Tag Archives: music

roboRt

For the past few years, I’ve been going through a self discovery process of learning to use a bunch of music tools. That lead to a new solo project that I’m calling roboRt. I hope to release the first set of tracks very soon, upon finishing mixing/mastering. That has taken longer than writing the songs, so I’m pretty optimistic about what’s to come! Here’s a preview…

FolkLife 2014

Hey, just a quick update on Folklife 2014! I have my performance schedule this year so I just want to briefly share that.

Saturday

12:30pm — The m9 — busking nearish the statue between EMP and Seattle Center. We play Serbian Brass music. Lots of horns and drums.

6pm — Bucharest Drinking Team — at the Fountain Lawn Stage by the beer garden. We’re a party band, so be prepared for that. And then the Balkan Misfits showcase continues the rest of the evening!

9pm — The Debaucherauntes — afterparty at the Conor Byrne in Ballard, with a bunch more cool bands. We do Klezmer. There will be other Americana type music going on.

Sunday

3pm — The Debaucherauntes — We’re doing our thang again at Folklife, as part of a whole Klezmer showcase

Monday

3:30pm — The m9 — more busking in the same place!

So that’s the schedj. I have to say, this is the first year that I am more of a performer and less of a fan. It’s kind of a big milestone for me on a personal level, although I will seriously be sad to miss all my friends doing their thing. There is some amazing music going on all weekend, so I hope you set aside time to hang out for the whole thing.

What to check out all weekend

Songs of Maritime Disasters, Fabulous Downey Brothers, Garfield Jazz Ensemble, the Tallboys, Annie Ford Band, Country Lips, New Klezmer Army, Croation Showcase, Bakelite 78, Skitnik, EuroDancePartyU$A, Radost, Orkestar Zirkonium, Juliana and Pava, Onefourfive, Dunava, Balkanarama, The Bad Things, The Lonely Coast, and much more.

Busy weekend! I hope to see you!

Bucharest Drinking Team on iTunes and Spotify

Happy New Year! Hey folks, I just wanted to let you know that Bucharest Drinking Team music is now available on iTunes and free streaming on Spotify. Crank these up right now!

We recorded these (mostly) live at Bani-Love Recording studios in the midst of the Columbia City Theater.  We threw a 2 day party and just recorded the heck out of ourselves within that amazing sounding hall that we love so much.

Let me know what you think. And what songs we should record next.

Some thoughts

A friend of mine worked with people who have dementia, and one time Susan and I went over and visited him over lunchtime. Lunch was like summer camp. A bunch of people who live together, come into a big room to share food, while my friend would lead all sorts of entertainment. Everyone was involved. He played his guitar and led people in song. At some point he played some swing, and Susan and I danced to that, much to the enjoyment of all (and quite a few got up and joined in). It was an incredibly happy environment. I know they were all struggling through hardships of dementia, but the silver lining was that many of the folks there were just living in the moment.

Then he invited one gentleman to sit down at the piano. The man needed some assistance with getting started. He sort of clumsily started finding his way around the keyboard… and then the next thing you knew, this guy was playing song after song. But here’s the thing. Our hero, the piano player, had no recollection that he had spent his career playing piano on a cruise ship. Instead, every day, he had to be reminded that he could even play piano at all. Yet, once he got going, it all flowed out.

Related article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/seniors-with-dementia-express-themselves-connect-with-others-in-drumming-circle/2013/06/19/a806f5f2-d842-11e2-a9f2-42ee3912ae0e_story.html?wprss=rss_national

So, I think today’s deep thought is that I think it’s far more important to get songs into our subconscious memory, because then we don’t have to think about them or consciously remember them. The  music will just flow out of us, like exhaling. So yet again… practice! So that you can just exist in the moment.

Trying to make quality art

As Bob Lefsetz points out regularly, rock stars are not rock stars any more. It’s technology entrepreneurs that are the new rock stars. (And so are chefs.) So, what makes entrepreneurs our new heroes?

