2011 Favorite Listening

Here, in no particular order, are my choices for the 2011 releases that I keep coming back to.


Merril Garbus weaves her African influence, her loop boxes,  and her DIY spirit into something totally new and compelling. A big, bold voice with something to say.

Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest

I didn’t see a lot of live music in 2011, but Gillian Welch and David Rawlings in Chicago was a real highlight. This album is full of great songs that sound as if they could have been written any time in the last 75 years.

Deep Blue Organ Trio – Wonderful!

Soulful groovin’ organ trio from Chicago, playing Stevie Wonder tunes with fresh new interpretations. Jazz comfort food!

Fountains of Wayne – Sky Full of Holes

I’m a sucker for intelligent, literate pop music, and this filled the bill this year. Raymond Carver meets the Ray-Beats.  Recommended for fans of Squeeze.

James Farm

A terrific new quartet with rising stars Joshua Redman on sax and Seattle native Aaron Parks on piano. Great compositions and thoughtful improvisation. Take a listen even if you think you don’t like jazz.

Larry Goldings – In My Room

A lovely, contemplative, (mostly) solo piano set from Larry Goldings.

Miles Davis Quintet – Live in Europe 1967

Miles’ great quintet captured at the height of their power – 3 CDs and a DVD. One of the high water marks in all of jazz.

Bernstein Goldings Stewart – Live At Small’s

Another fine example of the modern organ trio. This long-standing grouping plays empathically together.

Ry Cooder – Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down

Who better than Ryland P. Cooder to take on the role of Woody Guthrie for the 99%?

Sunna Gunnlaugs – Long Pair Bond

Two years in a row for Icelandic pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs on my list. This record rewards repeated listening!

Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’

The best of new soul, where Raphael transcends the retro act to produce a new and joyous sound.

The Decembrists – The King Is Dead

In which Colin Malloy and company leave the pretension behind and make great rock tunes.


Just getting into:

Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation

Van Hunt – What Were You Hoping For?


Levi-Strauss, remix culture, and mining the rock ‘n’ roll past

Logic Studio screenshot
Last week Wet Paint, my old band from the 70s, got together to play a college reunion gig in Bellingham. Great fun was had by all, and I think the band sounded better than it ever had.

Leading up to the gig I digitized our 1978 single from vinyl, and then I decided to try my hand at doing a remix of one of the sides, Steve Robinson’s very cool Shake A Maraca.

Doing a remix is an interesting process. Starting with the original tracks you visually slice and dice them into parts, adding various levels of audio processing to them, and then combine them with other audio. The tools for digitally manipulating music these days are nothing short of astounding in their power (and complexity). I used the latest version of Apple’s Logic, version 9, but there are a variety of competing tools.

Logic comes with a vast array of software instruments and pre-recorded snippets (known as “loops”) which can be utilized at will, and you can import audio from any other source you can find. So the process of the remix involves sifting through a huge library of available sounds and grooves, and trying to figure out what’s useful to the task at hand, and using those pieces to build up what hopefully becomes a compositionally coherent whole.

That got me thinking about the late Claude Levi-Strauss’ writings on “bricolage” in traditional cultures. Bricolage literally means “tinkering”, or as Wikipedia defines it, “to refer to the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process”.

Levi-Strauss wrote about the use of bricolage in the construction of myths in indigenous cultures, saying:

The set of the ‘bricoleur’s’ means cannot therefore be defined in terms of a project… It is to be defined only by its potential use or, putting this another way and in the language of the ‘bricoleur’ himself, because the elements are collected or retained on the principle that ‘they may always come in handy’. Such elements are specialized up to a point, sufficiently for the ‘bricoleur’ not to need the equipment and knowledge of all trades and professions, but not enough for each of them to have only one definite and determinate use. They each represent a set of actual and possible relations; they are ‘operators’ but they can be used for any operations of the same type.

which sounds a lot like the current way music is built up digitally. He recognized that the results of the bricoleur’s technique “can reach brilliant unforeseen results on the intellectual plane,” which I think is completely true of using musical remix techniques, which can often bear only the slightest resemblances to the original source material.

Some of my old fogey contemporaries question whether the technique of building up new musical art by reassembling and manipulating digital pieces is as valid as making music by playing a traditional instrument. Get over it! While I personally will always treasure the pleasure of my hands and ears interacting with strings and wood, I don’t think that any one method of achieving sound necessarily holds any more validity than another – it’s what you can do with the tools that matters. I’m sure if I was just starting out with music, I’d be spending a whole lot of time in front of my computer mastering these tools.

