Mit Traditionen zu brechen, wenn sie einem nichts mehr geben und möglichst konstruktiv darüber zu schreiben, könnte als Motto über meinem Leben stehen. Wie Buñuel sein, die Rituale entlarven, und dann so spielerisch damit umgehen wie Woody Allen, und Dali ein Rhinozeros in den Porzellanladen von Mund legen. Everything is a Remix.

Wie sieht das als Weihnachtsgeschenk aus? So, wie die meisten meiner Geschenke das ganze Jahr über daher kommen, als Link. Kaum etwas bereitet mir mehr Freude, als über etwas zu stolpern, dabei an jemanden zu denken, und ihm oder ihr diesen Fund unmittelbar zukommen zu lassen. Nur weil ich als Erwachsener nichts mehr vom “Fest der Liebe” halte, heißt das noch lange nicht, dass ich anderen die Weihnachtszeit mutwillig verderben möchte. Als Vater eines 10-Jährigen wäre das auch reichlich infantil. Außerdem erinnere ich mich noch, wie sehr ich selbstgebastelte Adventskalender geliebt habe, und das dürfte bis heute die einzige Serie sein, bei der ich mich nicht an 23 Prequels oder “origin stories” störe.

Für meinen Sohn besteht er noch aus remixten, schwer dechiffrierbaren Legosets, für alle anderen als öffentliches Mixtape recht unsexy und haptikfrei online. Darauf sind jedes Jahr 24 schnittige Lieder, gespickt mit Samples aus Filmen und Serien, die ich im jeweiligen Jahr gesehen oder (wieder)entdeckt habe. Das Erste machte ich noch klassisch auf eine 90er Kassette – Chromdioxid, Typ II – für zwei gute Freunde, als Begleitung für deren gemeinsame lange “Driving home for Christmas”-Autofahrt von der Uni nach Hause. Selbstredend ohne dieses grauenhafte Lied. Inzwischen schaffe ich das aber nicht mehr alles in der Adventszeit, daher hat sich daraus ein Jahresrückblick im Januar entwickelt, gehalten haben sich aber die 24 Häppchen, und gebrannt muss es immer noch auf eine CD passen. Wer jetzt mal in vergangene Ausgaben reinhören will, bitteschön. Im Januar gibt’s die nächste Ausgabe unter dem gleichen Link, für die ich schon das ganze Jahr über Samples und coole Songs gesammelt habe – Dank einem Tweet von Alex ist übrigens “Cholla” von The Joy Formidable dabei.

So entwickelt sich alles schleichend bis radikal weiter, ich liebe und lebe von der Montage, ob als Cutter von Werbespots für Katzenfutter bis hin zu Spiel- und Kurzfilmen, Produzent vom torrent-magazin Podcast, dem Entwurf und Bau von eigenen Lego-Modellen, sowie dem Schreiben von Filmbesprechungen, Texten und Drehbüchern. Angetrieben werde ich von einem Hauch Nostalgie, höre dabei auf mein Bauchgefühl und folge meinem Herzen. Die meiste Energie widme ich im Augenblick wohl dem von mir ins Leben gerufenen “writers’ room” auf wasbleibtistprost.de, wo ich gemeinsam mit 23 ;) anderen Pionieren öffentlich an einer deutschen Mystery-Horror-Serie schreibe: “Woipating” bzw. “W.” – ein bisschen wie TWIN PEAKS im Bayrischen Wald. Dementsprechend schließe ich einigermaßen passend mit Dale Cooper: „I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a cat nap in your office chair, or two cups of hot black coffee.“

(Jens Prausnitz)

Quotes of Quotes (VII)

15. Dezember 2012

Food for thought, and the reaction to Retromania and everything around it that I could most relate to:

Retromania is a provocation. It deals in what Mark Fisher calls ’negativity‘. The term is intended to be less pessimistic that it sound. ‚Negativity‘, for Fisher, is a productive spure: discontent as a call to arms. […] Rather than simply represent that negativity, however, Reynolds and Fisher would have us respond to it. This is the difference too between the kind of negative politicism expressed during the recent London riots and those camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral and across the nworld in the name of the Occupy movement. Negativity is obviously not an end in itself, but sometimes it simply has to come first.
– James Parker, University of Melbourne (via)

Tom Cruise als Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages

Bild: Warner Bros.

