Monday, April 28, 2014

Making Adventurous Use of Our CD Collection

Most Media Center users approach the desk with call numbers in hand to request specific CDs. But student Rustin Hiatt takes a more experimental approach. Whenever he comes in, he asks whomever is behind the counter to hand him three random CDs.

Hiatt realized he had the desire and opportunity to expand his musical horizons with our CD collection, which will be hitting 37,000 any day now. He started working his way through the recommendations in the copy of 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before you Die: A Listener's Life List by Tom Moon (ML156.9 .M66 2008) that sits at the Media Center desk, but he reached the point where he'd already heard almost everything in it. Next he tried the Billboard Top 50 albums list that we post each week, but he didn't like what he was hearing. So he started the random request strategy.

Do you have an unusual way of using our collection to discover new music? Let us know. We'd love to share your story, too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Best Music Docs NOT on Netflix

Netflix has its strengths, but music documentaries is not one of them. Flavorwire recent ran a list of the best music docs on Netflix, and it wasn't much longer than Netflix's entire inventory. In contrast, we're are closing in on adding our 6000th DVD. Most of them are music-related, and even the feature films are there for their noteworthy scores.

With this in mind, we present our staff picks of the best music documentaries at Stan Getz Library that are not on Netflix.

1991: The Year Punk Broke (DVD 4712) Take a trip with Sonic Youth and Nirvana as they stumble through their 1991 European club & festival tour! Let filmmaker Dave Markey put you on stage, off stage and backstage! Witness the boredom! The cynicism! And rock harder than you may ever have rocked before!


Afghan Star (DVD 4035) In Afghanistan you risk your life to sing. After thirty years of war and five devastating years of Taliban rule, pop culture is beginning to return to the country. Since 2005, millions have been tuning in to Tolo TV's wildly popular American idol-style series, Afghan Star. Like its Western predecessors, people compete for a cash prize and record deal. More surprisingly, the contest is open to everyone across the country despite gender, ethnicity, or age.

All Ages  (DVD 5255) A film documentating the early Boston hardcore music scene from 1981-1984.

Back Vocal (DVD 4633) 24 years after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the legal prohibition against female solo singing in Iran rumors about females being permitted to sing as duets has encouraged female singers to take initiatives for recording and release of their musical albums.

Beware of Mr. Baker (DVD 5703) The documentary about the ailing-yet-ferocious Ginger Baker, the brilliant and wildly self-destructive drummer for Cream and Blind Faith. An almost impossible man to be around, he allows the director unprecedented access--even if he strikes him violently on the nose with his cane on the final day of filming.

Color Me Obsessed (DVD 5597-5598) Over The Replacements' 12-year existence, its live sets were magical. Gorman Bechard's remarkable history of the Mats takes us from their first show and everywhere in between. He relies solely on the fans; memories of their albums & antics.

Copyright Criminals  (DVD 3968) As hip-hop rose from the streets of New York to become a multibillion-dollar industry, artists such as Public Enemy and De La Soul began reusing portions of previously recorded music for their songs. But when record company lawyers got involved everything changed. Years before people started downloading and remixing music, hip-hop sampling sparked a debate about copyright, creativity, and technological change that still rages today.

Deconstructing Dad (LVD 445) His filmmaker son probes the professional and private lives of his remote but fascinating father: bandleader, composer, inventor, and electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott.

Democracy in Dakar (DVD 4046) A ground-breaking documentary film about hip-hop, youth and politics in Dakar Senegal. The film follows rappers, DJs, journalists, professors and people on the street at the time before, during, and after the controversial 2007 presidential election in Senegal and examines hip-hop's role on the political process. Originally shot as a seven-part documentary mini-series released via the internet, the documentary bridges the gap between hip-hop activism, video journalism and documentary film and explores and explores the role of youth and musical activism on the political process

Give Me the Banjo (DVD 5184) The banjo has been an emblem of American culture for centuries, yet few realize the instrument's complicated, checkered past. Narrated by Steve Martin and featuring such banjo masters as Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs and Bela Fleck, goes beyond the stereotypes and delves into the musical odyssey of the banjo, from its African roots to the present day.

Heavy Metal in Baghdad (DVD 3487) A documentary feature film that follows the Iraqi heavy metal band Acrassicauda (Latin for a deadly black scorpion native to Iraq) from the fall of Saddam Hussein to their escape from Iraq.

Hype! (DVD 2983) Traces the history of grunge music with interviews and concert footage of bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and the Melvins.

