruments known to man. The website allows the user to search by region, instrument type, and a variety of other options. For most instruments, the user can listen to an audio sample to hear what the instrument is like. I listened to an instrument from Southeast Asia called a gender that is made of wood and sounds much like a vibraphone.

The Canadian Encyclopedia of Music

This is another browse-friendly music encyclopedia. I read up on Disaster Music, music inspired by various disasters. In Canada, a fire in 1825 and a few mining explosions produced mostly folk songs telling the story of the disaster and remembering those who passed. The archive is surprisingly updated to 2000, with a Canadian pop article referencing Avril Lavigne.

The ARChive of Contemporary Music

This website has a delightfully cheeky outlook, saying their archive of 1950s to present music will be important when the "spacemen" take over. They have a list of every music genre one can think of (or can't) from aboio to zoukous. Website design-wise, it is frustrating because the entire website seems to be contained in a small square in the middle of the computer screen. There also doesn't seem to be a whole lot of content here.

Black Grooves

This is a blog that has many resources and links to African American music. Unlike a few of the other sites, this one seems to truly embrace all genres of music involved in their niche. The introductory post mentions a punk rock band called Death and Aretha Franklin in the same sentence. The entries are all bite-sized reviews, often with Youtube links to hear the music that is being reviewed. The scope may be too large for the authors of the site to keep up with, but the content that is here is quality.

Chicago Jazz Archive

This Chicago Library-run archive has documents, pictures, and samples of jazz from the Chicago area. The front page has many links, depending on the user's needs from research links to jazz humor links. There are also links to maps of famous Chicago jazz clubs over the years, showing what is still there and what was once there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Week 8

This is a summary of my thoughts for the readings assigned during Week 8, including Chapters 11-13 of Steve Gordon's The Future of the Music Business and a few websites.

The Future of the Music Business

Chapter 11 starts with Gordon singing the praises of utilizing websites as a musical artist. Having been a musician in the age of Myspace and Facebook, I certainly agree with him. He compares a music website to an online "press kit," or media portfolio of sorts that contains a demo, a bio, pictures, and other positive press of a musical artist. I completely agree, in my anecdotal experience, booking agents are contented visiting my band's Facebook and Myspace page instead of requiring that I send them a full-on press kit. Similarly, e-mail lists and tour dates help fans get in touch and know when and where a band is playing. For most bands I listen to, I check their Myspace page or official website to see when they are coming through Denver. Having an online store in which to sell merchandise such as CDs, t-shirts, and stickers is also crucial. Most bands I know use bigcartel.com, a free-to-use and customizable vending website. Gordon also provides a few lessons regarding e-mail lists that I've learned, such as adding incentive to sign up in the first place and not sending out too many e-mails so it doesn't feel like subscribers are getting spammed. The interview at the end of the chapter has Gordon speaking with a promotions consultant about providing music online, it got me thinking about a recent purchase of mine. I purchased two albums by artists on Paper + Plastick Records, a small record label with poor distribution, meaning finding a physical copy of a CD was nearly impossible. Their website allows users to purchase the entire physical CD for around $8 or $9 and comes with a free instant download. This way, I get the physical CD but also the instant satisfaction of the mp3s on my computer so I can put them on my mp3 player. Genius.

In the next chapter, Steve Gordon interviews Will Calhoun of Living Colour. Calhoun says that Myspace and e-commerce (selling music online) are becoming foundations of being a musician and that the former helps him connect with fans all across the world. He also weighs the pros and cons of being on an independent label versus a major label. A major makes more people care about your music and invests in it, but takes a large percentage of profits. Independently, it is more difficult to find fans and garner interest, but the profit margin is much more heavily in the artist's favor. Calhoun and another jazz musician Dave Samuels touch on the existence of YouTube a bit. Both seem to accept its existence as an inevitability but think it can be a promotional tool as well.

In the next chapter, Gordon continues his discussion of online music promotion and vending with The Orchard, an online independent music distributor. The owner Greg Scholl talks about how promotion online can be free, as opposed to putting a poster up in a major record store, which often costs a label money. Another site he's involved in, eMusic, is a subscription site. He explains that subscription sites don't mean that if the user stops paying monthly that they will lost all the songs they paid for, instead they just stop using the service. Once a user purchases a song, he or she owns it. This seems to be quite a logistical problem for music subscription services, differentiating and describing how the process works. Gordon also points out other tools on the Internet that help artists promote themselves such as blogs and podcasting. A friend of mine visits a website called One Track Mind, a blog that offers a free mp3 every day by a different artist to discover. Labor of love-type blogs like these help users discover new music and ways to support bands that would have been unheard otherwise. Satellite radio is also becoming a form of media to watch, with Sirius and XM merging and having freedom to play unsigned artists and major players like Howard Stern. It's also a great tool for up and coming artists, there's an unsigned artists station that many A & R guys from the music industry listen to.

