Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Balcony music

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Today I discovered the wonderful Grooveshark and some thoughts occurred to me that I feel like writing down.

I haven’t spent much time thinking about rights over digital media, downloading, etc. I’ve tended to ignore the whole debate. So the following may all be commonplace observations. I have no idea.

It occurred to me that continued increases in the prevalence and bandwidth of internet access might be going to solve a problem they helped create. That we may simply be in a temporary uncomfortable phase that will soon be over.

The increase of broadband made it possible for people to download large music and video files. People had long been used to the traditional model of owning physical objects that contained their music and video: LPs, 8-track, cassettes, VHS cartridges, CDs, DVDs, etc. It was all physical property. We typically paid for it. I still have about 1,000 CDs, all paid for, sitting uselessly on my shelf.

The default frame of reference was the physical object that you bought in a store, brought home, physically put in a player, physically stored on a shelf, could lend to (and hopefully get back from) a friend. Broadband extended that, allowing us to download what we still thought of as physical objects. And they are physical objects in a real sense: occupying space on our digital hard disk shelves, needing organizational love and care, needing backups, etc.

Because the frame of reference was still physical objects, the media companies, who have their own opinion on the various rights – real and imagined – associated with these objects, had a way to go after the downloaders. They could point to the physical objects and say “hey, you stole that (object)”, or “you didn’t pay for that (object)”. They could even write worms and rootkits to dig into our computers looking for the objects, getting lists of them to hold up in court. And they had a point: where did you get that physical object after all?

But their argument, the frame of reference that shapes the debate, rests on ancient arguments: agreements and conventions regarding physical objects. Much of the law is based on these things.

The frame of reference might be due to change radically, kicking the legs out from under the music industry.

Imagine you’re walking down the street. You pass under a balcony and see open doors leading back into an apartment. There’s great music coming out of the doors, and you can hear it clearly down in the street. You stop to listen. Have you committed a crime? Would anyone even suggest that you had?

Someone comes out onto the balcony to stand in the sun. You call up and ask what the music is. They tell you, and you say how much you like it. They tell you they have other albums – and would you like to hear another song? You say yes, and stand down in the street while they put on another track. No crime there, right?

Suppose this balcony is in the building right next to yours. You go home and open your own balcony doors to be able to hear the music. You do that every day. Once in a while you bump into the neighbor in the street and comment on something else, maybe make a request. In the end the neighbor even suggests running a speaker wire into your apartment so you can hear their music whenever you like, even if it’s raining and everyone has their balcony doors closed. You buy a speaker with a volume control on it. Once in a while you even call your neighbor on the phone to ask them to play something again, or to put on a special track.

There’s no crime there, not even the hint of one. The media companies would probably like to protest. But the frame of reference has totally changed. We’ve gone from the mindset of physical possession of an object of questionable origin to the walking down the street and hearing music.

And so it will go with increasing broadband. I’ve been listening to Clem Snide all day on Grooveshark. It’s streaming into my computer and directly to my speakers without being stored as a physical object on my machine. Entire tracks are not being physically stored: the music coming out my speakers and the data on my machine are just as ephemeral as they would be if I were walking down the street overhearing Clem Snide from someone else’s balcony.

Have I broken a crime? I find it very hard to argue that I have. OTOH, if I download a file and store it on my machine (which I have done many times BTW) it’s very easy to argue that there is a crime of some sort being committed. It’s easy to ignore that feeling too, but that’s not the point.

The reality is, I think, that we don’t actually want to own the physical objects. I don’t want a shelf full of physical CDs, and I don’t want a hard drive that’s 80% full of music files that I worry about and even back up.

How many times do you watch a DVD anyway? For many people it’s silly to buy a DVD because you can rent it much more cheaply, and you’re probably only going to watch it once or maybe twice. Music, for me at least, is different as I’ll sometimes listen to a single track 100-200 times. But I still don’t need or want to own it if I can just pull it up on demand via Grooveshark. I’d rather it was their disk space than mine, and the bandwidth interference with my normal work due to the streaming audio is increasingly hard to detect.

We may just be in a temporary uncomfortable stage that will be solved by the thing that got us here – increasing broadband access.

As bandwidth increases and becomes cheaper it seems like there will be a trend towards just streaming media and not downloading it to have and to hold until the RIAA or MPAA do us part.

