SF MusicTech Summit XII In San Francisco

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The SF MusicTech Summit XII takes place on February 19, 2013 at Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco. For many years the SF MusicTech Summit series has tracked the overlapping industries of music and technology from every possible angle.

These events are attended twice a year by bands, music labels, coders, CEOs, streaming music services, app developers, marketers, instrument makers, journalists and everyone in between. This year’s list of speakers and panelists includes representatives of companies like BitTorrent, Rdio, and Austin City Limits Live; writers from Techcrunch and hypebot.com; and artists DJ Young Guru and Zoë Keating amongst many others.

Below Michael Franti of Spearhead performs at the most recent SF MusicTech Summit.

SFMusicTech 2012-10-09

Photo by Michael O’Donnell

Roller Derby’s Roots in Depression-Era Dance Marathons

This trailer for the 2008 roller derby documentary Hell On Wheels covers the sport’s unlikely 21st Century revival. But there’s an even more surprising story of how this modern all-female, full-contact sport has its roots in dance marathons of the 1920s which were endurance competitions for couples that sometimes lasted a thousand hours.

Those live events were also a predecessor of contemporary reality TV as they mixed celebrities with regular people and drew huge interest by offering thousands in cash prizes during the Great Depression. They also profited their organizers, grossing millions each year. Here’s more details on this fad of the 1920’s and 30’s:

Contestants and spectators alike bought into the staged excitement and competition. Spectators could cheer, make wagers and root for their favorite team, even interacting with the dancers, chatting with them and throwing money. Contestants were enticed by the potential for fame and fortune, from prizes of several thousand dollars to performing contracts, and were fueled by the audiences’ support and applause. Like professional wrestling, the contests were fixed, but both sides bought into the simulated reality of it and participated heartily, provoking each other and egging each other on. The newest episodic entertainment, spectators would return day after day to follow their heroes and see more drama unfold.

In 1935, former film promoter and cinema owner Leo Seltzer was the first to put the coupled competitors on wheels, and so dance marathons evolved into (the term Seltzer trademarked) “Roller Derbies“. The debut event drew a crowd of 20,000 in Chicago. Roller derby historian Jim Fitzpatrick gives more details about those co-ed derby marathons in this interview:

For a roller derby research marathon: visit “roller derby” on How Stuff Works and see lots more roller derby videos here. And watch this documentary for fantastic details on early dance marathons and roller derbies, if you don’t mind it’s own slow-pace…

Animated Primer on Mexican Drug Cartel Violence

The Violence of Mexican Drug Cartels” is beautifully diabolical, an impeccably designed animation telling the troubling tale of the current Mexican drug cartel war and how the United States is tied to the violence.

“Tens of thousands are being murdered, and over a million are being forced to flee their homes. U.S. laws and policy play a major role in the conflict’s violence. This video is about understanding the complexities of the war and why it is happening.”

Designed by ishothim and published by Visual.ly.

via Boing Boing

Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd TV Interview and Performance (1967)

Syd Barrett, the original lead singer for rock band Pink Floyd was born 66 years ago this week. This clip from May 1967 shows the band on the BBC television show “Look of The Week”, where Austrian interviewer Hans Keller, who had “grown up in the string quartet” says he finds the Floyd sound too loud after hearing them play “Astronomy Domine” live. Here’s how the exchange is described on Wikipedia:

Keller was generally puzzled by, or even contemptuous of, the group and its music, repeatedly returning to the criticism that they were too loud for his taste. He ended his interview segment with the band by saying the words “My verdict is that it is a little bit of a regression to childhood – but, after all, why not?”

Keller’s commentary throughout is laughably un-hip and blind to the emerging culture of the 1960s, but there is some truth in that last line. Syd was destined to end up in a rather child-like state due to his prodigious experimentation with psychedelics and other drugs. Less than a year after this appearance Syd was out of the band, effectively replaced by David Gilmour, due to his increasingly unpredictable behavior and reduced creative output.

Barrett released a few solo albums after leaving Pink Floyd, but none of it rivals the heights of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Floyd’s first album, on which Syd wrote most of the songs. He lived largely as a recluse until he passed away in 2006. But his legacy is immense, not only from the band he co-founded. Amongst those who have acknowledged his influence are Paul McCartney, Marc Bolan, Brian Eno, The Damned, XTC, Tangerine Dream, and Robyn Hitchcock.

Syd Barrett in 1969

photo by Mick Rock via Wikipedia

CLOUDS Interactive Documentary on Digital Art

The CLOUDS project is a documentary by James George and Jonathan Minard about current hacker-art practices. It features interviews with thirty artists, curators, designers, & critics and was created with an open-source software library called RGBDToolkit in the RGBD 3D cinema format. CLOUDS software gives viewers the ability to chart different paths through a database of footage via keywords or search queries rather than having a single static version of the film.

