January 24, 2011
Your definitive introduction to classical music

I've made a Spotify playlist with a 6 hour introduction to the entire history of classical music*. If the classical repertoire is anything for you at all, you'll find something here. [Here's a pretty good WIMP subset of the list, and here's an Rdio version]

The standout classical record label is Deutsche Grammophon - Just DG among friends - and they have recently done a great service to classical music, by putting out a collection of 55 CDs in celebration of 111 years of operation.
It's quite a remarkable collection. From DGs amazing catalog of recordings you get the top performers of stand out works, from pretty much all of musical history, "classical" musical history that is - but that stretches from medieval times to West Side Story, so a solid 500 years worth of music. There's a lot of gold there. Great performers. Great music.

I'm always trying to convince people that they're really missing out, by not checking out the classical repertoire, and this box set is a convenient way for you to find what type of classical music is for you. If you don't find it here, I'd say you're unlikely to find it - except the modern dissonant stuff, which is curiously absent. No Schönberg, Berg, Webern, Stockhausen. No Bartok even, or Shostakovich. No Ligeti. None of the American serial music. But with those caveats, this box set really is it. The mainstream is solidly represented. If this leaves you cold, that makes me a little sad, but I will just have to accept that classical really is not for you.

However, 55 CDs is still a lot of sound to chew your way through. With that problem in mind, I've condensed the CD set - neatly packaged in themed discs of similar music - into just 53 tracks. 6 hours of music. I did this by choosing exactly one cut from each CD, leaving out only two CDs that were the second disc of 2-disc works. I'm still happy to make the same claim about the 6 hours I do about the 55 discs. If these 6 hours leave you cold, you're never going to have much fun in the concert hall.
If, on the other hand, you find something you like, you're going to find a lot more. I am going to try to make suggestions for further listening for all of the 53 tracks in the next couple of days. If you already listen to classical music, feel free to make suggestions in the comments below. If you have questions about the music, or my choice of tracks, feel free to ask.

Final note, if you're not on Spotify, where you can listen to all 55 CDs: The box set is cheap - 600-700 DKK for all 55 CDs in Danish stores - and also conveniently available as MP3s from DGs online store. DG has been at the forefront of just accepting the future, and have been issuing high quality DRM-free MP3s (or FLAC lossless) in their online store for years. (Stupid interaction alert: 1. Choose country before trying to buy. 2. You can only buy from the search page, not the album info pages).

Final bonus playlist: These are my 2 hours worth of personal favourites from the 6 hour selection.

* Well, as the post explains, the dissonant 20th century and present got left out. I'll have to make a separate playlist for that.

Posted by Claus at 10:21 PM
April 29, 2009
Czerkinsky, Natacha, France Gall og Christiansen (!)

Jeg brugte meget denne her single på mixbånd tilbage i 90erne

Perfekt loungestil, med lidt skarpere kant og højere elegance end hvad den bølge ellers havde med, og ikke helt spillet ned i radioen - jeg fandt den på en Bungalow Records kompilation, som også har den utrolige Howard Devoto hyldestsang The Most Important Man Alive med Momus.

Men jeg vidste ikke dengang at hooket i Czerkinskys single var et France Gall sample. Fra et nummer med den for en dansker fantastiske titel "Christiansen". Som dog handler om en sød og lækker nordmand på ferie i Sydfrankrig.
Da jeg så fandt ud af det, gik der stadig lidt tid, før jeg fandt denne her video, hvor France Gall synger den i studiet i 1967, komplet med vietnambørn som klædelig op-art ved siden af de andre mærkevarer og ikoner. Man skal lige et par minutter ind før hun når til sang nr 2, som er Christiansen.

Posted by Claus at 12:31 PM
April 15, 2009
Classical/compositional music is like dinosaurs to pop musics bland mammals

Like the dinosaurs, the amazing non-mammal life that ruled the earth in pre-extinction times the old music of the western tradition - and it remains - has an enormous variation in sound, personnel, structure, instruments. It came in all shapes and sizes from 16 hour opera to 1 minute Webern minimalia.
Modern music is 25% rodents - 4 piece rockbands doing 3 minute songs. But it's efficient and can survive nuclear wars. And it's as smart as the old music.

Posted by Claus at 11:14 PM
March 04, 2009
Chaos update

The latest incarnation of the chaos music project is the chaos blues, where I hooked in a synthesizer to generate the sound. But, as Brian Eno says, this immediately presents a new problem; tweakability. Tweaking isn't feeling. It isn't music. It's the old problem of abundance that we know from the jam-shopping experiments, only applied to creativity, the abundance increases the cost of choice, which limits your productivity.

Which is why I wrote down my parts list for my lab, by the way. Sticking to fixed inventory forces me to think about something else than choosing my inventory.

With sound I now have something like 10 dimensions of timbre on the synth, and then I have musical scale, chaos parameter, tempo and all of these can vary in time. It's all too much.
What makes the violin hard to learn, I suspect, is that you can't escape to low dimensionality. There's nothing you can "just do", you always have to deal with the timbral possibilities of the violin on the guitar or keyboard you can escape to low dimensional competence much more easily.
My dream for computer music allows me to dial the dimensionality up as skills grow. Dimension zero is the mp3 player. It just plays. Dimension 1 is the mixtape. And from there you should be able to grow the music into something alive, pulsing and flesh-like.

Posted by Claus at 12:22 PM