Rock. Man möchte meinen, mit einem Soundtrack von Bon Jovi bis Foreigner und dem Wort „Rock“ im Titel, habe Adam Shankmans 80er-Jahre-Revival genug Fels um die Pyramiden von Gizeh in Lebensgröße neu aufzuschütten. Doch neu arrangiert im bombastischen „Night of the Proms“-Stil, überschüttet mit Synthesizern und Kompression, dargeboten von Stimmen der Castingshow-Generation, scheint jede noch so kleine Scharte der Originalsongs abgewetzt. „Wanted: Dead or Alive“ ist damit eindeutig nur noch eins: dead.

Musical-Feeling. Gar nicht so dumm wäre es, zu hoffen, dass dieser zuckrige Überzug wenigstens für eine ordentliche Portion Broadway-Glamour sorgt. Aber irgendwann muss jemand mal festgestellt haben, dass man selbst auf ein Mashup von „I love Rock and Roll“ und „Hit me with your best shot“ nur schwer tanzen kann. Die Folge: Lahme bis nicht vorhandene Choreografien, die im Schnittchaos verdient untergehen. Wenn Busby Berkeley das noch erleben könnte …

Sex. Regelmäßig fällt dieses Wort in „Rock of Ages“. Als Anklagepunkt der von Catherine Zeta-Jones angeführten Protesttruppe, als Essenz seines Erfolgs aus dem Mund von Tom Cruises Tyler-Rose-Jovi-Amalgam Stacee Jaxx.* Doch selbst in der explizitesten Beischlafszene des Films muss die von Malin Akerman gespielte Rockjournalistin ihren BH anlassen. Das Spießertum, das Shankman noch im John-Waters-Musical Hairspray so treffend wie komisch anprangerte, hat in Rock of Ages obsiegt. Mothers, no need to hide your daughters, es ist nur eine weitere, mit Retropaste überzogene Franchisefolge von High School Musical. Typisch dafür, wie wenig ernst der Film Sex überhaupt nimmt, auch dieser Dialog: „Ich arbeite als Stripperin in einer Bar.“ – „Ich bin Mitglied einer Boyband.“ – „Okay, du hast gewonnen.“

Nostalgie. Die Haare, die Klamotten, die backsteingroßen Telefone, die Songs: Wie Archäologen, die versuchen, eine untergegangene Zivilisation aus deren Artefakten zu rekonstruieren, haben die Filmemacher alles zusammengetragen, was vermeintlich die Ära ausmachte, in deren überhöhter Version ihre Geschichte spielt. Die Aura dieser Ära jedoch – dreckiger, düsterer und dennnoch irgendwie schöner – haben sie irgendwo am Wegesrand vergessen. Übrig bleibt nur das übliche Zeichen ohne Bezeichnetes und ein ebenso leeres Gefühl in den limbischen Systemen der Zuschauer.

Eine Seele. Journeys „Don’t stop believing“ ist gewissermaßen Drehbuchgrundlage („Just a small town girl …“) und zentrale Hymne dieses Films, der sich anschickt, die wahre Religion des Rock vor den dunklen Mächten des Pop zu bewahren. Doch woran soll man noch glauben, wenn die selbsternannten Priester längst selbst einen Deal mit dem vermeintlichen Teufel geschlossen haben und eine unverhohlene filmische Manifestation von „The Man“ als Neues Testament darreichen. Dann lieber zum zehnten Mal This is Spinal Tap gucken. Dort wird der bizarre Pomp und Circumstance jener Spätauswüchse des Rock ’n‘ Roll auch lächerlich gemacht, aber er wird wenigstens ernst genommen. Wie heißt es in „Don’t stop believing“? „Some were born to sing the blues.“ Ja, und andere halt nicht.

*Cruise, der als reale Persönlichkeit mindestens genauso umstritten ist wie seine Filmfigur Stacee Jaxx, ist das einzig Sehenswerte an Rock of Ages. In seinen Szenen schillert manchmal für Sekundenbruchteile etwas von der Hassliebe durch, die man zu 80s-Bombastorock gefälligst zu pflegen hat.

I like to know what’s going on in the world, but generally I’m fine with having a cursory overview of the most important events. This is different in my more specific fields of interest – film, media, music and cultural trends – and I have come to depend on blogs for most of my information in these fields.

Like with everything else, I use Netvibes to organize my feeds and I would be lost without it. The widget mode allows me to see all feeds with one look and lets me decide if I want to read every item, pick out single ones or just mark the whole feed read. This mode of operation also allows me to give feeds different amounts of room according to how often they post new items and how important I find them and also allows for easy cycling in and out of feeds, e.g. when they stop updating or start boring me.

I have organised my feeds in five tabs: film, music, media, „cult and culture“ (a term I borrowed from my college newspaper’s miscellaneous section) and „people“, which means private blogs of people I know. Let me take you through those tabs.

Film

As I’ve already mentioned in my last entry, my main blog for keeping track of everything film has become /film. It’s not as good as my earlier key medium, Cinematical, mostly because of its limited (geeky) scope, but it’s okay for keeping an overview on Hollywood filmmaking at least (I’m thinking of switching, maybe to something like „The AV Club“. Any other suggestions?). For arthouse cinema, I rely on the „Film Weekly“ podcast discussed in the last episode). In support of /film, I follow the only German film blog worth following, NEGATIV, but I mostly just skim the articles. Because they are opinion leaders in Germany, for some strange reason, I also follow Die Fünf Filmfreunde, who mostly post trailers. PARALLEL FILM is the blog of German filmmaker Christoph Hochhäusler, the only German filmmaker who blogs (the sorry state of the German film blogosphere is a topic for another post or post series).

There are three academic film blogs whose authors I respect and like. Dan North wrote one of the best books on digital aesthetics four years ago (get it here) and he irregularly blogs about sci-fi, puppetry and Naomi Watts. I am especially fond of his Build Your Own Review category. The Film Doctor posts good linklists every weeks and writes delightfully snarky reviews („The Artist: When Homage becomes Fromage“). And David Bordwell really needs no introduction. He’s easily the most interesting academic film blogger around.

For some (very rarely updated) fun, I follow Adam Quigley’s Tumblr.

Music

I have a problem. I actively enjoy a genre of music that is one of the most reviled among music journalists: prog rock. I also don’t care much for many artists and styles music journalists regularly hype. And I find the kind of writing about prog rock that does exist mostly quite dull and old-fashioned. So I only read three music blogs in support of my wekly dose of the „Music Weekly“ Podcast: The Guardian Music Blog for its occasional interesting theses about the music industry and columns like „The Indie Professor“; Eric Pfeil’s Pop-Tagebuch because even though I don’t share his taste, he is a very funny writer; and Jem Godfrey’s (Frost*) blog The View from the Cube, because I’ve grown so used to it.

Media

When I was a media journalist, I had two tabs filled with feeds and added new ones almost every week. After I changed jobs, I kept only the blogs of the people whose opinion I generally find worth reading, no matter what they write about. In addition to the german opinion leader in the field, BildBlog, they are: Stefan Niggemeier, Katrin Schuster, Jeff Jarvis, Ulrike Langer and Christian Jakubetz. Also on my media tab: The Guardian Critic’s notebook. Reflecting now, maybe this tab needs a bit of a shake-up soon.

Cult and Culture

This tab holds the best of the rest and everything else that captures my interest for a while or for longer. A sort of hobby-horse of mine is linguistics and I always get my fix at Language Log. I’ve started to read its German equivalent, Sprachlog, but while I like the topics, I can’t stand the precocious tone of its author (one of the problems with blogs). Two blogs keep me updated on Geek culture, German heavyweight Nerdcore and Geekologie, which is infested with crude humour, but funny nonetheless. And then there’s four bloggers, who stand on their own. Sascha Lobo, a very disputed figure in the German blogosphere but I tend to agree with him; Lukas Heinser, who generally writes about pop culture in an amusing way, even though (once again) I don’t share his taste in music; Michael Marshall Smith, who used to be one of my favourite novelists, but has turned kind of sour, which makes for some interesting blogging sometimes; and finally, Georg Seeßlen, an influential German film/culture critic who has good ideas but always carries them a bit too far into convolution – I watch his blog with morbid fascination.

