Play Me, I’m Yours in NYC

7 07 2010

Play Me, I’m Yours is an art installation from British artist Luke Jerram. It’s a project he has been touring around the world since 2008. This Monday concluded the 2 week New York debut, which was the largest version yet with 60 pianos being rolled out all over the city. Subsidized by Sing for Hope, the pianos were refurbished and placed in various parks, plazas and on street corners throughout the 5 boroughs.

I love this idea and wished that I had stayed in NYC just a bit longer to see it first hand. It’s not just a great way to bring music to the streets of the city but it also brings the people together as they enjoy, share and participate in the music.  Keep in mind, these pianos are intended for the public, not just street musicians or seasoned professionals. The concept is that anyone is welcome to sit down and play, regardless of their ability. It’s an open invitation to share music with the people around you, whether it’s “Beethoven’s 5th” or just “Chop Sticks”.


In response to the NYC roll-out, Jerram has said, “I’m amazed at how well my artwork has been so well received. It seems like half of NYers know how to play piano!? I’ve always had the feeling that Play Me, I’m Yours was meant to be presented here. There’s so much talent here and people willing to express themselves. I’m so grateful to Sing For Hope in making this dream come true.” See more quotes

The response has been amazing, running the gamut of possibilities. Up and coming professionals have used it as a way to showcase their music in the public domain, something that usually requires a city permit, and the occasional “big name” has sat in unexpectedly to share their gift.  Street musicians have found it to be a great way to setup shop in new locales while complete novices have tried their hands at something they never even considered due to lack of access to a real piano. It’s a fantastic idea that should not just be perpetuated in cities large and small around the world but should absolutely be brought back year after year or perhaps even be considered for permanent installation during the summer months. At a time when the arts and, more specifically, music programs are being slashed all around us, it’s a brilliant way to keep music alive amongst the populous.

Hopefully you got to see some of this in action around NYC. If not, there are numerous videos that share the experience quite well. Below are a few but be sure to visit the artist’s website to see others, as well as some really cool photos and learn a lot more about this incredible project.

Visit StreetPianos.com to learn more. Click HERE to see the locations where the each piano was placed in NYC. Here is the LINK to learn about the origins of the project and how it is received by the public. Also, to read more about the piece, check out this New York Times article.

References:

More info on Play Me, I’m Your

More info on Luke Jerram

More info on Sing For Hope

YouTube Search Results





The In Sound From Way Out!

19 05 2010

When you think of electronic music, the 1960’s doesn’t exactly come to mind. Sure, the minimalist composers like Terry Riley and Steve Reich were doing things that would later influence electronic music. And, yes, guys like John Cage were playing around with experimental music, taking “found sound” and injecting it into their live performances, but what we would now think of as electronic music was just in it’s infancy at that point. It was such a new concept that few had even explored the potential. For starters, the main contributor to the genre, the synthesizer had yet to be invented… so one would think. While modern synthesizers, like the Fairlight CMI and Synthclavier, did not appear for some time, there were a few predecessors that started it all, and with that were some very innovative artists that would pioneer a whole new breed of music.

Here are a few videos of one of the earliest electronic keyboards, the Ondioline. It is a vacuum tube instrument that was invented in 1941 (!). This is one of the earliest pioneers to use such technology, Jean-Jaques Perrey, doing a demonstration of how this instrument would change the way we think of music. The first is from 1960, the second is from 1966… both are from an old show called I’ve Got A Secret.

Perrey was on the absolute forefront of such music technologies.  He traveled Europe showing what the Ondioline could do, then moved to NY where he helped develop the idea of making rhythmic loops out of cut and spliced tape. This technique would later be know as tape looping. Perrey would soon befriend Dr Robert Moog, the inventor of the Moog Synthesizer. The Moog was an instrument that truly changed the musical landscape. In the 70’s it rose to great prominence with help from artists like Stevie Wonder, Jan Hammer, Kieth Emerson and Bernie Worrell. Soon after meeting Bob Moog, Perrey became one of the first Moog synth musicians, creating “far out electronic entertainment”. In 1965 Perrey met Gershon Kingsley, a former colleague of John Cage. Together, using Ondioline and Perrey’s loops, they created two albums for Vanguard — The In Sound From Way Out (1966) and Kaleidoscopic Vibrations (1967). Both were groundbreaking pieces of work that still influence today’s musicians, like the Beastie Boys for instance, who borrowed the title and cover art from the former.

