Archive for the music Category

Whine of the Rent-Seeker

Posted in miscellaneous, music, opinion with tags , , , , , , , on 2010 June 26 by KLP

Twitter has claimed me as another victim. I have my first Twitter argument to show for it. It started when I replied negatively to @mickeybuckno‘s support for the content of an interview between the owner of Deep Elm Records, John Szuch, and “the Norwegian music press”. I’m unaware of an efficient method to share the argument here, but you can get the gist of it from this Google search result. Most recently, @DeepElm messaged me directly as follows:

Please read this from start to finish Kurt: will take 5 minutes of your time

Which brings me to this post. That underwhelming and hyperbolic article demands a response that I couldn’t possibly flesh out to a thoughtful extent in 140 characters. Also, I had already read it and having satisfactorily beaten English, I find this particular reading assignment rather annoying. Therefore, the cold hard truth about the recording industry, for labels major and indie alike, will sound colder coming from me.

No one ever went to a record store with the intent of buying intellectual property, even before the advent of relatively inexpensive internet access, cheap CD-R drives, and useful codecs. Rather, they went in search of physical media–vinyl, cassettes, and compact discs, which have significant manufacturing, distribution, and inventory costs–with which they could put in their stereo systems to reproduce music. Even though the some of the companies behind these media colluded to keep prices artificially high, the thought of paying for something tangible, collectible, and somewhat fungible made sense. Furthermore, upon breaking or losing such an item, one would find himself shit out of luck. If consumers ever honestly believed that they were dealing in intellectual property, they would have demanded discounts upon purchasing albums they already owned in other formats, or fresh copies at little to no cost in exchange for their worn out vinyl. Now that modern technology has enabled us to freely replicate, transmit, and store (musical) information, we see the recording industry suddenly pulling the intellectual property card, now that it’s in their favor to do so. And so the rent-seekers whine that their formerly hapless tenants should start to consistently avoid their hotel-ed Park Place, calling us thieves and pirates just because we’ve found better ways to spend what we have of our disposable incomes. How pathetic.

Instead of wasting their resources lobbying for stronger protections and governmental intervention, suing fans, and calling names, members of the recording industry need to innovate and devise new business models. Small labels and individual acts probably have an advantage in doing so insofar as they lack the corporate inertia preventing them from experimenting with new ways to make money with the music they compose, record, and perform. As such, I find it upsetting to read Szuch’s paranoid, delusional, and self-important complaints that acts like Radiohead are “devaluing music”, that equipment manufacturers are preying upon helpless music labels, or that the fate of music itself hinges upon the preservation of labels like his own and their aging business models. Get over yourself, John! At least Radiohead is trying something. At least equipment manufacturers sell worthwhile products. And let’s not forget that music predates the recording industry. Even amid increasing sales of digital copies of audio tracks via the likes of iTunes, no one is buying intellectual property. Consumers are paying for services that they find worthwhile, they’re avoiding the wrath of the RIAA, or they’re just trying to get money to their favorite musicians. Ultimately, unless they intend to make litigation their new business model, members of the music industry will have to stop relying on the notion of intellectual property. You can’t expect people to honor it when they’ve never done so before. If you really want to survive, come up with a worthwhile product that doesn’t exist solely in the realm of litigation.

Suggested reading: Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine.


Randall’s Island, NY

Posted in music, Photo with tags , , , , on 2007 November 5 by KLP
I never really said anything about the Arcade Fire concert. It was a far cry from when I went with Kat to see them in February 2005. In fact, here are some of my exact words about that show…

Eventually, some odd music came on. I think it was Win Butler’s grandfather’s music. Then the band appeared. And then, they rocked. Let my try and reproduce the setlist.

Wake Up
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
No Cars Go
Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)
Une Annee Sans Lumiere
Neighbor-hood #3 (Power Out) / Rebellion (Lies)
In the Backseat (?)
Headlights Look Like Diamonds
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

[Sigh] I can’t remember very well. Crown of Love and Born on a Train were also played, but I don’t remember when exactly. And there was definitely one more song in the encore.

I know that if you’ve been following this band, you’ve heard or read what I’m about to say before. This concert was the best concert I have ever been to. Coming from me, that doesn’t say much. I have not attended that many concerts. So let me elaborate. I cannot remember a time before seeing the Arcade Fire preform that I felt so close to pure satisfaction, nirvana. Then again, I’ve never been to a concert under the same circumstances. I can’t remember being as close to a band. I can’t remember liking the music as much before hand. I can’t remember a band that interacted with the crowd so well. I can’t remember a band that poured out so much energy, and was so fundamentally earnest in their efforts to not only rock, but establish a warm but fierce intimacy with the audience. Win knew people in the crowd from, apparently, having worked with them from living for a time in Boston. He talked with them. Even at the end of the show, the end of the tour, they came down from the stage and, in funeral procession style, encircled the crowd with their instruments in hand. Win mangled the second highest string on a bass and violently tore apart the strings on a six-string.