All of which seemed relevant this week with the news of the Rolling Stones release of a remastered Exile on Main Street complete with ten new tracks, some of which had some vocal and instrumental parts finished this year. I’ve always loved Exile (though I think Beggars Banquet is still my favorite Stones album), and having just been spending this time mining my own 30-year-old past for a remix, who am I to question whether Mick and Keith should delve into their own unfinished creations? While I haven’t given the new material a good listen, I did really enjoy the All Songs Considered interview with producer Don Was on the project, and the pieces he played during the interview sounded great. If I had a back catalog like the Stones, you can bet I’d be spending time revisiting it – and it sounds a good deal better than any of the Stones’ new material has in some time!

I also think that the bricolage approach has a lot of relevance to software engineering and how we manage IT, particularly in higher education, and I’ll have more to say on that in a coming post.

A spate of gigs – all next week!

I go for months on end without playing any gigs, and here are four gigs in one week with two different groups – so next week you’ve got no excuse for not showing up for one of these!

The K.N.O.T. Quartet will be playing jazz standards on Tuesday, July 15 on the Ave, at the Lucid Jazz Lounge, 5241 University Way NE in Seattle. 7-10 pm.

On Friday, July 17, K.N.O.T. will be playing at the Pig ‘n’ Whistle Bar & Grill in Greenwood (I hear the food is good) – 7-10 pm, 8412 Greenwood Avenue North in Seattle.

I’ll be playing klezmer music with the Klez Katz on Saturday, July 18 at the 9th annual Ballard Art In The Garden Festival, which sounds like a blast – art and music in a pea-patch garden. We’re playing from 1 – 1:45. 8527 25th Ave NW, Seattle, WA.

The fourth gig is a wedding – sorry, but ya gotta be invited for that one!
Hope to see you at one or more of these events!

[FTC Town Hall] Digital Rights Management FTC Town Hall – Second panel – legal landscape

The panel is moderated by Carl Settlemyer, Attorney with the Division of Advertising Practices, FTC, who gives a 3 minute overview of US copyright law (whew!).

Rob Kasunic – Principal Legal Advisor, U.S. Copyright Office. The DMCA. There’s always been a symbiotic relationship between technology and copyright laws.

He draws a link between DRM and access controls on files in operating systems. These were just technological methods, without any legal backing. Traditionally, copyright law was supported by practical constraints on physical copying, but with technology the law may not be enough to protect works.

Congress determined that the solution was to erect legal support for technological self-help measures used ot protect copyrighted works distributed in digital form. The current models of streaming subscription services are an example of models made possible by these protections.

Section 1201 created prohibitions for two activities – circumvention of technological measures (a1), and distribution of devices that circumvent measures (a2). No prohibition on fair use and other traiditonal limitations of the exclusive right of copyright – free to circumvent to preserve legitimate use.

Section 1201 rulemaking – Congress created a triennial rulemaking process as a “fail-safe” mechanism- carried out by Copyright OFfice. Library of Congress may create an exemption for “particular classes of works” for the ensuing three-year period. http://www.copyright.gov/1201/

Steven Metalitz – Attorney – Mitchell Sliberberg and Kunpp (Counsel to Pubklishers, Software Alliance, Entertainment Software Association, MPAA, and RIAA) – use of access controls has encouraged more access by more people. (?) Offers more choices to consumers. As DRM evolves, choices broaden. DRM has encouraged rights-holders to make more content available. DRM as a “key enabling technology” that should be encouraged. Copyright owners recognize the issue of disclosure to consumers and are experimenting with different methods to do so. Content companies have a great incentive to match the expectations of consumers to make their businesses live.

Corynne McSherry – Electronic Frontier Foundation

Copyright is not just about protecting the rights of owners to control creative works – it’s a balance of the rights of content owners and the public. Unfortunately DRM can upset that balance in ways that are harmful to consumers and innovation.

User rights – Fair Use – protects basic personal uses. Reasonable consumer expectations include personal and backup copies, time-shifting, space-shifting, etc. Consumers also expect innovation – new tools and uses, e.g. SlingBox, BnetD, Real DVD. Consumers don’t expect to have to repurchase content every time a new technology comes along. Content owners use the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA to shut down innovation. RealDVD tried to play by the rules in licensing DVD technology to make backup copies of DVDs, but they were sued and are now under a restraining order.

There’s also “first sale rights” What about content in the Kindle?

Consumers feel abandoned when services shut down – e.g. Yahoo! Music, MSN Music, etc.

The rest of the story – EULAs – Contract law.

We need disclosures in advance, not pop-ups after you purchase. Disclosures won’t solve the problems with DRM, though.

Justin Hughes – Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University

Ten years after the DMCA, we have a world full of digital locks, but is not characterized by digital lockdowns. We’re now in a better place to understand the impacts of DRM. When the DMCA was drafted, there wasn’t much discussion at all about disclosure. Are we here to engage in substantive regulation of the marketplace, or regulation of information? We do have problems of full and adequate disclosure. But we also have substantive issues – securing consumer rights.

DMCA as an attempt at substantive regulation. If your regulation is sufficiently light, it becomes part of the background environment. That’s been true of the DMCA. We might have ended up in a technological arms race, but we don’t live in that world because of the DMCA. What the regulation did not do was to attempt to determine the relation between copyright and contract law. Other countries have provided for capacity to circumvent the DRM in certain circumstances, but that would not be easy in the US.

We could do more on information regulation, but we just don’t know enough. Government agencies that regulate don’t do empirical research about consumer expectations. But the threat of regulation can help keep content owners doing the right things.

Salil Mehra – Beasley School of Law, Temple University

Common Law Fraud – making an intentional, material misrepresentation to another with knowledge of its falsity, for the purpose of inducing the other person to act. The other person relies upon such misrepresentation with resulting injury.

Something like fraud happens with the way DRM is implemented.

Digital Fraud – differences? Don’t usually see Affirmative misrepresentation, but rather concealment – things that appear whole, but are not. An unfair surprise leading consumers to get less than they bargain for. Technology provides new ways of giving people less than they thought they paid for. People buy digital content but don’t realize what they’re buying.

Nicolas Jondet – PhD Candidate, Edinburg Law School

Can we be informed by what’s happening in French law?

DVD Region coding is an issue outside the US. Another issue is videogames. There’s been a lot of litigation in France around DRM on music CDs, where it was introduced early. The most important issue is private copying – there’s a private copy provision in France. You pay a tax on blank media that is supposed to compensate, and consumers expect they’re allowed to make a copy.

French law wasn’t passed until 2006.

Court held in 2005 that DRM CD sold by BMI was defective because it wouldn’t play on all players. But a court held that Warner was ok having disclosed that a CD wouldn’t play on all players. Under French law (according to a court) if you use the CD logo it must play on all players or else it’s a deceptive practice. Sony was found guilty of deceptive practices for Sony Connect service, because they didn’t disclose that you could only purchase content with a Sony device.

New legal requirement that DRM can’t prevent copyright protections and there must be interoperability between DRM schemes. No cases brought yet, but it has had an impact – Apple called it “state-sponsored piracy”, and US thought it was in breach of WTO. But a few months later, Apple changed to DRM-free music.

Carl asks about advertising – does ad language conflict with terms and conditions when they claim you can “own” or “buy” content? Steve – if it’s a sale then first sale doctrine apply, but if it’s a license, then it depends on the terms of the license. But first sale applies to the copy you purchase, not the copy you’ve made online. DRM may help provide a solution to this problem – could enable someone to make a copy, transfer it to someone else, and then no longer have access to the first copy. Corynne – you don’t need DRM to answer this problem. Just have the consumer delete the original copy. (audience mutters, “yeah, right”). The distinction between a sale and a license has been an important one – and if there’s advertising implying you’re owning or buying, then it’s deceptive. Justin – do not assume that the physical world analogies translate to the online world. Maybe we shouldn’t be using words like own or buy.

In response to a question about whether it’s fair to use terms like “buy” and “sale” to transactions that depend on the continued operation of authentication servers, Steve asks whether people trying to innovate should be held hostage to having to continue business in perpetuity. That seems disingenuous to me – people should feel free to try those business models, but make it clear that it’s a content rental or loan or something.

Apple – the right hand giveth and the left hand nickle-and-dimeth you

I’m really happy to see that all of the content music in the iTunes store will be available with no DRM. That’s a big step forward – just tonight I was denied the right to play some of my music on my family room computer because it’s not authorized for my purchased iTunes content and I already have the maximum five machines authorized. Unfortunately two of those machines are no longer functioning, so I can’t de-authorize them. So I thought – here’s a perfect opportunity to change those tunes I purchased from iTunes (not very many – usually I buy through eMusic or Amazon).

