Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Music 2014

Rab Noakes and Barbara Dickson
I continue as ever really excited about music, both new and old. My son sings in an aberpella choir, which he enjoys. He sings those bass rhythms and also solos. 

I enjoyed great musicianship at Celtic 2014 - Nicola Benedetti, Del Amitri, Jerry Douglas, Aly Bain, Dougie McLean, Capercaillie, Mogwai and more.  I look forward to Celtic 2015, one of the highlights of my year. This year I saw some of my favourite Scottish folk artists - Barbara Dickson, Rab Noakes and Dick Gaughan.   
 I also enjoyed younger artists including Head and Heart and Lyla Foye There have been some fun new albums this year  - Mary Chapman Carpenter, Sarah McLachlan, White Denim, Head and Heart.  
 Yet another strong female singer songwriter Ella, has secured big hits (oddly an X factor finalist how was voted off in the early rounds!).  

Eighties icon Kate Bush returned with 30 sell out shows in September at the Apollo Hammersmith London. She is one of the most celebrated English singer songwriters. Kate Bush has always followed her muse entirely and so to expect anything less from her first shows in three decades is to not really understand what motivates her as an artist. 
 'Don't you think art is a tremendous sensual-sexual expression? I feel that energy often.. the driving force! ' 'The most important thing for me is that its interesting from a creative point of view. Then I feel totally fulfilled as an artist and I can move on.'  

One Direction became one of the biggest bands ever worldwide. Pharrell Williams gave us the most popular song for a while with his upbeat Happy. Some memorable songs this year – Ghost (Ella), Royals (Lorde), Sky Full of Stars (Coldplay), No Place I’d Rather Be. 
Del Amitri
Some exciting new Scottish artists include – Chvrches, RM Hubbert, Lau.  

Independent Record Label Linn Records, Glasgow, have secured Grammy nominations for outstanding recording quality. Linn Records was started in 1982 - http://www.linnrecords.com

 Folk music is alive and very well in Scotland. Celtic Connections goes from Strength to strength with both young ad older artists – it’s a highlight of my year in cold January skies – with brilliant musicianship, Dynamic collaborations, beautiful Gaelic singers, haunting pipes, strong guitars, melodic fiddles, energetic ceilidh bands, charges bass and percussion, heart warming and uplifting.
 Many Celtic concerts goers attend every year for the weeks and weekend. I meet people from far away San Francisco, southern Ireland, north of England, cultures Paris and much more. The audiences at Celtic are packed with serious music fans – which creates an informed, generous and appreciative vibe at the concerts.
There is also a great deal behind the main stage, - music workshops, open mic stages for new comers, late sessions which are great fun as well as the festival club fun. The festival days and nights are a feast for music fans.

In October 2010 at the annual Gramophone Awards, Linn was named Label of the Year. For Linn, winning this prestigious award was the culmination of nearly three decades of work, and represents the dedication of a team striving to give the you the best music, with no compromises on quality or support of our artists. 
Studio Masters
With a Studio Master, you get to hear more of the music. It's the closest we can get to capturing the artist's original performance. In fact, it's recorded with such accuracy that you'd think the artist was performing in your room.
Customers tell us that the quality of sound on our recordings has encouraged them to expand their listening habits. They find themselves exploring new music and enjoying classical as well as rock, pop, electronic and jazz.

 PS  Concert Hall Steps
 The top of Buchanan Street offer striking vistas and important civic space for shoes photo shoots, for political gatherings, for sunny lunchtimes, happy buskers, concert goers, tourists and students and more. The Glasgow council in their ignorance, wants to take away the steps and instead put up a large glass atrium like you would see in any other nameless city or shopping mall. I was shocked and saddened when I heard this, Please protest against

Women's Voices

I had recent experiences of men telling me what to think - even in today's world with strong female leaders such as Angela Merkel and Hilary Clinton - and I have to wonder why so many men feel they need to tell experienced women what to think even in todays's world of supposed equality? I heard that women still earn 80% of what men do on average - which means for the rest of the year women work for free.?

In Walter Isaacson's recent book The Innovators; How a group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks created the Digital Revolution he mentions the Countess of Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron and a mathematician and writer who in 1842 wrote about a new calculating machine designed by Charles Babbage.  She wrote forecasting the digital age, "In enabling a mechanism to combine together general symbols, in successions of unlimited variety and extent, a uniting link is established between the operations of matter and the abstract mental processes." 

Babbage's machine was the first to produce abstractions from matter.  Lovelace foresaw the laptop and the smartphone. After this oddly for a hundred years nothing much happened, and then everything happened at once.  

The idea of networking computers took a while to take hold at first  - finally Tim Berners world wide web came along and showed the computer was really a gateway to the global information system that would become known as the internet.  Berners championed the freedom of the net but may have made a mistake. The link system when you click on a link takes you to another page - was one way and did not send a signal back.  If it had, it would have been a simple matter to impose a system of micro payments, a fraction of a penny per click and the devastation of the music, publishing, newspaper and countless other industries need never have happened.  
The question then remains do the big internet companies need restriction set on them? 

Some young women writers at Edinburgh below.
Leigh Bardugo and Maureen Johnson
Rhiannon Cosslett
Holly Baxter

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Northern Soul

 A rock beat with jazz chords

Motown Soul. The upbeat Motown sound combined a Blues beat, R & B and chords that make you feel wistful or sad on top of a rock beat. During the 1960s, Motown achieved massive success for a small record company with 80 records in the Top Ten US Billboard record chart!   

In my teens, Motion was the Big Thing at the discos. I remember it all well, just the way music brings back our strongest memories. I only need to hear one of those soul classics to be back there speedily in time, dancing away to those fun tunes. There was something about those guitar riffs.and funky beats.

I later learned that Motown used a brilliant live band. One of the keys to the Motown successes were the live band by quality musicians The Funk Brothers led by on bass.  These musicians played on more number-one records than other iconic pop artist such as The Beatles, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys combined. Their bass player James Jamerson often played his instrument with only the index finger of his right hand, and created many of the basslines apparent on Motown songs such as The Supremes 'You Can't Hurry Love'. 
Some of the best loved Motown souls sounds were by the singers The Four Tops and The Temptations.
The Four Tops -  'I can't help myself' , 'Same Old Song', 'Reach Out', 'Baby I Need Your Lovin',
The Temptations -  'Get Ready', 'Just My imagination', 'I can’t Get Next to you', 'Ain’t Too Proud to beg, 'You’re my everything',
At the time there was also underground sounds of Pirate radio - to seek out music and have ownership of the music that made it our chart.  Pirate radio then out at sea, such as Radio Luxemburg, sought lesser-known music and aimed to have ownership of the music that made it our chart.  

Northern Soul. The other night I watched the film Soul Boy about the north of England soul scene. Northern Soul started in the north of England with all night dance sessions were often an escape from humdrum realities.  Recordings most prized by fans were by lesser known artists, usually in limited releases by small labels. Famous venues for all nighters were the Wigan Casino and the Twisted Wheel in Manchester.

There is a new film this year called Northern Soul released Oct 2014 - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Northern-Soul-first-pictures-of-new-British-film.html
The film sound track includes Back Street by Edwin Starr, Soul Time by Shirley Ellis, Stick by Me Baby by The Salvadores and Tear Stained Face by Don Varner.

After Motown James Brown took R&B and soul to a new rhythmic sound with his song 'Cold Sweat' which showed the world that the future would be with funk.  With the bass and drum locking the whole band became the beat with the emphasis on the first beat of the bar (rather than the second and fourth beats).  The sound became more intense with less and with the groove more important. The melody or song danced and rode on top of the groove.
Brown was followed by LA bands Earth Wind and Fire and Sly and the Family Stone.
Larry Graham went wild slapping and playing his bass like a drum. Stevie Wonder has the ultimate soul/funk hit with his groove on massive Superstition. 
UK bands such as the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin borrowed the funk grooves. Then there was the funkiest UK band, Scottish band The Average White Band, who were the funkiest and topped the US charts with their album picking Up the Pieces. 

In the 70s the disco sound, which was easy to dance to, went massive and ruined funk's heartbeat.  Disco had little syncopation with computerized beats. Funk had to adapt to survive and stay currant.
In the 80s Prince produced pop, rock and funk crossover sounds.  Next direct from black culture, came the new Hip Hop sounds. 

Northern Soul nights are still popular today. The groove is also alive and well today in 2014 with artists like Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers and Farrell Williams and the huge hits Happy and Get Lucky.   

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Scotland’s Makar Liz Lochhead

Scotland’s Makar poet Liz Lochhead has joined the SNP! Wonderful all these Scottish writers, poets, musicians and authors who back Scottish independence! : ))  This photo was of Liz at Edinburgh Book festival 2014.

She's been told as Scottish makar she should speak for all Scots and have kept quiet on her views. Must admit I'd have thought her religion or politics are personal. As with historian Tom Devine, I have wondered some artists feel intimidated to keep quiet on Scottish independence. Liz said she is about 'the language of life and the dance of words.'

Alex Salmond and Iain Banks

I was proud to shake Alex Salmnd's hand when I met him in Edinburgh 2012! Thanks for always putting Scotland first and back on the map. He was there with brilliant Scottish author Iain Banks who died recently. : ))

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Photos Nov

I've had some meaningful photo experiences this year. Shooting at EIBF was so interesting of course. I went to several challenging talks - most notably by the pre-eminent Scottish historian Tom Devine - on the Scottish Enlightenment and secondly on the Darien Project. I attended talks also on the Scottish referendum questions and the press and media. EIBF BLOGS September 2014 here.

-Scottish Referendum. I view Scottish Independence as a journey. Many of the top Scottish intellectuals and writers (such as Tom Devine and others) have come out on the side of Scottish independence believing it to be the best way forward for Scotland, after careful  consideration.  As yet I've not found any good reasons for the UK union- apart from past sentiment or the world wars. This pulling and sharing of resources quoted by the Better Together team seems to mean London pulling in the UK resources. The referendum energised Scottish politics and since then the SNP have had such a surge in new members that no one could have predicted, and they are now the third largest UK party. 

-Recently I had the exciting and fun experiences of shooting at the wonderful Your Disco Needs You - The Musical at Glasgow's Mitchell theatre - written by Anita Neilson, musical score by David Allan and choreography by Tim Noble.  

 I didn't set out thinking I would be a music photographer - I became one by accident after capturing interesting images at a music gig.  It seemed to matter to me to capture something special about unique gigs. 
I know my best images are mostly captured when there is unlimited access to a concert and I can find a nice position to the side of the stage and not interfere too greatly with the audiences enjoyment. I want to be a bystander, an observer, not a participant - although the whole point for me is  to be lost and absorbed by the music. That's why I am there - at the Queens hall Edinburgh or the Oran Mor Glasgow. 

I attend gigs I hope to enjoy. Of course for the bigger artists there is the photographers pit, sometimes OK, but other times a rammy to get those good shots in the restricted three song grab, which means most music photos end up all looking the same kind of limited mug shots at the safe start of the gig and creativity is lost. While with a few other serious gigs there can be an exciting adrenalin rush, all great fun!  I'm very grateful for all the interesting musicians, artists, and writers I have met. 

Renowned jazz photographer David Redfern died 2014.  In his obituary to Redfern by his close friend Tom Seymour - 
 "Like other photographers of his generation, schooled as he was in the chemistry and craft of picture-making, he has lived through the digital revolution. Gone now is the widespread recognition of the photographer as a respected artist providing a valuable contribution to the development of the industry. In its place is a new paradigm of control and restrictions: access restricted to the first three songs or the back of the hall, draconian contracts, impatient minders. As he wrote in 2005: “Nowadays one has to cut through so much hype and crap before one can even consider whether to photograph an event or concert.” It is indeed sobering to consider how many images we might not be able to enjoy if today’s restrictions had applied when David Redfern was building his archive."  Well exactly!
I began to wonder is music photography about the art and craft or simply the mug shot?
I continue to work on editing techniques, mostly using Lightroom (occasionally Photoshop for trickier editing) and what works and what doesn't. Its a very subtle thing.

-Writing Work. My other focus of my writing work progresses with my first book nearly finished (?) especially as I have three other new books in progress now!  The organising, sorting and finishing work takes far longer than the first writing drafts by miles. As is the case with photography also - the shooting is only about 5% of the work. 

-My Musicfootnotes BLOG
Continues to do well and I continue being inspired and I enjoy doing the blog.  Top blogs this year include - Sandy Bells Bar, Female singer songwriters, John Hammond, George Harrison, Rolling Stones, Eva Cassidy, Bring it All Home, Gerry Rafferty, Black and white photography. 

-Music 2014
Some new albums tI have enjoyed his year -  Head and Heart,  Sarah McLachlan, Mary Chapman Carpenter, White Denim,

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Martha Wainwright at the Fruitmarket

I’ve been to many incredible gigs, both big and small. I’ve seen some of my all time favourites – Bob Dylan, Paul MacCartney, Elton John, Radiohead, Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon, Coldplay, Richard Thompson,  - I’m so grateful for.
It’s at the best gigs, where both the audience and performer are really up for it and I get full access, to discreetly shoot from the side, that I get my best photos.

One such gig was singer songwriter Martha Wainwright at the Fruitmarket Glasgow. She held the packed audience with only her mesmerising guitar, voice and songs.  

Music Today 2014

Today the successful artists generate money via - 60% Tickets, 20% tour merchandise; 10% Publishing; 4% misc; 2 to 4% Record sales. 

Adele is an exception and her 21 album of 2011 sold 30m. Her managers handle books and publishing - they are the quarterbacks and the artist is the CEO.

Over saturation is also a problem according to Adele's manager, 'The Internet content is everywhere; we're at saturation point which cheapens it. Sometimes you have to say no!  Being a gatekeeper to these opportunities is key.'

Not doing nothing but also not standing still either. Once an artist becomes a product of value, that's where the sales are.
The next step for music now is the transition from sales to streaming.