Miles Runs The Tech Down

Jazz inspires the developers of the WordPress software  this blog uses. Since 2004 each major new version is named after a jazz musician, the first being Miles Davis. 10 years before he made the hip-hop/scratch pioneering Rock IT, Herbie Hancock was involved in another pioneering effort as one of the musicians who recorded On The Corner  with Miles .

 Both sides of the record were based around simple, repetitive drum and bass grooves (the track delineations on the original album were arbitrary), with the “melodic” parts snipped from hours of meandering jams. These techniques, refined via the use of computers and digital audio equipment, are now standard amongst producers of electronically-based music.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Complete_On_the_Corner_Sessions

Even the album cover art spoke to a digital theme:

Miles_Davis_On_The_CornerOn the Corner back

In keeping with the sci-fi theme of African-American Music Month here on STEM Drum, On The Corner “sounded” like a soundtrack for a sci-fi movie. One writer wonders whether Miles actually invented the sci-fi/cyberpunk genre of William Gibson(inventor of the term cyberspace)

There’s also something cybernetic about that sound. The 1972 technology probably didn’t have many computers in the mix, but you can hear the hints toward sampling and digital editing. It is the street finding it’s own use for technology, but to a beat that William Gibson never imagined. It’s the shape of funk to come, pointing the way to rap, hip-hop, techno, the Afro-pop of King Sunny Ade and Fela Anikulapo Kuit.

Mondo Ernesto

Speaking of Gibson, I’m reminded of a picture I recently received from a friend which put a whole new meaning to “on the corner”

MilesDavisWay

which makes me think of the locative art and augmented reality of Gibson’s Spook Country

http://www.amazon.com/Spook-Country-William-Gibson/dp/0425226719

Last but not least , Don Cheadle is using the tech-driven Indiegogo to help fund his Miles Ahead movie. Supporting these kinds of efforts will help keep more of the value of our innovation in the village.

How Apple Got Village Beats At Such A Bargain

It takes Apple about a week to generate $3B in revenue and less than a to month to accumulate $3B in profit. Based on recent Apple trends and projected wearable trends, it’s not unreasonable to project that the combination of increased Beats Electronics revenue and “cool factor” boosts to iWatch and other Apple products will be significant. Expect to  see iPads, Airbooks, AppleTV, iWatch et al in many of the places we currently see celebrities rockin Beats headphones. For the sake of this discussion let’s say Beats increases Apple revenue 1 percent  a year for the next 3 years. That will pay for the acquisition – every dollar tied to Beats after that is gravy. Bargain is putting it nicely though it pales in comparison to the previous occasions when Apple(and others) had to pay little to nothing for access to “cool”. Clearly the Village will benefit. As noted in the previous post, Will.i.am has the right idea about what to do with the money and Dr. Dre/Jimmy Iovine have previously given an inner city university – USC an endownment  of $70M to launch a STEAM oriented business undergraduate degree program and we can expect more. At the same time, it has to be noted that most of the money is going outside of the Village because the technology was not developed here and the majority owners are not from here. This is not new –  African-Americans have not possessed the means of production for any of our great assets. Going back to the 1950’s Motown had only a small recording studio and no manufacturing or distribution capabilities. So the “cool” intellectual property had to be sold at a great discount in order to get it produced and into the market.  By the time we began to get access to the means of production and distribution, technology had changed the nature of the game(again – can you say ProTools? iTunes?) so  we’re right back where we started – more like DJay than we’d like to be.

A similar situation has been seen in film as this must-read Washington Post article on culture change and reparations shows. It makes the case that Gone With The Wind reached far more people than 12 Years A Slave and that it’s not even possible to achieve numbers like Roots which is still one of the most watched TV series in history. The article

looked at the 500 top-grossing movies released between 2007 and 2012, and found that of the 565 people credited as directors on those projects, just 5.8 were African-American.

Numbers like these are released every year. I have cited them constantly during my time as a professional critic. But “The Case for Reparations” provides us another way of understanding why these figures are so critically important. Even if the fight to give African-American artists more opportunities to make television, film, music, and books — and to do so with greater autonomy — succeeds, that victory comes with different rewards than might have accompanied it in the past. What are we winning if African-Americans get access to the machinery of cultural production precisely because they can attract niche audiences, and because their industries have given up on the idea that their work, or anyone else’s, might have truly mass appeal?

This is not quite the equivalent of turning a neighborhood over to prospective African-American homeowners as its property values crater, one of the dynamics Coates describes in his essay. But the idea that artists of color would gain access to the tools that might help them change our culture just as those tools become less powerful is terrible to contemplate. It may not be too late to advance the dream of reparations. But the swords and plowshares we might have used to fight the cultural battles that would make such a reconciliation possible are not what they once were.

