Spotify Playlist: Architecture, Music, and Metaphor

timelinealmoravidTo celebrate the launch of the new Archnet, I’m presenting a Spotify playlist on the theme of architecture and the built environment. It explores various themes, ranging from an appreciation of great cities and monuments, to architecture as a spiritual metaphor.  Check it out and let me know what you think?

I’m missing are.  This is just what happened to come to mind at the moment, so I’m missing a lot, I’m sure.  What would you add?  Leave a comment and let me know.  

“Now or Never” and Digital Piracy

The album from which the Rachid Taha single comes, ZOOM, is released in Europe, and if you go to the YouTube page you’ll get iTunes link from which you can buy it.  But as is often the case with music I like from other countries, I can’t actually do so. If I were buying the CD, which I may well do at some point, I could simply use my credit card and the internet, pay extra shipping charges, and take advantage of the borderless world of the internet to get the newest release by an artist I’ve been following for decades. There’s an Amazon link, too.  Ironically, the digital store is more locked down.

Yes, I know there are ways around these restrictions such as proxies and such, but that’s not my point. I don’t want to have to result to those techniques in order to legally purchase music, just because the record label has decided it isn’t ready to distribute across the pond yet. And most people don’t know how to do take advantage of those methods yet. Make no bones about it, it’s a corporate decision to lock down distribution this way.  The artists, with the possible exception of huge megastars, are usually just thrilled anyone at all is actually buying their music and paying full price for it. They love having fans wherever they are. 
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Help Me with a Concert List: My Memory Doesn’t Serve Me Well

Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses in Boston MA. Always a great show!

If you have ever been to a concert with me, I need your help! I’ve been trying to come up with complete list of every musical act I’ve seen in concert, from the cradle to now. Well, not every act.  They have to be nationally or internationally known, because if I list every band I’ve seen at a local event, I’d never stop listing.  I’d also never be able to do it.  I’m also not including choruses, orchestras, musicals or theatrical events.  Let’s take Harry Connick Jr. or Bernadette Peters for example.  Both of these people have done concerts on Broadway and been in shows.  Harry Connick Jr. I list because I have seen him in concert.  I have not seen him in a musical, but even if I had, I wouldn’t list him unless I had also seen him in concert.  I have seen Bernadette Peters in musicals, but I have yet to see her in concert, except recorded.  So she is not on my list.

Anyway, I can’t remember them all.  I know I am missing some.  One act came back to me today since I originally developed this list and posted in on Facebook last night.  Something brought them to mind.  It was a good show, too!  It’s just hard to bring all acts to mind in a list like this.

So if you’ve been to a show or festival with me, could you look at this list and make sure all the artists we saw are included here. The band has to have made enough of an impression on my that I remember seeing them of course.  If I don;t remember them, I’m not going to add them, but I know the list should be longer than this.  Plus I keep finding duplicates, so it isn’t even really this long!

  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Dave Matthews Band
  • James Morrison
  • The Gaslight Anthem
  • Suzanne Vega
  • Idir
  • Najat Attabou
  • Cheb Mami
  • Khaled
  • Cesaria Evora
  • Red Hot Chilli Peppers
  • Prince
  • Foreigner
  • Bryan Adams
  • Tinariwen
  • Ashley MacIsaac
  • Tina Turner
  • Midnight Oil

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Amnesty International’s 50th, 80+ Acts, 76 Dylan Songs, $20, 5+ hours… No Matter How You Count, It Equals Awesome


Amnesty International is one of the most important human rights organizations operating in the world today, and it celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year. Started in 1961 with a worldwide “Appeal for Amnesty” on behalf of individuals imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their beliefs written by British lawyer Peter Benenson, the movement now counts more than 3 million people worldwide.

What better way to celebrate this milestone anniversary than with an album of songs by a man whose songs include the anthems “I Shall Be Released” and “Chimes of Freedom”?  Bob Dylan has long been a supporter of Amnesty International, and Chimes of Freedom was also the unofficial anthem for the amazing Human Rights Now Tour, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1988.

The collection is available now directly from Amnesty International, on iTunes, or at Amazon.  I downloaded the digital tracks, 76 of them, for $19.99 and it’s the best $20 I’ve spent in recent memory.  I’m not exaggerating.  By and large it’s great music, but more on that in a minute.  Let’s get some math out of the way first, if you’re budget conscious like me.  I don’t buy much music these days.  For the most part, I rely on a subscription service, Rhapsody, for my music.  I only purchase music when there’s are really good reason to.  This is worth buying, a bargain by any standards.

