Archive for the ‘ Music ’ Category

Kraftwerk

I’m pretty sure I laughed when I first heard “The Robots” for the first time in 9th grade. It was… ridiculous. I had never heard anything like it before and it truly seemed like a parody, yet there was something ingenious about it that I couldn’t quite comprehend. When I finally came around and really started listening to electronic music ten years later, it dawned on me that Kraftwerk were true pioneers and far ahead of their time.

I saw them perform seven years ago and they absolutely blew my mind with a triptych of video projections at Hammerstein Ballroom, but last night the venue was MOMA and the video was 3D. It was… ridiculous. The influence is obvious today in music everywhere, including my own.

soundcloud.com/stephenjacksontaylor/way

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Annik

Last night was a delightful romp in room 3 of Radio Stars Karaoke in celebration of Annie and Erik’s engagement. They met through mutual friends and made out for the first time in the dark corner of a karaoke room so it was appropriate that we would congregate in a similar studio and sing our faces off all night long. Singing together makes bonding stronger and we are lucky to have friends who appreciate this and love to let it out from time to time. I get to sing in my classes everyday, but singing karaoke brings out the real soul!

Congratulations to Annie and Erik and I am thrilled that Annik will be exchanging vows of eternal love!

Buster Keaton and Guitars

Buster Keaton films are the very definition of classic; they are time machines to an era of simplicity and authenticity, and I am always struck by how real it all seems, despite the obvious ridiculousness of the plots and slapstick. This was filmmaking in its purest magic, before special effects became the attraction. It is the characters and the core of their actions, be they brutal physical comedy or tender facial expressions, that hold our attention and connect with an audience a century later.

Thia week I attended two evenings of the New York Guitar Festival featuring seven Buster Keaton films accompanied by different musical acts. Each artist’s take was unique and brought a fresh and live element to this classic artwork. Some of the musicians added atmosphere through propulsive rhythm or gorgeous acoustic sounds or electric feedback and synced to the action of the film at various moments. The films are short and fast-paced, with just enough time to get a sense of the musical style before the next act. It was hosted by the famous voice of NPR, John Schaeffer, who conducted an interview with each of the musicians about their approach to the project. Great acts that I had heard before included Kaki King, Keller Williams and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth (who hung his guitar from the rafters and swung it over the audience as he smacked it with his hands, violin bows and drum sticks) while I was introduced to other great music by Buke and Gass (playing Baritone Ukulele and Guitar-Bass), Redhooker and my Brightest Diamond. Everyone found something in the films and amplified it with their music. Since my amazing experiences watching Philip Glass perform his score to Dracula in 2000 and Sufjan Stevens perform to film of the BQE in 2007, I have been on a quest seeking great unions of sound and visuals. These two evenings were memorable and inspiring additions to my collection.

Open Your Eyes

Godot is an artist who creates some amazing stop-action videos with all sorts of different media. He is an innovator and an activist who craves social justice, using art to promote Supergoodness in all aspects of life. He is also my brother-in-law and I have been lucky to work with him, producing soundtracks for a number of his videos. Here is one that I recently collaborated on, with video shot in the art jungle of Berlin. Enjoy!

Open Your Eyes

DJ

One of my favorite activities is playing DJ for a group of people interested in listening and maybe even dancing to the music I play. I love finding songs appropriate for any situation and sharing them with friends or strangers, who in turn provide feedback and requests, creating a playlist I could never have made on my own. It is as much about discovering music as it is about listening.

Tonight I was asked to curate the sounds for Ars Nova, an amazing little theatre that always throws great parties. They are committed to stimulating new work and recognize the importance of social exchange in this development, which is, I believe, why they offer their amazing penthouse loft stocked with free booze for these events.

I would love to watch time lapse footage of tonight’s party. It was packed to begin with and only a few interspersed bodies were shaking to the beats, which ranged from 60′s Soul to Indie pop. As the night wore on, though, and noticeably when the classic 80′s dropped, the crowd both thinned and found their groove, feeding itself with familiar beats and losing those awkward inhibitions that force us to remain rigid in the face of overwhelming funk.

As the dance floor came alive, so too did the song requests. As a DJ, it can be a risk to turn over song selection to the masses, but the duty would not be as fun for me as a strict dictator, so I entrust the ones convulsing on the floor with choosing the next song and manifesting their own destiny. Spotify provides the awesome power of instant gratification for any song jones, and playing a request is as easy as thinking of it. I see my DJ role as more facilitator than tastemaker. I like making people happy.

