The Art Of The Loop

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Most current pop music is created not with live instruments, but from pre-formed, off the shelf chunks of music known as loops. Musician Matthew Herbert explores the art of the loop and the million-dollar industry that has grown up around it, and asks whether it is setting music makers free from the constraints of traditional instruments or killing creativity.

Loops are pre-recorded performances, typically of a solo instrument, and typically 1 or 2 bars long. Looping isn’t new – it started soon after the advent of tape recorders. But recent advances in computer technology and software mean that effects which once needed a full-scale studio costing thousands of pounds can be created for little or no cost on a laptop or even a mobile phone. A CD of loops costing £10 can be used to make a million-selling international hit, but who is the real composer?

Matthew once made an entire album from the sounds of a single pig’s life, so he’s no stranger to the benefits of loops and sampling. He talks to producers, musicians and loop-creators and experiments with technology ancient and modern; he hears from looping’s defenders and detractors and looks into a musical future which he finds fascinating but many find terrifying.

And, along the way, he builds a dance track out of a Radio 4 Continuity announcer.

Produced by Micky Curling
A Folded Wing production for BBC Radio 4

The Rise Of Digital Music

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Interesting piece on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme (27/02/14) featuring George Ergatoudis (Head of Music at Radio 1), Mark Williamson (Director of Artist Services at Spotify) and Paul Brindley (co-founder of MusicAlly).

I’ve Played In Every Toilet

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John Harris visits some of Britain’s surviving small music venues and asks what will happen if they disappear altogether.

All over the UK, small music venues are threatened with closure, or have already gone out of business. Many of them have hosted gigs by truly legendary names and were once securely built into the so-called ‘toilet circuit’, which allowed promising musicians to take their first tentative steps on the national stage. Without them, we may not have heard from Coldplay, Oasis, Blur – or such contemporary talents as The Vaccines and Mumford and Sons. But crushed by powerful landlords and the rising expectation that music – whether live or recorded – should be free, these places are struggling as never before.

John’s journey takes in The Forum in Tunbridge Wells, once an actual public toilet, which has survived over the last twenty years because the volunteers that run it haven’t profited from the business. He also travels to Hull to visit the Adelphi Club, a semi-detached house on one of the city’s residential streets which has hosted bands such as Pulp, Green Day and Radiohead. Manager Paul Jackson says things have been tougher than ever for the venue, but he’s determined to carry on.

Finally John visits Newport, once home to the legendary TJ’s where Kurt Cobain famously proposed to Courtney Love. Speaking to the daughter of the former owner John Sicolo and Nicky Wire from Manic Street Preachers, he finds out what happens when a town loses its beloved venue.

He also speaks to DJ Steve Lamacq and journalist Kate Mossman to consider how – without these venues run on a mix of hope and blind faith – we will discover the next generation of musicians.

Producer: Simon Jacobs
A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.

Who Killed Classical Music?

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The Composer Gabriel Prokofiev (grandson of Sergei Prokofiev) looks at the increasing disconnection between classical music and its audience. He investigates the argument that composers such as Schoenberg killed off 20th century classical music for all but a small elite audience.

Until the early 20th century, each composer of classical music developed his own style built on the traditions of previous composers. Then Arnold Schoenberg changed all this, by devising ‘Serialism’ where melodies were no longer allowed.

In the 1950s, composers such as Pierre Boulez created ‘Total Serialism’. Every aspect of a piece of music – rhythms and loudness as well as notes – was rigidly controlled by a fixed formula.

And the sense of composers being remote from their audience was exacerbated by the elevation of musical performance to a kind of ritual.

But even at a time when Serialism gripped major parts of the classical music establishment, music that was overtly emotional was still being written by composers such as Shostakovich and Prokofiev in Russia. Ironically, in these countries, the State continued to support classical music, whereas in more liberal regimes in Europe it retreated to the intellectual margins.

Now the Serialist experiment has been largely abandoned and a whole new generation of composers – including Gabriel himself – is embracing popular culture, just as composers used to in the past when folk music or dance music were a major source of inspiration.

So has the death of classical music been exaggerated? Will it find new homes and new means of expression to attract the audiences of the future?

With contributions from Arnold Whittall, Stephen Johnson, Alexander Goehr, David Matthews, Ivan Hewett and Tansy Davies

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme here:

 

Beyond Bollywood

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Journalist Sarfraz Manzoor visits India to meet a new generation of musicians and singers performing Indie, Reggae, Ska and Rap, and examines whether this western influenced scene can seriously rival the trademark sounds of Bollywood and Bangra.

