July 31, 2005

bang on a what?

I headed out to the Berkshires - North Adams specifically - yesterday. I love it out there because it is an amazing combination of natural beauty and cultural beauty. MASS MoCA is one of my favorite museums, and Mt. Greylock and surrounding areas are gorgeous, especially on a beautiful day like the one we had yesterday.
My trip was designed to give me plenty of these offerings. First I went on a mountain bike ride up and down Mt. Greylock. I climbed on the road (8% grade for 6.5 miles!) and descended via an assortment of trails. This ride was consistent with every other time I have biked or hiked out there in that I got lost. I had a map and everything, but I kept on wanting to explore and kept on getting myself further and further from anything that even thought about being on said map. Clearly I did find myself eventually, but not after 3 hours or hard pedaling, which, after my 'shower' in the river, made me about half an hour late for the concert at MASS MoCA that I was attending.
You might be thinking this is terrible, but thankfully the concert was a unique one in that it was a classical 'new' music show that lasted for 6 hours and the participants were encouraged to come and go as they pleased. So yes, I missed a few pieces at the beginning, but still had 5.5 hours of music to enjoy.

The concert was the annual Bang On A Can Marathon (a name that does absolutely no good at all trying to convince anyone under 40 that classical music isn't totally dorky). BOAC is a new music collective based in New York and every year they convene their faculty of eleven incredible musicians with an assortment of music students from all over the world for a month or so out in North Adams and, well, see what happens. It sounds like it would be a pretty remarkable experience. This year, Steve Reich was the composer in residence, and therein lies the main reason I attended this show. More on him in a second, but first, the performance.
The format, as I mentioned, was pretty casual with an emcee and the ability to come and go as you please without feeling like you are interrupting some fragile and dainty situation. More classical concerts should be like this.
There were three Steve Reich pieces performed. I was unimpressed by the performance of Drumming, Part 3, but Eight Lines and Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ were great. My favorite new piece by far was David Lang's Sweet Air which was simply incredibly beautiful; I could have listened to it for twice as long. Marc Mellits' 5 Machines was very interesting, but the piece that took the prize for most experimental and intellectually fascinating was Critical Band by James Tenney. It had six woodwinds, a french horn and electronics slowly deviating more and less from an A producing the craziest rhythmic phasing in and out of tones I've ever heard from live instruments. There was nothing but long tones played by the musicians, yet their interplay and purposeful detuning created some insanely rhythmic aural artifacts. I imagine that piece is different every time it is played. I wonder what the score looks like.

The most exciting part about the evening was accomplishing something I had wanted to for some time, and that was to introduce myself to Mr. Reich himself and give him my cd. He was so gracious and unpretentious. I can't even imagine walking up to any minorly well-known rock musician of the moment and having such a simple and easy conversation as I did with Mr. Reich. The crazy thing is that this guy is an absolute god in terms of modern music. He has been accused of being America's greatest living composer, among other things, and I wouldn't disagree. He's the classical equivalent of U2 in terms of fame. I'm serious. This tells you something about the difference between the popular music scene and the 'new' music scene.

In any case, he now has my cd and indicated he would listen and perhaps respond via email. I have been tremendously influenced by him and it feels really good that he now can listen to what I have done. I wouldn't say that my music sounds like his, but I'm sure he'll hear the influence with the voices and the marimba patterns. Let's hope for the best.

Posted by halsey at 09:19 AM

July 29, 2005

wow, imagine that!

People who illegally share music files online are also big spenders on legal music downloads, research suggests.

"There's a myth that all illegal downloaders are mercenaries hell-bent on breaking the law in pursuit of free music."

Let's go out and sue some more of our top customers, shall we?

Posted by halsey at 11:39 AM

July 28, 2005

one plus one equals zero

Sometimes alone is better than together. This is what I learned at the Elvis Costello show I went to over the weekend. I am not a huge Elvis fan by any means, but, having seen him once before, I did know what an incredible musician he is and how professional and entertaining his performances are, so I was psyched to go check him out at the Bank of America Pavilion last Saturday. And what I thought would make it more interesting and better, he was to perform with Emmylou Harris. You see, I like Emmylou and saw her at the Boston Folk Festival a few years back and enjoyed the performance, so I figured this combination would only provide for an even better show.

I was wrong.

It was actually really strange to watch these two great musicians, backed by the ever-talented Imposters deflate the entire vibe that Elvis had created on his own. I literally thought the tent was going to collapse a few times given the lack of inspiration below. Elvis opened the show on his own and was rocking out like he does to new and old tunes. I was feeling it and having a good time until the blonde and waifish Emmylou stepped on stage. Everything slowed down, the intensity vanished and we were left with molasses country. It was almost like how Dave Navarro ruined the Chili Peppers. Well, almost.

