The Greatest Conversation

Video: Charlotte Gainsbourg – Heaven Can Wait

Posted in New Music, Video by Brian Park on November 21, 2009

I was really psyched on this video, as well as the song. A bit of controversy is happening though; I loved that the director, Keith Schofield, used William Hundley imagery, but it turns out he didn’t ask to use it. There’s a big e-fight going on about it, with lots of people calling Hundley a priss for being pissed off about the appropriation. I for one think its a somewhat shitty thing for Schofield to do, but I can understand making a video around random found imagery from the internets and not searching endlessly for attribution credits. I’m paraphrasing someone from that discussion, but the video is ffffound, the movie. Anyway, I wouldn’t have posted it if I didn’t think it was a great tune and a fun video.

(Via Booooooom)


Hurrah For Little Cameras

Posted in Original Work, Random Things, Video by Brian Park on November 13, 2009

A quick video of things I’ve been up to these days, like destroying my camera and falling in the ocean. Also, sorry for the lack of music updates. I have a giant folder of tracks I’m loving and want to share with you, but I’m too busy to write anything coherent about them at the moment.

Mona Monella

Posted in Random Things, Video by Brian Park on October 11, 2009

I saw this clip a while back and it has everything that the internet thrives on: a hot girl, cow shit, and priests sniffing a bike seat. It also has a ridiculously fun song; I’ve been trying to find a version of the song that hasn’t been ripped from the film, but haven’t managed it. Anyone out there have it? It is actually sung by the girl in the film, Anna Ammirati, and it’s catchy as fuck.

PS. A sniffer of bicycle seats is a snurge, making the act itself snurgery.

The Žižek Experience

Posted in Old Music, Random Things, Video by Brian Park on October 6, 2009


Slavoj Žižek is a Hegelian philosopher, Lacanian theoretical psychoanalyst, Marxist political thinker, film theorist, and cultural critic; he is also batshit crazy in the best of ways. My brother introduced me to him, and ever since I’ve been oddly fascinated. I stumbled onto an excerpt of his on the very odd Turn On The Lights blog, and I think it is a good introduction to the strangeness that is Žižek:

Let us recall the example of a (’straight’) sexual relationship. The success of Peter Hoeg’s The Woman and the Ape indicates that sex with an animal is today’s predominant form of fantasy of full sexual relationships, and it is crucial that this animal is as a rule male: in contrast to cyborg-sex fantasy, in which the cyborg is, as a rule, a woman (Blade Runner) – that is, in which the fantasy is that of a Woman-Machine – the animal is a male ape copulating with a human woman, and fully satisfying her. Does this not materialize two standard common daydreams: that of a woman who wants a strong animal partner, a potent ‘beast’, not a hysterical impotent weakling; and that of a man who wants his female partner to be a perfectly programmed ‘doll’  who fulfils all his wishes, not a living being? What we should do in order to penetrate the underlying ‘fundamental fantasy’ is to stage these two fantasies together: to confront ourselves with the unbearable ideal couple of a male ape copulating with a female cyborg, the fantasmic support of the ‘normal’ couple of man and woman copulating. The need for this redoubling, the need for this fantasmic supplement to accompany the ’straight’ sexual act as a spectral shadow, is yet another proof that ‘there is no sexual relationship’.

(Slavoj Žižek, The Fragile Absolute or, Why Is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? p. 59-60)

Now, what does that have to do with my blog? Very little, but I have a sound experiment for you to try. Žižek has a speech impediment that may or may not be intentional, but anyway it is hypnotic and almost soothing; I suggest you get relaxed (pot or scotch), and press play on both the video and the audio below. Adjust the volume ’till it sounds right; stop trying to understand the words, and just listen to Žižek as an auditory anomaly. Fuck you, do it.

Keith Jarrett – Last Night When We Were Young/Caribbean Sky

Okay fine, if you aren’t going to do it, at least listen to Keith Jarrett’s Last Night When We Were Young/Caribbean Sky from the album Tokyo ’96. It’ll do you good.

Depeche Mode’s “Hole To Feed” Video

Posted in Video by Brian Park on October 5, 2009

At first I thought that Major Lazer – Pon De Floor video I posted yesterday was a total ripoff of Flying Lotus’s Dance Floor Dale, but I just realized that Eric Warheim did both of them. Checking out some of his other work, he does some really cool shit. This Depeche Mode video is very strange, and very awesome: old people smearing hotdogs on eachother seems like it would have been a hard thing to pitch (pun intended?) in the boardroom.

Remixing, the New Clapping Along?

Posted in New Music, Video by Brian Park on October 4, 2009


This is going to be an extra nerdy post.

Everyone and their dog has a DAW, or some sort of audio editing program, and anyone who doesn’t has access to things like LoopLabs (online mixing software). Cashing in on this, lots of artists are hosting remix contests; Joe Kid with a cracked copy of Ableton downloads the stems of a track (sometimes even paying to do so), remixes it, enters it in the contest, and spreads the hell out of the track because he asks all his friends to vote for or listen to his version. The marketing potential is huge, and as we saw with the Depeche Mode remix contest (over a thousand people entered, each paying either $4 or $22), they can even make the artist money directly.

But this whole scenario means huge changes are ahead for music, both on the creative and consumer end; ultimately, it means the line between artist and audience is blurred.

This blog is called “The Greatest Conversation” because when I was thinking about what I really love about my favourite pieces of music, it occurred to me that the best pieces tend to be just beyond my understanding. I don’t know quite what I love about them, but I know that they’re something special; it’s like listening to some people have the greatest conversation on some topic that you’re interested in, but only vaguely understand.