Although Bollywood music is still the mass market choice on Indian stereos the alternative scene continues to grow and find its voice. Recently there’s been a notable rise in the number of rock music festivals, dance nights and music events attracting aspiring young Indians.

To discover the impact this alternative music scene is having on India, Sarfraz Manzoor journeys to the Hauz Khas Village in Delhi, often cited as the catalyst for introducing a wave of new bands and fresh musical genres into the market.

Hauz Khas is home to the offices of the Indian version of The New Musical Express and Manzoor speaks with its Editor Sam Lal and learns how the Village and the internet has been pivotal in the advancement and popularity of artists such as the Ska Vengers and Rapper Prozpekt who produce socially relevant music.

Exploring India’s first alternative radio station, Radio 79, Manzoor meets with Raghav Dang who broadcasts Pressure Drop and is a founder member of the band The Reggae Rajas. Meeting female artists Talia Bentson and Ritika Singh he also discovers why women are very happy to pursue a singing career in the East.

As India’s alternative music scene continues to develop Manzoor will explore the challenges ahead and learn whether these new songs provide a greater sense of identity for young people.

David Attenborough: My Life in Sound

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03lnzxh

MONDAY 16th December 2013 at 11.00am on BBC Radio 4

In an exclusive interview for Radio 4 David Attenborough talks to Chris Watson about his life in sound.

One of Sir David’s first jobs in natural history film making was as a wildlife sound recordist. Recorded in Qatar, David Attenborough is with wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson, there to make a film about a group of birds he is passionate about, The Bird of Paradise. It is in Qatar where the worlds largest captive breeding population is and it is in this setting Chris Watson takes Sir David back to the 1950’s and his early recording escapades, right through to today where David Attenborough narrates a series of Tweet of the Day’s on Radio 4 across the Christmas and New Year period

WWI soundscape ‘about humanity’

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History has left many images that illustrate the destructive legacy of WWI, but there is almost a total absence of recorded sound – particularly from the field of battle.

When musician Stuart Staples from the British band the Tindersticks was asked to compose a soundscape for the war museum at Ypres in Belgium, he said he wanted to create something reflective.

Ahead of next year’s centenary, the Today programme’s Tom Bateman went with him to the location of some of the deadliest battles.

Speaking from the German cemetery Mr Staples explained: “It’s just about the humanity… people in Germany will feel the same as the people in the UK”.

Tindersticks’ new album Across Six Leap Years is out now and In Flanders Field will be released next year.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday 22 October 2013.

How The Money Gets Divided From A CD Sale

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The average CD costs eight pounds. Who gets a share of it and how much to they get? Musicians, producers, songwriters and managers are just a few. It goes in lots of directions. Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason and Robbie Williams’ manager trace them in this clip from the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘You And Yours’.

Foghorn Requiem

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There used to be more than a hundred foghorns stationed around the British Isles but now there are fewer than 30. The BBC’s arts correspondent Rebecca Jones reports that a special requiem has been written which will be performed by ships at sea, three brass bands on the shore and the Souter Lighthouse foghorn near South Shields to mark the demise of the foghorn.
Listen to the BBC Radio 4 clip here

Update: please read Robin The Fog’s excellent account of the performance and listen to recordings here.

Oblique Strategies

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‘Infinitesimal gradations’, ‘Repetition is a form of change’, ‘Bridges -build-burn’ – just three of the gnomic aphorisms contained in the Oblique Strategies cards devised in the early 1970s by artists Peter Schmidt and Brian Eno. The cards were aimed at providing a creative jolt to artists who were either stuck or searching for new directions for their work. Most famously, Eno and David Bowie used the cards during the making of the now infamous set of albums known as the Berlin trilogy.

Simon Armitage first came across them as a student, but has never actually owned or used a pack himself. Now he sets out to tell the story of the cards, talk to some of those who’ve used them (across the fields of music, writing, cooking, business and more) and also find out whether the cards will take his own writing in a new direction. Among those he’ll speak with are Carlos Alomar (the guitarist on those Bowie albums), user Paul Morley, chef Ian Knauer and creativity guru Professor Tudor Rickards. He’ll also use the cards to try and help him track down the elusive Brian Eno himself.

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme here