The Challenge: Best Strategies for Navigating the Waters of a Large Media Library

In recent weeks I’ve found my listening habits growing stagnant as my artist and label discographies are slowly exhausted.  The challenge for users with large media libraries is the task of finding yet-unexplored territories and developing strategies to facilitate the charting of those new waters.

One of the caveats of my otherwise-stellar media server software is that there is no way to browse by genre.  I realized this evening that queuing a chronology of albums from a given genre would be a wonderful way to explore new sounds within my library so I went to work straight away and by nightfall the project was a success.

A few initial discoveries – classics of soul jazz

serveimage (1)

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Using the genre text cloud feature in gmusicbrowser I constructed .m3u playlists of several intriguing but unfamiliar genres within my collection.  Each list  contained 10,000 to 17,000 of the tracks best-representative of the genre based upon RYM data and discographic libraries from the genre’s most prominent artists and composers.

I ended up splitting the Jazz list into two subsets – early jazz recordings from 1924-1958 and modern jazz recordings from 1959-1979.  This will help make the listening experience more uniform and will be an easier load on my mobile devices when spooling the lists.

With the task completed, I’m now ready to queue up thousands of hours of quality content from an array of genres I’d only explored superficially when I first acquired the recordings.  I’m looking forward to new discoveries and to the wonderful soundtrack it will provide for my days at the office!

The first batch of playlists are as follows:

  • Hot on the One – A Funk Odyssey
  • Ambient Worlds
  • Anatomy of a Murder: Film Noir Soundtracks
  • Beatless Space – Pure Drone
  • Beautiful Noise – 90s Dream Pop
  • Friday Nights – Intelligent Drum & Bass
  • 30 Years of Music from the Hearts of Space
  • Ninja Tune – The First 150 Albums
  • Psybient Dreams
  • Cinematic Soundscapes – Music for Films
  • The Chill Out Room – Downtempo Classics
  • The Imaginarium – Early Gypsy Jazz
  • The World of Jazz (1924-1958)
  • The World of Jazz (1959-1979)

Time to start listening!

Published in: on August 20, 2015 at 9:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Sound of Noise

Last night’s music-related film was The Sound of Noise (2010).

Sound of Noise

It’s a French film by writer/director Ola Simonsson who you likely know from the film short Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers (2001)

Here’s the original short:

The feature-length film unites the concepts of anarchism, Luigi Russolo’s classic manifesto, and the spontaneous performance art of Cage’s Theater Piece No. 1 from 1952 and the Happenings which followed throughout the 1960s. The result is an engaging and enjoyable film.

Here is the film’s trailer. Enjoy!

gmusicbrowser – An Ideal Solution for Large Library Management in a Linux Environment

The final task in my transition to a Linux environment was to customize a powerful music library manager and player to work for my needs.

The most intriguing contender was gmusicbrowser – a robust utility with impressive handling for libraries in excess of 100,000 tracks, and best of all – a fully-customizable interface.

This evening I came upon a magnificent library of gmusicbrowser interface layouts from vsido.org with an accompanying step-by-step installation guide. After about 30 minutes of perusing the 40-odd layouts bundled in the collection I came upon one which wowed me. A few minor tweaks later and I found myself with a large library manager and player with an incredibly powerful interface which permits me to fully-indulge my metadata fetishism.

Have a look – this is better than anything I had Windows-side! Highly recommended for Linux users with archival collections!

Screenshot from 2015-08-15 21:39:44

(Click/Tap to enlarge for it’s full glory)

Published in: on August 15, 2015 at 10:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Superman Drive: Escaping Windows and Embracing Linux

Today’s entry is a break from the usual music news.  As you’re undoubtedly aware, media servers occasionally require a bit of maintenance and today was that day.

For days the Windows 10 free upgrade offer had been calling to me from the bottom of my screen. After nearly a week’s hesitation I gave in and accepted the offer. Of course, this was a Microsoft upgrade, so it wasn’t going to be a smooth ride. Three failed attempts and a non-responsive Windows Update later I found myself once again growing tired of Windows issues.