It is a 76 song digital download for $19.99, or 4 CDs for $24.99.  Moreover, all profits go to help Amnesty International in its work.  That’s well over 5 hours of music and the satisfaction of helping out one of my favorite causes, for the price of two album downloads on iTunes.  Your average digital LP on iTunes or most other legal sites is usually $9.99 (increasingly $11.99) and it usually includes 10-12 songs.  This is 76 songs.  If that were sold at 12 songs per record , it would be 6 1/3 records.  Nobody like fractions, so let’s just say this collection equals 6 iTunes LPs + 4 free bonus tracks.   If Amnesty International were a record label and not a human rights nonprofit, they’d have known to more slickly market this collection typical price of $59.94, but tell us it’s on sale now for $19.99,  $24.99 for the 4 CDs.  Then we’d know we’re getting a bargain!

Of course it’s only a bargain if the music is good.  It could contain twice as many tracks, but if you only like 9 of them, then you still don’t want to pay $20.

So then, is it any good?

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The Steel Wheels Coming to Town

If you are fortunate enough to live in or near Marlinton in Pocahontas County, WV, make your way to the Opera House this Saturday, November 12 to see The Steel Wheels in concert at 7:30 pm.  I’ll be there!  I’ve been a fan of these guys for a while now, but this is the first chance I’m getting to see them live.  I can’t wait.  I learned about them from Bicycle Times magazine’s June 2010 issue which reported on their  pedal-powered, seven night, concert tour.  They strapped their instruments and merchandise to their bikes and headed from town to town, covering nearly 300 miles.  This wasn’t some stunt, followed by a support vehicle in case they got tired and needed a lift; this was a genuine concert tour on bicycles.  In fact, they did another this year.  As I read I learned that they were based in Harrisonburg, VA, a place I knew well having gone to James Madison University for my first two years of college.

Those two things alone were reason enough reason to like these guys.  They hail from Virginia, and they tour by bicycle.  (Not always, of course.  They have a national following, and a bicycle tour across the entire country is impractical, at best.)

They were praiseworthy, but were they any good?  Now I had yet to check out the music.

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Only 9 Days to Raise $380. I Can Do It. Even if it’s $5 at a Time.

There are just 9 days left in my challenge to raise $1,000 to help children struggling to overcome life threatening challenges such as the trauma wrought by poverty, disease, abuse, neglect, natural disaster, violence or other causes. I’ve been working hard, asking everyone I can think of, and as of this moment I have raised $620. Thank you Glen Collins, Christopher Cox, Robert Ward, Justin Adams, Michael McKenna, Paul Harris, Tom Goss, Jami Woods and Bill Jennings. I know none of you donated for public acknowledgement. In fact, I have several anonymous donors. I want to thank them all, named and unnamed, for helping me reach 62% of my goal.

There are 9 days left in the campaign and I still plan to reach 100%. It will feel good to reach, or even exceed a goal right now. If you can help me do it, just go to http://lig.convio.net/goto/MikeToler and click on the yellow “Support Me” box.

You can make an immediate donation online. No amount is too small. I’m grateful for even $5.

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Blame it on the Dave Matthews Band and their Caravan!

This post is slow in coming because I’ve been lethargic, tired and just feeling kind of blah since this weekend.  Now that I am sitting down to write it, and though it pains me greatly to do so, I am publicly accusing an outfit that heretofore has been a positive force in my life: The Dave Matthews Band.  The Dave Matthews Band is responsible for the DMB Caravan, a three day music festival visiting four cities this summer.  This past weekend, June 24-26 was the first of the four at Bader Field in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  I was there, and it took it’s toll.  To understand why, let me tell you a little about me.

Most people don’t see me as an addict, but in fact I am.  It just that the things I am addicted to are not illegal or even controlled, and music is my most powerful addiction by far.  If music is an addiction live music is it’s purest, most potent, addictive form,  and this festival served up something like 40 amazing acts over the course of three days!   The schedule was pretty well planned out with three stages scheduled to have performances on them from around 1:30 pm to 10:00 or 11:00 pm, but staggered so that you usually only had to choose between two acts at any given time.  The tickets were not cheap, just under $200 for three days, but once you were in you had 10 hours at an open bar of music, an addict’s dream!  Someone like me should never have been let in the door!