I read lots of other blogs as well, but I don’t read them regularly. I don’t follow their RSS-feeds, even though I like or respect their authors or their topics. There is only so much stuff one person can read in a week. Luckily, the internet has found ways to let the most interesting posts from those blogs float to the top. One of them is aggregators like Rivva, which I mentioned last week. The other one is soial networks, the topic of the next episode.

Navel Gazing is a multi-part blog series about my personal media consumption habits, meant as a case study and a moment of self-reflection on account of Real Virtuality’s third birthday.

Some of us remember the Eighties fondly, others, like myself, are too young and often look at them with a mixture of puzzlement and admiration. One of the distinguishing features of many films from that decade is the prevalence of electronic scores by the likes of Harold Faltermeyer (immortal through his „Axel F.“-Theme from Beverly Hills Cop and the score for Top Gun), Jan Hammer („Miami Vice“) [, Vangelis (how could I forget him)] and director/composer John Carpenter. A lot of their scores are now classic pieces, but they also umistakably date the films to their period.

Last year, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed a haunting and very distinctive mostly electronic scpre for David Fincher’s The Social Network which won them a Golden Globe award. French electronic duo Daft Punk provided a hammering soundtrack for Tron: Legacy and even scored (pun intended) a cameo appearance as futuristic deejays. This year, british duo The Chemical Brothers are scoring Joe Wright’s next film Hanna. A. R. Rahman’s score for Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours also relies heavily on electronic sounds.

I am asking myself: Are we witnessing a return of synthesized music in film scores after a long time of only symphonic and pop soundtracks? I have no answer yet but would be thankful for more examples and ideas in the comments.

(Artwork by Aaron Nagel)

I have mentioned Gavin Castleton twice before on this blog. I like his music, which is hard to classify somewhere between pop, R&B and progressive rock but always well-thought-out and often very moving. I discovered him with the release of his album Home in 2009 and recently checked out what he has been up to, only to discover that he was busy getting his next album Won over Frequency financed by his fans, luring them with such prizes as hair from his dog (whom he calls his furry brown son) Lumas and specially-written songs for the supporters. For a donation of $480, he was even willing to give away Lumas, provided his new owners would pay for hip surgery.

I pledged my $ 20 at Kickstarter and asked Gavin for an interview before he went on tour. The album turned out great, but apparently the tour didn’t. I’m glad he still found the time to answer my questions about being a professional musician with internet support two weeks ago. Not surprisingly, his answers display the same mix of earnestness and dry humor prevalent in his lyrics and facebook status updates.


Do you consider Gavin Castleton an internet success story? What about „Won Over Frequency“, is that an internet success story in your eyes?

If an „internet success story“ is something that was completed as a result of the internet, then I’d say my Won Over Frequency fundraiser was an „internet success story.“ I don’t believe I am personally an „internet success story.“

What is the story behind using Kickstarter to finance the rest of the album?

I opted to use their well-designed interface to run my campaign. Time was an issue, so it seemed more time efficient than building my own interface. There is a lot of small print that I did not pay enough attention to. There are many positive and negative aspects of Kickstarter, but sort of a whole blog’s worth. Maybe I’ll write one up and post it at my blog (Ed.: Please do! I guess other musicians could only profit from it).

How did the more unusual pledges work out? Did you actually give away Lumas to someone who could promise him hip replacement surgery? Have you received any lyrics yet to turn into a song?

The wonderful couple who „purchased“ my son assured me (in a weird note comprised of cutout letters) that they had no intention of taking my son for the time being, but that if the hits ever stopped coming, they would swoop in like a falcon and extract him. So we’re good for now. I’ve received only one set of lyrics for the collaborative Reward category.

Before and after the Kickstarter campaign, how did/do you use the internet to promote your music?

Aggressively.

What does that mean, exactly?

I have profiles on all social networks, and I publish regularly to Blogspot, Youtube, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and Purevolume. I run a webstore for several artists at integersonly.com, I run three mailing lists, and sell my work through all major digital outlets. I use the internet to interact with my listeners and other artists, book shows, and promote my work to blogs, DJs, and magazines.

