Saturday, January 23, 2010

When the false start is true - Ministry's "Work for Love"

There are a number of stories about people or groups of people that do one thing and get huge success...and then do something completely different and have even huger success.

But there are still the people that think that things were great at the beginning, and went downhill from there.

I bet there are people who wish that the Fresh Prince had remained a rapper and never gotten involved in that television or movie junk.

Or who wish that Depeche Mode had just disbanded after Vince Clarke left the band.

With that preface, let me introduce my favorite Ministry song.

The person who posted this video of "Work for Love" on YouTube made the following comment:

This is for all those who continue to believe Al's story that With Sympathy was the result of an over zealous production team at Arista. And for those, like myself, who are fond of the early Ministry sound. This and all the other material from that album(written by Mr. Al J.) was performed regularly throughout 82-84 before and after the studio recording. This is the opening song from the 7/20/83 show at First Avenue in Minneapolis, MN.

While I love "Work for Love," and the YouTube poster loves "Work for Love," not everyone agrees:

There are those artists who get a couple releases into their career before they feel the pressure from the suits at the label to “have a hit,” and then there are those artists who sell out right from the get-go.

Ministry certainly falls into the latter category and their debut longplayer smacks of blatant commerciality…blatant, misguided, and downright silly commerciality....

How else does one explain such tracks as “Work For Love” and “What He Say?” — the latter a laughably kitschy blend of synth-pop and, uh, world music…I think....

No wonder Jourgenson has spent the better part of three decades trying to live this one down, putting on one helluva “tough-guy” act in the process.

But as for me, I just can't get enough (geddit?) of that old song.

P.S. And yes, I inspired myself to look up this old tune.

Monday, January 11, 2010

(empo-tuulwey) When music-making technology and gaming results in philosophical questions

Hundreds of years ago, the only way to make music was to learn how to play a musical instrument, or to sing passably well. As time marched forward, various technological advances, ranging from programmable synthesizers to auto-tune (see previous post), have allowed people to create music without years upon years of study.

At the same time, there has been a movement in the software world toward more engaging interfaces, to the point where some people are actively using gaming principles in their software design. (See all of my posts in my Empoprise-BI business blog that mention FourSquare.)

Put these together, and your head will spin around.

Jon Healey:

CES isn't usually a place for mulling existential questions, but here's a couple for you: What constitutes a musical instrument, and what does it mean to be a musician? I couldn't help wondering about that after seeing a demo of a prototype from Music Mastermind, a two-year-old Calabasas-based start-up founded by a former major-label executive and a Wall Street trader. MMM is developing a music-creation tool that erases the line between video games and composition. It enables people to create full-blown, professional-sounding songs by singing into a computer or specialized portable device, then using a software band to provide the backing track. And it does so with the look and feel of a video game.

After Healey attended a demo at CES, he reported:

It's obviously not the same as playing the notes yourself on real instruments with honest-to-goodness recording equipment, but it's close enough to be startling. That's why MMM's chief technical officer, Reza Rassool, calls the software "the first 21st century musical instrument."

MMM noted that this was not the first move to expand music-making. They cited karaoke as another example of the extension of music-making to the people.

Now whether you consider MMM's opponents as backwards-thinking Luddites or true musicians probably depends, at least in part, upon your personal music-making capabilities. Yet at the same time, I personally don't feel that MMM has really lowered the bar much more than auto-tune, karaoke, programmable synthesizers, and the like have already done. There's a wide spectrum of opinions on what is true music vs. what is fake - for example, I'm sure there's a very vocal minority of people who believe that music went to hell when Les Paul started electrifying guitars. And on the other hand, there are probably people who believe that no performance should ever be live, because of the possible errors that can occur during a live performance.

So, how do you feel about technology and music?

Friday, January 1, 2010

You Do Not Want This Product, Part One

Christmas and my birthday occur at about the same time, so I need to come up with a bunch of gift ideas for family members. However, my gift ideas are often either boring (socks) or prohibitively expensive (a netbook). This year - whoops, I mean last year, since I'm talking about 2009 - I solved the problem by putting a lot of CDs on my wish list.

As a result, I ended up receiving five CDs over the holiday season. I just opened up the third CD (Air's Moon Safari, if you're curious) a few minutes ago, and I'm sick of the CD opening process.

By the time you get a CD opened, you're half convinced that the record companies would prefer that you not listen to the music. First you have to take off the wrapper, and then you have to peel off the really sticky wrapper that's on the top of the CD. Basically, it's a huge hassle.

But it isn't only the evil record industry that packages its products in an unusable manner. I'll continue this thought in a post on my business blog.