Then I found out that Apple wants 30 cents a tune to change content I already paid for to the non-DRM’ed version. Does anybody besides me think that’s totally outrageous?

2008 Favorite Listening

There’s lots of IT-related stuff I intend to write about soon: I’ve been working on UW Technology’s Service Catalog and I have some thoughts about the whole process of service management, and I’ve been really enjoying getting to know my way around Drupal these past couple of weeks.

But in the meantime, here’s my year’s musical picks – not all are 2008 releases, but they’re what’s been occupying my ears a lot this past twelve months.

Roy Hargrove – Earfood: Wonderful playing by Hargrove’s working band in a set reminiscent of 60s era Blue Note at its best.

Nino Moschella – The Fix: TapeOp mag turned me on to this 2006 offering. Funky, spare, and warm, with overtones of Stevie Wonder and George Clinton, all done by Nino by hisself in his own studio.

Al Green – Lay It Down: Al lives up to all our hopes, with great songs and terrific performances.

Bang On A Can All Stars – Brian Eno’s Music For Airports Live: Eno never meant for this to be performed live, but NYC’s minimalist heros pull it off wonderfully.

Buffalo Tom – Three Easy Pieces: Nice friendly pop-rock with great grooves.

Cassandra Wilson – Loverly: Took a bit to grow on me. Not as far-reaching as some of her efforts, but maybe deeper. What a voice!

Dr. Dog – Fate: Another discovery inspired by TapeOp. Quirky in the way the Band was in the 60s, but in a 2008 sorta way.

The Decembrists – The Crane Wife: Nice moody folk-art-rock, or art-folk-rock, or rock-art-folk, or … textures incorporating lots of instruments.

El Ten Eleven: I was watching the movie Helvetica and was captivated by the music on the soundtrack – turns out it was mostly these Chicago arty-instrumental-rockers. Great open-sounding grooves.

Fleet Foxes: This Seattle band’s debut is on lots of people’s 2008 best lists. Beautiful harmonies, nice tunes. I wish they had used less reverb on the voices, though.

Habib Koite and Bamada – Afriki: Wonderful African music can sure warm up a cold winter night in Seattle. Habib plays great guitar and establishes that warm Malian groove. They put on a great show at Jazz Alley this past year.

Menahan Street Band – Make The Road By Walking: Nuevo-soul instrumental grooves from this offshoot of the Dap-Kings. Soul music enjoys yet another resurgence!

Minus The Bear – Planet Of Ice: Sophisticated, hypnotic indie-rock from another local band. Lots of time changes, and very cool guitar playing from Dave Knudson, using lots of looping, which he does with stomp-boxes, not computers. Lame lyrics, though.

Michael Brecker – Time Is Of The Essence: I picked up this 1999 release at a Friends of the Library sale this year, and it really stayed with me. Featuring Larry Goldings on organ and Pat Metheny on guitar, along with Elvin Jones drumming on some of the tunes, the compositions are strong, the grooves are awesome, and the playing is stellar. Modern jazz doesn’t get much better than this – it’s a shame we lost both Brecker and Elvin in recent years.

Orgone – The Killion Floor: Another champion of the new soul revival, LA-based Orgone is more on the funky side than the Dap-Kings. There is one killer song on this album, “Who Knows Who”, which I could not stop listening to. The rest of the tunes are good too. Great funky grooves, great vintage sound on the recording.

Oliver Mtukudzi – Tuku Music: Tom Lenon turned me on to this 1999 release from Zimbabwean Mtukudzi. Another fabulous African musician, making more fabulous African music.

Pretenders – Pirate Radio 1979-2005: Even though I didn’t manage to see them on their tour this month, the Pretenders have been occupying a lot of listening time lately. Check out some of their recent live videos on the web – their current lineup rocks hard, and Chrissie sounds great.

Rockpile – Seconds of Pleasure: Seeing Nick Lowe got me going on Rockpile again. What a great rock band – killer tunes, great rock grooves, no pretense.

Sonny Rollins – +3: Through it all, we’ve still got Sonny Rollins – 78 years old now. This set from ’96 has just great playing on a set of mostly standards. Great jazz for getting through the new depression.