Below is “One Note Samba” (a cover) from Kaleidoscope Vibrations

This is “The Little Man From Mars” from The In Sound From Way Out

Gershon Kingsley and Jean-Jaques Perrey were perfect collaborators however, they soon parted ways to work on their own music. Interestingly, they both created some extraordinary work as individuals. Some of which still lives on today. For instance, Kingsley’s 1969 hit “Popcorn” was a huge success that is often covered by contemporary musician, both young and old. This all instrumental pop-centric tune was created after listening to the rhythm of a popcorn maker. The song was featured on his 1969 release Music To Moog By. Kingsley became famous for being the first musician ever to play the Moog in live performances. It should be no surprise that the Moog was his writing tool for this worldwide hit and would later define his style.

Here is the original video produced for “Popcorn”. You will absolutely recognize this one as it has been covered about 30 times and was featured in countless films, TV shows and commercials from decades past. It’s amazing to think this was written and recorded the same year as Woodstock.

Perrey also had great success as a solo musician. His song “EVA”, from 1970, is much like “Popcorn” in that it has been covered for decades. When you listen to it now, it sounds like something modern day musicians are doing in their home studios. It’s wild to think that the genre really hasn’t come that far in 50 years. Immediately below is the audio from the original EVA recording and just after that is a live performance of the song recorded in 2005. The live version is great to watch but has about 2 minutes of introduction. It’s crazy to see this old man up there playing the original vintage instruments on which he composed this masterpiece… and yet the music sounds like something written 5 years ago.

The thing to note about all of this music is that it was often a painstaking process to create. It was the advent of computer technology that has made it more accessible to modern players. Perhaps that is why the style has taken off. As it becomes easier and easier to create, more young artists try their hand at what was considered relatively impossible a half century ago. That combined with modern pop sensibilities means that electronic music is now one of the most popular forms world wide.

References:

More info on Perrey & Kingsley

More info on Jean-Jaques Perrey

More info on Gershon Kingsley

More info on the Ondioline

More info on Robert Moog

More info on the Moog Synth

More info on The In Sound From Way Out

More info on Kaleidoscopic Vibrations

More info on “Popcorn” and it’s covers





Fairlight CMI

18 01 2010

Since I’m on the topic of Herbie Hancock, check out this video of Herbie and Quincy Jones playing around with a really old synthesizer, the Fairlight CMI. I first saw Herbie messing around with this thing on Sesame Street… waaaay back when. All I could remember was that it was really weird for children’s programming. I just found that same video on the web and upon watching again I pretty much came to the same conclusion (20+ years later). The CMI first came out in 1979 for like $25,000 and it basically became the sound of the 80’s. Peter Gabriel and Stevie Wonder bought the first 2 that rolled off the production line… which makes sense. You’ve definitely heard it before in many, many 80’s classics.

Note the light pen/stylus thingy. For some strange reason, it kind of reminds me of that weird pen, Mortimer Ichabod,  from Bill Cosby’s Picture Pages (Nickelodeon circa 1990-ish) . I don’t know, it must be the overt digitalness and/or the fact that it’s seems totally ridiculous because it’s supposed to be so ahead of it’s time and yet seems so dated. Little did they know the stylus would become completely obsolete in the new millennium. Look at us… just using our fingers to interact with these crazy gadgets.

There are numerous videos of this thing for reference, like Keith Emerson of ELP on The Today Show – 1983. This is actually a REALLY good one. It’s crazy to see their mentality about digital music in the early 80’s. You need to hear some of the questions this reporter poses. It borders on fear mongering. In 2010 it really sounds absurd.

There are also many more just like or very similar to that one but, I certainly  don’t want to post them all here so follow the links below back to YouTube if you are curious. I’m even linking Mortimer the Pen too. How could I not?

Other Video Links:

Mortimer Ichabod (Picture Pages Pen)

Fairlight Factory Tour -1984

Peter Gabriel shows you how he made some of his worst music on the CMI

Really odd UK news show, This Week, features the CMI. Old + odd… usually a recipe for a pretty decent video.

Additional Background References:

Wiki – Fairlight CMI

GH Services








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