Pop 2.0: how globalised music created a new kind of star – The Guardian

Non-anglophone artists can thrive in this ecosystem. I’ve seen it for myself: in 2018, I reviewed London shows by Balvin, pop-reggaeton golden boy Maluma, Monsta X and BTS. The venues heaved with excited young Londoners, who sang along, lofted flags and generally did their nut over being in the same room as their heroes – all of which is par for the course at pop shows. What was different was that almost none of the songs were in English, and most of the fans couldn’t understand the lyrics.

When I moved to France in the 1980s, and got to know some French music, I often discussed music with people I met. I asked many people whose command of English was limited why they listened to songs in English. They all said the lyrics didn’t matter.

However, when they told me about certain French artists I should check out, they often said, “And the lyrics are great.”

Music in other languages has always been an edge case in English-speaking countries, because of the cost of releasing and promoting records in those countries. So many artists would sing their songs in English, with a hope of getting international airplay, having a single noticed, and then release an album in the US or UK. Now, with streaming, there are no borders, and there’s no reason for these artists to deny their cultural heritage.

Source: Pop 2.0: how globalised music created a new kind of star | Music | The Guardian

Cosmic Pastoral: William Tyler on New Age, Windham Hill, and Emerging Sounds : Aquarium Drunkard

There has been in the last decade a true revivalism and reappraisal of new age music amongst a new generation of younger listeners, although what linked the meditative and expansive electronics of, say, Iasos or Steven Halpern to the rather unadorned acoustics of Ackerman and George Winston, was, I’d argue, less a sonic affiliation and more a connection born out of the need to market this music.

Some great points about “new age” music. But the author misses one thing. This music ended up being lumped in with the amorphous new age movement not entirely because of the music, or a “need to market” it, but because of where it was sold. Initially, Windham Hill records were not sold in record stores, but in health food stores and alternative book stores. That changed after a few years, as it became popular, but for early fans of that kind of music – of which I was one – it would always be linked with incense and organic food.

The author also mentions how ECM records had a similar sound. This is certainly true, and the two labels did develop in parallel, but I don’t really see much of a link between them. Early ECM records included some avant-garde jazz, and, while the ECM sound become lighter and softer. This said, it’s still not all mellow jazz, though a lot of it is. And the classical catalogue of ECM includes a fair amount of “modern” classical music.

I recently went back and listened to some of those records, and I still enjoy this music very much. It is a shame that it was pigeonholed into the new age category, which limited its distribution and appreciation.

Read this New York Times article from 1986 for more about the financial side of Windham Hill records.

Source: Cosmic Pastoral: William Tyler on New Age, Windham Hill, and Emerging Sounds : Aquarium Drunkard

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.