Wikipedia - Improvisation

I found this entry interesting, especially the focus on taking in one's environment and feelings as one improvises. As a musician who has not improvised before, this was interesting to hear. I also thought it was cool that some composers were bold enough to fully improvise a full symphony with nothing tying it together but for a recurring melody.

Live Plasma

The website wasn't working for me. Hopefully I can come back and update this entry.


I like the ideas implemented on this website, but I'd rather seem them used on a free-to-use and indie-artist friendly website like Last.fm. I also wish that the site would show the user what mood a particular song is considered. I listened to The Beatles' "Yesterday" and felt that it was "calm" and "dark" but I couldn't find a way to prove myself right or wrong. Also to its credit, there are a fair number of options available to non-paying users.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Week 7

This is a summary of my thoughts for the assigned readings and websites to discuss for Week 7.

Chapters 15 and 23 of Musicophilia

Clive’s story is both amazing and saddening, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to “wake up” to a new existence every few seconds. His diary especially was troubling, in which he chronicled his “awakeness” and was amazed to see he had entries in it from the previous day. His wife, who loved him despite his constant greetings and confusion, wrote a memoir about it. Sacks describes that Clive had a few conversational topics that somewhere in his subconscious he had a knowledge of and was comfortable conversing about. Despite all of this, Clive’s piano playing ability and more importantly his improvisational abilities are astounding. A footnote describes that amnesiac patients are sometimes better at improvisation because of their spontaneity. Even though he has a hard time remembering what she looks like, Clive recognizes his wife through other senses like her presence, her smell, and her voice. Almost like a blind person, Clive’s other senses are heightened somewhat. Clive’s musical talent provides more evidence that the musical part of our brains seems to be something that functions and acts completely differently than the rest of it. Impressively, Clive’s piano playing is dynamic instead of robotic and memorized, showing true functioning in his musical talent despite his illness.

Sacks next chapter talks about hypnotic states and music, it almost seems like music can be an even more “in-between” state than hypnosis and consciousness or even sleepwalking and sleep. Sacks recalls some of his own pleasant and unpleasant states involving music. It was interesting to hear that even obscure or latent orchestrations and songs appear out of some people’s subconscious. Both of the chapters this week imply that lifelong musicians have special psyches that can defy common logic and known science. From personal experience, I can attest that writing vocal melodies for songs will sometimes frustratingly result in a melody very similar to a song that I had listened to weeks, even months ago. Perhaps music has a way of boring its way into the brain underneath the subconscious much like the sense of smell can ignite memories.

Chapters 6 and 7 of A Manual for the Performance Library

One of the challenges presented in regards to being a music librarian is space. I can imagine that not all librarians have a dedicated library, especially if they are involved with only a few or a smaller music ensemble. The result, rows upon rows of boxes in an impromptu area or multiple storage areas, would result in the need for an extremely organized librarian. Similarly, a smaller music library must utilize sign-out sheets instead of barcodes. Recently, my library had an afternoon during which our system was down and we had to do everything the old-fashioned way. Less than an hour in to manually checking patrons items out, I was ready to EMBRACE technology again, so this would definitely be another challenge for a performance librarian even with a small collection. Part of the trouble would be tracking helpful things like circulation and archival date, things that are nice to know when weeding and selecting new material. Surely the librarian keeps track of these things, but again, this must be done manually.

Other responsibilities such as auditions and making concert programs are discussed with great detail, more facets of a multifaceted job. Girsberger’s final point is about good communication, which is easy to see considering the previous six chapters. A performance librarian has a complex job that requires professionalism and working with what could be multiple ensembles. Renting, lending, and preserving music requires good communication with the ensemble and vendors.

Who Owns the Media?

It was interesting to see all of the connections and what all of the multimedia corporations own. I had no idea that General Electric was so powerful, they must have a good publicist. I also stumbled upon one of the bigger arguments of our age on this website, whether or not the Internet should say free. Big companies like the ones on this site are trying to make the Internet a profitable enterprise and websites like this one are working to stop it.

