Musical Space

Going To Extremes

May 12, 2015

A lot of talented musicians like to show off their technical skills, and sometimes it’s annoying. There’s the jazz tenor saxophonist who won’t stop after 10 choruses, the lead guitarist who has never heard the expression “less is more.”

A musician’s ego can get the best of them. “Higher, faster, louder” is sometimes the quickest way to kill the mood.

Anetode / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

Blues guitarist Robert Johnson is said to have gotten his musical talent by selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads close to the famous Dockery Plantation in the Mississippi Delta. The same story was told earlier about another bluesman named Tommy Johnson.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Congress changed copyright law in the 1970s with a provision that allows songwriters to get out of their contracts 35 years after they had signed away their rights to record companies.

Musicians Who Sing Along

Mar 31, 2015
Don Hunstein / Glenn Gould Foundation

This is Glenn Gould’s famous 1981 recording of Bach’s "Goldberg Variations." If you listen very carefully, you can hear him singing along. He sang so loudly that his recording engineers often couldn’t avoid it being picked up by the microphones.

bluesmuse / Flickr / Creative Commons

You may not be aware of this, but the last four decades of music have been heavily influenced by German underground rock from the 1970s.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

You’ve all heard about The Mozart Effect, the theory that listening to classical music will “make you smarter.” Whether or not research bears this out, the Mozart Effect has become a rallying cry for music educators and is even a trademarked way to sell CDs to parents hoping their kids would eventually get high-paying jobs.

tyler.stefanich / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

Recorded music now makes so little money that some artists have gone to a completely different business model.

Musicians are now releasing their work for free in the hopes that their music will reach the ears of someone willing to put it in a movie, or that it will help promote a live tour or merchandise sales. This is called a “Creative Commons License,” and it grants everyone the right to freely distribute the work, provided they don’t sell, alter or claim it as their own. / Google Images / Creative Commons

There is a raw honesty about the music of PJ Harvey, and that is probably the reason she’s the only person to twice win England’s Mercury Prize for best album of the year.

Now, she has figured out a way to make her next album a much more intimate and meaningful experience for the listener: she is treating the recording as an art exhibit.

Stairway To Litigation

Jan 20, 2015
Heinrich Klaffs / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

Led Zeppelin was one of a wave of British bands enamored with American delta blues, and they covered a large number of blues artists like Robert Johnson and Willie Dixon.

“Borrowing” songs from someone else is part of the blues tradition, but Led Zeppelin might have taken things too far. They have already been sued in the past for plagiarising Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson. Now, they find themselves in court again, this time over the authorship of the band’s colossus, "Stairway to Heaven," a song that has earned more than half a billion dollars.

Released in 1968 Head, starring The Monkees, is one of the strangest rock ‘n’ roll films ever made. Tired of their image as cute and cuddly TV stars the manufactured group almost entirely destroyed its reputation in the course of 86 minutes with the plotless picture.

Head takes on celebrity, the war in Vietnam, psychedelic culture, and, of course, the band’s image. The film flopped although the director Bob Rafelson and co-producers Jack Nicholson and Bert Schneider would have more success with films such as Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces.