Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category


From Point of Departure:

Issue 27 – February 2010

Page One: a column by Bill Shoemaker

Jemeel Moondoc + Muntu: a history by Ed Hazell

A Fickle Sonance: a column by Art Lange

The Book Cooks: Up From the Cradle of Jazz: New Orleans Music Since World War II
by Jason Berry, Jonathan Foose and Tad Jones (The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press; Lafayette, Louisiana)
&
Creative Life: Music, Politics, People and Machines by Bob Ostertag (University of Illinois Press; Champaign, Illinois)

Far Cry: a column by Brian Morton

Moment’s Notice: Reviews of Recent Recordings

Ezz-thetics: a column by Stuart Broomer

Travellin’ Light: Michael Zerang

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Opinion: The Decline of the Music Review

Posted: October 28, 2009 by Mike in Opinion

At one point I wrote music reviews. However, about fifteen years ago, I became dissatisfied with doing so and stopped. However, for a while, I still read them. Today, I rarely do.

Today I think that the value of the music review is in decline.

Twenty years ago, back when music was relatively expensive, not only to buy, but just to find (it had a high acquisition cost), reviews had an important role. Buyers could read reviews, come up with a list of albums that they’d like to purchase, and then try to find these album in stores or via catalogs.

Today, when we are recommended music, it usually comes along with a sample that can be freely downloaded. Whether 30 seconds or a whole track, the sample is infinitely more valuable than the review, because you can hear the music and form your own opinion. And, music is fairly cheap. For a few bucks you can just download a whole album. At that point you don’t need the review.

That’s not to say that reviews are dead. Nor am I advocating that people should stop writing reviews. In fact, I think that vibrant reviews help the avant music ecosystem.

Perhaps my view on this topic is not representative of many, as one of the most popular topics on AMN is reviews. So, we’ll continue to link to reviews and review sites. Nonetheless, evolutionary forces have replaced reviews with something else, and that something else is often more useful.


Rock Band
Image via Wikipedia

If you haven’t played Guitar Hero or Rock Band yet, you should stop reading this, and head out to invest in one of these game systems. Why? They allow a relatively talentless guy (like me) make, or pretend to make, real music.

Sure, right now the selections are mostly classic and modern rock. There’s no jazz, free jazz, classical or electronic compositions, and the instrumentation is limited. But aside from being a lot of fun, these games demonstrate the power of participation.

From the New York Times:

Both Rock Band and Guitar Hero have helped the ailing music industry by licensing songs and using online networks to sell additional tracks for gamers to play along with. Those tracks, which usually sell for around $2 each, are more profitable for record companies and musicians than iTunes sales.

MTV, which has focused more than Activision on selling additional songs online, recently announced that it had sold 15 million tracks, and sales are especially impressive for hard-rock bands. During the week in June when Motley Crue released Saints of Los Angeles,the first single from its new album, the song sold 14,000 copies on iTunes and 48,000 on Rock Band through Microsoft‘s Xbox Live network, said Allen Kovac, founder of the group’s management company and record label.

Perhaps more important, Rock Band is introducing young listeners to older bands they might not know. Mr. Kovac said that Motley Crue‘s exposure in the game helped it sell more albums because gamers spend significant time with the band’s music. “I credit Rock Band for bringing in the younger audience,” Mr. Kovac said. “The people who downloaded that song aren’tt just listening to it, they’re interacting with it.”

If this is where the music industry is heading, perhaps that’s a good thing. Now that the new or next generations of Rock Band and Guitar Hero allow gamers to compose their own music and share with others, how long will it be before bands release the unmixed tracks of their songs for these games? Players would then use their favorite artist’s songs as a basis for creating new music, and thus completely blurring the distinction between artist and listener.

Oh, and apparently the artists can make some money in the process.

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AMN Picks of the Week

Posted: August 15, 2008 by Mike in General, Opinion

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

Note: I missed last week because I was traveling and didn’t get a chance to listen to a lot of music.

Bang on a Can – In C (2001, modern classical)
Dhomont, Francis – Cycle de L’errance (2000, electroacoustic)
Mitchell, Roscoe – Roscoe Mitchell Quartet (1975, free jazz)
Dolden, Paul – L’ Ivresse de la Vitesse (Intoxicated by Speed) (2000, electroacoustic)
Dixon, Bill – Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra (2008, free jazz)
Ferrari, Luc – Didascalies (2007, electroacoustic)
Normandeau, Robert – Tangram (1994, electroacoustic)
Palestine, Charlemange / Tony Conrad – An Aural Symbiotic Mystery (2007, experimental)

AMN Picks of the Week

Posted: August 2, 2008 by Mike in Opinion

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

Migraine – 52-Grasshopper (2008, avant-jazz, improv)
Daniel Carter – Chinatown (2008, avant-jazz)
Festin Sagital, Un – Pharmakon (2006, avant-rock)
Festin Sagital, Un – Epitafio a la Permanencia (2007, avant-rock)
Fulminate Trio – Fulminate Trio (2008, jazz)
Finn, James – Great Spirit (2008, jazz)
Controlled Bleeding – Golgotha (1991, dark ambient)
Taylor, Cecil – The Cecil Taylor Unit (1978, jazz)

Free Music and Property

Posted: May 5, 2008 by Mike in Opinion

Over on my personal blog I’ve written a short piece on how free streaming of music is changing our listening from a possession model to a use model. And that this is not necessarily a bad thing.


Dave Douglas is doing something I really like and expect to see a lot more of in the future from other artists. That is, releasing live recordings within hours of their performance.

Sure, you still have to buy them, but these “real time” live albums seem to be all the rage. It’s great for the artist, who can get his material out to a wide audience and maybe make a few bucks, and it is great for the fan, who can experience the shows they missed.

Scott Amendola has announced he’s doing the same, and the folks at Open Ears Music post whole shows of top-notch improv. And it’s free, not just in style but also in price.

These examples are only scratching the surface. The next generation of musicians will have the ability to record and release virtually every performance of their entire careers. Will the plethora of options make one’s ongoing search for great music easier or more difficult?

Time will tell.