In the software world, you sort of have two approaches. You can be b2b, or “business to business”, where you sell products and solutions to businesses (the large ones being called “enterprises”). Or you can be b2c–“business to consumer”. You might consider Microsoft to be more of a b2b type of company, where they get most of their profits from enterprise customers. And you might consider Apple as a b2c type of company, where individual consumers drive most of the revenue.

In the b2b model, you are more focused on scenarios that get stuff done. You are not going to be a rock star. Your customers are businesses, not end users. Most people have not heard of you, or care what you do–but you still get rich. Businesses use your software to make money, and it’s just your business-customers that adore you. The end users in the business get a paycheck, and they just need to accomplish tasks so they can get paid.

On the other hand, b2c companies focus on making the end user feel delighted and at peace. It’s about the journey, about feeling part of something important, about feeling special, about being pleasantly surprised, about being entertained, and ultimately it’s about feeling like the product has somehow intangibly improved their lifestyle. The b2c companies get all the fame, as they inspire the end users. When you’re really great, people forget that they are paying for your product–they really believe that it is being bestowed upon them.

You get loyal customers by consistently exceeding their expectations. And so you need to deliver a quality product. In the b2b model, your quality is measured against the ability to accomplish tasks. In the b2c model, your quality is measured against warm fuzzy feelings.

In your art, your goals are different. Hopefully your goals are not related to making money (let’s be realistic here), but are instead focused solely on music quality as a means toward inspiration. But how do you ultimately define quality? Probably in a different way. Perhaps it’s by inspiring an emotional reaction. Perhaps that reaction could be a positive one, in the case of b2c, or it could also deliberately inspire a negative one. If you’re inspiring discussion, then perhaps that is the result of the quality of your art. As they say, there is no such thing as bad press. Banksy comes to mind.

Bad quality can have a backlash, as we see with the latest iPhone that isn’t flying off the shelves due to its disorienting display. People grow accustomed to a lifestyle, and they expect you to deliver. Much like with art, the negative hype can often just come from the critics, the squeaky wheels–like with Miley Cyrus who is doing just fine financially. You have to understand who is your audience, and how the critics affect broad opinion–if at all. Critics may actually not matter, or perhaps certain critics don’t matter (a consumer focused critic isn’t going to hurt your company much with a bad review if your business is a b2b).

How do you measure your progress in reaching good enough musical quality? This is trickier. So here’s a method to consider.

In the software world, the latest thing is to follow a SCRUM process. You can search it up online, but to summarize: you divide up your project into short, manageable sprints. After a couple of sprints, you have a minimal viable product (MVP) that you can pass around and get feedback. But even sprints are viable in their own way, in that you end up with something that works at every step. As you reach the end of each sprint, you look back and figure out what went well, and what could be improved. You adjust your schedule, you improve your processes, and then you go to the next sprint. This way, you are constantly correcting course and staying agile.

I would wager that we could consider sprints to be like writing songs. You keep writing songs over short periods of time until you get one that is good enough, from your own point of view. That means you’ve reached an MVP. You’re not working on the same song–that’s not the point. You’re working on your ability to create great art. Maybe you take another sprint to polish the MVP-type song. Then you share that song with a small group of “early adopters”, as they’re called in the software world. The early adopters are passionate about you. They want to consume everything you make, and they are unafraid to criticize you with wild abandon. And, in fact, you highly respect their feedback–perhaps they are friends, or members of a song writing group. Often this is all done confidentially. You take all the feedback, and use that to improve your quality. They’ll never hear the bad songs, which is fine because no one will ever hear the bad songs. You are not married to your songs. They are just sprints along the way to an MVP.

Then you repeat. You’re building up your experience, your expertise, and your intuition. You’re digesting feedback, and integrating it. And the next MVP, you give it out to a wider audience–maybe publicly this time, but still on a limited basis to, perhaps, just your die-hard fans.

