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Analysis and Comment (133)

Learning a musical instrument begins with the act of making music with our bodies. Learning a musical instrument begins with the act of making music with our bodies. AAP/Yonhap

It takes more than singing to strike a chord in music education

Yesterday, Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Arts Minister George Brandis announced A$594,000 in funding for a new national music teachers mentorship program. The details have sent music…
Electronica musician Chet Faker, on Future Classic distributed by Warner, is nominated for the ARIA’s album of the year. Electronica musician Chet Faker, on Future Classic distributed by Warner, is nominated for the ARIA’s album of the year. EPA/ Anthony Anex

Independent artists call the shots, ARIAs or not

Since the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) award nominations were released last week much of the talk has been about how 80% of the nominations for album of the year were released “independently…
Danger Mouse’s 2004 album belongs to a decades-long chain of musical practice. Danger Mouse’s 2004 album belongs to a decades-long chain of musical practice. The Grey Album

Why the Grey Album still matters – in black and white

In early 2004, I downloaded The Grey Album, created by a then unknown producer named Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse). Like many others I did so as a result of the Grey Tuesday protests sponsored by cyber…
Looks like the future – sounds like status quo. Looks like the future – sounds like status quo. EPA/Daniel Hambury

Thom Yorke’s ‘new’ music model ticks few of tomorrow’s boxes

Late last week, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke released his new solo album – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes – via BitTorrent, Inc’s “bundle” platform. Visitors to the service pay a US$6 fee, receiving the usual torrent…
The naming and claiming of public space is a highly political act. The naming and claiming of public space is a highly political act. Joe Castro/AAP Image

Amphlett Lane puts rock legacy back on the map, literally

When Chrissy Amphlett, lead singer of the iconic Australian rock group The Divinyls, passed away as a result of breast cancer in April last year, it was only a matter of weeks before the question of how…
Good news: rap and Ravel are not mutually exclusive. Good news: rap and Ravel are not mutually exclusive. Tracey Nearmy/AAP

High art isn’t dying, even if the ABS stats are

High art isn’t dying. How do we know? Well, we’ll get to that. It’s again the time of year when major performing arts companies launch their wares for the next year. Opera Australia prologued its 2015…
Playing at Bennetts Lane is an indication that you can be considered a ‘serious’ jazz musician. Playing at Bennetts Lane is an indication that you can be considered a ‘serious’ jazz musician. mandykoh

Bennetts Lane closure strikes a bum note for Australian jazz

Last week’s announcement that Melbourne’s Bennetts Lane Jazz Club will close in nine months came as a shock to most in the Australian jazz community. Bennetts Lane has been a focal point for local jazz…
Extreme duration can transform otherwise simple activity into something strange and powerful. Extreme duration can transform otherwise simple activity into something strange and powerful. Marina Abramović, The Artist Is Present, 2010, MOMA, New York. Andrew Russeth

Explainer: extreme duration in the performing arts

Last September, I sat down in the Capital Theatre in Bendigo to listen to American composer Morton Feldman’s String Quartet No.2 played by the Flux Quartet from New York. Sounds a nice way to spend an…
Does Psy represent the future of music? Does Psy represent the future of music? AAP/ Yonhap News Agency

The Brisbane Declaration: a blueprint for the musical world

Earlier this year the number of views of South Korean mega-star Psy’s Gangnam Style YouTube video exceeded two billion. That’s more than a quarter of the people on the planet who have watched the video…
Australia’s most celebrated contemporary composer, Peter Sculthorpe, died on Friday. Australia’s most celebrated contemporary composer, Peter Sculthorpe, died on Friday. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

A wonderful musical legacy: Peter Sculthorpe remembered

Peter Sculthorpe passed away at the age of 85 on Friday. As Australia’s best known composer of classical contemporary music, this gives us pause to reflect on the legacy of his music and also upon the…
John Williams with Boston Pops. John Williams with Boston Pops. Chris Devers

How one man changed the landscape of film music

Walt Disney is, to many people, the most influential person who has been in film. And after all, he garnered the most accolades, receiving as many as 59 Oscar nominations. But there’s another film titan…
Fancy a promenade? Fancy a promenade? BBC/Robert Viglasky

Proms 2014 open with gusto, hitting back against jingoism

The Proms are upon us again. For the next two months world-class classical music will fill the Royal Albert Hall, where standing tickets cost only £5 on the day. Failing that, our radio waves and various…
Britney Spears preforms live … Why are the pundits so incensed by her turning to Auto-Tune in the studio? Britney Spears preforms live … Why are the pundits so incensed by her turning to Auto-Tune in the studio? STR/EPA

Auto-Tune, and why we shouldn’t be surprised Britney can’t sing

Put Britney Spears into a YouTube search and the third auto-fill on the list is “Britney Spears without Autotune”. Auto-Tune has become the music industry equivalent of doping in the Tour de France circa…
Jimblah isn’t the only Indigenous rapper delivering witty and nuanced social messages. Jimblah isn’t the only Indigenous rapper delivering witty and nuanced social messages. AAP/ NUZULU/ Averie Harvey

Aboriginal hip-hop meets Iranian diaspora in a cross-border rap

Rap music is a transnational genre with many socially and culturally aware artists pursuing important collaborative projects – not least a current pairing in south-west Sydney. Indigenous rapper Izzy (Jacob…
Win Butler of Arcade Fire performs some indie, 2014 style. Win Butler of Arcade Fire performs some indie, 2014 style. Will Oliver/EPA