At times I felt as though this was due to them simply not having practiced together much, but other times it just seemed like their worlds refused to mesh. Perhaps as they play more dates together they will figure out a way to make it work better. Or perhaps they felt it worked fine. But for me, I would have much rather seen Emmylou play an opening set and then get out of the way for Elvis.

Posted by halsey at 10:51 PM

July 23, 2005

phrase reversal

My newest song is again using multiple recitations of a poem that I wrote. I took one individual's reading and sliced it up everywhere she chose to pause (not line breaks, necessarily), and then rearranged the phrases from last to first. It was quite amazing what it did to the poem. It still made sense and at moments sounded better! Reversing all the words was next to impossible and didn't sound good, but the phrases worked pretty well.
This is fun.

Posted by halsey at 09:34 AM

July 21, 2005

musicians weigh in on filesharing


July 21, 2005 – Press Release

Musician, Halsey Burgund of aesthetic evidence and Bring Your Own Voice, is releasing an online recording tool that he developed to facilitate the collection of spoken voices for his music. This technology enables any user with an internet connection and a microphone on their computer to record, in high fidelity, their voice or any other sound. There are no software requirements other than a browser equipped with the free Macromedia Flash plug-in. Burgund developed this technology initially to enable him to collect voices of musicians around the world who support filesharing.


He is asking musicians to record themselves stating “I am a musician and I support filesharing” as well as explain their reasons for supporting this technology. By bringing together a large group of musician’s voices into one piece of music, Burgund hopes to counter the music industry’s insistent claims that filesharing is hurting musicians.

Burgund believes in copyright and other intellectual property laws, but feels that as big business lobbys Congress more and more, the copyright laws are being shifted to benefit corporate copyright holders whose main intentions are to make money, not to spread culture and help further the creativity of our society.

“This project is a great way of stirring up debate and bringing musicians together to raise awareness of the important role filesharing plays in the freedom and distribution of culture in today’s internet world” says Kembrew McLeod, professor at the University of Iowa and author of “Freedom of Expression” (2005, Doubleday).

Professor McLeod along with Paul D. Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky, are supporting this project with their voices and their words.

This online recording technology supplements Burgund’s Bring Your Own Voice booth - a portable recording booth he sets up in various locations to collect the voices of willing passers-by.

About Halsey Burgund:

Halsey Burgund, the motive force behind aesthetic evidence and Bring Your Own Voice, builds his music around words that are spoken and recorded in a completely non-musical context. The notion of creating music out of everyday expressions not normally considered musical is the cornerstone of his approach.

By incorporating voice recordings of otherwise uninvolved individuals, this music not only explores the vast array of textures the human voice can exhibit, but also is able to offer a unique opportunity to participating individuals.

Burgund recently released his first album, ‘words and voices’, of songs written in this style.

Posted by halsey at 10:49 AM

July 19, 2005

songs for a cause

Maybe this could be the name of a future album of mine. I find myself feeling more and more 'active' as of late. I use this work in the 'activist' sense, not the 'get off my ass and run around' sense. I get plenty of exercise, and that obsession won't stop any time soon, I don't imagine. There are some causes that I have always supported, but all of a sudden I am feeling like perhaps I can make a difference via my music.

As many of you know, I am in the midst of collecting material for a pro-filesharing song. This is a cause I care very strongly about. And I soon hope to setup a webpage where I can collect voices of supporters of Ocean Revolution, an initiative that intends to preserve something else very near and dear to me: the ocean.
Music has a history of activism and support for various causes and this makes perfect sense. Music is an emotional endeavor and the best way to generate support for a cause is through emotional means, I would argue. The strongest supporters of anything are not those who are paid the most, but rather are those who care the most. Can I make people care more through my music?

I'm not sure that I could ever actually create strong feelings of support in anyone, but I do feel that I could strengthen support and feelings that already exist in people by showing them that they are part of a community who feel similarly and giving them an outlet that is not normally available to them.

I really like the idea of my songs being little communities of the people whose voices inhabit them. I don't know exactly what it is, but I find it to be exciting.

Posted by halsey at 01:38 PM

July 14, 2005

personal orchestra

I recently purchased a copy of the Garritan Personal Orchestra to supplement my recording setup. This might just be the best $225 I have ever spent. This software is incredible in and of itself, but what I really love it for is that it is an enabler. No, not in the bad sense of that term, but in the sense that it opens up possibilities for me and for my music. All of a sudden I have an entire orchestra at my fingertips. An orchestra that sounds pretty darn good for being samples. I find these new sounds to be incredibly inspiring. All these instruments to choose from. Combinations that were never available to me before are now right there in front of me. Of course, these new sounds do not actually create any music, but they certainly are effecting it and driving me in a certain direction. To have a solo violin that sounds halfway decent at my disposal is really incredible; to have timpani that sound like timpani and horn sections that I can layer to Wagnerian proportions if I want is so exciting.