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (DVD 4008) Building on three critically acclaimed records and a reputation for phenomenal live shows, the band seemed poised to cement its reputation as one of the great American rock groups. So how is it that one year later, with completed record in hand, the band found itself rejected by its corporate record label and missing two of its original members? Filmmaker Sam Jones was on hand, chronicling this turbulent chapter in Wilco's history as it unfolded.

Icons Among Us (DVD 4014-4017) Comprehensive documentary film, looks at the jazz music scene today. Through interviews, performance footage, and the voices of the musicians themselves, we explore this music and the divergent influences that are shaping the world of jazz at the beginning of the 21st Century. Not a historical look at what has been called America's music but a timely, vibrant trip through the clubs, festival, and the lives of this new generation of jazz musicians. Never before has jazz music been so many different things to so many different people, from hip hop to bebop from jam band to free form, the music continues to grow and shape itself in ways as varied as the musicians who play it.

The Last Waltz (DVD 537) The Band, one of rock's superstar groups, decided to call it quits after sixteen grueling years on the road. The group held this farewell concert on Thanksgiving Day, 1976, at San Francisco's Winterland, the site of their first performance.

Live from Tokyo (DVD 4921) Looks at Tokyo's music culture as a reflection of Japanese society and in relation to international music culture. Tokyo's reputation for an overwhelming variety of global information, media-saturated urban environment, and cutting edge innovation, makes it the perfect sample for addressing a new outlook on music culture as it explores this eccentric music culture set within a modern Japanese megalopolis. Bands include DMBQ, Suishou no Fune, Muneomi Senju, Shintaro Miyazaki, and more.

Loud Quiet Loud (DVD 3465) The Pixies formed in Boston in 1986 and enjoyed moderate success. Six years later, they split amidst acrimony and anger. In the time since, despite little communication with one another, they have become one of the most influential bands of the eighties. In 2004, The Pixies reunited. This documentary covers the year leading up to their final performance.

Mighty Uke (DVD 4559) Travel the world to discover why so many people of different nations, cultures, ages and musical tastes are turning to the ukulele to express themselves, connect with the past, and with each other. From the redwoods of California to an English pub, from a suburb of Tel Aviv through Tokyo's highrise canyons to the green mountains of Hawaii, ukers tell the story of the people's instrument.

Muscle Shoals (DVD 5936) Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama has helped create some of the most important and resonant songs of all time. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, Rick Hall brought black and white together to create music for the generations. He is responsible for creating the 'Muscle Shoals sound' and the Swampers, the house band at FAME Studios that eventually left to start its own successful studio known as Muscle Shoals Sound.

The Ramones: End of the Century (DVD 1593) A candid look at the entire career of a band that was the heart of the New York punk scene.

Re:Generation Music Project (DVD 4995) This documentary feature, produced in association with The Grammy's, looks at the history, songwriting, and recording process of five different genres of music through the eyes of 5 of the most influential producers/DJ's in the world as they create new music tracks with influential collaborators from rock, country, classical, R&B and jazz. DJ Premier, Mark Ronson, Skrillex, Pretty Lights and The Crystal Method remix, recreate and re-imagine five traditional styles of music from the classical perfection of the Berklee Symphony Orchestra to the bayou jams of New Orleans jazz.

Searching for Sugar Man (DVD 5262) In the early 1970s, Sixto Rodriguez was a Detroit folksinger who had a short-lived recording career. Unknown to him, his musical story continued in South Africa where he became a pop music icon. Long rumored there to be dead, two fans, record store owner Stephen Segerman and journalist Craig Bartholomew-Strydom, decided to seek out the truth of his fate.

See What I'm Saying (DVD 4516) A comic, a drummer, an actor and a singer, who are all well-known entertainers in the deaf community, are followed as they attempt to cross over to mainstream audiences. These uniquely talented entertainers overcome great challenges to celebrate success.

Speaking in Code (DVD 4100) Documentary that follows the lives of a group of people who are devoted to techno music.

Stop Making Sense (DVD 180) Jonathan Demme's Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense is in many ways a reaction against other depictions of live music in film, with many of the visual ideas going against the grain of what was popular at the time in the early Eighties. Demme and the Talking Heads refuse to show the audience until the end of the film, linger on static shots to keep attention on David Byrne's physicality (and famous "big suit"), eliminate all colored lights and make no attempt to obscure the work of stagehands. On top of all that, the setlist is constructed so that the band is slowly assembled piece by piece over the course of the first six songs, starting with a solo performance of "Psycho Killer" by Byrne and building up to an ensemble performance of "Burning Down the House." (From

Talmage Farlow (DVD 2302) Showcases the music of Farlow and offers a charming and engaging look into his life. Since his death in 1998, his place among the great innovators of modern jazz seems well assured. A sensitive and fitting tribute to the giant of a man that was Tal.