Repeat some more. The number of sprints between MVPs is decreasing. You’re constantly writing songs, but people don’t hear every one. You are only focused on writing over and over until you finally write one that is good enough quality. Lastly, release your MVP-level song(s) to a wide audience. Include all those critics. You’ve learned how to over-deliver consistently and with high quality. You are inspiring people. You are a rock star.

~

(follow up thought: at what point is a song good enough? Die-hard fans do want to see your tender moments and your screw ups. Hmmm… perhaps it’s time to show them some of your horrible songs after all, to give them a glimpse of your process?)

(follow up thought, part 2: music quality leads to emotional reaction. That’s why I play music, and it may be your reason, too. There is no better feeling in the world than to inspire someone–to be in the right place at the right time, where you have inexorably changed their life. I have no idea if I’ve ever done that, but I hope to some day.)

(follow up thought, part 3: Melt Banana is touring the US right now, but they are down 2 members–likely due to the government shutdown. But tonight, seeing them at Chop Suey, we aaaalmost didn’t notice. They have written so many songs, performed so often, gained so much experience, that they just rolled with it and totally brought the energy. Two people taking up the space of four. I’m sad their drummer and bassist are left at home, but I aaaalmost didn’t notice. Why? Because their music inspires me.)

Music recommendations, August 10, 2013

Well, I wasn’t able to articulate any deep thoughts this week. So instead, it’s time for some new music recommendations!

Skies Below -This is a metal band from here in Seattle, that includes the drummer from the late Consulate. They are in the studio right now at Magnets Large & Small, so keep an eye out for their debut album. I think this is a new band to watch. Maybe check out their next show? I couldn’t find anything about them online yet, other than facebook. But their description, “heavy mellow”, is apt.

Thine — The duo just finished mixing their first album, but it’s not quite out yet. You can find some previews on soundcloud. This is another project involving the prodigious Stuart Dahlquist. If you’re aware of his other projects, Burning Witch, Asva, Sun O))), etc, then you might find this to be a little more accessible. I think fans of Kao Dot would be interested, as well as Asva fans. Thine has that signature Dahlquist organ sound–so hypnotically minimal and so stunningly colorful. Then add the lush voice of Joel RL Phelps. I don’t know how to categorize this, but perhaps you could include the Norwegian group, Ulver. The dynamics are all over the map, and often kicking into a groove at rare and distinct moments of resolution. But more often than not, the music is rubato and full of suspense.

Asva — this isn’t a new band, but I’m pretty excited that they are releasing a live album soon. Go and try to preorder it.

Free Salamander Exhibit — Members of Sleeptime Gorilla Museum have started afresh. I just caught them tonight in Seattle at the Mix. They are prog, but with heavy influences of funk, wicker, and burlap. It’s very heavy, very abstract and modern, and very entertaining to see live. I caught their 3rd show ever, so you still have a chance to hook up with their tour somewhere.

Update: How could I leave this out?? Kao Dot is coming out with a new album, Hubardo. You can pre-order it, so go do that. I pretty much agree with the NPR review, so I won’t be reinventing the wheel. Suffice to say, this is a group that plays with dynamics, concepts of time, textures, and colors. Expect pleasant surprises.

 

FolkLife 2013 — Friday

Okay, here’s the rundown for FolkLife tonight, Friday, May 24, 2013:

6pm — Check out OneFourFive. There is a facebook event. onefourfive will sing a cappella songs from Caucasus Georgia

7pm — Head over to DuBorziLanza. Indeed, there is a facebook event as well. They will play a set of sinister love songs and morose prison ballads from the south side of Italy.

8pm — The afterparties get started! First, I’ll be playing with Bucharest Drinking Team, and we’ll be joined by many of our good friends! Including Chervona and Erev Rav! Yes, indeed the facebook event is there for you.

Then… ???

Stay tuned for Saturday’s schedule!

Edit >> You can create your own schedule and see what your friends are doing this weekend. Cool stuff. See you there!