You have heard much of the GPO in my last two songs and there will be more to come. Of course, if I had no financial constraints, I would just hire a full-time real orchestra as there truly is no perfect replacement for that, but until then, I'm pretty pleased with my virtual one.

Posted by halsey at 10:23 AM

July 06, 2005

essentially, a way of reprocessing

Yet again, I have repeatedly been side-tracked away from actually writing music. Thankfully, I had the past week to focus energies on finishing up this song.

This is dedicated to the Quitter's Club; you know who you are.

Download: Goodbye, Dear Situation

Appropriately enough, it is about my EX-job and the process of leaving it. It is surprisingly hard to walk away from anything as significant as a job or a relationship or whatever even if it sucks. It is all you know, having been pounded into your life for so long, and in some ways, an unpleasant known can seem less scary than the unknown potential for something better.

Just have a listen. Maybe you've felt this way before.

why doesn't this song sound happier?
this is a good question. I suppose the answer is because though I am, in fact, very happy to be leaving my job, the whole process of jumping into a huge unknown is scary and I feel some apprehension because of that. There is no question in my mind that leaving the job was the right thing to do, but that doesn't mean I will be successful at my new endeavors.

What are you going to do with yourself now?
sit around the house and watch TV all day. maybe I'll surf the internet too...

Do you like having conversations with yourself?

Do you think that you sound wicked smart in those recordings?
absolutely. that's why I included them.

Do you get paid more if you use lots of business lingo in your conversations?
yes; that's just the way it works in corporate America.

Those three marimba lines in the penultimate section are really cool.

Why did you quit your job?
if hearing this song doesn't make that abundantly clear, you have issues.

How much does soda cost now?


Why is this song so long?
well, I worked there for a while.

was there a specific reason you used the sped up recording of your piano tuning in this song?

Can you get fired for writing this song? Oh yeah, I guess not anymore...

Posted by halsey at 11:18 AM | Comments (7)

July 04, 2005

labor comes in different flavors

I seem to be back in groove a bit on this song. It feels really nice to be making progress; to have the time and focus to make progress. Yesterday I was somewhat disheartened with this song. I've been working on it for a while on and off, and I felt like it had lost all it's life somehow.

But then today with some rearranging and honing of the speech and a very cool triple counterpoint marimba part, things are really looking up again. I think I'll finish it tomorrow. I'm at the point where I need to just deal with the finalizations, so to speak. The song is now written and recorded, but there are a number of technical things that need to be dealt with as well as some final mixing. This stage is fun because it feels like things are happening quickly. I know at this point that if I put the hours in, I will make progress whereas when I am writing, I can spend days and days of effort and only make it worse.

I'm going to get back to it. Happy Fourth, everyone.

Posted by halsey at 09:29 PM

July 02, 2005

even good intentions can be abused

I think I'm going to patent the following:

A method for producing musical works using the combination of collected recordings of spoken human voices with traditional and electronic instruments.

Or how about:

A method of recording spoken voices in public places consisting of a microphone and a plywood box.

With a good patent attorney, I could make a living suing musicians. Wouldn't that be a fun and worthy cause?

Patent Absurdity

Posted by halsey at 03:51 PM | Comments (4)

July 01, 2005


I saw the Eels for the third time this past Wednesday and it proved to be quite a different show than prior performances. There is no doubt that Mark Everett has a very distinctive style of rock and roll and virtually every Eels song is instantly recognizable after a few notes. Some might say that they all sound the same, and they wouldn't be entirely mistaken. But I enjoy his style and will gladly listen to his continued variations album after album.
What was great about this particular performance was that things sounded different. There was a string quartet complementing Mr. Everett on guitar and keyboards, Big Al on upright bass and The Chet on virtually everything else imaginable (including the godforsaken saw). The other outings I saw were more of a standard rock quartet situation, so this arrangement really changed up the entire sound. At the end of the day, I actually prefer them when they rock out more with electric instruments and drum kit, but I appreciated the branching out as it was quite bold.
The other very cool thing that they did was to replace the opening band with an opening film. I loved that the show started with a 15 minute Russian claymation short about the importance of inter-species friendship and other such charmingly silly topics. I plan to rip this idea off as soon as I start performing.

Posted by halsey at 10:36 AM