Explainer: indie music

Today, indie-rock, indie-folk, indie-dance, indie-hip-hop and even indie-classical are common terms used to describe the sonically discernible offshoots of an evolving genre once referred to as “indie…
Taylor Swift is optimistic about the future of the music industry. How accurate is her diagnosis? Taylor Swift is optimistic about the future of the music industry. How accurate is her diagnosis? Eva Rinaldi

Taylor Swift got it right (almost) on the future of the music industry

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Taylor Swift in which the singer-songwriter provocatively claims “…the music industry is not dying … it is just coming alive". Her message of optimism…
Sia refuses to use her body to sell her music. Sia refuses to use her body to sell her music. Laurence Barnes

Sia may be the face of music’s future

Australian singer-songwriter Sia’s new album 1000 Forms of Fear has been released internationally today, accompanied by a deluge of media reporting her story: she’s one of a handful of the most successful…
The world’s most famous tenor visits Australia next month. What’s all the fuss about? The world’s most famous tenor visits Australia next month. What’s all the fuss about? Photo courtesy Opera Australia

Jonas Kaufmann is the world’s hottest tenor – and a freak

Jonas Kaufmann, currently the world’s hottest tenor, is a freak. Kaufmann, who will sing at the Sydney Opera House during his first Australian visit next month, has broken the mould for what might be expected…
Hillsong presents its congregation with a stadium-sized experience of worship. But is it dangerous for a religion to become a global corporate brand? Hillsong presents its congregation with a stadium-sized experience of worship. But is it dangerous for a religion to become a global corporate brand? Aikawa Ke

At Hillsong, religious expression is a global corporate brand

The Sydney-based Hillsong Church will today wrap up its annual conference, an enormous production of spectacle and a heady mix of the sacred and the secular. In Australia, where religious expression tends…
Thom Yorke of Readiohead pulled his solo releases from Spotify in 2013, arguing that digital streaming is destroying the livelihood of artists. Thom Yorke of Readiohead pulled his solo releases from Spotify in 2013, arguing that digital streaming is destroying the livelihood of artists. EPA/ Fabrice Coffrini

Art is worth less in the age of Spotify – and not just financially

Let’s be clear: from Spotify to Pandora, streamed music is killing downloads, and that’s bad for artists and music lovers. The opposition between art and commerce has been a defining feature of the history…
Tributes have poured in for soul legend Bobby Womack, who died on Friday. Tributes have poured in for soul legend Bobby Womack, who died on Friday. laurent Gillieron/EPA

Bobby Womack sang like his life depended on it, and that endures

By now you’ll be aware that the legendary soul singer Bobby Womack died on Friday, aged 70. As with the death of many cultural “greats”, social media and traditional media have been united in singing his…
Whether it’s in a church or at a festival, music can change the way we see the world and shift our behaviour. Whether it’s in a church or at a festival, music can change the way we see the world and shift our behaviour. Exit Festival

Pentecostal, Pearl Jam – music brings ecstasy to us all

You have probably felt the power of music to lift you out of yourself. Perhaps you were in a magnificent cathedral, listening to a choral mass. Maybe you were at a music festival where the music made you…
Streaming opens the charts up to new directions. Streaming opens the charts up to new directions. awaywiththepixies

Streaming hits the Top 40, but is this the end of the chart itself?

Music streaming is soon to be counted within the charts, a reflection of a major shift in the music industry. Spotify and other sites like it make access to their vaults of recordings free – if you don’t…
Joyce is remembered in many ways, but not often as a singer. Joyce is remembered in many ways, but not often as a singer. nerosunero

This Bloomsday, remember Joyce as a traditional Irish singer

Bloomsday has come around again, the day (June 16) in 1904 on which all the events of James Joyce’s great novel Ulysses unfold. 1904 was an auspicious year for Joyce. It may surprise some people to know…
I’ve got the brains, you’ve got the looks, let’s make lots of money. I’ve got the brains, you’ve got the looks, let’s make lots of money. Vivid

Pet Shop Boys made gay okay: discuss

Pet Shop Boys are performing at Carriageworks in Sydney tonight and over the weekend as part of Vivid festival. Their live shows are described as incredible and dazzling, and after almost three decades…
‘Sweet singer of sweet songs.’ ‘Sweet singer of sweet songs.’ Tim Ireland/PA Archive

The forgotten World War II backlash against Vera Lynn

Dame Vera Lynn’s latest album, National Treasure — The Ultimate Collection, has been released in the week of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. The album, filled with over 40 of her wartime hits…
Giorgio Moroder made his Australian DJ debut at 74 years of age in Sydney last night at Vivid Live. Giorgio Moroder made his Australian DJ debut at 74 years of age in Sydney last night at Vivid Live. Prudence Upton

Giorgio Moroder steps back into the sound of the future

Giorgio Moroder closed the Vivid festival at the Sydney Opera House last night with a Q&A and a DJ set; this followed an “electro-orchestral tribute” to his music by Britain’s 40-piece Heritage Orchestra…
South Australia’s answer to dolewave, Bitch Perfect. South Australia’s answer to dolewave, Bitch Perfect. Bedroom Suck Records

Joe Hockey killed dolewave music, though it barely existed

It must have come as a relief to many Australian musicians that maligned guitar-pop genre tag “dolewave” met an untimely end the other week. I imagine it would have been the only relief Australian musicians…
Chris Dave seems to have internalised every piece of music he has ever heard. Chris Dave seems to have internalised every piece of music he has ever heard. Photo by Gerard Victor

Hip-hop, breakbeat, flamenco … that’s 21st-century jazz

Jazz has evolved to become one of the most inclusive genres in modern music. But how does an art form that so willingly assimilates influences from different musical styles still hold on to its essence…
The allegations come a long time after Zeppelin and Spirit toured together in 1969. The allegations come a long time after Zeppelin and Spirit toured together in 1969. Musikhalle Hamburg, März 1973: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page/ Photo: Heinrich Klaffs

Borrowing a Stairway to Heaven: did Led Zeppelin rip off a riff?

More than 40 years after the release of Stairway to Heaven, English rock band Led Zeppelin are facing allegations that its iconic guitar riff was stolen from Taurus, a song released in 1968 by the American…
Justice Crew perform at Madame Tussauds Sydney, for the Australian launch of Michael Jackson’s Xscape album, May 2014. Justice Crew perform at Madame Tussauds Sydney, for the Australian launch of Michael Jackson’s Xscape album, May 2014. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Michael Jackson – there’s no Xscape from posthumous pop

Epic Records, in conjunction with the estate of Michael Jackson released the King of Pop Michael Jackson’s second posthumous album Xscape last week. To create the album Epic Records chairman and CEO L.A…
The Moog, 2014 Model Sub 37 – producer of squelchy bass lines and distorted expressive solos. The Moog, 2014 Model Sub 37 – producer of squelchy bass lines and distorted expressive solos. Wikimedia Commons

Sublime design: the Moog synthesiser

The classic sound many of us imagine when the word synthesiser is mentioned is the sound of the Moog – the warm, solid propulsive groove of its bass sound and the distinctive sweep of its patented lowpass…
Music can be used as part of a ‘healthy process of self-regulation’. Music can be used as part of a ‘healthy process of self-regulation’. Sascha kohlmann

Music is the soundtrack to your life – what’s on your playlist?

We all know music can move us emotionally. But how does it impact on our behaviour? That relationship’s not immediately clear. A YouTube clip was doing the rounds on social media a while ago – the music…
Can we be Frank? (Inquisitive face, eyebrow raised…) Can we be Frank? (Inquisitive face, eyebrow raised…) Artificial Eye Film Co Ltd UK

Papier-mâché Frank is highly entertaining, but oddly clichéd

The run up to the release of Lenny Abrahamson’s latest film, Frank, was characterised by a certain amount of perplexity. Unsurprising, given the posters emblazoned with that enormous papier-mâché mask…
Wurst embraces a wide spectrum of individuals who recognise their own gender performance as imperfect. Wurst embraces a wide spectrum of individuals who recognise their own gender performance as imperfect. Georg Hochmuth/EPA

Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision win and the power of performance

Four songs in to the final of the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night, six Icelandic men in a band called Pollapönk took to the stage dressed in fluorescent suits and declared to an ecstatic house…
Australian Indigenous performance traditions are a unique expression of what it is to be human. Australian Indigenous performance traditions are a unique expression of what it is to be human. Tali Caspi

We’ve lost 98% of Indigenous music traditions – who cares?

Australian Indigenous performance traditions, among the oldest in the world, are also among the most endangered. According to a Statement on Indigenous Australian Music and Dance endorsed in 2011 by the…
Jessica Mauboy (left) and SBS Eurovision hosts Sam Pang and Julia Zemiro. Jessica Mauboy (left) and SBS Eurovision hosts Sam Pang and Julia Zemiro. AAP Image/SBS

Aussie, Aussie, Eurovision, Oi, Oi … Oui?

And so we wait, anxiously, to see Australia at an event that celebrates the rich cultural tapestry that is the panoply of European states. Nah, who am I kidding? We’ve got a guernsey at the Eurovision…
AC/DC posing for a photograph in 1976 … but what about 2014? AC/DC posing for a photograph in 1976 … but what about 2014? Powerhouse Museum, Evans Gudinski and Associates

Are AC/DC unplugging, or are we still on a highway to hell?

By the time you read this, AC/DC may have hung up their guitars and school uniforms for the last time. Or they may have announced a new album, to be supported by a sell-out world tour. Such has been the…
Increasing boys' confidence by letting them focus on something they want to do offers a strategy to reengage them with school. Increasing boys' confidence by letting them focus on something they want to do offers a strategy to reengage them with school. Shutterstock

Do boys dislike school? Or just what they’re learning?

Since the 1970s, a panic about “disaffected” boys underachieving in formal schooling has gripped Western society. Despite efforts in Australia like Boys: Getting It Right and the UK Raising Boys Achievement…
Even if he wasn’t your bag, Cobain’s afterlife will have caught your attention. Even if he wasn’t your bag, Cobain’s afterlife will have caught your attention. Erich Ferdinand

Two decades on, what remains of Kurt Cobain?

A few years ago a student of mine turned up to class wearing a T-shirt that had Kurt Cobain’s suicide note printed on it. I recognised it straight away - I suspect many people around my age spent a period…
Gwar frontman Oderus Urungus is dead. Gwar frontman Oderus Urungus is dead. crazy bobbles

Gwar is over? The subcultural politics of thrash metal

The singer of “extraterrestrial” thrash metal band, Gwar, was found dead on the weekend. Known as Oderus Urungus, Dave Brockie founded one of contemporary metal’s most controversial groups. Spanning the…
Neil Young has big plans to improve the sound of digital audio – but how realistic are they? Neil Young has big plans to improve the sound of digital audio – but how realistic are they? Phillipe Put

Studio-quality digital music? It’s only as good as your set-up

There’s a diagram that does the rounds online that neatly sums up the difference between the quality of equipment used in the studio to produce music, and the quality of the listening equipment used by…
Zorn consciously aligns his work with the historic avant-garde. Zorn consciously aligns his work with the historic avant-garde.

Adelaide Festival review: John Zorn in Oz

John Zorn’s appearance at the Adelaide Festival last week spread across four evenings – totalling over 12 hours. The cost of bringing Zorn and more than 20 musicians from New York to play at the Adelaide…
Kristal and Jonny Boy, a pop duo from Sweden, perform at the South by Southwest Festival in Texas. Kristal and Jonny Boy, a pop duo from Sweden, perform at the South by Southwest Festival in Texas. Ashley Landis/EPA

Berlin, Austin, Melbourne – riffing on global music cities at SXSW

The world’s largest annual music conference South by South West (SXSW), continues this week in Austin, the capital of Texas; and the dynamism behind creative music cities such as Austin, Melbourne and…
Don’t worry about definitions, dressing up or whether you will understand it “correctly”. Just go! Don’t worry about definitions, dressing up or whether you will understand it “correctly”. Just go! Yana Alana’s Tears Before Bedtime. Photo: Peter Leslie

The Festival of Live Art has arrived … but what is live art?

The inaugural Festival of Live Art (FOLA), which begins today in Melbourne, celebrates some of the most exciting artists working in performance today and yet, the exact meaning of the term “live art” is…
‘I’m walkin’ on sunshine, whoooa oh! And don’t it feel good!' ‘I’m walkin’ on sunshine, whoooa oh! And don’t it feel good!' Daniele Zedda/Flickr (cropped)

Chills and thrills: why some people love music – and others don’t

Think of your favourite piece of music. Do you get shivers when the music swells or the chorus kicks in? Or are the opening few bars enough to make you feel tingly? Despite having no obvious survival value…
Paco de Lucía died on 26 February, 2014. Paco de Lucía died on 26 February, 2014. simon plestenjak

How Paco de Lucía transformed modern flamenco

As I think of the recently deceased guitarist Paco de Lucía, there is one thought that immediately comes to mind: he has arguably brought about the most thorough transformation of flamenco in the second…
Music is not cheesecake! It is an essential condition that is omnipresent in all human cultures. Music is not cheesecake! It is an essential condition that is omnipresent in all human cultures. he boden

Class matters when it comes to music education

The Conversation is running a series, Class in Australia, to identify, illuminate and debate its many manifestations. Here, Katrina McFerran discusses how access to music education can reaffirm social…
Five guys, One Direction, No talent. Five guys, One Direction, No talent. Ian West/PA

Music videos at the Brits were very late to the party

One Direction got lucky this year, taking two awards away from the Brits. One of these was in the new Best British video category, judged by the British public via a live vote over Twitter. And this was…
Who’s in charge? Yeah, that’s right – and he knows it. Who’s in charge? Yeah, that’s right – and he knows it. Tony McDonough/AAP Image

Springsteen live, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Boss

A number of my friends have a fervour for Bruce Springsteen I have never been able to understand. I have always thought of his work as prosaic and literal. His songs teeter on the edge of despair at the…
Rudimental won best single. Rudimental won best single. Yui Mok/PA

Brit Awards driven by blockbuster culture

David Bowie, the Arctic Monkeys, and Ellie Goulding were among the winners at Wednesday night’s Brit Awards. In theory, these were awarded because they were the cream of last year’s music crop. To qualify…
We reap the benefits when we engage with music. We reap the benefits when we engage with music. Ed Yourdon

If resilience is the question, is music the answer?

What role does music play in your life? Music surrounds us, in shops, at work, on television, and at the movies. We program our own personal soundtracks effortlessly via iPods and similar devices. With…
Luke Arnold as Michael Hutchence in Never Tear Us Apart. Luke Arnold as Michael Hutchence in Never Tear Us Apart. Channel Seven/Narelle Sheehan

Review: Never Tear Us Apart, the tabloid version of the INXS story

Maybe the ads ruined it for me. Certainly, INXS: Never Tear Us Apart was thoroughly cross-promoted on Channel Seven. I think Kochie may have even mentioned it once or twice. The ads, though, pointed to…
Good morning America! Good morning America! Wikimedia Commons

All hail Beatlemania – when culture crossed the pond

Fifty years after the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, the band is still the benchmark for Anglo-American relations. With their swift rise to fame in the US, they started the so-called British…
Twitpic does all the hard work these days, so A&R men don’t even have to leave the office. Twitpic does all the hard work these days, so A&R men don’t even have to leave the office. marfis75

Twitter data puts music moguls back in the game

Twitter has decided to woo the music industry with a promise to share data on up-and-coming artists in a deal that would whet the appetite of most music lovers. It makes sense for one of the largest social…
Tertiary music education is currently in a state of crisis. Tertiary music education is currently in a state of crisis. AAP Image/Paul Miller

It’s time for tertiary music education to change its tune

A broad crisis of confidence has, it seems, beset tertiary music education in Australia. Since returning from Europe in 2006, I have witnessed turmoil of often existential proportions erupt in several…
US folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, who died this week in New York. US folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, who died this week in New York. Skip Bolen/EPA

Pete Seeger: a life of song, and the power of ‘we’

We Shall Overcome became the theme song of the American civil rights movement in the 1960s. It is most identified with Pete Seeger, the great American musician who died January 27. Yet as Arlo Guthrie…
1919-2014. 1919-2014. www.shutterstock.com

Pete Seeger: a life of broadening minds through music

The death of Pete Seeger marks the end of an astonishing career. His music, political activism and teaching gave him an extraordinary influence that shows no sign of abating. Although the American folk…
“Lorde is indie – original and authentic. Miley and her ilk are not.” “Lorde is indie – original and authentic. Miley and her ilk are not.” Paul Buck/EPA

