Half a Telephone

Half a telephoneIt would be somewhat foolish to use a telephone if it had no earpiece.  Be mindful not to make the same mistake with social media. Yes, social media can be used to publicise something you are doing. But just as important is the voice it gives to others who you communicate with.

Image credit: Telephone photo by mightyohm via Compfight cc


Nose flute recordings from Malaysia

While in Malaysia in 2012 I visited Raman Bah Tuin, a member of the Semai people, and I made several recordings of him playing a nose flute (pensol).  The few hours I spent with him were among the most interesting of my month-long trip.

Before I set off on my travels I had contacted Reita Rahim, the co-ordinator of a voluntary organisation called Gerai OA.  Gerai OA helps Malaysia’s indigenous people (Orang Asli) sell their handicrafts.  In Kuala Lumpur I met Reita and visited the Gerai OA storeroom.  Reita put me in touch with a craftsman by the name of Raman Bah Tuin, who she said lived in a Semai village not too far from Kuala Lumpur.  So I gave him a call and arranged to visit him.  In the short time I spent with Raman and his family he told me a number of things about life in the jungle, including which plants could be used for culinary or medicinal purposes.  The main purpose of my visit, however, was to learn how to play the nose flute, and to record him playing a few tunes himself.

Raman Bah Tuin playing nose flute

There is an art to playing the pensol which I have to admit I struggled with, although I did manage it eventually.  Part of my problem is the shape of my nose.  As you might be able to tell from the photo of Raman here, Orang Asli nostrils are wider than those of an average Anglo Saxon.  This is actually a crucial feature in being an accomplished nose flute player.  Thus I had to expel quite a lot of air to make a sound, meaning I would probably pass out before getting even half way through any tune I attempted to play in full.

I made several recordings of Raman Bah Tuin playing his pensol, although I had an unfortunate problem with the Minidisc which resulted in a few drop-outs in the recordings, and some are incomplete.  For any future trips I intend to use a more modern method of recording.  Three of these recordings have ended up sounding pretty good though.  The first tune Raman Bah Tuin played was called Chenloi.  This tune is preceded by an introduction from Raman:

Raman told me that Chenloi is the spiritual name of a flower, and is a popular name with ethnic people. The tune represents wind blowing through the rainforest, the feeling associated with this wind, and the flower. The second tune Raman Bah Tuin played was called Kasih Sayang.  This, Raman explained to me, means “to love all people”, and this tune represents people together: Continue reading Nose flute recordings from Malaysia

The evolution of the music video

One of the (numerous) highlights of the 2013 Bradford International Film Festival was Adam Buxton’s Best of BUG show. In the Pictureville cinema he screened music videos from recent years that he thinks are of particular merit.   I was familiar with heard several of the tunes, but had never seen the videos.  This is not uncommon as I don’t always get to see music videos.  It was a real eye-opener to see what amazing pieces of art have been created, such as recent videos by  Yeah Yeah YeahsBonobo and this by Shogu Tokumaru:

Adam Buxton didn’t discuss the evolution of the music video during his show, although I thought he might. This is something I think about quite a lot, and I don’t necessarily mean the evolution of the videos themselves, but more our relationship with them.

When I was about 15 I would eagerly await every third edition of The Chart Show on ITV on Saturday morning to see if I might catch a video by one of my favourite bands in the show’s Indie Top 10.  TV programmes like that were the only way for people like myself to see music videos.  I never had MTV, and there was no Internet.  So, unless something was a hit, and could have its video shown on Top Of The Pops, there were few opportunities for people like myself to see them.

Videos on demand – 1990s style

In the mid 1990s things started to change, although rather slowly at first.  I remember seeing the video to Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly‘ on a CD-ROM in 1995 and being totally blown away.  Not by the song or the video, I must admit, but by the concept and what it heralded. “A video…?!  On a CD…?!  WOW!” thought I.  It was one step away from a hovering skateboard as far as I was concerned.

In 1996, while at university in Salford, I did an assignment analysing music videos.  I wanted to base my project on 3 Radiohead videos: Fake Plastic TreesStreet Spirit and Just.  The trouble was, none of these videos were available in any way, unless you were able to tape them off the TV.  (It wasn’t until 1998, and the release of 7 Television Commercials that these Radiohead videos could be watched ‘on demand’).  So, I wrote to Parlophone in 1996 to entreat them for help. To my amazement, within a couple of weeks, they had posted me my very own Radiohead videotape.

#Radiohead #video compilation, 1996

The YouTube revolution

I use that Radiohead example to illustrate just how different things were not all that long ago.  The MTV era is now behind us, and in the digital age the YouTube revolution has taken us to a totally different level. Of course, any student undertaking a similar assignment now would have no problem with accessing music videos.

Not only is the Internet  where most music videos are now watched, but YouTube is even many a person’s first port of call for listening to music full stop. That’s quite incredible really and is worth pausing to reflect upon.  There are so many ways to listen to music now, both offline and online, yet millions of people use a website that wasn’t even intended for music.  As a consequence, every new song released really has to be on YouTube, whether it has a video or not, as with the new My Bloody Valentine album. I was shot down by the panel at the 2012 Live At Leeds Unconference for suggesting that bands should put all their new releases on YouTube.  I would be interested to know whether the same panel would still hold that view now 12 months on.

So, we now have (virtually) every song on YouTube, with or without a video.  Then we have artists’ other promotion videos; those which don’t accompany a song, and whose sole purpose seems to be to be viewed and shared online.  The seven videos Mute Records put on YouTube to promote Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! album in 2008 are the first example of such that I can recall.  I was struck at the time and saw this as a significant move.  This wasn’t simply a band making videos, and then ensuring that they went on YouTube.  These videos were, so far as I could tell, made specifically forYouTube.

The video and the single

The evolution of the single and the album is something I will write about another day.  But it is impossible to talk about music videos without discussing singles.

When I was a boy a good music video might persuade me to part with my pocket money for a 7″ single, and the purchase of the single might then lead to me buying the corresponding album (notable examples from my youth don’t come any more significant than A-Ha’s ‘Take On Me).  But now the distinction between a single and a video is far less well defined.  In fact, to say that the video is the single is not an absurd statement.    Continue reading The evolution of the music video