Downhill Battle

This is a website describing the injustices and ways that modern and popular music industries such as iTunes and the RIAA are unfairly treating artists and consumers. For example, iTunes does not give a fair share of profits to its artists. Also, the compression of .mp3 files is said to go unnoticed by consumers, but the editors of this website argue otherwise, especially when listening in a quiet uninterrupted environment.


I had a friend who went to Berklee for percussion and she came back never wanting to play the drums again. Hopefully, this is not the case with those who choose careers in music business and management. My undergrad school, University of Colorado Denver, offered a music business degree, but the breadth of the possibilities at Berklee shows its truly a music school to end all music schools.

Full Sail

I've heard questionable things about the game design degrees at Full Sail, hopefully their music business degree is more reputable. Their website design certainly speaks to a school that's saavy with technology and art.


I scanned the punk listings for various media outlets looking for those listings and found an interesting request or two. The opportunities part reminds me a bit of the opportunities that ReverbNation offers bands, various gigs and festivals that they email you and remind you about. Certainly a cool idea.

Music Business Solutions

Although I'm sure Peter Spellman means well with his information, his website provides a frustrating amount of vague ideas and no real answers. This of course is because he's trying to sell a consulting service, but I found this frustrating nonetheless.

Music Biz Academy

Same complaint as the last website, unfortunately. This authors of these books probably have great ideas and tips, but without offering at least one or two from the books, I have a hard time believing them. The music business can be full of naive dreamers and it seems that some of these entrepreneurs are trying to take advantage of that.

The Long Tail

A very interesting article arguing that perhaps consumers tastes get less and less mainstream the more they follow the not-so-beaten path using search algorithms and suggestion systems on sites like Amazon and Netflix. The author describes that retailers like Netflix and Barnes and Noble rent out or have consumers buying a good chunk of their stock that's not in the top percentages of their sales. This describes the long tail, a phenomenon of people being interested in niche genres. Much of the strategy, the author describes, is leading the consumer down a particular path of their likes and dislikes. This reminded me of Pandora and last.fm, internet radio stations that suggest new artists and music based on your preferences.


With random search using the Parsons code, (URRRRDDDDRUUUDUDUDR), I happened upon "The Boxer" by Simon and Garfunkel, one of my favorite songs of theirs. My only concern with this search engine and many other melody search engines is that they're very unlikely to have more obscure music, as my search pulled up Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel. What if I was looking for an obscure punk band from Boston with a similar lie-lie-lie melody?

Google Research

This article gives me further faith/fear that Google is taking over the world. If anyone has the ability to construct a workable music-based search engine, its them.


I appreciate that these guys at least let you download a trial of their digital music reading software before you buy it. Using XML seems complex to notate music, but perhaps for those who are already versed in computer language could find it to be more helpful.


As with music-map last week, I was impressed by Gnod's music finding capabilities. As with my complaint last week, I'd like just a bit of information on the bands I'm looking at and rating. Perhaps if it's a band I say I hadn't heard of, they could list a few soundalikes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Week 6

This is a summary of my thoughts on Chapters 7 and 11 in Oliver Sacks' Musicophilia, Chapters 4 and 5 of Russ Girsberger's A Manual for the Performance Library, and a few websites posted.

Chapters 7 and 11 of Musicophilia

The first thing that struck me about Chapter 7 was Sacks describing the way a brain can be at odds with one's musical talent or skills. He says fingers will not do what the brain tells them to sometimes. Clearly, even from the existence of his book, there is still much to be explained in terms of how the brain works especially in conjunction with music.

Reading about different parts of the brain being affected by musicianship was interesting. According to a study in Sacks' book, the corpus colossum and the planum temporale are often enlarged in professional musicians, whereas math or science specialists are more difficult to tell apart anatomically because the parts of the brain they use are not so specialized. This reminded me of a similar study done on London taxi cab drivers, showing that their hippocampus was often larger than average, reflecting that this part of the brain might have to do with memory and spatial reasoning.

It seems that Sacks is making a bit of the nature versus nurture argument in a few of these chapters, querying whether a strong musician is predisposed to be from birth or that other life influence affects it. He has yet to make a strong case for one or the other, but I think most anyone could be nurtured into musicianship. With the Suzuki training and various other early age musical training, this seems to make a strong argument for being able to grow into a musician.

Sacks' story of Jorgen Jorgensen, the man who lost an ear and gained pseudo three dimensional hearing with the one left, reminded me of the importance of both ears when listening to music. On occasion, my headphones will get disconnected or not connect properly and only play through one half of my headphones. I can't stand when this happens, as I miss everything from the recording that was panned to the left ear. Background vocals, the high hat on the drum set, various other things are totally missing and detracts from the listening experience.

From what Sacks is saying though, it seems possible as he says to "recalibrate" the world to using one ear. I also found it interesting that the improvement is not necessarily the ear or the cochlea, its the brain adjusting to hear from one side better.

Chapters 4 and 5 of A Manual for the Performance Library

I was surprised again that there is no reliable order that scores are put in for the performance library, just as cataloging is not completely consistent. It really seems that a music library association or something similar should adopt a consistent rule set for these to improve searchability and make things a bit easier for the performance librarian. I also found it amazing how many things a performance librarian must take into account, such as numbering parts properly and acquiring sheet music that lays flat when opened and can withstand note taking. All of the steps make sense, but the number of things that a performance librarian must keep track of is daunting.

A performance librarian seems to have to encompass many different roles, as Girsberger specifies at the beginning of Chapter 5. When marking music sheets, a performance librarian must imagine him or herself as the performer, looking for bad page turns and other oddities or troubles that may arise while playing. For example, Girsberger mentions the distraction of an entire section doing a page turn during a quiet part of the song. It seems that the performance librarian is truly a part of a music ensemble; just as much as any of the players in it since she or he must have such a deep appreciation and understanding of music.

Sociology of Rock Music - website

Despite the 90s style website design, I found this website interesting and informative. The article on the supposed dirtiness of "Louie, Louie" by The Kingsmen was especially entertaining. The mumbled lyrics can possibly be attributed to braces, a too-high boom microphone, and an overworked voice. Ha!

Music Map

This website was very impressive. I tested it with an obscure Chicago punk band named Much the Same and it worked! The only thing missing is just a bit of information on each band you click through, but I suppose you could just go over to allmusic.com once you discover a musical artist.

Kevin Kelly's article

I found it especially interesting how the advent of the phonograph shaped music. Since it could record only four and a half minutes, musicians shortened their songs. Perhaps this could explain the average three to four minutes of a pop song these days. Also, it forced musicians to shorten their songs and make them more melodic. It's definitely interesting to see the way that a simple invention could change something as nebulous and complex as music with a simple duplication tool.

The Royalty Calculator

It is pretty amazing to see how many records an artist has to sell to break even with most outcomes. I also found the statistic that 90% of record label artists sell 150,000 copies or less when in my calculation (with records going at $9.98) I'd have to sell at least 1.5 million to break even.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Week 5

This is a summary of my thoughts on the preface and Chapter 1 of Musicophilia, Chapters 2 and 3 in A Manual for the Performance Library, This is your Brain on Music, and a few music cognition websites.

Preface and Chapter 1 - Musicophilia

Having never thought about it, I found it fascinating that Sacks and other scholars make an argument that music is pointless in an evolutionary sense. Truly, if one looks at most other human behaviors such as the need to reproduce, eat, find shelter, and make tools, one can draw those tendencies to the need to survive. However, with music, despite the fact that humans seem to enjoy it from infancy, it seems that there is no scientific evidence as to why we are drawn to it. Sacks' mention of music's ability to help and/or hinder mental patients was also interesting, either culminating in a hallucination or a therapeutic song.

The story of Dr. Cicoria and his sudden love of music after a lightning strike made me think of a documentary I've seen on schizophrenia. In it, there is a schizophrenic piano savant who can play amazingly. However, if he is representing a different personality at the time, he will argue to the end of the world that he is not a musician. If you sit him in front of a piano, he has no idea what to do. It is amazing how the brain seems to have an on/off switch for musical inspiration and talent. Sacks seems to tease the reader with what the true catalyst of musicophilia could possibly be. He mentions that there are select groups of people who suddenly become music lovers in their late 40s. He says that near-death experiences can deeply affect people to the point that they become completely different afterwords. Whether the phenomenon can be explained scientifically or spiritually, it certainly seems that music has a profound effect on people.

Chapter 2 and 3 - A Manual for the Performance Library

Purchasing and general acquisitions for music most definitely seems specialized. Having to track down certain revisions of an obscure musical score sounds like a challenging task. A performance librarian must also evaluate musical scores based on a few criteria. I found it especially interesting that proper page turns and actual paper quality are taken into consideration, these are things I had not previously considered. Reading about all of the different fees taken into consideration when renting music made me think back to Gordon's recounting of the costs involved in say, putting music on a soundtrack. Certainly the fees make sense, but it's amazing how many of them seem to add up.