CLOUDS Data capsule with laser etched 3D pointcloud

The interview subjects in CLOUDS include Bruce Sterling, Casey Reas, Daniel Shiffman, Diederick Huijbers, Elliot Woods, Golan Levin, Greg Borenstein, Jer Thorp, Jesse Louis-Rosenberg, Jessica Rosenkrantz, Joel Gethin Lewis, Josh Nimoy, Julia Kaganskiy, Julian Oliver, Karolina Sobecka, Karsten “Toxi” Schmidt, Kyle Chayka, Kyle McDonald, Lindsay Howard, Marcus Wendt, Marius Watz, Nick Fox-Gieg, Paola Antonelli, Philip Whitfield, Rachel Binx, Regine Debatty, Satoru Higa, Shantell Martin, Sofy Yuditskaya, Theodore Watson, Vera Glahn, and Zachary Lieberman.

The CLOUDS Kickstarter is fully funded and will end on Jan 8, 2013.

Rodney Dangerfield 1978 Standup Routine With a 16-piece Band

This 1978 footage shows the great no-respect-getting comedian Rodney Dangerfield (aka Jack Roy aka Jacob Cohen) doing his signature schtick in front of a 16-piece band who play after his punchlines, like a drummer doing rimshots.

Via Wikipedia, here’s some great trivia about the origin of the “Rodney Dangerfield” name and character:

He took the name Rodney Dangerfield, which had been used as the comical name of a faux cowboy star by Jack Benny on his radio program at least as early as the December 21, 1941, broadcast and later as a pseudonym by Ricky Nelson on the TV program The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The Benny character, who also received little or no respect from the outside world, served as a great inspiration to Dangerfield while he was developing his own comedy character.

Winning a New Ice Cream Truck on Price Is Right in 1962

You were wondering what The Price Is Right game show was like 50 years ago, right? Now you know: this clip from New Years Day 1962 shows a very different game where players guess the cost of expensive jewelry instead of a box of Rice-a-Roni. This first version of the show debuted in 1956 and was hosted by Bill Cullen with announcer Don Pardo (later famous as the voice of Saturday Night Live).

The final round has a Jolly Roger Ice Cream truck up for grabs instead of “a new car” which became the pinnacle of prizes on the Bob Barker-hosted “New Price Is Right” starting in 1972. The clip also includes ads for show sponsors Newport cigarettes (“the soothing coolness of menthol”) and Anacin (“Fast fast incredibly fast relief”).

jolly roger ice cream truck, 1960

The Quest For A Copyright-Free Happy Birthday Song

FMA New Birthday Song contest illustration by Greg Harrison

Art by Greg Harrison

Everyone knows the song “Happy Birthday to You“–the Guinness Book of World Records says it’s the most recognized song in English. Most of us sing it several times a year, for free. So it may surprise you that Warner Chappel music owns the rights to the song and charges thousands of dollars for its use in public. They make $2 million a year in royalties from TV shows and filmmakers. But now WFMU and the Free Music Archive are trying to set birthdays to music anew, for free.

The Birthday Song Contest seeks a few new Happy Birthday songs that are simple and catchy, with great earworm potential that can be sung in restaurants, bowling alleys, and even in TV shows and movies – free of charge.

It’s a great way to say Happy Tenth Birthday to Creative Commons. Songwriters can add their new birthday ditties to a national repository of alternate Birthday songs. Submissions are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution license. The deadline for submitting songs is Jan 13 at 11:59pm ET. The judges include Lawrence Lessig, Jonathan Coulton, and members of Deerhoof and Yo La Tengo. They will select 3 winners to be announced on 1/29/2013. More info here.

The song was originally written in 1893 by two sisters, but wasn’t copyrighted until 1935. If you want to go academically deep on its copyright history, check this paper. The video below highlights replacement birthday songs used on TV and film over the years as they try to save a few thousand bucks by not singing the song that everyone knows.

Happy Birthday Alternatives in Film and Television from Free Music Archive on Vimeo.

Veteran Rocker Bob Mould’s 2011 See A Little Light Concert DVD

In November 2011 legendary rocker Bob Mould played a show in LA with some friends. Now a year later there’s a Kickstarter to fund a DVD of that concert. The funding deadline is Saturday December 22.

The venue was The Walt Disney Concert Hall and these are the friends who 2000+ lucky people got to see Bob jam with:

Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Britt Daniel (Spoon), Ryan Adams, No Age, Craig Finn and Tad Kubler (The Hold Steady), and Margaret Cho with Grant Lee Phillips will perform songs from Bob’s catalog.

The set covered Mould’s entire career including both his 1990s band Sugar and 1980s hardcore punk icons Hüsker Dü. Mould played live with No Age and with a band including Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters). Margaret Cho recounts her experience attending and performing at the concert. Here’s Hüsker Dü in 1983 rocking the fuck out with Bob on vocals: