When you gonna put me in a song ?

Dave Matthews tribute to Michael Jackson ( note triple echo youtube posting going on )

Last night I went to see The Dave Matthews Band at the Brixton Academy. Prior to the gig I didn’t know their music much at all really, but I enjoyed the band – they are super tight. It was a really interesting experience to look at the ways people were enjoying the spectacle, energy and emotional impact of live music. The physical ways they interacted – the clapping, dancing, singing and screaming.

In a strange way, a raw live gig like this really makes me think about the possibilities of reactive music.

Something else happened this weekend too. After learning of Michael Jackson’s death, I listened to a load of bootleg stem recordings I have of his vocals. One was the vocal stem from Billie Jean. It contains a large amount of audio that can’t be heard in the final mix. Intricate vocal noises the Jackson made ( and some other melodic content ) which were mixed out of the album mix by Quincy Jones and Bruce Swedien. It was very striking emotionally to listen so closely to largely unheard material at this time. It made me feel closer to the artist.

As I have discussed with many artists and producers, during the process of recording, there are always many possible mixes, and its always hard to not give the listener many options for discovery. Reactive music opens up the possibilities for these to become part of, indeed purposely designed into the exploration of and participation in the music.

At the end of his set, Dave Matthews recounted a story about one of his daughters called Grace. He said she always thinks she is in his songs, as he uses the word grace a lot lyrically. His other daughter then asked “Daddy, when you gonna put me in a song ?” So Dave Matthews wrote a song called ‘When you gonna put me in a song’.

It made me think that artists creating reactive musical experiences are, in some ways, putting themselves into the software of the music. Much like programming a little mini AI clone of themselves within the musical code. Wouldn’t it be great if, in addition to all the conventionally recorded media of Michael Jackson we have, we also had something like this he created ?

Tod Machover is currently working on a really interesting project called Death and the Powers. It’s a fascinating work which I hope to see. Here is an excerpt from the story outline

“Simon Powers was a great man, a legend who wanted to go beyond the bounds of humanity. He was a successful inventor, businessman, and showman. During his life, he accumulated unimaginable wealth and power. He is the founder of the System, a human organism material experiment which investigated the transduction of human existence into other forms. His work was heralded as revolutionary and genius, but his ideas and experiments also had implications that mainstream society found objectionable. He has received thousands of hate letters. To many, he is considered a pariah. Reaching the end of his life, Powers faces the question of his legacy: “When I die, what remains? What will I leave behind? What can I control? What can I perpetuate?” He is now conducting the last experiment of his life. He is in the process of passing from one form of existence to another in an effort to project himself into the future. Whether or not he is actually alive is a question. Simon Powers is himself now a System.”


3 thoughts on “When you gonna put me in a song ?

  1. hey,
    i like your thoughts about live music interaction. the purest thing i so far experienced in music is doing live improvisations including other people. it produces a high level of communication and energy floating between musicians (also audience). in its best form reactive music could give that experience to more people…

  2. Great thoughts and direction. The implications of including the listener/audience in the creative process are enormous – could change how we listen to music – for the better. When I improvise jazz with other musicians, we have close communications among a few people, and the appreciation of the audience. But when the audience becomes an equal partner, and the composer gives them the tools to succeed, look out!!

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