Girsberger specifies that in his opinion, performance librarians can come up with their own way of classifying music in their library. This seems counterintuitive and I'm amazed he doesn't encourage a standard format such as a MARC record. Surely whoever happens to use the collection would get used to the cataloging tendencies, but a standardized rule set would make more sense. Despite the fact that these materials may not circulate outside of the library, keeping everything the same as other libraries would be most user-friendly.

Despite its publication in 2006, I'm surprised that Girsberger recommends a card catalog and in the previous chapter only mentions in passing that websites for rental music might be a helpful resource. Surely, a consistent electronic catalog would be easier to maintain than a card catalog.

I have to reconsider a bit about what I said about a standardized cataloging rule set earlier. At least in terms of instrument arrangements, the coding for cataloging seems consistent. The organization of flutes/oboes/clarinets/bassoons translating to 2 2 2 2 representing each number of instrument needed seems to be a widely used shorthand for musical cataloging. Similarly, Girsberger does mention that standardized cataloging rules such as MARC are used by some music libraries.

Girsberger talks a bit about using a rule set in terms of how to enter data when there are multiple titles and ways to spell a particular name. He recommends that the cataloger use an authoritative source such as a book to refer to. Although it would be more time consuming, it seems to me that a more searchable catalog would include as many of the different spellings and titles that are available. This may not be feasible in every situation, but I think this cataloging attitude would improve the retrieval of the search engine.

This is your Brain on Music

It seems that this book draws many similarities to Sacks' work, weighing the mysteries of music with human cognition. Things like an especially trained ear or perfect pitch - are we predisposed to have this talent or can it be learned? Music can evoke emotion and be studied for years without knowing all of the answers. Each of these articles and books seem to be making music to be more enigmatic and nebulous; outside of human comprehension.

Ohio State University Music Cognition Center website

This website has a frustrating number of questions with no answers. Certainly these questions piqued my interest. Specifically, wondering if there are different ways of "listening" sounded interesting. Certainly there's passive and active listening, but it would be fascinating to find how different people listen to music. In the introduction to This is your Brain on Music, Levitin mentioned that Paul Simon listens to his records as a whole. I'd imagine some others listen only to the lyrics or yet others listen to the rhythm parts.

Origins of Music Website

I find it amazing that from simple hieroglyphics and drawings that researchers could decipher melody and specific musical notes. It did make me wonder what they operationally define a "song" as, though, because I'm sure neanderthals or similar ancestors could have beat out rhythms or have sung songs without documentation.

Brain Diagram

I thought it was interesting that memories and associations were involved in the diagram as a brain's effect on music. I sometimes underestimate good memories being associated with a certain song I like. Perhaps my favorite album is not necessarily because it's the greatest recorded of all time, but because of the positive memories I correlate with it. The way music conjures memories is unlike many other senses.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Week 4

This is a summary of my thoughts of Chapter 7 and 8 in The Future of the Music Business and the introduction and Chapter 1 of A Manual for the Performance Library.

Chapter 7

Firstly, I was amazed to find that at the time of publication that ringtone sales were exceeding the sales of digital downloads. In the latest generation of music, it has been interesting to find the increasing willingness to sacrifice sound quality for convenience. Rather than have a great sounding recording of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, the average music consumer would prefer to have it ripped into an mp3 file along with many other CDs to make it more portable. I feel the same way with ringtones. Cell phone speakers are not made for sound quality and I find it strange that a short clip of the chorus of a song would be so sought after. Despite the steady decline of CD sales, it is interesting to find that the major record labels are finding ways to continue to make money. It seems the sales of "master" ring tones might be the key (ringtone mp3s made from the original recording masters).

Gordon's prediction that music in video games will become a bigger part of the music industry is correct. Even in this generation of video games, licensed music has become important. As Gordon mentioned, developers of music games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero spend millions to acquire licenses to features artists like Metallica, Green Day, and The Ramones in their video games, but are repaid with even more millions of dollars in sales. Much like the modern music business, players may also purchase more songs to play on Rock Band for a small fee.

Chapter 8

Reading about the recording industry's financial troubles struck an odd chord with me. As a musician and music lover, I support local bands and small independent labels. As a whole, I think this is a rare stance. Although I do not often help major labels in terms of sales, I don't hinder them either by illegally downloading their music. Consumers think it's a victimless crime to steal from huge corporations like Sony/BMI, but at the rate that peer to peer applications are being used to download music, it seems that these corporations are being pushed out of the market. Gordon's assessment of major labels being slow to jump on the digital music bandwagon when Napster made it clear that the public was ready for digitized music was apt, but as he said, not the sole reason.