Mariachi El Bronx

More than that, this musical bar was packed with top shelf brands.  The variety of musical styles represented was impressive.  If you are a Dave Matthews fan, you wouldn’t have been disappointed.  The band plays each night, there’s a Dave and Tim Reynolds, and solo projects of band members are also featured.  Of course they all sound great.  The members of DMB set standards for musicianship whether you like their music or not.  On the other hand, if you had gone expecting to hear three days of bands that sound like the Dave Matthews Band,  you would have left deeply disappointed.  To cite just a few examples, Mariachi El Bronx are, fundamentally, a Mariachi band cross-pollinated with hard core rock and roll.  The Carolina Chocolate Drops play music that is, at its foundation, pure bluegrass, even if they are covering a Beyonce tune.   Damian Marley, one of Bob Marley’s sons, plays reggae based music as might be expected.  Lisa Hannigan is contemporary singer-songwriter from Ireland in what I suppose we could call the contemporary folk style.  Thievery Corporation play music that incorporates everything but the kitchen sink.  One of the things they all share with the Dave Matthews Band is that they are innovative and not afraid to stretch their wings.  Consequently, none of them are easily classifiable and none of them sound very much like the other.

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Hooked, but It’s OK! Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head Up”

This is an interactive video for “Keep Your Head Up” by singer-songwriter and fellow Binghamton University alumn Andy Grammer. (I’m not sure what Grammer studied and SUNY Binghamton, but according to this bio he was there two years active in the theater program. I did my PhD there.) At various points in the video you will have an opportunity to change the scenario by selecting options. And if you do the whole thing again, you’ll get different choices.

This guy knows how to load a song with melodic hooks and they do their job. The song snagged in the netting of my muddled brain the first time I heard it and it’s been stuck there since. Usually at least one or two songs from the beginning of summer crop has such a hook, but usually it drives me crazy. That’s because I usually don’t even like the song, but the hook is effective, so it snags and won’t pull lose. And because the artists is often backed by the full marketing budget of a giant record label, the single is ubiquitous. You hear it on the radio, in the mall, in your favorite tv shows and movies, over television commercials, as a Starbucks Download of the Week, etc. The artists appears on daytime and late night talk shows, as a guest performer or mentor on reality competition shows, in cameos on episodic television, on radio talk shows, in public service announcements… So every time the song fades from memory, its planted again. I’ll find myself singing it in the car, the shower, on the street, deliberately preventing myself from learning the whole thing, annoyed at the banality of the lyrics, the derivative nature of the music, or some other aspect of the song.

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New Orleans, Jazzology and Mardi Gras

(This entry was originally written on March 8, 2011. It is only now that I have finished the editing and gotten it posted.)

It’s Mardi Gras today, Fat Tuesday in English, though that lacks a certain je ne sais quois that makes it interesting. It’s the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the 40 days of atonement, fasting and sacrifice to honor the the great sacrifice made by Jesus. Some pretty heavy stuff, in fact. Back in the day when people took Lent really seriously, Lent was a was an intense season. People didn’t just give up chocolate for 40 days or abstain from meat on Fridays by ordering a large mushroom pizza. They might entirely abstain from food and drink for days, pray for hours on end or whip themselves with leather. In such austere times, Mardi Gras was the last opportunity committ all the sins you’d neglected since the end of Lent the year before, an opportunity to really go wild. Quite a few cities in the United States have some sort of Mardi Gras festivities, but New Orleans is first among them. No city’s celebrations are bigger or better.

Another thing New Orleans is known for is Jazz. It is called the Birthplace of Jazz for good reason. Like everywhere else in America, the area was originally inhabited by Native Americans, then colonized by the French, ceded to the Spanish as the result of war, returned to the French, and then sold to the Americans as part of the Louisiana purchase. Throughout all of this the mighty Mississippi took goods from the northern part of the continent to the Gulf of Mexico, and goods from all parts of the world in the other direction. Though in the heart of the South, New Orleans had both slaves and free blacks that lived there or that passed through regularly. They played drums and sang, free of the prohibitions against these things in most other parts of the South. This was the fertile, culturally diverse environment that allowed for the germination of the a musical genre we now know as Jazz.  It could only have happened there.

The George H. Buck, Jr. Foundation and the Jazzology group of record labels in New Orleans were founded to preserve the heritage of Jazz and to foster its continued development. They have become an essential part of the New Orleans cultural landscape, preserving not only New Orleans Jazz, but Jazz and related genres in all their variety. Some of the new releases are well worth checking out.

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Academic Freedom Media Review, February 19-25, 2011

The Scholars at Risk media review seeks to raise awareness about academic freedom issues in the news. Subscription information and archived media reviews are available here. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily those of Scholars at Risk.

YEMEN: Student protests gather strength after deaths
Ahmed Mohamoud Elmi, University World News, 2/25

Anti-Union Bill Passes Wisconsin Assembly
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/25

Saudi Intellectuals Demand Reforms
The New York Times, 2/24

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