In keeping with the conversational metaphor, remix culture extends the conversation to anyone. Anyone can respond to someone’s musical statement, whether the original artist wants responses or not. Artists who accept this and use it to their advantage will be the most successful.

One thing I’ve noticed is that remixes tend to reinterpret the original song temporally or spatially, rather than simply respond to it. Your music gets updated to suit different kinds of clubs, venues, houses, stereo systems, or moods. Your lighthearted indie number gets chopped up and reused as a dubstep anthem, or as a laid back house track, or a 1990s rave track, etc… Rather than playing new melodies that respond to the original melodies, the original melodies are moved in time and space to suit the vision of the producer.

Yes, that incredibly boring and unoriginal remix is the one that won the Depeche Mode contest. Apparently it’s “tech house” or something.

A way more interesting spatial and temporal shift is the Chewy Chocolate Cookies remix of Major Lazer’s Pon De Floor. The original is annoying as hell, and fucking awesome. The remix is still both of those things, but it’s chock full of every ’90s rave cliche possible. Very gimmicky, and a great way to go viral.

Okay, sorry ’bout all that. There are a ton of remix contests out there that look interesting, but are mostly producing shit. For example, the Marcy Playground one, or the NASA one. I’m convinced that there is subtlety and originality in remixing somewhere, but the rise of remix culture is definitely going to make those things rarer. Please, lets respond to music rather than just reinterpret it. Remixing is going to be the new clapping along, but it could also be the new singing along, in harmony.

Is the Pentatonic Automatic?

Posted in Video by Brian Park on September 21, 2009

Production Quality Vs. Melodic Quality

Posted in Musings, New Music, Video by Brian Park on September 18, 2009


Roman Jakobson, the Russian formalist linguist, said that

“the poetic function projects the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection into the axis of combination.”

What he meant has had many books written about it and I’ll never do it justice, but for my purposes here could be simplified to the intersection of a writer’s choice in word with the writer’s choice in word placement; essentially, I end up thinking about “why did he or she choose that word, and why did he or she put that word next to these other words?”

I think of music writing in a similar way. A musician has an enormous range of notes to choose from in any given musical situation; of course only certain notes will make sense in a particular musical situation, just as certain words or types of words will make sense in a given textual situation. Not only that, but the emphases and the notes that the musician’s present note is surrounded by will change the value of that note. Both art forms can create harmony, dissonance, senselessness, and a huge range of emotion–purposely or otherwise–with word/note selection and word/note combination.

Whether you like the analogy or not, bear with me; there’s a ways to go. As sound production methods and theories grow exponentially, I’ve noticed that more and more people who create music are relying on the production options to get their point across rather than choosing the traditional modes of musical communication. Basically, people are choosing a square wave synth and some sub bass to build tension and drama rather than choosing particular notes or chords or melodies.

Let me make another analogy (sorry, god!). This time, imagine two people trying to communicate something. The first is a wheelchair bound girl with no control over any muscles except her mouth (this is very plausible, fuck you), and the second is a teenage cheerleader. The first, in describing an event will choose her words very carefully and give you a very thorough description, and the second will say “and then I was like…. and then the whole class was like… and then my parents were all like….,” using facial expressions and waving her arms around to get her point across. The wheelchair girl is music made with traditional, conservative modes of expression–basically symphonic instruments, but traditional rock and pop modes of expression as well–. The cheerleader is music that relies on production quality.

I don’t think either form of expression is necessarily better. Not only does it depend on the artist, it depends on the situation. When the house is on fire, I don’t want the wheelchair girl giving me a damn haiku about the beauty of fire, I want the screaming cheerleader, but when I want to think, the cheerleader can fuck right off. Ultimately, the best musicians are able to combine the expression in the music they’ve written with even more expression through fitting production.

Take a look at these two videos.

Obviously they’re of the same song by Joker, a young UK dubstep and grime producer. I put the piano version first, because to my ears, those melodies and structures are much clearer in it. I can hear what is going on more, rather than being overwhelmed by the production of the original song.

The reason I posted these two videos is because when I first heard the piano version on the excellent Devil, Can You Hear Me? blog, I didn’t realize what it was. I thought it was a nice, quaint, and very simple little melody. I saw it as something really basic that could be flushed out with more melodies into a decent, melancholy little pop song. In contrast, the original is ominous as hell. All the pulsing and compression and bass and ‘verb make it the dark club shaker it is. The point is, its a totally different message based on the production, not based on the notes themselves.

I have to admit a bit of an infatuation with production like this. It is embarrassing, but I’m not sure it should be: compression and all that cheesy shit can be done well, and there’s nothing wrong with a little cheese… but, seeing just how simple and musically bland the song is without its production makes me wary of a lot of new music. There’s more to music than a wobble and a cutoff filter.

Oh, and this whole post was mostly an excuse to use that creepy ass photo of a machine that measures vocal sounds.

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Video: Birdy Nam Nam – The Parachute Ending

Posted in New Music, Random Things, Video by Brian Park on September 17, 2009

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This video is too much fun. How great would it have been to pitch the video? “Uhhh, so there’s this space lord thing, and ummm, the hero trades his hand for a mucous squid… uhhhhh and the space lord is dropping bricks of coke on earth…”

Here are the credits:

Will Sweeney – Concept designer and Illustrator
Steve Scott – Director, Concept designer and compositor

James Littlemore – Editor / Compositor
Geoff McDowall – Animator
Ed Willmore – Animator
Roland Edwards – Animator
Dele Nuga – Digital Painter

Lottie Hope – Producer
Dan O’Rourke – Executive Producer

Without the Internet, I’d Probably Be Reading

Posted in Random Things, Video by Brian Park on September 15, 2009

This was too good not to post. Sorry for being off topic.

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