Syncing to Apple music

I have now made my chimpwithcans playlist available on Apple music as well as Spotify.

See the following link: https://music.apple.com/za/playlist/chimpwithcans/pl.u-r2yBBvqC3Exe1

This will sync with the Spotify playlist when I update it each week. Something that’s not so easy to do…. But for you dear readers/listeners, anything…. Actually I did this four my mum who can’t get Spotify in Kenya, but that’s another story.

Happy Thursday chimps!

Limits on Spotify

There used to be a 10,000 song limit for liking songs on Spotify. As of May this year this is no longer the case.

This is good news for my chimpwithcans playlist project. It means I can influence the Spotify algorithm and like all the songs from this book: link

Then I can pick the favorite recommendations i receive in my discover weekly playlist.

The things I do for a good playlist. Oh, speaking of which, if you want to hear it, then follow this link.

Happy Wednesday chimps.

Twitch – Streaming my writing

I am starting something new. Streaming on Twitch has traditionally been used for video games (as far as I am aware). I have learned today that there are many other users on Twitch – streaming all sorts of different activities.

Musicians, illustrators, artists, sculptors, all showing their practice to the world in real time. It’s a crazy thought. Why not join?

I have security concerns…how much can everyone see REALLY? But I am also interested and curious about the transparency and accountability something like this could bring.

This blog post will be my first stream. You can find me on Twitch with the username chimpwithcans. I hope there will be many more streams to come – to the point that I start a scheduled time slot to follow or write with me if you so wish. There is a lot to work out still! Maybe I will even talk to the camera some time, or play a video game 🙂

I want to get going again on the writing and this might help.

Happy Wednesday chimps.

SOSN Post 1 – A remake

Something Old.

Cat Stevens’ ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ was the fourth studio album from the songwriter, released in November 1970. This was the album that gained Stevens a global audience and mega-hits. When I decided to write this piece, I listened through the old album (something old….see what I did there?) and I felt like I knew the songs well. This was a little disconcerting because I have never been a huge fan of Stevens’ music. Even when you factor in the radio play of the old hit singles (everyone knows ‘Father and Son’) I couldn’t figure out why I recognised all the songs, the tunes the lyrics – so well. And then it hit me.

When I was at university 13 years ago, I shared a house with a guy who did two things all day – he played tennis and listened to Cat Stevens. This album was seared into my unconscious memory thanks to Room-Mate-Rowan. This is for you Rowan – where ever you are I hope the racket strings are holding up well. And I hope your musical taste has diversified!…..but i digress.

Listening back on the album today, its simplicity of tune and depth of message is as clear as ever. With sensitivity and poignant songs on pressing issues of the time – diverse topics such as spirituality, family, gender – it is easy to see the linkages and the lineage of Stevens to more modern artists such as Coldplay, James Blunt, or Luka Bloom.

On the downside – Stevens had a less soothing vocal tone than someone like James Taylor. Listening through the album all the way is sometimes a little laboured and slow. The production on ‘Tea For the Tillerman’ is also a little flat and monotonous. Stevens was at his best when roused to stretch his voice and give us some volume – Some dynamism to his singing. See ‘Miles From Nowhere’ for example.

The hits remain truly great songs though. Fine structure, melody and a searching for spiritual clarity resulted in such radio friendly songs as ‘Father and Son’, ‘I Might Die Tonight’ and ‘On The Way To Find Out’.

Once he found his devotion to Islam, Stevens changed his name and quit the music business – the newly named Yusuf Islam stopped making music for a long time. Until now.

Something New.

Flash forward to September 2020 and Yusuf Islam is back making music. Yusuf has reimagined the album as ‘Tea For The Tillerman2‘.

The old songs are given new life through the singer’s more weary voice and the new production. The reimagined songs highlight a love of the blues and North African influences. Some of the bluesy modifications are simply inspired – for example see the lead guitar on ‘Hard Headed Woman’ and the slide on ‘Miles From Nowhere’. ‘Wild World’ swings delightfully and on ‘Father And Son’ Yusuf sings with his younger recorded self to dramatic effect.

This is a new take on a classic which is well worth visiting. Even if you didn’t have Room-Mate-Rowan as a Cat Stevens drill sergeant in your impressionable university years, you’ll likely relate to both of the album versions well. The original album was so solid that Yusuf is able to use it as a fine launching pad to express himself today. I’m a fan of the new version over the older one. Listening to the two in close succession is fascinating and well worth the effort, as is looking up the new eco-themed music videos (simply beautiful animation) and album cover modification.

Investment options in music

My friend has improved at playing the guitar. Particularly during lockdown this year he has spent time learning, recording and sharing songs online. His repertoire has grown. An investment in his own musical skills which will pay off many times over.

His efforts got me thinking about investment in music. The result is a scattering of options in the form of a blog post. Here are a few random thoughts and discoveries from looking at investment options in music.

There’s a company called Hipgnosis which recently listed on the London Stock Exchange. It buys up music catalogues from artists or other owners with the view that the IP will retain its value and pay back the investment over time as the songs continue to sell. You can buy their shares on the LSE today.

In March 2008, Anchorage Capital Partners announced The Guitar Fund, a $100M fund investing in the rare and vintage guitar market, citing an average annual return of over 31%, according the ’42 Guitars’ tracking index. I would find these sorts of guitars impossible to let go of, and very stressful to keep with toddlers running around my house wielding weapons and generally destroying everything in their wake.

Music Memorabilia can also be a source of alternative investment income or growth if you have the time and the inclination. There is a market for almost anything touched by a rock star. Proof of the rock n roll connection is often the hard part. I have some signed pics of Clapton, Beach Boys, BB King and Aerosmith. Hopefully the signatures are all real. How would I ever find out?

How do you invest in music?

Music plus tech

As a teenager I used to think I would listen to my walkman for the rest of my life. It was so essential to me – the cassette tapes I had painstakingly curated, the stock of fresh AA-size batteries, the headphones I found in an airport in England. The ritual of plugging it all in and pushing play. It just didn’t get any better.

One day in my early 20s I found my dad’s LP collection and an old hifi setup. I heard classics like Otis Redding and Springsteen in such clarity and power. Besides the fidelity, there was the long beautiful process of choosing the record, cleaning it, playing one side through and flipping it over, reading the liner notes, poring over the album covers, adjusting the needle and the audio settings. A new ritual was born. My life changed.

Now in my 30s I have my iPhone and an Apple watch. New tech, new ritual. I can call up any song I want no matter where I am. The digital liner notes are getting better every day and the sheer convenience of Bluetooth and music on the go is changing my life again. Don’t even get me started on Spotify’s daily mix and discover weekly playlists. That revolution in curation is a topic for another post.

Older forms of technology can all still be used of course. And often they retain their original power even though the convenience factor is low. Vinyl has made a come back. Audiophiles also tout the benefits of CDs and cassettes. For me this means I now have an arsenal of ways to access the Music drug. The music is the constant, Platonic form while the tech revolves and morphs around it in a clumsy, circular dance.

Perhaps one day the headphones will be nothing more than chips in our brains. A neuralink device Elon Musk sells for a fee. What might a music listening ritual look like for this scenario?

I get comfort from the fact that the music never changes. Taste and quality may vary, but a song is a song no matter what. The catalogue keeps on growing, but the essential form and function of a song is set. It is information in the form of a sound wave being received by the brain. Only the tech for delivery varies.

Covering songs – Struggling vs Story-telling

Good singing is about story-telling. It’s pretty easy to hear when a singer is struggling with a tune. The voice doesn’t quite convince the listener. Perhaps the timing is slightly off. Most importantly, it doesn’t sound authentic. There is no sense of a story being told.

There’s this thing that happens once you know a song really well. Once you have played and played and played the song, the technical stuff moves out the way and you can focus on telling the story – imbuing the song with emotional labour and making a connection with the listener. This applies to much more than music, of course.

The thing that is interesting is that this authenticity (or lack of it) doesn’t really reflect technique, ability or skill. Even great technical singers can make a song sound empty. Instead, it’s about how well you know the song from every different angle. How convinced you are as the singer that the story needs to be told. By classical opera standards, Bob Dylan has a technically terrible voice but he is utterly compelling.

Rambling post – but I am convinced that the old adage that ‘practice makes perfect’ means that practice opens up a singer to perfectly tell a story the way they want to in order to connect to the audience.

Happy Thursday chimps.

Remote drumming

Today was a first. I laid down a drum track using the iPad, and sent it overseas to my dad in Kenya for him to overlay guitar and vocals.

I know musicians have been doing this for ages, but Covid19 is forcing us to use the tools at our disposal and pushing us out of our comfort zones. For me that means sticking to a blogging commitment and producing music with family overseas.

I just love the internet.

Happy Sunday chimps.

Waste, tension, and music

The garden waste piles up each week in the corner of the property. Each time the gardener cuts the grass, sweeps up the leaves, or cuts down a branch he puts the waste into bags, and these bags pile up until a truck is organized to cart it off for composting. As the owner of the property this system can stress me out. Watching the relentless growing piles of waste sometimes feels like one of those awkward “white lie” situations – you know the one – you’ve told a little lie or made a transgression which is never confessed. The lie gets bigger and bigger, worse and worse until there is inevitably a release. Either you and your lie are found out, or you tell the truth. The pickup truck taking the waste away feels like eventually telling the truth.

Great music is just like my home’s waste management system. When a song is well written, a tension builds for the listener. The verse builds up to the chorus. The verse places bags of musical notes and dead ends in the corner of the listener’s head. Repeated phrases and hooks. A story in need of some resolution. Eventually the tension is too great and a switch to the chorus is like a clearing out of all the accumulated rubbish. The verse is the lie and the chorus is the truth.

This is most obvious for me in blues music. Think of Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man”. The verse is simple and repetitive to the point of ridicule. The harmonica’s five notes over and over moaning and groaning that Something huge is coming. Trust me he’s coming. Gypsy woman told my momma. Muddy is coming. Just now……Wait for it. It’s almost unbearable until Muddy grants us sweet relief with “But you know I’m here!” The chorus plays and all the rubbish in our mind is cleared away. Then the cycle starts again with verse 2. What a song.

Footage

I received a video yesterday from my dad. He was fronting a full on soul band. A blues brothers style suit on, he was singing on stage playing his Stratocaster next to my sister who played saxophone.

It made me think that not many families have such cool footage. It reminded me that my family roots are creative, bold, and musical.

It was such a great video to receive and I was so proud of them. Thanks dad.