Great shows I saw this year – Nick Lowe at the Shoreline Arts Center, Tower of Power at Jazz Alley, and Squeeze at the Showbox: Long time pros at the height of their creative powers. Charlie Haden and the Liberation Music Orchestra at Town Hall: Even though Carla Bley didn’t make it, Haden’s explicitly political large group played incredibly three nights before the election. Habib Koite at Jazz Alley: made me want to go to Mali.

All in all, a great year musically.

Upcoming Gigs (of the musical variety)

I’ve been playing bass in a couple of different outfits over the last year, and, lo and behold, we’ve actually got some gigs happening!

The KlezKatz are playing our own inimitable brand of klezmer music this weekend at the Gage Academy of Art’s annual Drawing Jam event, sharing the 7-10 pm slot on Saturday night with local buskers Snake Suspenderz (must’ve been a sale on Zs). The Katz will also be playing the following weekend at the Seattle Center’s Winterfest celebration – that’s Sunday, Dec. 14 from 2-3 pm. at the Center House.

Our jazz trio (now morphing into a quartet), KNOT, will be playing on Sunday afternoon, December 21 from 3-5 in the afternoon at the Hot Wire Cafe in North Seattle. It’s a nice, cozy spot, so if you’re in need of a cup of joe and some relaxation from the shopping madness, come on down!

Napster offers mp3s

Does anybody other than me see this as incredibly ironic? MP3 Downloads Now Available from Napster Dear *****, Napster now offers MP3s for purchase from the world’s largest MP3 catalog – over 6 million songs. MP3 downloads are DRM-free and can be transferred to any MP3 player, including iPod(R). They can be moved from computer … Continue reading “Napster offers mp3s”

Does anybody other than me see this as incredibly ironic?

MP3 Downloads Now Available from Napster

Dear *****,

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New Orleans last weekend with KEXP

I realized that I hadn’t blogged about our trip to New Orleans last weekend with KEXP.The story of the discussions between KEXP and WWOZ isn’t really mine to tell (I was just there as a technology advisor), but the conversations were really interesting. David Freedman and his ‘OZ crew were terrific hosts, and it was … Continue reading “New Orleans last weekend with KEXP”

I realized that I hadn’t blogged about our trip to New Orleans last weekend with KEXP.The story of the discussions between KEXP and WWOZ isn’t really mine to tell (I was just there as a technology advisor), but the conversations were really interesting.

David Freedman and his ‘OZ crew were terrific hosts, and it was great to be part of an insider’s view of the Jazzfest. Everyone had interesting stories of Katrina and New Orleans pre and post. It was terribly sad to see some of the remaining devastation and drive through neighborhoods where there were still FEMA trailers in front of the houses, and to see how much abandoned and destroyed property there is.

It did seem like there was a lot of optimism in the air, and a feel of New Orleans coming back to life. Hard to say how much of that was just Jazzfest optimism.

WWOZ is an amazing part of the music community in a town where music really does matter in ways different from other places. We got to hear a lot of fabulous music – including Aaron Neville’s first appearance in New Orleans since Katrina, in the gospel tent at Jazzfest.

Some pics of the trip are here.

KEXP teams up with Radio New York to form Radio Liberation

Now this is totally cool – Our friends and colleagues at KEXP have teamed up with the city-owned Radio New York (FM 91.5 in NY) to bring six hours a day of KEXP-style quality programming to the NY metro region. Beginning on March 24, 2008, Radio Liberation will air KEXP-produced programming Monday through Friday on … Continue reading “KEXP teams up with Radio New York to form Radio Liberation”

Now this is totally cool –

Our friends and colleagues at KEXP have teamed up with the city-owned Radio New York (FM 91.5 in NY) to bring six hours a day of KEXP-style quality programming to the NY metro region.

Beginning on March 24, 2008, Radio Liberation will air KEXP-produced programming Monday through Friday on Radio New York 91.5 FM. The programming will feature a three-hour drive-time eclectic music show followed by three simulcast hours of The Morning Show with John Richards, a nightly world music show and a weekly music variety show hosted by KEXP DJ and senior director of programming Kevin Cole.

And there will be lots of live programming too!

I hear that Radio New York has good coverage all over the city and out on Long Island and Westchester too.

Congrats to Tom and Kevin and the whole KEXP crew – sounds like pastrami sandwiches at the Stage Deli are in order!