Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More high points from Music Tech

the highest of high points - I won a TERABYTE Hard Drive in the raffle! Woohoo! thanks Seagate! It looks awesome and will actually not fill up immediately (which is what happened the last time I bought an external hard-drive and then got ambitious with media). I actually didn't know that was one of the prizes, I was going for the Les Paul Gibson beauty that was also being auctioned off. But I can sure use the storage.. it will also be great to backup my field recordings when I go to Jamaica.

I met a ton of fascinating people, and had a lot of good conversations. Including a lot of introductions - "oh you should meet x, who I was just talking to, she does just what you are interested in." I also got to make the case, repeatedly, for the importance of ethnographers in the tech world, an idea to which people were surprisingly receptive. There was even another lurking ethnographer, whom I had known before only as an internet connection from my online web journal days (back before they called it a blog): big up tiara.org! 1995 internet peoples represent!

I was also well pleased to see Rickey Vincent there, moderating the Bay Area Funk panel. This man literally wrote the book on Funk. I know him from the UC Berkeley Hip-Hop Studies working group, which I haven't been involved with as much this semester, but I still have love for, and they are picking up and doing great things under revitalized leadership this year! I had to scale back because at the end of last year I suddenly found myself the sole remaining member of boalt.org and since I do think it is a valuable student group I thought I should devote myself to getting it back to being self-sustaining. This we are doing - lots of great people involved already, and some cool guest speakers and conferences coming up - more on that soon.

Another interesting theme of the conference was Obama support - a variety of T-shirts from simple to cute ("Barack you like a hurricane"), the extreme point made by Robert Kaye from Musicbrainz who had his head shaved except for a circle at the back on which was dyed the Obama symbol. I guess despite FISA, techies still like Obama. Not that I disagree - at this point I'm just happy that there is someone who believes that sciences, research and experts have a place in government.

There was a very legal-technical panel called "Ethics and Music Law" which I was hoping was going to be a discussion of some of the big conundrums around music and law, but then I saw that it was for Continuing Legal Education credit, which usually means that it's a series of specific questions about how to stay consistent with the Bar Associations ethical guidelines. And it was. Still kind of interesting in that it opened up for me some of the specifics about how musicians and lawyers work together, but not as interesting to me as a deeper discussion of the issues might be: like if the panel was about taking more seriously how different musicians' goals & practices can be from legalistic approaches to goals and practices - not just framed as a problem for lawyers to educate musicians to think & act right, but as a possible clash between law-mindedness and other ways of being.

more updates soon - short promo: Surya Dub Oct 25th! and I'm playing a party in a hay maze south of Half Moon Bay on Nov 7th!

(oh and I learned the truth about acorn)


  1. "how different musicians' goals & practices can be from legalistic approaches to goals and practices" - can you briefly explain what some of the differences are that you've noticed? Like, what are musicians' main goals compared to lawyers?

  2. One example of the difference is when you talk to a lawyer and they say "all a musician has to do is X, y, and Z when they make music and they will be legally ok"

    the planned checklist is often very far from the creative process. Because musicians main goals are usually to make music, not to be in compliance with law.

    so for example, if a musician is expected to start by making sure all their samples are licensed or in the public domain, that sort of assumes that the creative process is ordered in a way whereby you have all your 'elements' that go into a song laid out to start with and you can (and are able to) check each of them before you start using them. But that isn't usually true. one idea or element leads to another, and the connections probably don't have to do with whether the next element is legal, but probably more to do with whether it make musical sense in some way.

    and beyond that many musicians are motivated by imitation or the desire to re-use the same element as someone else for various reasons (most pressingly because the genre or culture they are in relies heavily on it - like dancehall or baltimore club music)

    that motivation is pretty much the measure of illegality, or at least discouraged by copyright law and thus lawyers are likely to not see it as positive.