Seeing that the major labels and record industry had to work with other industries like electronics companies was interesting. Asking an electronics company to make their product less user-friendly and workable in exchange for nothing except success on the record industry's end is a tough sell. Since there was no real benefit in adding hardware or software to computers to reduce music piracy, I'm not surprised this did not happen. At the end of the chapter, when Gordon mentions that technology allows for this generation to pirate music, it made me realize that technology and music will eventually have to embrace and work together for the music industry to work.

The RIAA's lawsuit against "children and grandmothers" baffled me. As Gordon said, the RIAA did not exactly profit from these thousands of settlements and court cases. The only rhyme or reason I can think of for these lawsuits would be for the RIAA to send a message that they will track down and punish whoever might illegally download music. I think part of the reason consumers don't have any remorse for using peer to peer applications and acquiring music illegally is for reasons like this; these large corporations seem heartless and greedy, so why should the average consumer not try and stick it to them a bit?

Intro and Chapter 1

A performance librarian seems like an interesting niche profession. It's truly a combination of two talents or hobbies, information retrieval and reference skills mixed with a love and knowledge of music. The way Girsberger describes the job, performance librarians must have an intricate knowledge of whatever ensemble or conductor he or she is working for since the librarian must help select music that corresponds with their style and skill level. The performance librarian has much more responsibility in the final product than say a law librarian or medical librarian. Though my knowledge of these professions is lacking, I'd imagine law and medical librarians must have familiarity with information unique to these fields, but the performance librarian's responsibility to edit sheet music and select it shows that he or she would be much more in touch with the musical group he or she is working with and their successes or failures.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Week 3

This is a summary of my thoughts for Gordon’s The Future of the Music Business for Chapters 5, 6, and the websites provided.

Chapter 5

I found it interesting that Gordon included a chapter on music videos at all. My band is releasing an album at the end of this month and I was thinking it would certainly be cool to shoot a music video for our single, but have been second guessing myself wondering if people really watch them anymore or if they even really have an impact on music consumers. It seems the days of MTV and the “Video Killed the Radio Star” generation is over, but perhaps websites like YouTube make music videos a still viable form of music media.

Firstly, I can certainly agree with Gordon’s terminology of “promo videos” rather than “music videos.” In a casual comparison between videos from the 1980s and 90s to the ones now, it seems modern music videos are much more concerned with selling the band and making them look the part rather than being an artistic vision that compliments the music as it was back then. It’s more of a music commercial than it is a music video.

Later in the chapter, I found it odd that iTunes sells music videos. As a Zune user and generally a person that avoids Apple products (for no particular reason), I am not too familiar with iTunes. As previously mentioned, it seems that YouTube is a viable source to watch music videos for free. I can understand wanting to own a song to download onto an mp3 player or to burn, but actually owning a music video seems like a strange practice. Have music videos become a replacement for standard mp3s? Does the audiovisual effect necessitate repeat viewings?

Chapter 6

The information on music compilations was eye-opening. I had never considered that a record company might be reluctant to release a song that might still benefit them. It seems like a bit of a risk to hope that the compilation would renew a listener’s interest in that particular song, which would then lead to he or she purchasing more albums by that artist whose recordings the original label owns. In my experience, local bands will get together to make compilations to generally raise awareness of other bands around town. The bands can each split the cost of pressing and everyone can enjoy new exposure. It’s interesting to see things on a small versus large scale.

The rules of music on film are interesting. The idea that it costs more to play a song during the opening credits rather than in the background makes sense. Many of the songs played at the beginning of James Bond films for example, stick out in my mind. On the other hand, I will oftentimes listen to film soundtracks and not remember hearing even half of the songs during the film. It seems that music on film is a compromise between both recording artist and director: the artist wants exposure but the director does not want to let a song interrupt the flow of his or her film.

I also found MFN costs to be a fascinating negotiation. Between all of the licensing and rules that Gordon has already summarized throughout the first chapters, MFN seems to be one of the more nightmarish to negotiate. MFN essentially means that in a contract with multiple artists, whoever garners the best deal financially, all of the others on the compilation/film/etc. gets the same deal. So if Madonna demands a certain high price to be on a soundtrack, all other artists get paid her fee too unless they decide to drop Madonna off of the soundtrack altogether.

