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Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me you see. Straight up racist that sucker was, simple and plain, mother fuck him and John Wayne.

Its comes to no surprise that Elvis riped off African Americans music during the rise of rock and roll. This is easy then when the people were in charge of what was heard on the radio or or seen on TV and the movies were white. Its so easy to write history when  the ones  in charge were capitalizing on other peoples talent. Elvis was beloved by millions of young people at a time when blacks were only allowed to be portrayed as servants, or stupid people on radio, and TV and such. And even if the masses knew back then that he was a fraud, they would still flock to his side because nobody would have ever believed that Elvis wasn’t talented enough to to rip off anyone. Besides, blacks back then had no voice, no power, to stand up for their rights, because the didn’t have any and no one was in a rush to help them any way.

Then the civil rights movement helped change that. People from all over the country started to realize the injustices that were happening in this country to blacks. They were starting to get the voice and slowly uncovered many of the past injustices that occurred to them, a lot of it they weren’t aware of until the images started pouring in the TV and the newspapers. By then Elvis fame and influence was evaporating, especially with the arrival of the Beatles and the rise of super groups, and the like of Marvin Gaye, Jimmy Hendricks and others in the 60’s. Flash forward to the late 1980’s early 1990’s…

The music scene has done a complete 180 degrees. Rock has been reclaimed by an all African American heavy metal band named Living Color, the pop charts are dominated by Madonna, Micheal Jackson, and many other acts that would have probably would have been arrested in the 50’s but the most interesting case is the rise of the Long Island based rap group “Public Enemy”. No stranger to controversy, their lyrics are usual sharp criticism about police brutality, racial injustices and anger at the establishment that was running the country at the time. But the thing that cathes my ears is the rant against Elvis Presley in their smash hit “Fight the Power”. They called him out and John Wayne, another iconic white superstar, that both represented to some what the good all days were to some, but another example of an oppressive time when white men controled every aspect of the media and how this country was, including history. Or so it seems.

Funny how times have changed.

Research Topic for Final Paper.

My topic for the final paper is digital piracy. How the evolution of the personal computer and introduction of BBS’s and the availability of high speed Internet made piracy available to everyone. Also I will write about why people do it and what media companies will do to try to fight this.

High fidelity is here to stay, or so we thought.

After reading chapter 10, I couldn’t help but be reminded of of the format wars that seem to regurgitate every ten years or so, whether it is new audio formats or video or even E-readers, which sooner or later the wars are decided by the consumers. But unlike elections, companies who spend the most money in promoting their products don’t always win. Consumers ultimately want products that are non obtrusive, convenient, and it must be able to fit in people’s lifestyles. That’s the reason why why people chose disc formats over cylinders in the beginning of the records history. Later on when when the fidelity became improved people didn’t realize how important fidelity became one the main reasons to switch formats once again. Also purchasing high quality receivers became the norm as the listeners became older and HiFi’s became the norm in the 70’s and the eighties.

Although tape recordings became the norm in the late sixties, it wasn’t until the late seventies early-eighties that they became really popular in the eighties when people preferred them over LP’s. In the early eighties  SONY introduced the Walkman and portability became the winner of the format wars again. But this time fidelity took a back seat because tape cassettes were notoriously noisy due to the contact of the tape’s contact with the head of the player. Their were attempts to reduce this noise with the introduction of DOLBY B & C noise reduction but the only people who would use this were usually audiophiles. Later on equalizers were included with Walkmans but this usually meant lowering the treble to mask the hissing and that resulted in muddying the sound.