Lorde vs Miley – where young feminism meets old class bias

Earlier this week, New Zealand singer Ella Yelich-O'Connor – AKA Lorde – won two Grammys, including best song for the sleeper hit Royals and – almost – topped Triple J’s Hottest 100 (her song Royals came…
Can you overcome “classic album fatigue”? The performers who played Big Star’s Third in Sydney last week gave it a good shot. Can you overcome “classic album fatigue”? The performers who played Big Star’s Third in Sydney last week gave it a good shot. Jamie Williams/Sydney Festival

Big Star’s Third and the ‘classic album’ show

“Alex Chilton’s dead!” exclaimed a friend of mine when I told him I was going to a concert devoted to a Big Star album at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre. It’s easy to see the line of reasoning: tickets are being…
Nodding to the past in the present. Nodding to the past in the present. Matt Sayles/AP

Grammys remain out of touch with the modern music industry

Given the group’s sonic ownership of last summer with Get Lucky, it seems apt that Daft Punk collaborators dominated last night’s Grammy Awards. They had a total of seven wins, including Album of the Year…
Arctic Monkeys are certain to feature in this year’s most voted songs. Arctic Monkeys are certain to feature in this year’s most voted songs. AAP Image/MG Promotions

We love music: why Triple J’s Hottest 100 still rocks

Australia’s national youth station, Triple J, has come in for some criticism lately, with a spate of articles accusing it of homogenising Australian music tastes or excluding too many local acts from the…
Artists such as The Wiggles help kids learn how to listen to live music. Artists such as The Wiggles help kids learn how to listen to live music. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Shows for little people: why seeing live music early matters

The mass media invented the teenager during the 1950s and 60s – and thus emerged a whole new audience for popular culture. What we’re seeing now is the recognition of children as an ever more important…
Memorable music provides a path into other worlds. Memorable music provides a path into other worlds. Anne Helmond

From country to the Caribbean: notable music releases of 2013

The oceans of music, much of it free, that most of us have access to continued to expand unabated in 2013. I’ve plucked the following from the seemingly endless tides because they said something to me…
Frankie wants us to relax, but is he asking or telling? Frankie wants us to relax, but is he asking or telling? chrisjohnbeckett

Get Back, Light my Fire, Do it Again: why is pop so pushy?

Rock and roll has always been a great liberating force in our culture. For many it has provided the soundtrack for all manner of acts of political rebellion and personal liberation. This spirit is captured…
Under the baton of Valery Gergiev. Under the baton of Valery Gergiev. Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest

Explainer: what is conducting?

Conducting is essentially a phenomenon associated with Western classical music. As a rule, rock and jazz bands do not employ a conductor unless they are teaming up with a symphony orchestra. Conductors…
The Necks combine sparkling surfaces with ominous undertows. The Necks combine sparkling surfaces with ominous undertows. Holimage

Are The Necks the best band in the world?

Australian improvising trio The Necks – pianist Chris Abrahams, drummer Tony Buck and bass player Lloyd Swanton – recently released their 17th album, Open. Although the three began playing together in…
Blur recently pulled out of the Big Day Out, citing problems with festival organisers. Blur recently pulled out of the Big Day Out, citing problems with festival organisers. EPA/Britta Pedersen

Music festivals are in trouble but the shows must go on

It’s no secret that the music festival scene in Australia has recently hit some troubled waters. Harvest festival has been cancelled this year, unpaid performers are still chasing the organisers of the…
Music therapists work with people of any age and ability, culture or background. Music therapists work with people of any age and ability, culture or background. flyzipper

Explainer: what is music therapy?

Defining music therapy is challenging because the practice is so diverse; but the Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA) uses the following definition: Music therapy is a research-based practice and…
PSY is far from the only player in the global rise of K-pop. PSY is far from the only player in the global rise of K-pop. Michael Nelson/EPA

Explainer: what is K-pop and J-pop?

A little over a year ago, South Korean singer PSY galloped onto the global pop circuit singing about “sexy ladies” in the Seoul suburb of Gangnam. What followed were a flurry of articles (some going as…
Jessica Mauboy performs on stage at the 27th ARIA Awards in Sydney, Sunday. Do we expect too much of what is, essentially, an industry love-in? Jessica Mauboy performs on stage at the 27th ARIA Awards in Sydney, Sunday. Do we expect too much of what is, essentially, an industry love-in? AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

The 2013 ARIAs: another year of industry self-congratulation

After weeks of hyped-up national pride, the halting speeches are over and the awkward presentations made. The 27th Australia Recording Industry Association Awards (the ARIAs) have passed away, marooned…
Fans love live music – but what does it take to keep venues open? Fans love live music – but what does it take to keep venues open? Erik Anderson

A live music scene needs a live music policy

The Bendigo Hotel, a live music venue in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood, is facing closure after complaints about noise. As an online campaign mounts to stop the Bendigo being closed down, cities…
Not everyone can be a superstar – and very few can truly innovate. Not everyone can be a superstar – and very few can truly innovate. Mait Jüriado

Music is the loser in the quest for ‘innovation’

Innovation is much sought after in music – by musicians, often, by the federal government, increasingly. But could the pursuit of the slightly nebulous-sounding “innovation” be driving music in the wrong…
We’re still not very good at acknowledging the importance of television sound. We’re still not very good at acknowledging the importance of television sound. ABC

The Australians who created the sonic world of Doctor Who

It’s 50 years since the first episode aired on the BBC on November 23 1963 – and now Doctor Who is in promotion overdrive. We’ve been treated to online snippets of the 50th-anniversary special, pre-anniversary…
Even the most self-avowedly “unmusical” among us treasure their music collection. Even the most self-avowedly “unmusical” among us treasure their music collection.