Curiously, my fiance was experiencing similar difficulties with her own machine – her latest Windows Update had run for an eternity with no response. Manual installation attempts were fruitless so we gave up and ran the full version installer.

vistaupdate_stage3of3

The full version offered an opt-out for updates, but problems persisted when the installer failed to complete due to my multi-boot configuration.

Worse still an attempted removal of the secondary partition resulted in a corrupted MBR. I’d really had enough. Now the system was locked in an infinite booting loop with a dodgy partition.  This called for drastic measures.

I raced to the nearest office supply store and snatched up a $9 novelty 8GB flash drive shaped like Superman. At the checkout, I asked if the store had a resident Linux guru and was directed to a scruffy fellow with a yeard (clearly qualifying him for the task). I asked if he knew whether a bootable USB Linux distro would be robust enough to repair a damaged MBR. He wisely responded, “well… it IS shaped like Superman.”

And so I went to work. A quick bit of research produced a boot-repair-disk 64bit Linux distro and pendrivelinux.com’s UUI software. I had previously left Linux behind in favor of a few Windows-based music management applications a few years ago, but this incident was a wake-up call that I needed to get back to Ubuntu.

Boot-Repair-Disk_1

After a successful system repair and a bit of research I successfully identified Linux alternatives for two dozen of my most-used applications and worked out the necessary Terminal commands for each of their respective installations.

playerThe Guayadeque Audio Manager – a potential replacement for MediaMonkey Gold

And with that harrowing experience behind our intrepid hero, Innerspace Labs and our media server are now operating 100% in a Linux environment.  It was long overdue, but it feels great to have made it to the other side.

The Superman Drive 2

Thank you, Superman.

Published in: on August 13, 2015 at 7:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tom Waits: Under Review – An Independent Critical Analysis

Tom Waits has remained a mysterious character on the fringes of popular music for over 40 years.  One of the small drawbacks to his personae is the lack of critical and analytical interview content of the strange and wonderful musician.  Thankfully, the Under Review documentary series has produced two 80-minute films which offer a surprisingly in-depth examination of the man and his music.

The first segment is titled Tom Waits: Under Review 1971-1982: An Independent Critical Analysis, and the second bears the same title replacing the years with 1983-2006.  The films feature rare interviews, footage, unusual photographs and criticism from many different experts and acquaintances of Tom Waits.

under review 2

The most revealing insight is presented in the first of the two films, which examines the context and collaborations resulting in Waits’ always unique but ever-changing sound.  Speaking about his earliest downtrodden troubadour era:

If you were the kind of person who was going to walk into the seedy bar and say, “oh… there’s a drunken bum over there,” and walk out, you weren’t going to be sitting there listening to Tom Waits.

But if you were the kind of person whose imagination started to think, “Well what was that guy’s life like? How did he end up here? What happened here?”… if there was an element of “who washed up on the shore of the promised land… L.A. being the ultimate destination and the final burying place of western culture… Tom Waits is interested in finding out where the body is buried. And that’s where those guys were.”

There is also a detailed analysis of Waits’ atypical approach to lyricism which favored narrative over confession.

This was a guy creating theater pieces in a way, in a song. These were characters he was either inventing or finding and expanding upon in his own mind. This was not the kind of diary writing that a lot of singer/songwriters were doing. This was more like short story writing – there was a highly theatrical – an element of artifice (used neutrally) in his music that was not what the singer/songwriters were supposed to be about.

Tom has always maintained a style unlike any of the artists of his day.  What was particularly fascinating about the album Swordfishtrombones was that a listener couldn’t point to other records from that decade and say, “I see where he got that from.” And that unlike his contemporaries of the 1980s, the album hasn’t become embarrassingly dated to its decade.

Still, there are more subtle stylistic influences to Waits’ work.  His music mirrors the wit of Lenny Bruce, Lord Buckley, and Kerouac.  His songs also embrace the atonalism and avant-garde compositional form of Harry Partch, Captain Beefheart, and most certainly German composer Kurt Weill.  But perhaps most apparent are the vocal influences of Howlin Wolf.  The film humorously describes his more self-parodic songs as falling “somewhere between an imitation of Louis Armstrong and Oscar the Grouch.”

This outlandish and extreme vocal quality was met with criticism from the listening public.

Speaking about Nighthawks at the Diner, the film observes:

I think it’s more about authenticity. People began to wonder whether this bohemian bar stool philosopher was a real character or whether it was just a theatrical construct.

Until you got to know Waits and you started to really believe in the character and see the depth of what he was doing, it kind of looked liked a pastiche. There was initially some suspicion that it seemed a bit phony. [But really] all artists are self-created in some form or another.

Tom-Waits 1

They go on to examine his vocal characteristic further, noting that “Nighthawks was nearing self-parody, but with Small Change Waits transcended his own influence.”

They described the peak of the boho barstool character thusly:

It’s like an anti-operatic, opposite of belle canto – the opposite of beautiful singing and we understand it. And it’s certainly not natural – it’s an assumed voice – it’s a put on vocal persona. But it’s the key to why the [sentimental] / schmaltzy things work.

But it is Waits’ juxtaposition of innocent lyrics and melodies with his nighthawk performances that really make his character memorable.

A key analysis presented in segment one outlines the importance of this quality:

When Tom Waits plays around with songs like Waltzing Matilda and Silent Night – those songs represent a communality and sense of you in the famiy bossom and the bossom of your community and faith – all of which has been lost to his character. So when his character is groaning out Waltzing Matilda and growling Silent Night – that is their [Samuel] Beckett style poignant memory of what once seemed possible. They stir the emotions that those songs typically do but only by way of trying to demonstrate their absence. And that’s what’s so affecting about it.
It’s a way of re-contextualizing that music to dramatize the desperation of the characters who are singing it.

And finally, another layer of context is added to Waits music when the culture of his listeners, (particularly American audiences) is added to the mix.  Speaking on the value of the album Heartattack and Vine

Only American capitalism could have produced the songs of Tom Waits. There’s a sense of this human debt detritus – these people who are just cast off by the system here that I don’t think exists in most other industrialized countries where there’s more of a social net.

Those characters could only exist here. This is the anti-story – the other story of America that he’s interested in. And not from a social protest, Woody Guthrie standpoint but from a human narrative
standpoint. Who was that person? What was possible for that person? What was his/her dream? There’s not a lot of tolerance in America for losers. Tom Waits made art of that possibility.

Under Review expertly illustrates the depth and consistent quality of Waits’ music throughout his career with this fantastic critical analysis.  For any listener growing bored of the superficiality of taking music at face value, Under Review will be an inspiring breath of fresh air.

Published in: on July 25, 2015 at 3:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Are the Floodgates of Public’s Access to Information and of Global Communication Irreversibly Open?

Siva Vaidhyanathan’s writings on piracy culture, particularly The Anarchist in the Library, references numerous examples of the church and crown’s efforts to maintain a stranglehold on the flow of information to protect their power.  In a chapter discussing the history of control, there are clear parallels between the Catholic Church and those of the United States with the implementation of The Patriot Act.

In the 14th century, John Wycliffe was the first to produce a handwritten English manuscript of the 80 books of the Bible.  44 years after Wycliffe had died, the Pope declared him a heretic, banned his writings, and ordered a posthumous execution.  His bones were dug-up, crushed, burned, and scattered in a river.  Similarly in the 16th century, William Tyndale was the first to translate and print the New Testament into English.  As a result he was imprisoned for 500 days, strangled and burned at the stake.

Foxe's_Book_of_Martyrs_-_Tyndale

William Tyndale, before being strangled and burned at the stake, cries out, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes”. woodcut from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563).

By the dawn of the 21st century, the freedom of information that came with the printing press experienced its most-recent incarnation with the world wide web and social media.  The Patriot Act was the government’s struggle for control over the anarchic freedom that was the internet and came in the form of mass-surveillance.

Edward Snowden became the latest in the line of dissidents who worked to empower the public by exposing the corruption of the government, just as Tyndale and Wycliffe before him.  And a curious web search for the terms “Spanish Inquisition” + “Patriot Act” instantly returns a piece by Walter Cronkite comparing and contrasting the two systems from 2003.

Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger states in his article, Who Says We Know that “Professionals are no longer needed for the bare purpose of the mass distribution of information and the shaping of opinion.”  This same dissemination of distribution is what resulted in the music industry’s panic and frenzied struggle for control with crippling technologies like DRM and its continued anti-piracy campaign.  There is simply no longer a need for the monopolistic record labels that once commanded the industry.  Artists are empowered to distribute their content directly and can communicate with their fanbase without a commercial intermediary.  This artist-empowerment is expertly discussed by Amanda Palmer in her book, The Art of Asking (and in her TED Talk of the same name.)

20141103.Amanda-Palmer_TheArtofAsking-635-2-thumb-620xauto-80148Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking

In each of these milestones in the history of information freedom, the acts have been irreversible.  Gutenberg’s printing press empowered the public good through democratization of information – making it inexpensive and readily-accessible.  The web has been much the same, only exponentially more potent.

Still, small but persistent communities continue to prepare for a dystopian world war over information.  They archive the Wikipedia daily and hypothesize alternate methods of mass-communication should the Web as we know it come under fire.  Is their fear valid?

wikipedia-ebook-horizontal-large-gallery
An eBook export of the Wikipedia

It is difficult to envision a scenario in which first-world governments could close the floodgates of the world-wide web without immediate and drastic reprisal from the public at large who have come to view the internet as a right and a public utility.  Furthermore, global commerce, banking, and the mechanics of industry could not likely stand to make such a sacrifice in the name of control.  Shutting down the web would thrust the global economy into an instantaneous dark age and entire systems of utility, government and finance would collapse.

What are your thoughts?  Is our access to information irreversibly free?  Need we take measures to stockpile and protect the information we have today in preparation for a darker tomorrow?

Apple Music – A Failure At the Outset

 “APPLE BETS BIG THAT YOU’LL
START PAYING TO STREAM MUSIC”

So proclaimed last night’s headline on NPR Music.  But most music consumers know full-well that this is a losing wager on the part of Apple.
Apple Music will be the latest in a line of failures from the media giant.  They’re coming into the streaming service market far too late in the game. The world has had 100% free music for over a decade and Apple’s branded service is too little, too late to matter.
 
Certainly, it will appeal to a specific niche audience – Apple fans with no active interest in music, who will use the service on their iPhones much in the way transistor radios were used in past… but with an even smaller base of popular song.
 
A hundred years of great music – works by the world’s greatest conductors and orchestras, big band, classical, and opera, legends of jazz, funk, rare groove, and 20th century avant-garde… works which defied and defined the musical philosophies of their era – none of these will have a place in Apple’s expensive, shiny box.
 
This will be Beats Music all over again. (And we all saw how well that worked out.) Poster-boy flavor-of-the-week artists can have their contracts of exclusivity with Apple Music. The rest of the world will barely notice when the service closes in the year ahead.
 

And for the millions in the middle – the casual music consumers of the world – Colin Barrett (interviewed in the NPR article) has already spoken for them. 55 million listeners have free accounts with Spotify, and the rest are happy with the similarly free services offered by YouTube or any of the dozen other available services.

All of this while the world’s more discerning listeners will continue on as they always have, whether crate digging or file sharing to uncover rare and elusive sounds not available from any of the commercial markets.

Apple, you had a good run. It’s time to hang it up.
Published in: on June 30, 2015 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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32 Hours of Cool Jazz and Soul Jazz Classics

I was in a jazzy mood when I got home from the office so I compiled a list of the top-rated albums where %GENRE%=”cool jazz” and a second list of %GENRE%=”soul jazz” on RateYourMusic.com.

After about an hour I’d successfully constructed two 16-hour playlists from the selections I’d compiled.  Below are the resulting album playlists.