From many of Gordon’s descriptions, it seems that a savvy record label representative can negotiate his or her way around the fees and contracts that the industry is rife with. For example, when he speaks of using songs in commercials, a savvy representative would perhaps track down a lesser known song that is cheaper to license. This way everyone is happy, the artist gets exposure and the commercial has a fitting and hip song for its product. Additionally, Gordon mentioned that MFN costs can be negotiated and avoided depending on when and where a song is played in TV or film. If a song is played only on cable TV in the U.S., Gordon states that this can cut down on costs a bit.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Week 2

This is a summary of my thoughts for the readings assigned during week 2, including Downie’s article, the websites posted this week, and Chapters 3 and 4 of The Future of the Music Business.

Music Information Retrieval

When beginning Stephen Downie’s article on Music Information Retrieval (MIR), he immediately acknowledged my skepticism about obstacles in music searching. Reading Dr. Simon’s definitions of MIR, I could only think: how useful could a music search engine be if it couldn’t “listen” to and identify songs? I mean, it’s great if the potential user already knows the name of that obscure Austrian composer, but nine times out of ten it seems that the user needs to make the search engine work for him or her rather than the other way around. Certainly, if or when this technology becomes available, it will truly be an evolution in information retrieval.

Unfortunately, from Downie’s description of all of the complex facets of MIR, it seems that this evolution is a long way off. Many of Downie’s descriptions of elements such as timber and harmony makes me think that perhaps music is too varied and multifaceted to ever truly be searchable. Even with documents made only of text, library of congress tags and descriptors can be insubstantial for a proper search, so what hope is there of properly categorizing something that means so many different things to so many people like music? Downie describes this effect in the multiexperiential challenge, saying that music can be anything from background noise to traditional hand clapping to a soundtrack to a film.

Chapter 3

Much of Gordon’s chapter on webcasting rang true for me. He spoke of ClearChannel, a conglomerate who owns the vast majority of major commercial radio stations. Having webcasting available helps lessen ClearChannel’s impact, allowing smaller artists to be represented on internet stations. Major radio station playlists have always been shrouded in mystery, some arguing that the “payola” scheme is still in place, which dictates that record companies or other private businesses pay radio stations to play songs by certain artists. Hopefully internet radio can remain open to more niche audiences and/or have more diverse playlists. Gordon also ventures that these internet radio stations are more likely to take a chance on riskier artists, those who may not catch on with a wider audience immediately.

One other note I wanted to make about the webcasting chapter was the way artists get paid. Hearing about record deals and now hearing about radio plays, it’s amazing to think how 2/100 of a cent per listener could ever add up to any type of profit. I’m sure there are details and ideas that I’m leaving out, but it’s difficult to imagine that these fractions of cents could ever add up to anything significant.

Streaming and selling music online digitally has certainly taken off, probably more since The Future of the Music Business was written. I think iTunes has become one of the most popular ways to legally acquire music. As Gordon mentions, this also changes the dynamic in how singles work. Since iTunes allows a user to purchase any track from an album for a dollar, it seems singles could be more important than ever. Perhaps there’s less pressure from an artist to produce a solid, cohesive album and more to produce a few single-worthy songs.

Chapter 4

I found it interesting that record labels will register fake downloads of popular music on illegal free music websites such as LimeWire and formerly Napster. I think this shows users the risk of downloading from such sites, that files could be infected or fake, but it seems like an odd practice to me. On the other hand, it will likely encourage the use of authorized music download providers such as iTunes and Amazon MP3.

Gordon included an article on “double dipping” by artists who are arguing that downloading a song should include royalties for a public performance much like streaming music online or playing in a club would earn. Gordon’s argument that the user downloads a song then later decides to play it makes sense. It should not be considered a public performance unless the user hits a button and instantly hears music, much like webcasting and streaming works.


I found the SEMLA website interesting, as it chronicles the strengths of various music collections in the Southeastern United States. In Tennessee, for example, I now know that Belmont University has a strong emphasis on vocal music and has many additional music research resources. Professor Simon was right about the various agendas of each organization. It seems that the Music Library Association is more interested in spreading awareness of music in libraries while the International Computer Music Association is geared more towards integrating technology and music. Judging from Downie’s assessment of the state of MIR, I would put more stock into the ICMA, hoping that they would help move MIR research forward.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week 1

This is a summary and my thoughts of the readings for week 1 (Chapter 1 and 2 of The Future of the Music Business by Steve Gordon.)