Music is our GPS, so we need to keep supporting it

Music is not essential for humankind. Unlike air, food, physical safety or reproduction, music is not a precondition for survival of the species. We are unlikely to ever read that the cause of death of…
“Lou Reed had always been good at stories. Plots. Characters. Tiny novels put to music.” “Lou Reed had always been good at stories. Plots. Characters. Tiny novels put to music.” Frank May/EPA

Punk’s fairy godfather: Go-Between John Willsteed on Lou Reed

On the way in to work, I heard someone on talkback radio, sharing about Lou. He had driven Mr Reed around Brisbane when he was there in 1974. All Lou wanted to do was to go shopping. Record shopping. What…
Reed, who died today, knew how to place himself at the centre. Reed, who died today, knew how to place himself at the centre. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Transformer: the other faces of Lou Reed

The plaudits have arrived very quickly for Lou Reed, who has died aged 71. He is clearly regarded as a towering figure, credited with playing a central role in creating one of the most influential albums…
Reed’s death – like his life – is generating headlines and strong emotions. Reed’s death – like his life – is generating headlines and strong emotions. appelogen.be

The art of rock remembrance: RIP Lou Reed

The death of Lou Reed today, aged 71, is unquestionably a sad day for popular music. Already Rolling Stone has compiled a genre-defined obit focusing on how Reed worked as a Transformer (pun intended…
If there’s a formula to pop success, artists such as Jessica Mauboy aren’t bound by it. If there’s a formula to pop success, artists such as Jessica Mauboy aren’t bound by it. Gaye Gerard/AAP

Best song ever: in search of the perfect pop hit

When I was a kid way back in the dim, dark 1960s, I collected radio Top 40 charts obsessively. What struck me then – and still strikes me now (yes, I kept the charts) – was the sheer diversity of songs…
A twerking, tongue-poking Miley Cyrus at the Video Music Awards in Brooklyn earlier this year. Does the pop singer represent third wave feminism? A twerking, tongue-poking Miley Cyrus at the Video Music Awards in Brooklyn earlier this year. Does the pop singer represent third wave feminism? EPA/Jason Szenes

Miley Cyrus, Sinéad O’Connor and the future of feminism

Since her tongue-poking and “twerk”-filled performance at the American Video Music Awards, Miley Cyrus has been the subject of intense media discussion. This has only magnified in the past week, after…
Illegal downloading has become a free-for-all. Illegal downloading has become a free-for-all. Josh Russell

Online pirates may be willing to pay - if the price is right

Data released by Ofcom yesterday show that internet users who illegally download films, music or games actually spend more money on legal downloads than those who always play by the rules. Online piracy…
One in four composers are female, but you wouldn’t guess that by listening to the radio. One in four composers are female, but you wouldn’t guess that by listening to the radio. Image from shutterstock.com

Off key: women composers get a raw deal on play rates

Women make up 25% of the Australian composing population but still get a raw deal when it comes to having their music performed. Emma Ayres, presenter of the breakfast show on Classic FM, recently wrote…
British band One Direction has a huge following worldwide. But media criticism of their fans doesn’t respect the knowledge and power they possess. British band One Direction has a huge following worldwide. But media criticism of their fans doesn’t respect the knowledge and power they possess. AAP/Tracey Nearmy

That’s what makes them beautiful: why One Direction fans are smarter than you

Over the weekend, rumours have spread that Crazy About One Direction, a documentary on the eponymous boy band broadcast by the UK’s Channel 4, has led to suicides among distraught fans. One thing is certain…
He has a point, you know. He has a point, you know. Anthony Devlin/PA

Academics should stand with Fry against anti-gay Russia

Stephen Fry’s viral open letter calling for “an absolute ban” on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi over Russia’s controversial new anti-homosexuality laws was a clarion call for activists. But it should…
The Rolling Stones have begun their 50th anniversary tour - stats reveal that their fans' longevity is just as strong as that of the ageing rockers. The Rolling Stones have begun their 50th anniversary tour - stats reveal that their fans' longevity is just as strong as that of the ageing rockers. EPA/Anthony Devlin

Rock and roll fans won’t fade away

Legendary British band The Rolling Stones have started themselves up for their 50th anniversary tour. Predictably, this has encouraged more replays on vinyl – I doubt it’s on iTunes yet - of that old refrain…
Encouraging live music through initiatives such as the newly-announced National Live Music Office makes good social, cultural and economic sense. Encouraging live music through initiatives such as the newly-announced National Live Music Office makes good social, cultural and economic sense. shutterstock

Keeping music live: government’s Live Music Office should be welcomed

Federal arts minister Tony Burke this week announced the government’s commitment to setting up a National Live Music Office. Burke said the taskforce will: …partner with governments, local councils, communities…
What’s the best music for a slow stroll, or a pumping powerwalk? There are factors other than tempo to take into account. What’s the best music for a slow stroll, or a pumping powerwalk? There are factors other than tempo to take into account. ejorpin

Music and walking speed – it’s not what you think

“Music has charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak,” wrote the English poet William Congreve in 1697. These days, we tend to take music’s inherent charms for granted and…
Rapper Kanye West’s new album Yeezus reflects on race and discrimination in present day America. Rapper Kanye West’s new album Yeezus reflects on race and discrimination in present day America. EPA/Ferdy Damman