SONY and Phillips introduced the Compact Disc or, CD format, to replace the cassette tape as a more of a high fidelity format and eliminating the tape hiss due to the fact that the only contact is a laser light reading the grooves in the CD, like an LP player, but without the physical contact of a needle touching the plate itself. Also the quality of sound is now 16 bit 44,000 Khz quality meaning the fidelity surpasses the tape and LP format combined. All in a small disc that is portable and more durable that tape. But just because its durable, this just mean it wasn’t fragile since they are prone to scratching and dust can interrupt the flow of laser light hitting its target. Also earlier portable disc player were susceptible to skipping if you weren’t careful with the  CD players. This was sort of rectified with the introduction of built in memory in which some of the song was stored in the internal RAM chip’s and if the disc player was shaken, a few seconds of music were played of the RAM and continued after the the shaken had stopped to have an uninterrupted flow of music.

This gets to my final point, in the nineties, a format was introduced in which a song could be compressed to a smaller format while losing some fidelity but making the song file much smaller. And when computers became more affordable for the masses to afford coupled with the introduction of high speed Internet, it was just a matter of time when song sharing became the norm and the lower quality of music became accepted as the norm as well.

We Are the Robots.

In the early seventies, a group of  German unassuming young men formed a musical group that eventually inspired a whole generation of musicians. They helped formed several genres that will include hip hop, synthrock, electronica, and an urban dance craze called break dancing. These are the men of Kraftwerk. It is very difficult to analyze just one song in this assignment, and going for broke, I will analyze two of their songs. I cannot analyze one song without mentioning the other in this piece so bear with me, I promise it will be worth it.

Click below for sample of pure awesomeness.

Man Machine

History

First off,  this pioneering group of tech heads and electro geeks were formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970, while they were students at the Düsseldorf Conservatory in the late 1960s. They started off as an experimental musical duo and were part of a German Music scence during the late 1060’s early 1970’s era which was known as “Krautrock” to the British press at the time. They  later added two electronic percussionists, Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos, and this changed the dynamics to the whole of their sound. During the recording of their album Autobahn, they shifted away from experimental music, to more of a pop music style. But this was still different than any thing that was out there because the themes of most of the songs dealt with the communication and the future of globalization of mankind. There is a sad element to the songs, in which some of the topics also dealt the loneliness of losing your identity in this fast moving world and consequences of global business and communication. This subject became more apparent in the release of Man-Machine in 1978. But before then, they were creating these albums and became interested in fading one song into another creating what seems like one long song from beginning to end. Of course the combinations of these songs could only last so long because LP’s only gave them a certain number of minutes to arrange these intricate pieces.

Analysis

The first song that I will analyze is the very influential ” Trans Europe Express,” from the album of the same name which was released in 1976. TEE can be best described as the Cha Cha Cha, meets a watch factory with Peter Lorre, singing in the background. While this may not sound like a song that while inspired a new generation of electronic artist, but upon further listen, its simple 4/4 beat is layer with rhythmical overtones that is arguably more advanced than any modern drum machine artist have matched till this day. But as complexed as the beat is, its balanced with minimalist keyboard arrangement. The first riff is a gradual rise in crescendo symbolizes the grandeur of a Cross-Europe rail system that that can be interpreted as a Europe that will be united with no borders through commerce and communication. The chorus riff resembles what you would hear in church in Transylvania.

Click below for sample.

Trans Europe Express

This song was nothing like anything you heard in the radio at the time, especially in 1976, when disco was becoming the dominant form of music. The dance music during that era was composed of real musicians that usually had real horn sections that accompanied them during recordings and appearances like Soul Train and live concerts, Kraftwerk was the anti-disco group in a sense that their image were robotic, soulless, clean shaven,  plastic skin. This image would help the image of many early eighties artists like Thomas Dolby, and Gary Numan. And their music was created using synthesizers and drum machines, marrying man and machine, leading to the next ground breaking song.