And as I said, this left me completely, purely satisfied and free of desire, at least to the extent to which I was aware. I have an extremely elementary understanding of Buddhist philosophy. What I know and believe tells me that Thursday night was a good thing, despite the weather, despite getting lost, and despite paying what was surely too much for tickets. I didn’t even feel that empty, punched-in-the-gut sensation that I normally experience when I pay too much for something.

That passage came from my old LiveJournal. What a time capsule. Anyway, this time around, four bands opened for Arcade Fire, and they were all really good. I’m glad to have finally seen Les Savy Fav live. Tim Harrington, the lead singer, or performer, is crazy and funny, but what’s just plain weird is that his band is totally legit, and they play like he doesn’t exist. Even though I didn’t really care that much about them before the show, I really enjoyed Blonde Redhead. They have a really deep, moody sound that contrasted sharply with Les Savy Fav’s schizophrenia, but they served as an appropriate bridge into LCD Soundsystem’s epic performance. LCD Soundsystem was the only band that night to actually look at home on that huge stage. Their sound, and the accompanying light show impressed this first time LCD Soundsystem listener. Frankly, they outdid Arcade Fire, the headliner. In my concert going experience, the headliner is always louder than the opening acts. Arcade Fire didn’t follow the pattern at this show, and their first two song suffered because the person at the soundboard was probably a little miffed too. Furthermore, the band had a hard time connecting with the crowd, at least to the extend which they did when I saw them two years ago. Contributing to the impersonal experience were the massive, yet cool, visual displays that effectively devoured the band. In an attempt to interact with the crowd, the best Win could do was to bash Mr. Bush, and the best his brother could do was to climb some scaffolding with a drum. Incidentally, it was brother Butler’s birthday, and all this sick person could think was how awful it would be if he fell to his death. Anyway, as much as I don’t like the President, and as much as I like dangerous stunts, I used to think that Arcade Fire was above that. Don’t get me wrong. These guys are great live but they were better when I first saw them. I guess the point is that they’ve changed. But who can blame them. Arcade Fire has been hugely successful, and rightly so. They make good music.

Here are some good pictures that someone from Pitchfork took, and here a slide show that I took. I need to get better at taking photos.

Beer, Music, and My Cube.

Posted in beer, music with tags , , , , , , on 2007 October 5 by KLP

Topics to be addressed:

  • Sunday’s brew session
  • In Rainbows – the new album by Radiohead
  • The upcoming Arcade Fire show
  • My cubicle

Everything seemed to just work on Sunday, despite the fact that I was brewing in a small kitchen and that there is plenty of nice carpet that was just asking to be spilled on. The brew entailed the following recipe, which I adapted from the one here:


  • 8lbs. Marris Otter
  • 2lbs. Vienna
  • 0.5lb. CaraHell (Crystal 10L)

Hops (Cascade only)

  • 1oz. at 60 minutes
  • 0.5oz. at 30 minutes
  • 0.25oz. at 15 minutes
  • 0.25oz. at 5 minutes
  • 1oz. irish moss divided between additions at 15 and 5 minutes


  • Mash at 152°F with 3.5 gallons of water – about 1.33 quarts/lb. of grain.
  • Batch sparge at 175°F to collect about 6.5 gallons of wort.
  • 60 minute boil with hops and irish moss additions as listed. Collect about 5.5 gallons.
  • Chill to 73.4°F and pitch Wyeast 1065 yeast.

Several factors made this brew day go really well. For one, my head is in a better place than during past brew days. I’m employed and not worrying about exams, senior design, etc. This means I wasn’t preoccupied and was thus less apt to make mistakes. Kat was also a big help. She weighed out my grains and made me food. We shared the kitchen surprisingly well even with all of my brewing equipment in the way. Upgrades I made to my equipment proved beneficial. I modified my grain mill so I could use my electric drill instead of a hand crank and purchased a wine whip and a six-gallon glass carboy. The modification to the mill and the wine whip took a lot of labor out of the brewing process. They were both fun to use and very effective. Above all, the carboy just looks nice. It allows me to watch the fermentation process. Watching the yeast go to work after brewing for most of the day is very rewarding. Here’s a video:

I made two changes to my technique that made my brew session much easier. First, I made a large yeast starter over the course of the previous week. Doing so allowed for active fermentation to happen much sooner, which meant less risk for infection and less time for me to worry if I did something wrong. Second, instead of fly sparging, I batch sparged. I don’t know if I will go back to fly sparging. It’s too much work and there are too many opportunities for mistakes to happen. Fly sparging is too much like the examples in MATH 211, Differential Equations, where there’s a flow rate of fresh water coming into a reservoir with an initial salt content and a flow rate leaving the reservoir and you have to find a solution for the salt content over time. It sucks. Batch sparging is like taking a bath, where you don’t have to deal with rates. Batch sparging allowed me to achieve the proper malt content in my wort, as well as the proper batch size, which is something I was not able to do in previous attempts at fly sparging. I only regret not learning about batch sparging earlier in my brewing career and not brewing this particular batch a few weeks earlier. If I had, then it might be ready for Oktoberfest. Next year. Here’s a slide show of the brew session.