Stan Getz Focus

THE COOL JAZZ SET

[1958] Miles Davis – Ascenseur pour l’échafaud
[1957] Miles Davis – ‘Round About Midnight
[1958] Miles Davis – Milestones
[1959] Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
[1958] Bill Evans – Everybody Digs Bill Evans
[1960] Bill Evans – Portrait in Jazz
[1961] Bill Evans – Explorations
[1963] Bill Evans – Undercurrent (w Jim Hall)
[1977] Bill Evans – You Must Believe in Spring
[1961] Gil Evans Orchestra – Out Of The Cool
[1975] Jim Hall – Concierto
[1962] John Coltrane – Ballads
[1956] Art Tatum meets Ben Webster
[1963] Oscar Peterson Trio – Night Train
[1955] Dave Brubeck – Jazz Red Hot & Cool
[1959] Dave Brubeck – Time Out
[1961] Stan Getz – Focus
[1976] Bernard Herrmann – Taxi Driver OST

FreddieHubbard_RedClay

THE SOUL JAZZ SET

[1958] Jimmy Smith – The Sermon
[1960] Jimmy Smith – Back at the Chicken Shack
[1963] Jimmy Smith – Prayer Meetin’
[1964] Jimmy Smith – The Cat
[1965] Jimmy Smith – Organ Grinder Swing
[1966] Jimmy Smith – Jimmy & Wes The Dynamic Duo
[1973] Clifford Jordon – Glass Bead Games
[1974] Gil Scott Heron – Winter in America
[1967] Pat Martino – El Hombre
[1963] Donald Byrd – A New Perspective
[1972] Archie Shepp – Attica Blues
[1960] Bobby Timmons – This Here is Bobby Timmons
[1965] Big John Patton – Let ’em Roll
[1961] Ray Charles – Genius + Soul = Jazz
[1962] Grant Green – Feelin’ the Spirit
[1970] Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay

What do you think?  Are there any glaring omissions?

I have a number of these albums on vinyl, but there are several LPs on the list I’ve never heard – and some by artists who are completely absent from my library.

I’m looking forward to 32 hours of outstanding jazz music, and all of the new favorites I’ll find along the way.

It was NPR’s feature on the cocktail jazz duo, Twin Danger that got me in the mood for these mixes, so have a listen to them below.

Moonbuilding 2703 AD (2015) has arrived!

This evening, the latest 3LP special edition of The Orb’s new album arrived from Kompakt Records!

Check out the photos below.

Moonbuilding 2703 AD (2015)

Moonbuilding 2703 AD (2015)Moonbuilding 2703 AD (2015)  If you missed my recent review of a promo copy of the album, tune in here!

Published in: on June 27, 2015 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Slow Music for Fast Times

This morning saw the conclusion of our latest archival project.  The world’s longest-running ambient radio program, Hearts of Space began broadcasting slow music for fast times back in 1973.  The original program was a 3-hour set, shortened to its present 1-hour format when the show began public radio syndication in 1983.

Hearts of Space

Since syndication Heats of Space has aired 1080 hour-long episodes showcasing quality ambient music each week for over 30 years.  Innerspace has successfully compiled a complete archive of the show’s broadcasts and will continue to add new episodes as they are aired.

We’ve made sure to uniformly name and tag each program and to include the original broadcast date and a companion track listing with the metadata for each episode.

Beginning next week I’ll be moving into a larger office and wanted to create a downtempo chill-out library as a relaxing ambient soundscape for my work day.  The Hearts of Space broadcasts will be added to a rotation along with other complete label archives, such as:

– the six phases from the late Pete Namlook’s ambient FAX +49-69/450464 label

Fax-tribute-poster-web

– the intelligent d’n’b sounds of LTJ Bukem’s Good Looking Records and its companion projects

LTJ Bukem

– the first ~150 records on the Ninja Tune label for some jazzy, downtempo electronic music

Ninja Tune Beats & Pieces

– a wonderful 330-hour audio archive of psybient albums from Simon Posford and other prominent figures of the scene

1528718_690921487596301_1777626599_n

– and an additional 72-hour collection of quality psybient mixes by Spacemind

Spacemind - Light Reactions (Remastered Edition)

The majority of these selections are not offered by any of the major streaming networks or from current commercial markets, but Innerspace Labs has got it covered.

And you can check out Spacemind’s mixes on Youtube.  Here’s Light Reactions (Remastered)

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