Under the Covers (DVD 4208) A magical journey: rock 'n roll in L.A. in the 60's and 70's ... Album cover stories by Gary Burden, Henry Diltz and friends.

X: The Unheard Music (DVD 2183) Profiles the notable Los Angeles punk band through interview and performances.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Getting Scholarly About Gaga

In response to a recent essay by Ted Gioia claiming that most current popular music criticism was insubstantial because it is lifestyle reporting rather than a technical examination of the music, Owen Pallett has been writing a series of articles for Slate using music theory to explain the popularity of recent hit songs. His latest target:

“Bad Romance,” Great Tritone: Explaining the genius of Lady Gaga—using music theory

Pallett isn't the only person giving Lady Gaga the scholarly once-over. While Gioia might take issue with writers from such disciplines as cultural studies, art and fashion as well as music devoting their attention to her, it is because Lady Gaga takes such a deliberate approach to all those aspects of her career that she is garnering such interest. You'll find an academic examination of her work in the newly-published Lady Gaga and Popular music: Performing Gender, Fashion, and Culture edited by Martin Iddon and Melanie L. Marshall, available in our eBook collection.

And while this is old news, staff at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame explained the preservation challenges with Lady Gaga's meat dress before putting it on display.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: Shut Up and Play the Hits

Guest post by Christian Betancourt, guitar player and dual major in Performance/Jazz Composition, Class of May 2017.

Shut up and Play the Hits (DVD 5263-5265) is a musical documentary showcasing the unexpected disbandment of the popular band LCD Soundsystem. The band is characterized by a unique mixture of rock, punk, disco, dance and funk; all of these come together to form a wacky and energetic style. We experience the events that lead up to the final concert through the eyes of James Murphy, the band’s singer & frontman.

Right at a very successful point in the band’s career, James decides he would quit the band. This decision comes to shock both the fans and the media. This causes speculation about why he made such an unexpected decision. In the movie, we see how James deals with the frivolous routine of the new world without a constant musician/performer career. Then we are taken through several songs from the show and interviews with James. Near the end, we finally come to the somewhat disappointing conclusion that James quit simply because he was having a midlife crisis and wanted to do something else in life besides the band. Additionally he also tackles the idea that both artists and sportsmen are defined by their single biggest failure, rather than their success, and uses that as a partial explanation of why he quit.

Although the documentary is very personal and visually stunning, it struggles to define its own identity, given that it constantly switches between simple dialogues, videos of live performances, and insights of Murphy’s cold new life as a retired musician.Viewing is highly recommended for all fans of LCD Soundsystem.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Snap That Call Number

Just like a URL on the web, a library call number is the unique location where you will find an item in the collection. Whether you are heading into the stacks or requesting an item from behind the desk, you need the full call number. Rather than trying to transcribe it accurately and legibly ("Is that a 5 or an S?"), you can just use your cell phone camera to snap a photo of the screen from your own laptop or our dedicated catalog computers.

May students have already figured this out, but we wanted to tip you off if it hadn't occurred to you yet. You can hand you phone over to the desk staff when requesting reserve items; we promise not to answer any calls in the few seconds it takes to find your item.

Our online catalog interface has been upgraded to be more mobile-device/small screen-friendly, but it still may be easier to type your search with a full-size keyboard.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

RIP Frankie Knuckles

Frankie Knuckles passed away on March 31 at the age of 59. The pioneering DJ had an honorary street named for him in Chicago, acknowledging his role as the Godfather of House Music. As a DJ, he doesn't have a lot of recorded output available commercially that our library could add to its collection, but there has been plenty written about him.

5 Magazine: House Music from Chicago offers a tribute:

This Entire Scene Was Frankie's Dance Floor

You'll find discussion of him in several of our books:

Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton wrote about Knuckles in Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey (ML3470 .B74 2000) and The Record Players: DJ Revolutionaries by  (ML406 .B74 2010)

The Evolution of Electronic Dance Music edited by Peter Kirn (ML3540.5.E96 2011), in a chapter taken from Rule, Greg. "Dance Music History: The Fathers of Chicago House." Keyboard Aug. 1997: 64-67, available electronically in the International Index to Music Periodicals or in print our periodical collection, but you'll need to request it from the Annex.

Some other articles on Knuckles available via our e-Resources:

"Frankie Knuckles: The Godfather of House." Mixmag 09 2013: 82-3.

Paoletta, Michael. "The House that Frankie Built." Billboard May 15 2004: 30.