I have a blog. I like Radiohead. Therefore I guess I have to contribute to the hype surrounding In Rainbows, their new album, available for free download on October 10th. Even though I haven’t heard the album yet, and it has just as much potential as any other new album to suck, I am more of a Radiohead fan than I used to be. Why? Because the band is taking something on that I’ve been advocating for a little while now: that freely (and allegedly illegally) downloaded music should not correlate with lower sales of albums in tangible format. From this argument, one must conclude that if there is no loss, there is no theft, and thus no crime in pirating music. There should be no correlation for two main reasons. First, digital music is typically lower in quality than unadulterated music from a CD or even vinyl. The uncompressed music from a hard format, omitting cassette tapes and the like, just sounds better. And mp3s, for example, are often fraught with glitches that have none of the charm of those found on vinyl. Second, you can’t hold an mp3. It doesn’t exist as anything more than data. It’s not collectible. It’s worth no more than the space used to store it and the bandwidth used to transfer it. Hard formats, on the other hand, can be held, can fit on a shelf. You’re careful with whom you share them with. They are worth more than digital music files. Selling a tangible album then is simply a matter of convincing buyers that the album is worth adding to their collections. Doing so is accomplished by proving to the buyer that the music is good and offering more in the tangible version than can possibly be had digitally. Radiohead is doing just that. In addition to the free download, an exceptional album package is available for preorder, containing the album, with a bunch of extra songs, in both CD and vinyl, as well as tons of album art. At $80 or so, it’s expensive, but if the music is good enough, I’ll buy it. Final summation: downloading an album freely, and then not buying it in hard format does not make you a thief since you weren’t going to buy it anyway. If anything, pirating music gets people to go out and buy CDs, because they can do so without fear of getting ripped of. Rather, it is the big record companies that are the thieves for lobbying for the right to push crappy music on unwitting consumers and for trying to sell low quality mp3s at tangible album prices and not offering anything tangible. But I digress. Props go to Radiohead for adopting a smart business model.

Tomorrow I am going to see Arcade Fire, Les Savy Fav, LCD Soundsystem, and Blonde Redhead at Randalls Island, NY. I am pretty pumped, although not as pumped as I was when I saw Arcade Fire in February 2005. Their latest album, Neon Bible, is good, but I don’t like it as much as Funeral or Us Kids Know. Nevertheless, I know that they put on a great show, and I’ve heard that Les Savy Fav does as well. It looks like tomorrow should be a pretty awesome day.

As for my cubicle, it needs some work. See what I mean:

I’m thinking that in addition to better organization, it could use a beta fish or maybe an ant farm. Let me know what you think.

TV on the Radio and Aloha

Posted in music, Photo with tags , , , , , on 2007 March 11 by KLP

Aloha is on hell of a band and the photo I took of them does no justice. The show was at Toad’s Place on Saturday. Aloha opened along with some other band for Sparta, who also performed very well. I went with Kat, Tatsu, and Jesse. The picture doesn’t show it very well at all, but there are two keyboards and one vibraphone. I was really happy that Aloha brought their vibraphone because Kat had told me that in a previous concert it was not present, presumably because it’s difficult to transport. It sounds even better in concert than on CD. Their set included some songs that I didn’t recognize but they played most of my favorites including “All the Wars”, “You’ve Escaped”, “Summer Away”, “Boys in the Bathtub” and “Let Your Head Hang Low”. Their rapid instrument switches and the percussionists’ seemingly ambidextrous, multi-instrumenting skills were really appreciated by the crowd which consisted mostly of Sparta fans hearing Aloha for the first time. The encore began with looped keyboard effects and ended with an explosive drum break down. The $5.00 Bass I was sipping on couldn’t have tasted better. If Aloha performs this well as an opener, I can only hope to see them headline.

The last three photos were taken at the TV on the Radio Concert at Lupo’s in Providence on March 1. The were taken with a real camera so I guess I don’t have an excuse for their poor quality other than that I am a crumby photographer. Luckily for Kat and I, we showed up right before TV on the Radio got on stage. Prior to the concert, I never thought of how the band performs together. It was just great music to me. Now when I listen, I get taken back to the show and visualize them interacting with themselves and the crowd. Their set covered most of the good stuff from Disparate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes and Return to Cookie Mountain. However, it was too bad that they didn’t play “Mr. Grieves”. The set ended with “Staring at the Sun” which broke down into a dance bass riff to send the crowd their separate ways.
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Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.


Venture Communist. Miscommunications Technologist. Telekommunisten Polemicist. ThoughtWorks Analyst.