Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

23 JUNE, 2009

New Music Spotlight: Regina Spektor “Far”


What Seinfeld has to do with the best new album by the best old favorite.

We’ve been enamored with semi-indie darling Regina Spektor for years. (Seeing her live at TED 2009 didn’t hurt, either.) And part of her fascination lies in the ability to reinvent herself beautifully, without losing the core of her brilliance — charmed vocals, superb piano and incredible lyrical sensibility. That’s exactly what’s happening in her new album, Far, out today.

The entire album is an absolute gem, but our favorite track has to be The Calculation — delightfully upbeat and somehow Seinfeld-like in its ability to be about nothing particularly grand while capturing the great human truths.

And in case you sit there wondering how an album could possibly be this ridiculously good, it may have something to do with the fact that Jeff Lynne — named the fourth greatest producer in music history — is behind it. Well, that and Regina Spektor’s indisputable genius.

Another highlight comes from Laughing With, a piece of open-to-interpretation commentary on the hypocrisies of our belief systems.

Snag Far today and ponder existential truth to the best soundtrack there is.

02 JUNE, 2009

Kickstarter: Crowdsourced Culture-Funding


Legal love from strangers, or what The Kinks have to do with Denver’s homeless.

Here’s a reality check: Creativity is the business of ideas. Which means it’s just that — a business. Anything, from putting up an art show to recording an album to running a more serious blog, requires some level of funding. Which can be tough, if you’re doing it out of your living room — as many artists are.

Luckily, there’s Kickstarter — a new platform for funding ideas and creative endeavors.

The concept is brilliantly simple: Creators — artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, bloggers, explorers — post a project that needs funding and set a donation period. Then people begin pledging money. The “pledge” is actually a commitment that you’ll donate the promised amount, but is collected only if a project reaches or exceeds its funding goal before time expires — even if a project is just $1 short when the time expires, no money is collected.

In return, project creators can offer products and services — from a hot air balloon ride to free CD’s — to their backers, as well as exclusive project updates.

Currently, Kickstarter features an incredible diversity of creative endeavors — from a photography project about the homeless, to one man’s quest to reunite The Kinks, to the world’s first crowdsourced book. Some are quirky, some are just fun, but some ring with a sense of incredible urgency, revealing just how cornered by circumstances the project creator is and how Kickstarter is the only straw of salvation.

Case in point: Polyvinyl’s plea to save 10,000 records from destruction. A little background: Polyvinyl is one of our favorite labels, featuring indie icons like Architecture In Helsinki, Of Montreal, Mates of State, and Asobi Seksu, among others. Their distributor’s warehouse recently got severely downsized and threatened to destroy 10,000 records due to high storage costs. Beyond the absurd wastefulness, Polyvinyl simply wouldn’t part with this incredible heritage. So they asked people to chip in to have the records shipped to their office and clear out some space to store them. In return, backers would get various tiers of CD & DVD goodies from the label’s roster, depending on the donation amount.

Polyvinyl loyalists met the $1,000 goal mere hours after the project was posted. With 42 days still to go, the effort is already 233% funded. The story here is not just one of financial support, but also of incredible, moving brand love and encouragement. As a result, Polyvinyl decided to dream big and shoot for full financial freedom by completely emptying their overstock — a $18,000 endeavor.

Kickstarter is currently invite-only, but if you’re a creator looking to get a project funded, you can apply to join. Meanwhile, you can follow @kickstarter on Twitter for updates, and stalk your way to public alpha.

via TED Blog

01 JUNE, 2009

Labuat: Soy Tu Aire


Paint by notes, threads of voice, or why the future of music is up in the air.

Spanish music outfit Labuat is an innovator of the freshest kind. A collaboration between vocalist Virginia Maestro and composer Risto Mejid, who has also produced music for The Pinker Tones, Labuat explores music across the many planes it inhabits.

Labuat is a project born out of the imagination.

Soy Tu Aire (I’m Your Air) is, simply put, an interactive music video. But it’s oh-so-much more — it’s a way to experience music as it happens, literally letting the voice paint it onto the “air” of the screen with a brush that “listens” to the music and reacts to your manipulation. It’s consuming music by letting music consume you.

Soy Tu Aire” is a song full of much and little. Of orchestras and threads of voice. Of half-truths and lies, going up and down as we wanted to give you something you could move with the song.

To promote the launch, the team hooked the “brush” to a Wii remote, synched it to a laptop, and took to the city, inviting passers-by to experience the music for themselves.

We love the idea of crafting a space where different forms of creative expression — music, design, animation, interface — can cross-pollinate rather than remaining compartmentalized isolates. It’s a true canvas for creativity, however it may manifest itself.

Go ahead, immerse yourself.

Art direction by HerraizSotto & Co, animation by Jossie Malis.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

29 MAY, 2009

Multimedia Spotlight: Vocal Improvisation Animated


How a laptop and a highway play together, or what geometry has to do with music.

Today’s short-and-sweet is Improvisation 2 — an audiovisual experiment by multimedia artist/singer Fredo Viola, who explores the environment solely with his voice and what he sees around him.

The vocal improvisation was recorded on a laptop mic, then stunningly animated using footage from New York’s West Side Highway arranged into a mesmerizing swirl of circles and hexagons.

The video is intended to be experienced in a more interactive way that allows you to drag, drop and play with the various spinning shapes — give it a spin.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

21 MAY, 2009

Behind the Scenes of Project N.A.S.A.


From Jamaica to L.A., by way of the underground.

Five years in the making, the N.A.S.A. project — which stands for North America South America — made waves last year as one of the biggest creative collaborations between iconic “underground” artists across music, art, film and more.

One of N.A.S.A.’s most high-profile manifestations was the video for the track Money, featuring David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge, and Z-Trip, directed by Syd Garon and Paul Griswold, and with artwork by none other than the now-iconic Shepard Fairey.

Today, we go behind the scenes, with background on the N.A.S.A. project and the unprecedented but excellent idea of pairing up music artists with animators.

N.A.S.A.’s first album, The Spirit of Apollo, is an equally impressive string of unlikely but brilliant collaborations, including Karen O, Method Man, Santogold, M.I.A., The Cool Kids, and many, many more — grab it now.