Yeezus saves: Kanye West, hip hop and the language of slavery

This month, rapper Kanye West’s highly anticipated new album Yeezus was released at perhaps one of the coolest launch events ever. His latest single New Slaves was simultaneously featured on 66 screens…
Over the course of 200 years, music evolved into very distinct styles, each distinguished by melodic interval analysis. Over the course of 200 years, music evolved into very distinct styles, each distinguished by melodic interval analysis. Mira (on the wall)

Stuck like a Baroque-n record? Music evolves in noteworthy ways

Think of your favourite piece of music. What aspects of its melody do you really like? Do you prefer a mix of fast and slow notes or an even tempo; do you like listening to low, bass-driven music more…
Musician Courtney Pine might not be able to operate in A&E but his work has some similarities to surgery. Musician Courtney Pine might not be able to operate in A&E but his work has some similarities to surgery. Flickr/Richard Kaby

Jazz musicians can teach surgeons how to improvise

What could music and surgery have in common? At first sight, not much. Operations aren’t done on stage in front of a large crowd - and nobody dies after a concert if someone plays a wrong note. As an amateur…
If she wants to be a grandmaster one day, practice will only take her so far, according to new research. If she wants to be a grandmaster one day, practice will only take her so far, according to new research. Joe Shlabotnik

Sorry, but practice alone does not make perfect

We’ve all heard it before (usually accompanied by repeating hours of music scales or sports drills over and over): Practice makes perfect. But your music teachers and sports coaches were wrong - well…
School music proponents like to big note the effectiveness of such programs, what what evidence of genuine benefit is there? School music proponents like to big note the effectiveness of such programs, what what evidence of genuine benefit is there? Music image from www.shutterstock.com

Striking a chord: what can music really do for students?

School music is a big fish within the small pond of the Creative Arts curriculum. In lobbying for more space, music advocates often use an array of arguments – some backed by evidence, some not. Many argue…
Live music in Australia has been under renewed threat in recent years over noise and liquor licensing complaints. Live music in Australia has been under renewed threat in recent years over noise and liquor licensing complaints. AAP/Joe Castro

Live music in Australia: offensive noise or good vibrations?

In this week’s news from planet 21st century, the musicians who perform at Playbar, a small venue in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Surry Hills, have been silenced by Sydney’s “offensive noise” laws after…
If someone sold it, and you can hold it, you can pass it on. If someone sold it, and you can hold it, you can pass it on. Michael D. Dunn

Selling MP3s? You should have stuck with CDs

What’s the difference between selling a secondhand music CD and transferring ownership of the same songs bought from iTunes? Not much, you’d think - except one’s illegal, according to a New York court…
If the new Marilyn Manson video showed a young woman disembowelling herself with a large sword because she had lost her lover it would be banned instantly. But this same scene is tolerated nightly in opera house performances of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. If the new Marilyn Manson video showed a young woman disembowelling herself with a large sword because she had lost her lover it would be banned instantly. But this same scene is tolerated nightly in opera house performances of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. EPA/TOR ERIK SCHRODER

“!ti od em edam nataS” … does rock ‘n’ roll really make kids kill themselves?

As Jane Austen probably wanted to say, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good Black Sabbath CD must be in want of a shotgun. We are so encultured to believe that…
There’s loads of evidence that the type of music played affects shoppers' buying habits. There’s loads of evidence that the type of music played affects shoppers' buying habits. http://www.flickr.com/photos/hopkinsii

The tills are alive with the sound of Muzak

I spent the Christmas of 1988-89 stacking shelves in a liquor store. It paid $2 per hour (a pittance even way back then), and the boss made me mop the floor before vacuuming it, which continues to annoy…
Minami Minegishi, member of Japanese pop group AKB48, made a tearful public apology on AKB48’s YouTube channel. Minami Minegishi, member of Japanese pop group AKB48, made a tearful public apology on AKB48’s YouTube channel. YouTube

AKB48, headshaving and the sexual politics of J-Pop

Japanese pop star Minami Minegashi made headlines worldwide after shaving her head and making an dramatic public apology on Youtube for violating her pop group AKB48’s strict no dating policy. While shocking…
Ever wondered why remastered compilations sound so awful? John Maynard Keynes may have the answer. Ever wondered why remastered compilations sound so awful? John Maynard Keynes may have the answer. Affendaddy

Let’s turn it up to 11: why audio quality loses out in the loudness wars

Music fans may have noticed something odd when their favourite artists release new “best-of” compilations or remaster back catalogues for CD or iTunes. Over successive reissues, the same songs sound worse…
It’s easy for uninhibited humans to elicit vocal responses from gibbons by imitating their song. It’s easy for uninhibited humans to elicit vocal responses from gibbons by imitating their song. Jerome Ludmann

Gibbon song may be music to the ears of human language students

Gibbons and humans have more in common than might immediately seem apparent. Among many behavioural traits shared by our two species is singing. Not just that – the songs of gibbons have the potential…
Music can create a vortex – and a coupling of cortexes. Music can create a vortex – and a coupling of cortexes. AlicePopkorn

Motion slickness: music moves makers and listeners alike

Music is an emotional business. But is it also a natural law, bound in with our bodies and ideas of motion we’re only beginning to understand? I am in the unique position of studying with both Professor…
Does music feel and talk like we do? Does music feel and talk like we do? John Mallon Iphoneography

While my guitar gently speaks: talking up the talk box

A fine musician complemented by a fine musical instrument can communicate a range of strong emotions. But even the best of these combinations cannot speak in the sense of transferring textual information…
The Higgs boson is alive with the sound of music. The Higgs boson is alive with the sound of music. rafeejewell

Higgs the musical: the sound of the ‘God particle’

The July 4 discovery of a particle that closely resembles the Higgs boson opens a new era in science: it should help us understand some fundamental mysteries, such as how microscopic particles attain their…
“Physics permeates the language we use to describe music, and the concepts we use to understand it.” “Physics permeates the language we use to describe music, and the concepts we use to understand it.” Ravages

Music and physics – the connections aren’t trivial

My ANU colleague John Rayner’s excellent recent article on the physics of music seemed to touch a nerve with the readership of The Conversation. Although beautifully framed by the personal and anecdotal…
Music is the language of love – and it exemplifies some principles of science. Music is the language of love – and it exemplifies some principles of science. Roxanne Milward

This is a love song: the physics of music and the music of physics

My wife Theresa represents many things for me – in addition to being my partner, I see her as a 17cm-long quarter-wavelength resonator (which I hope you’ll understand and agree with by the end of this…
Roll up for the mathematical mystery tour. Roll up for the mathematical mystery tour. Lucy (嘉莉)

A Hard Day’s Night by numbers: The Beatles decoded

“TWANG! It’s been a …” There is perhaps no song as quintessentially Beatle-ish as A Hard Day’s Night - it just bubbles with unbridled enthusiasm and joy. And in my mind, there’s no other opening chord…
Nice sounds – but are you responding to the bass or your basal ganglia? Nice sounds – but are you responding to the bass or your basal ganglia? TORIMBC

Beast international: does rock music rouse the animal within?

There’s no doubt rock music evokes excitement, but is there more to that excitement than guitar solos and head banging? Writing in the Telegraph recently, science correspondent Nick Collins remarked: “Rock…
Feel free to bust out some tunes, but you won’t fool the children of the evolution. Feel free to bust out some tunes, but you won’t fool the children of the evolution. Verano y mil tormentas

DarwinTunes: when you get that feeling it’s, uh, sexual hearing?

What transforms noise from album filler to dancefloor killer? Why do some tracks turn us on while others make us tune out? DarwinTunes, a computer program that employs the principles of natural selection…
There were protests against cuts to the ANU’s school of music, but the changes were sorely needed. There were protests against cuts to the ANU’s school of music, but the changes were sorely needed. Flickr/Orangedrummerboy

ANU music school cuts: Musicians need to keep in time

The current crisis at the ANU School of Music has widely been reported as being, fundamentally, about money. The Australian National University’s (ANU) Vice-Chancellor Ian Young has cut ten academic and…
The ANU music school cannot replace live one-on-one teaching with online lessons. The ANU music school cannot replace live one-on-one teaching with online lessons. Flickr/Orangedrummerboy

ANU should change its tune: why online lessons do not replace live music

The Australian National University (ANU) has recently announced serious changes to the School of Music in Canberra. Students will receive fewer hours of one-on-one performance lessons, and the current…
Orchestra of nature: artist Bartholomäus Traubeck has converted pieces of trees into music. Orchestra of nature: artist Bartholomäus Traubeck has converted pieces of trees into music. Eric C Bryan

Forest sonata: listening to the music of the trees

What is the music of trees? German artist Bartholomäus Traubeck spun slices of logs on turntables that translate their textures and annual rings into music. Traubeck calls the result Years, and I played…
Emo music may be bleak but there’s no evidence to show it causes depression. Emo music may be bleak but there’s no evidence to show it causes depression. Flickr/Corrie

Monday’s medical myth: emo music makes you depressed

Like death metal and grunge before it, emo music has copped more than its fair share of criticism since it rose to prominence a decade ago. Rather than being seen as an outlet for young people to express…
Cold Chisel are back. Cold Chisel are back. AAP Image/Jones PR

The Last Stand: Cold Chisel and Oz Rock music

It’s December 15th, 1983. Around 13,000 people, a capacity crowd, are packed into the Sydney Entertainment Centre. This is the last of five Cold Chisel shows there. Fans had queued for blocks, some had…
Almost a third of professional musicians regularly take medication to manage their performance anxiety. Almost a third of professional musicians regularly take medication to manage their performance anxiety. Flickr/kronik

All right on the night? Music performance anxiety is more common than you think

“One of the most exhilarating experiences I know of is performing in public, especially when there is a magnificent piano under my fingers, great music in my head, and the feeling that there are no technical…
Under the Milky Way is an iconic Australian song. Under the Milky Way is an iconic Australian song. flickr/Doug Klembara

You probably think this song is about you, don’t you?

Sometimes we just get sucked into a story. Reason, caution and scepticism sometimes just get swiftly sidelined for a story that’s captivating. And sometimes, along the gay girl in Syria, Colorado balloon…
Rock stars are successful in the bedroom, but all too often their wild lifestyle catches up with them. Rock stars are successful in the bedroom, but all too often their wild lifestyle catches up with them. Flickr/Chalocuaz

Get laid or die trying: how rock stars get their kicks in

Kurt Cobain was the messiah of my generation, the monumental talent who saved rock from the mediocrity of 1980s cock rock and hair metal. But behind his public eminence stalked a personal hell of addiction…
Did music precede language for Homo sapiens? Did music precede language for Homo sapiens? Spuz/Flickr

Evolution: please don’t stop the music

All human cultures and social groups that we know of respond to music and dance. The type of music may vary but the underlying, fundamental principles of making music are the same. Our recognition of…

Research and News (1)

Research Briefs (13)

Most musicians suffer pain: study

Australia’s orchestral musicians are suffering for their art, according to new research. Psychologists found that 84% of…

Singing your way to better health

Religious songs can help elderly African-Americans remain happy and healthy. Researchers documented the reactions of 65 elderly…