 

So like post-WWII Israel, we could use some infrastructure investment. However, we can’t afford to wait on the political process. There’s enough knowledge and financial capital within the Village to make a meaningful impact – just remember to aim high!

 

Slavery, STEAM & The Artist Currently Known As Prince

Prince does not want to be like DJay or Kanye. More importantly, he’s walked the walk to the beat of a different drum for decades now.
_39958085_princeslave_203

In 1993, during negotiations regarding the release of Prince’s album The Gold Experience, a legal battle ensued between Warner Bros. and Prince over the artistic and financial control of Prince’s output. During the lawsuit, Prince appeared in public with the word “slave” written on his cheek. Prince explained his name change as follows:

The first step I have taken toward the ultimate goal of emancipation from the chains that bind me to Warner Bros. was to change my name from Prince to the Love Symbol. Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote. The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince. I became merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros…

I was born Prince and did not want to adopt another conventional name. The only acceptable replacement for my name, and my identity, was the Love Symbol, a symbol with no pronunciation, that is a representation of me and what my music is about. This symbol is present in my work over the years; it is a concept that has evolved from my frustration; it is who I am. It is my name.

Prince has even been a pioneer in leveraging cyberspace. However as long as artists are fundamentally dependent upon technology other people own in order to produce, perform and distribute their products they will be limited to renegotiating slavery under different terms.  and sadly forced to complain about not being able to “get a second chance”. Artists who want to be free need ownership in STEM and the village needs to have greater stake in the revenue generated by our artists. On the surface this sounds like a win-win but in practice it will require a level of sacrifice on the order of the Montgomery Bus Boycott:

 Instead of riding buses, boycotters organized a system of carpools, with car owners volunteering their vehicles or themselves driving people to various destinations. Some white housewives also drove their black domestic servants to work. When the city pressured local insurance companies to stop insuring cars used in the carpools, the boycott leaders arranged policies with Lloyd’s of London.

Black taxi drivers charged ten cents per ride, a fare equal to the cost to ride the bus, in support of the boycott. When word of this reached city officials on December 8, the order went out to fine any cab driver who charged a rider less than 45 cents. In addition to using private motor vehicles, some people used non-motorized means to get around, such as cycling, walking, or even riding mules or driving horse-drawn buggies. Some people also hitchhiked. During rush hours, sidewalks were often crowded. As the buses received few, if any, passengers, their officials asked the City Commission to allow stopping service to black communities.[23] Across the nation, black churches raised money to support the boycott and collected new and slightly used shoes to replace the tattered footwear of Montgomery’s black citizens, many of whom walked everywhere rather than ride the buses and submit to Jim Crow laws.

In response, opposing whites swelled the ranks of the White Citizens’ Council, the membership of which doubled during the course of the boycott. The councils sometimes resorted to violence: King’s and Abernathy’s houses werefirebombed, as were four black Baptist churches. Boycotters were often physically attacked.

For starters some shift in how we spend our entertainment dollars has to happen. What would you be willing to do to help jump-start a transformation in the distribution of wealth generated by artists?  Right now, without fear of physical retaliation, you can find/support existing independent artists and share/like/email/retweet this post.

Don’t Be Like D-Jay

… practical, everyday reasons to love STEM …

When you don’t love STEM, you can’t make or distribute your own products.
When you can’t make or distribute your own products you have less control.
When you have less control you make less money.
When you make less money, you get desparate.
When you get desparate, you resort to pimping.
When you start pimping, you end up like D-Jay.
Don’t end up like D-Jay.

Embrace STEM. End up like

220px-James_West

James Edward Maceo West

Along withGerhard Sessler, West developed the foil electret microphone in 1962. Nearly 90 percent of the more than two billion microphones produced annually are based on the principles of the foil-electret and are used in everyday items such as telephones, camcorders, and audio recording devices among others.

Take Me To Your Leader: Math, Sci-fi and STEAM

Beyond participation, folks currently underrepresented in the STEM fields should thing big, be leaders! From Sun Ra to P-Funk to OutKast and Janelle Monae black scifi has always been innovative, has always had an impact on the community. Now, with the power of the internet, we have an opportunity to connect innovative artists with innovative STEM pros. This combination can go a long way towards rescuing black and brown folk, the planet and maybe the entire universe! Imagine a world where where creative STEAM geniuses collaborate on “instruments” that not only play music, but heal, transform pollutants and manage marketplaces.

This power to imagine is the first step in changing the world! 

“Black To The Future” Walter Mosley

In the late Amiri Baraka’s “Answers In Progress”, a group of aliens land in NewArk, NJ looking not for the political, business or space industry leaders, but for the great jazz drummer Art Blakely.

Typically we see the relationship between math and music from the perspective of applying mathematical ideas to music but Listening To Mathematics explores the notion of music informing math. That’s a powerful idea our lives may depend on. As JazzHopRevolution says in The Myth: It’s all math and history every gun battle.