Sunday, May 22, 2011

Shocking Blue

Musical Tesla coils, Zeusaphone, Thoremin - call it what you want, it's an instrument that digitally modifies lightning sparks to produce music. Lightning. Unfortunately, it looks like the only currently-touring lightning orchestra is a corporate-event-for-hire kind of affair, and the company that used to rent out these instruments over the internet (?!) has disbanded. Good thing there's youtube:

Check out: The Tesla Orchestra; Steve Ward; Open Spark Project; build your own(?).
(via all songs considered)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Popular / You're Gonna Be Popular

If you've ever browsed the Amazon mp3 music store, you've run into X5 Music Group. Definitely. (99 Most Essential Relaxing Classics. 99 Most Essential Mendelssohn Masterpieces. etc. etc. and so on and so forth. etc. ad infinitum.)

My initial reaction was to write them off as one of those cheap labels that aggregates second-rate performances for the unknowing masses. MY BAD. I haven't looked into every album, but the 99 Most Essential Opera Classics (which unfortunately no longer seems to be available) was worth every penny of the $1.99 that I spent: Kiri Te Kanawa, Joan Sutherland, the London Phil and Placido Domingo - these are big names.

A little research: X5 boasts 1,116 albums in Amazon's digital store, more than half of which are classical. In three years, the Stockholm-based company has become the best selling classical label in the US.

Alright! Someone is selling classical music in the US! Except: 99 Most Essential? Every. single. album. has a gimmick. A few favorites:

Classical Music As Heard in Hip-Hop

The 99 Most Essential Classical Pieces For Your Mind

Classical Workout - (you guys: I'm seriously considering it.)

An album titled 50 Greatest Hits of Opera! (exclamation point included) makes me a little queasy; on the other hand, the slick graphics and, yes, the themed gimmick seem to be working. If this is what it takes to get Americans to listen to classical music, I can be behind that 92%.

Bonus: they're starting a new series: Rise of the Masters. The chosen composers are marketed à la PiratesoftheCaribbean, and you can get an iphone app that "composerizes" your photo into "what you’d look like if you were a classical master composer." I am not even kidding.