Although “Computer Love” was the first single single that was released from their 1981 album “Computer World“, “Numbers” was the real underground hit to come out of that record. If TEE was the groundbreaking electro record, then Numbers was the song to blow open the genre. This song inspired many beat makers to think outside of the box of creating complex beats that destroyed many of the early hip hop, rock, and funk beats that existed before. The tempo of this song is a bit quicker than TEE and the drum pattern will become the most copied beat next to “Funky Drummer” by James Brown. While the beat is simple enough, boom pat boom pat boom pat boom boom pat boom, the role of the high hat and other drums parts sound like  burst of electric particles that dance from ear to ear in a frenetic yet rhythmical in a way marching bands beat on the snares at a Rose parade. The lyrics are really just numbers spoken in different languages to the rhythm of the beat, with the German voice concealed through a vocoder, sounding like a droid in Star Wars while sprechen sie deutsch. While the music itself has a cold metallic texture on the surface, if feels very organic, almost alive while playing through  headphones.

Click below for sample.

Numbers MP3


The rapid tempo and frenetic percussions are relentless  and have inspired many to use this beat in electro pop songs such as ” Play at your own Risk” By Planet Patrol, “Planet Rock” by Africa Bambaattaa and the Soulsonic Force, both major hits to the break dancing, pop locking, robot dancing youths of the streets of inner cities. Numbers also inspired Freestyle, also know as Latin Hip Hop,  a form of dance music with its syncopated 16th note high hats and 128bpm tempo. Both TTE and Numbers were combined by Africa Bambaataa in their dance classic Planet Rock at a time when portable stereo systems , also known as “Beat Boxes” were carried around the streets of NYC and an occasional break-dance competition would appear and disappear just as quickly.

Both of these songs are what I consider “Primary Jams” in which other artists use the riffs or beats to create newer songs based on them. This is also called “biting“, meaning that they took it without permission and consider it as there own. Some other songs that I consider Primaries are ” Funky Drummer” by James brown and “Cavern” by Liquid Liquid and “Genius of Love” by the Tom Tom Club.


So what does all mean?

Kraftwerk were mostly interested in the relationships between man and computers, and also mankind’s achievements as a species as it overcame diversity through technology and science. But there is also sad message thats hidden deep in its narrative  that despite of all its advances with communication and technology, there is a sense of isolation in the human soul, despite the advancements that supposed to brings us all closer together. But thats not the irony. The true irony is the artists who were inspired by Kraftwerk and succeeded in bringing the masses together on songs like Planet Patrol and Planet Rock, which drove people to the dance floors and created the biggest parties at the time.  I should know, I was there.

The End.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/documentaries/060807_kraftwerk.shtml

http://www.poecker.homepage.t-online.de/HomepageClassic01/discog.htm

http://www.whosampled.com/artist/Kraftwerk/

http://www.kexp.org/learn/documentaries.aspx?docid=11#2

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=biting

How spoiled have we all become.

I was waiting at the waiting room at my doctor today, reading chapters 8-9, 13 on the textbook assigned to our class and found it extremely fascinating on the lengths people used to go through just to make a record back then. . The idea of singing of playing and instrument through a horn that is connected to a wax cylinder truly boggles the mind. The conditions were almost like being in a sweat shop, literally, with high temperatures the permeated in these recording studios because not only to keep the wax nice and malleable for the needles to penetrate the cylinders but rooms had to be closed off to prevent outside noise from leaking into the sessions. This is true analog technology. It was a hundred years ago that musicians cataloged their art the same way ancient men drew on the walls of ancient caves with just the basic tools and without the need of electrical devices. Outside of my building here in Riverdale is a leftover relic from around the same time period in which devices that would qualify as  steam-punk  collectibles  prevailed. There are inactive two gas lanterns that are outside reminding us of an era which electricity was still not available in this part of town. Recording had to be precise and songs had to be done in within three minutes so it would fit on the either disc or cylinder. Singers couldn’t wail into the horn or they run the risk of making the needle jump off due to vibrations. Today you can record a whole album on your Macbook Pro. I know, I have. And as long as the the terabytes of available hard drive space keep flowing, my song can be hours long. But then again, if for some reason, all the power in the world was to go off at the same time time, we might revert back to horns and wax again.

Hello world!

Hello World, here I come!

 

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