At that point the frame of reference will change. It will become very difficult to maintain that a crime has been committed. To do so you’ll have to also argue that walking down the street and overhearing your neighbor’s music is also a crime. Good luck making that argument.

Giants in the Born!

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Giants dancingAnother day, another great sight in the Born.

I was sitting here 15 minutes ago when I became aware of lots of drumming and piping outside. I tossed up whether to go down and film some of it, given that I’ve recently been posting a few things from the Born and it might be getting repetitive. I’m glad I did though, because the giants were out.

I’ve seen these giants dozens and dozens of times over the years in Barcelona, but I’m still not sick of them at all. I find them somehow majestic and solemn, and I love watching them parade down an old street bobbing up and down to the music, doing courtship dances, and spinning around. There’s also lots of variety. Sometimes you’ll see at least a hundred of them out for a special occasion.

Have a look at the video. It’s very impressive live. I hope some of that comes across in these few short clips. You have to wait until about 2 minutes in before the giants start moving and dancing.

Sardanas in the Born

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

OK, this will be a quick one. I’m trying to post occasional videos taken in my neighborhood.

Here you have a typical Catalan scene: a band playing and people dancing Sardanas. You can see this any weekend in front of the cathedral. But this was in the Born and I happened across it on the way home. It’s 60 steps from my front door (yes, I counted).

I don’t really like this music. Like living in Santa Fe and eating Southwest cuisine, I thought it was great at first but that quickly changed. I don’t enjoy the too-reedy quality of the sound and that it’s almost always identical. It’s also really long. But you may go ahead and enjoy it. Be my guest. I really like it when the first person does the initial piping and beats the tiny drum attached to his forearm near the elbow. The dancing starts a couple of minutes into the video. It’s cute.

The church in the background is Santa Maria del Mar, whose stained glass windows and gargoyles are about 4 meters from my balcony.


Saturday, June 7th, 2008

BandoneónI’d never even heard of a bandoneón before last Thursday.

There was a performance of the guitar class at the kids’ school and after they were done the two teachers played for us all. It was great. The woman on the right playing the bandoneón is Argentinian and has been in Barcelona for 3 months. She’s been learning the bandoneón for 5 years and playing guitar “all my life”. As for the bandoneón, it looks good, sounds good, and doesn’t sound easy to learn. Here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia page linked above:

Unlike the piano accordion, the bandoneón does not have keyboards per se, but has buttons on both sides; and also unlike most accordions, most buttons on the bandoneón produce a different note when played closing than when played opening. This means that each keyboard has actually two layouts – one for the opening notes, and one for the closing notes. Since the right and left hand keyboards are also different, this adds up to four different keyboard layouts that must be learned in order to play the instrument.

Check it out:

Amants de Lulú

Friday, February 29th, 2008

I’ve not been blogging much recently, but that may change before long.

Today I was having a nap and awoke to hear music on the street downstairs. I went down to take a look, and took the camera along for your benefit. I should film more of this sort of thing, I like it so much, and there are lots of groups playing around here. But I’m often sitting around in my slippers working and I figure they may end before I get there.

Here’s Amants de Lulú playing about 50 meters from my front door. I hope they don’t mind appearing on YouTube. I bought their self-titled CD for €10 after filming them for these few minutes.

Bésame mucho

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

I love Barcelona. I love living in Barcelona. There are many reasons. One of them is that stuff like the following happens on a regular basis.

At 8pm tonight I could hear music outside that was louder than the music on my stereo. So I turned off my music and went out on my balcony (did I mention the wonderful Barcelona climate yet?). Down in the street an impromptu concert had struck up. I’ve seen many of them, and I love them. They’re loud and raw and energetic, and the sound and feeling in the narrow streets is just fantastic.

I went back to work, leaving the balcony door open. Neighbors were out listening and looking. After ten minutes I decided to go down and film a little for you, gentle reader (etc). So here you go, Bésame mucho, as played by a French 20-piece brass band in the street about 50 meters from my front door. I can’t understand why you wouldn’t want to live here, why you would want to live in a place where this sort of thing doesn’t happen. I’ve been here nearly 12 years, and I don’t think I take this stuff for granted at all. I love it.

Apologies for the shaking video, there were probably a couple of hundred people there and I had one arm up in the air to do the filming.