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Video Games Live with Full Orchestra

Advertised in the entertainment section of my paper as, “A groundbreaking live event celebrating the music of video games,” comes Video Games Live, a full orchestra performance of the music of Halo, Zelda, Warcraft and others. Partially backed by Clear Channel, the performance will feature, “music from the world’s most popular video games performed by top
orchestras and choirs across North America, combined with explosive
video segments from each of the games, lasers and lights to create an
exceptional, immersive entertainment experience” says the press release.

In small print the advert says that there will also be a, “medley of classic arcade games from Pong to Donkey Kong.” I think that’s when the folks file out to get drinks and go to the bathroom.

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Serendipitous Audio Streaming Services

Now joining last.fm is a new service, Pandora, which supplements revenue from affiliations with Amazon and Apple with a very reasonable subscription fee ($36/year, $12/quarter). The interface works better for me but that’s mostly because they’ve simplified the number options they make available. Unlike Last.fm, you cannot tag your music collection nor does it monitor what music you play to adjust your profile which is what I find so fascinating about last.fm.

Last weekend I had friends over for dinner and had last.fm’s “vocal jazz” tag streaming all night long and we were constantly surprised with the things passed our way – Judy Garland, rare Louis Armstrong, the occasional spoken word rap, all like rare cheeses on a silver platter.

Last.fm is worth it if you invest the time to manage your profile and feed the ecosystem – Pandora is more for the person that wants to boot up, login, and start listening right away.

One point in Pandora’s favor – they have a Movable Type blog so they can post on their plans for the future.

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Last FM Update (II)

I love the concept of tagging your music so that others can share what you have and you can discover music based on what other people are tagging in their collection. The Last FM tagging interface looks beautiful but it takes a bit of trial and error to learn how it works and kept hanging my browser when I was playing with it (although it seems to work like a charm this morning). At one point my entire collection of Ween music ended up tagged as “Baroque” which may explain why Danah Boyd complains that the psytrance stream was sullied by Led Zeppelin.

Last.FM Update

My favorite social media sharing site, last.fm, just got a facelift. I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet but I sure like the new design.

www.last.fm

Oliver Mtukudzi

So I never got around to posting about the concert I went to see at Yoshi’s on Monday night. An old college and Tokyo friend, Rick Esquivel, suggested we go see the Zimbabwe pop artists Oliver Mtukudzi and I’m really glad I did. The venue is cozy. Mostly sit down with small tables for drinks and light food. Sushi seemed to be the dish of choice. The music was great and we had some seats right up front but couldn’t resist the urge to get up and dance.

About halfway through the set, Oliver dedicated a song of his which had been recently covered by Bonnie Raitt to "Ms. Raitt who’s somewhere out there." I thought he meant figuratively because I know Bonnie lives in the Bay Area. Of course we were all delighted when she later bounded up on stage to belt out the chorus along with the rest of his band. She later stepped down to join us in dancing through the rest of the set.

That’s one thing I love about living here. There are so many great musicians that make the Bay Area their home and in the grand tradition of their art, they often show up and play with visiting artists to make local concerts here truely unique experiences.

Les Claypool

On a whim, I went to see Les Claypool last night. His bass playing style is a hard-hitting funk that I haven’t seen since I saw Keziah Jones several years back in Tokyo. His finger-slapping style throws out over the crowd like thick waves of jello – as soon as he starts playing, the whole room can’t help but start jumping.

I’ve never seen him play live before so I asked the others there what to expect. Everyone shrugged their shoulders, he likes to mix it up so much you never know what he’ll bring out.

Les took the stage with a sitar player named Gabby La La who wore a bright blue wig with ponytails and looked like an off-duty Japanese Anime character. The percussionist, Mike Dillon, was also amazing. Most of the time he played vibraphone but several times in the show his enthusiasm for the timbales got the best of him and he hauled his set out from the corner over to center stage and laid down a groove with the drummer that near blew the roof off the concert hall. During the entire 2 1/2 hour set he wore a rubber devil’s mask which only added to the pitch of his fever.

All 450 tickets to this Sunday night show at The Independent (the old Kennel Club) were sold out. I was lucky to get a spot right up front. I felt sorry for the bouncer who, good natured as he was, had to have his back to all the weirdness up on stage the whole night. At one point the sounds were so strange that curiosity got the best of him. You could see the question marks come out of his head when he looked up to see Les, donning a full-headed monkey mask, hunched over a one-stringed homemade base, banging on it with the back of a bow and bending the pitch with a springed lever. It just kept getting stranger.

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Birf-day Weekend

Tyler called me on Saturday and told me to look in the drawer under my sock drawer where Izumi and the kids had stashed a birthday card for me before I left. He was so excited to tell me about the suprise and it was so sweet to have something from them to kick off the weekend.

Thank you Mie, Dav, Doug, Brian, Emily and everyone else who spent time with me through the weekend. It was fun! Mie was in full moblog mode and documented everything down to each tiny detail. Dinner in North Beach, the band we saw at El Rio in the Mission, a visit to the Scrap House, the Alameda Antique Fair, and our visit to Lucky Juju’s Pinball Palace. Old friends from Tokyo, Brian and Emily joined us later on Sunday for a drive up to Tilden Park and dinner at Zachary’s Pizza on Solano Avenue. I should have more of these Birthday things, good for the soul they are!

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Hey You Potter!

For Tyler’s 6th Birthday we didn’t have a big party. He chose instead to redirect the birthday funds into a six disc DVD set of the first three Harry Potter movies. We’ve been reading the Potter books and Tyler has found a new world to explore beyond Thomas the Tank Engine. He picks up every piece of trivia, asks detailed questions, and is now studying the movies as eager as an acolyte.

Because her playmate is now entranced by the spell of Potter, Julia’s picked it up a bit as well. She hasn’t quite gotten the name of the the series down yet so she calls it “Hey You Potter” but she’s got the theme music down and both of them came to our bed this morning and greeted us with their renditions.

Fluid Market for Ringtones

In the March 7th New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones writes about the cell phone ringtone industry which, in 2004, generated $4 billion dollars in worldwide sales (only $300 million from the US). In Korea, the ringtone market outsells the CD single market. There is a newer, higher quality version of the ringtone that is just gaining popularity. But there is more than just better quality that makes the mastertone interesting; there is commercial appeal,

Record labels, convinced that they have lost millions of dollars in CD
sales to MP3 file-swapping, have been especially attentive to
ringtones, and they love master tones. Polyphonic ringtones are
essentially cover versions of songs: aggregators must pay royalties to
the publisher, who then pays the songwriter. But master tones are
compressed versions of original recordings, which means that record
labels—the entities that typically own recordings—are entitled to
collect a fee, too.

She goes on to explain the royalty deals signed to get these songs were extremely one-sided pushing up to 25% for some record companies. This boosts the overall cost of the mastertones which keeps people from adopting them. Kind of killing the hen before it can get around to laying it’s golden eggs.

This arrangement is unlikely to last. There are now Web-based
companies, like Xingtone, for example, that will convert songs from
your collection into master tones. Or you can do it yourself: some new
cell-phone models can be connected to a computer by a data cable,
allowing you to create master tones from MP3 files at home. However it
is done, transferring music that you own to your phone is legal under
copyright law.

Like a water balloon, exert too much pressure and the market moves around you.

White Rabbit

whiterabbit.JPG

Now I know where Jefferson Airplane gets their inspiration for their songs. Chinese candy!