Introduction and Chapter 1

When reading the preface and introduction, I noticed right away that Gordon's focus is on the state of the music business and how technology can change it. He reports that with CD sales down and big name artists like Radiohead releasing albums for a name-your-price price, technology has arrived on the music scene for better or worse. This reminded me of a book I read recently: So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star by the drummer of Semisonic (famous for their one hit "Closing Time.") I figured that getting signed by a label in the 90s would equate instant success, but that book proved me wrong. Semisonic struggled with shifting of record company CEOs, Elektra going under, and later MCA going under. With emerging technology allowing artists to release their music online for free or just whoever will listen, it seems like the ever growing pool of available music in the world has grown exponentially, making an industry that is already difficult for artists to break into nearly impossible to make a splash.

Next, in Chapter 1, I found it interesting that anyone from a bowling alley to a restaurant must acquire a license from BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC to be able to play music publicly. It makes my imagination run wild with "music police" running around to various restaurants and fining owners for playing Foghat with no license. Now that I think of it, I've seen stickers on restaurant windows mentioning something about BMI.

Reading about advances and royalties for artists and seeing that an artist can get a budget then keep whatever's left over or get an advance for the recording costs reminded me of a story I'd read recently. When one of my favorite bands Rise Against left their smaller indie punk label Fat Wreck Chords and signed to Geffen, they went the budget route. They toured in a van rather than a swanky bus and recorded a great record at Colorado's own Blasting Room for less money than many Hollywood studios. As a result, with all of the money left over, they were able to release their album for $9.99 rather than some of the more insulting record prices, upwards of $17.

Chapter 2

The first thing I found interesting about chapter 2 is that "the practice of ripping a CD to a computer and copying the file to an MP3 player has not been challenged" (Gordon, 2008, p. 26). I've noticed that a common practice at libraries is for a patron to bring a laptop and an iPod, take a handful of CDs from the collection, and rip them to their computers to transfer to the iPod. Most libraries seem to overlook this or ignore it, so it was interesting to read the official law and statement on the subject. Since MP3s are so popular now, I think legislating the practice of ripping CDs on computers and copying them to a device would prove nearly impossible.

Reading about internet radio also made me take note. I remember hearing about this new thing called Pandora a few years ago, people telling me that it was an internet radio that could play music based on what type of music you liked. I played around with it for a bit, decided that the music I like is too obscure even for its metadata-filled library, and wrote it off. A few years later, Pandora comes packaged with Blu-Ray players and is a mainstay at most of the parties I attend. It seems that this along with websites like last.fm and bandcamp are fast becoming the place consumers go to listen to and discover music. These trends most definitely coincide with the statistics Gordon rattled off regarding the recent explosion of internet radio. Reading on, it seems there are different types of internet radio. Pandora and last.fm are classified as a Narrowcaster, because it personalizes streams based on the user's tastes. I'd imagine this would be a more popular type of internet radio, as it allows the user to narrow down the vast world of music to a smaller pool of similar styles and genres.

As Gordon (2008) mentions, it seems the Amazon MP3 service has become a major player, perhaps even detracting from iTunes. I have recently started using Amazon's service. While iTunes continues to generally sell songs for .99 a piece and sometimes an album for $9.99, I recently purchased a hard-to-find punk album with 14 tracks for $7.99. It's hard to compete with prices like that. On the other side, with companies like Microsoft and Rhapsody offering subscription services for "celestial jukebox" types of sites, I remain skeptical. Paying to listen to and download but not exactly own still keeps me from having any interest in these services. Rhapsody does not even support playing songs on the iPod, so I don't see this service taking off any time soon.

Finally, I'll agree with Gordon (2008) that YouTube and channels like Music Choice have an impact on the music industry. Although the age of MTV's music videos changing an artist's career are likely over, I believe actually seeing a band performing their song with a clever video can boost popularity. From my experience working with teens in a library, I can testify that YouTube is an extremely popular place for them to listen to music, probably even the place they go to the most since MySpace's popularity has died out.


Gordon, S. (2008). The future of the music business: Second edition. New York: Hal Leonard Books.

Slichter, J. (2005). So you wanna be a rock and roll star. New York: Broadway.





Thursday, January 27, 2011


I will use this blog primarily to illustrate my progress from an unlearned dolt to a knowledgable and respectable young citizen...at least in terms of learning about music and libraries in LIBR 220 for SLIS San Jose. Later, when I become famous or infamous, (haven't decided yet) I'll be glad I snatched up the nickdtaylor domain name.