Music Alive

It has been a couple weeks of great musical entertainment for me. Wilco at Central Park Summerstage, Jon Brion at Le Poisson Rouge, and Deadmau5 at Roseland; all of them wonderfully different and uniquely fun. Wilco rocks as hard as any band with a rare restraint that pulls you forward as a listener. Jon Brion is the best musician I have ever seen, playing solo and recording drum, piano, glockenspiel, guitar and bass loops, building his songs with sweet harmony and jaw-dropping skill into some absolutely beautiful sonic collages. Deadmau5 is one of the biggest DJs in the world now and performs his bass-blasting vibrations perched high on a stunning light-and-projections visual set while the kids dance hard.

I love all music. From around the world, with any instruments, I listen to everything. Rhapsody and now Spotify have made that even easier, making music virtually free and offering allowing a diversity of taste and consumption previously unimaginable. Recorded music is now easily and instantly accessible, which is a cultural bonanza, but also creates the problem of too much information. How can we differentiate between all the artists creating this music? It is, in my mind, a live performance that makes the music truly memorable. When the music is performed and captivates the audience, it creates an ephemeral experience that can last a lifetime; a moment in our brief lives that can never be replayed endlessly on the internet. In a world of supply and demand that dictates value, infinite access decreases a work’s worth, while a unique and powerful live experience is truly priceless.

Backtowork

The last two weeks have been a gentle ease-in to a precisely scheduled life as classes at various workplaces are starting on a rolling timetable. I expect my teaching capacities to be fully engaged and operational within the next week and look forward to a “rigorous” fall semester…

But in the meantime I’ve had some free time which is almost completely monopolized by creative music production. Since spending a month without my studio, I have had a stream of rhythms and melodies pouring into my laptop and have condensed them into few songs which I offer here. Supergood music is always free. Love and share!

http://soundcloud.com/stephenjacksontaylor/sets/backtowork-music/

India: Soundtrack

I brought my laptop to India. I debated it for months, and decided to lug it for a few reasons: the most practical was as a storage device for all my videos. I had two 4 GB cards that were obviously insufficient video time, so I needed to fill and dump them. While unnecessary, the ability to record music and blog is a treasured joy and the weight and space sacrifice in my tiny backpack seemed inconsequential. Travel tends to throw some tricks at you and after 6 days, the power adapter was fried by a generator on our houseboat and although the computer itself was thankfully spared, it was rendered useless. When we made it to Delhi 8 days later, I tuk tukked it to the Apple Store in search of a new cable, and they told me that they were all out of the MacBook adapters. They allowed me to charge the computer in the store for a while, which gave me just enough juice to download my videos through the end of the trip and I was able to thumb some blogposts on my iPhone, but unfortunately, my music production was halted. I am looking at it as a gentle reminder that visual and aural India is too valuable to be spent on a small box with earphones.

But in the few hours that I did have an operational studio, I did produce some music that I enjoy listening to. Enjoy!

http://soundcloud.com/stephenjacksontaylor/sets/india

Supergood Music Videos

I composed the soundtrack to a trilogy of videos made by my brother-in-law Kevin. Enjoy!

Land 11

Since before I knew her and before her parents knew, Alaina has been hosting parties in Warwick, NY. Six years ago, we were married on that property and The Land Party is one of my biggest annual highlights. It is a chance to relax and party with friends and family in a beautiful setting with woods and a pond. We camp, cook out and play music deep into the night. It provides a sense of freedom that I rarely have in my life and I take full advantage. This year’s party was a three-day extravaganza over July 4 weekend and it was, if I were ranking them, one of the all-time best. It is a lot of work to organize an event that will cater to about 100 people, but luckily, my wife is the best stage manager in the world and makes it seem effortless. While it may be hard to cook for so many people, it is always worth it when the crew is so fantastic. This year brought many strangers to the property (I estimated at one point that I had met about 1/3 of them before) but all of them brought a great attitude and sense of adventure to the party. The music was a great collection of Jammy?OK! singalongs, Supergood freestyle and DJ sets to satisfy all tastes. It is wonderful to share this experience with anyone who appreciates it and I am already looking forward to Land 12!

Intensity in Tent city