Honkyoku: Learning to Play the Shakuhachi

For about a year, I’ve been learning to play the shakuhachi, a Japanese flute. Compared to other instruments I’ve played, it’s quite difficult, but immensely interesting. I love the sound of this instrument, and I very much appreciate the subtlety of its music.

I’ve set up a new website to chronicle my path as I learn more about how to play the shakuhachi. Honkyoku: Learning to play the shakuhachi will contain observations on the learning experience, and point to some interesting music in videos and on Apple Music. I’m sure few of my readers are interested in this, but do check out some of the music I post there; you might find that you, too, feel a connection with the wonderful sound of this instrument.

(Honkyoku is a type of music for shakuhachi originally played by komosu, itinerant Zen monks.)

The Next Track, Episode #138 – A Look Back at Music We Discovered Last Year

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxMusic discovery has changed a lot, and as the new year rolls in, it’s time to look back at 2018 and the music that we have discovered.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #138 – A Look Back at Music We Discovered Last Year.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

Is Jazz Dead (on Apple Music at Least)?

I like jazz, but I’ve never been someone to really get into the genre, to know all the musicians, to keep up with the new releases. There are a dozen or so artists I like, and now that I use a streaming service – Apple Music – I often check out the new releases to see what’s happening.

I think it’s fair to say that jazz as a genre is fairly stagnant, with little real innovation, and a lot of repetition. Nevertheless, even within the norms of the genre, there is a fair amount of good music released.

I went to Apple Music this morning to find some new jazz to listen to. Previously, the top carrousel of the jazz section was filled with new albums. Today, there’s nothing but playlists. Below the carrousel, more playlists. To find new releases, you need to scroll down, and what is there is quite limited.

Is jazz dead

At just over 1% market share in album consumption, jazz is little more than a footnote in the music industry. But with about the same market share as classical music, it still has its listeners, and lots of performers. I’m sure that in big cities there’s a vibrant club scene for jazz musicians. However, not much in jazz has changed, and for the non-aficionados it can seem like a stagnant genre.

It’s telling that the top album on Apple Music is Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, a landmark of jazz, but also the jazz album that people who don’t like jazz listen to. It’s followed by Kenny G (smooth jazz has its own special circle of hell), and the top 20 includes records from 50 or more years ago by Stan Getz, Chet Baker, John Coltrane, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong. (And more smooth jazz; sigh.) In fact, if you look at all the classics in the top 200 on Apple Music, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the standard jazz canon is. (Monk, Bill Evans, Charlie Parker, Nina Simon, lots of Miles Davis, Mingus, etc.)

Maybe Apple has given up on promoting jazz albums as they used to, realizing that most jazz listening on their service is done by casual, non fans, who are more than happy with playlists of anonymous (to them) musicians playing a genre that is rooted in a nostalgic past.

The Next Track, Episode #137 – How Do You Create a “Music Social Network?”

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxApple has killed off its second attempt at a “music social network,” Connect, which was part of Apple Music. We ponder what it would take to create a useful music social network.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #137 – How Do You Create a “Music Social Network?”.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

The Next Track, Episode #136 – Breaking Up with iTunes?

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxWe look at some possible future scenarios about iTunes, in part because a recent change that Apple has made.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #136 – Breaking Up with iTunes?.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.