In „The Crier“, a song on Won over Frequency, you talk about „cryptic status updates posted to invoke the most sympathy“ and life in the „feedback loop“ of social networking. How do you feel about your public-private online life and creating a virtual brand around yourself?

I think there are pros and cons to making yourself very accessible to people via the internet. The more „human“ I am with people, the more potential there is for my work to inspire them to follow their own path. The more they feel like they know me and recognize me as an open, honest person, the more my work will resonate with them. On the flipside, the more accessible I am, the more I invite unsolicited criticism, invasive interactions, and emotional baggage from people I don’t know all that well. As far as branding myself, I find that most consumers prefer to invest in entities, rather than singular people with normal names. Call it the result of a society centered around corporations. If I called myself „HorseWolf“ I would probably sell more shirts and CDs.

Were you always an internet person?

I’m not sure what the definition of an „internet person“ is, but I did always take a big interest in the internet – from the moment I first saw it in 1994.

The Kickstarter apparently was a success. Can you imagine actually making an okay living off your music with campagins like these?

It was sort of a success in that I reached my initially published goal. But I am still $3200 short of covering my costs, let alone making a profit. I do think pre-orders are a viable way for me to fund future albums, but this is no kind of „living.“ My younger sister buys my groceries, my collaborators don’t get paid what they deserve, and I don’t have health insurance.

Do you think you can improve on this balance in the future, though?

I’ve been working on fine-tuning that balance for six years now (not counting the 10 before that in Gruvis Malt, in which I didn’t really make a conscious effort to make a sustainable business). It just so happens that these past six years have been anarchy in the music industry. So trying to create a profitable system in the midst of so much change has proven nearly impossible for me. I’ve reached the limit of debt that I’m capable of handling, so I won’t be able to tour anymore in the foreseeable future. I’m currently applying for full-time jobs outside of the music industry.

Before the physical version of Won over Frequency was available, you send download links to your funders and asked them politely not to leak the album to filesharing sites. Did they comply?

As far as I know most of them did. Two people with usernames „KOWHeigel“ and „ricoolies“ (who claim to live in Afghanistan and France respectively) have decided that their share ratios are more important than my financial survival.

What is your general prognosis for musicians working in the future. Can the web help?

I can’t really think of field of work in the music industry where the web doesn’t offer some sort of assistance.

Do you sometimes wish you could change something about the way the web works? What is it?

I wish a higher emphasis and value would be put on content providers instead of content aggregators.

This post is part 6 of the series Success Story Internet?
The series talks with people, in whose lives the internet has changed something, about the internet.

November sees the return of the interview series (Link is in German) I started in April, in which I talk to people, who were able to harness the power of the web to change their lives and careers. My aim is not to talk to huge celebrities and dotcom bosses (yet), but to portray those, who have remained relatively low key but whose lives have taken an online turn nevertheless. After four German interviews, the next two will be in English.

YouTube is still only five years old, but man has it changed the way we watch the world. Now, moving images of almost everything are only a click away, especially when it comes to music. Several people have managed to kickstart some sort of career from taping themselves. Merton is one of them.

If you haven’t come across Merton’s awesome piano improv sessions on Chatroulette, you’ve probably been living under a rock. Merton managed to merge his talent for improvisational piano playing with one of the web’s newest crazes and created something unique that sent ripples through the net and even all the way to Ben Folds. After being the first person, who answered my opening question with a definitive „Yes“, I spoke to him about his success, his online persona and his plans.


Do you consider yourself an internet success story?
Yes. I have a type of talent that would have been difficult to show to the world before the internet (and YouTube in particular) existed. Until five years ago, I would have had very little chance of gaining wide exposure, but now YouTube has made it possible for individuals to bypass the audition or jury process and just present ourselves directly to the public. That’s priceless, and I don’t take it for granted.

Tell me a bit about your background? What was the genesis of the Chatroulette-Piano-Improv?
I have played improvisational piano for my whole life. I’ve never written a piece of music, I only make it up. I’ve always liked performing in unorthodox situations, like in a public place where people are not expecting to see a pianist. When I saw ChatRoulette, I liked the possibility of playing for strangers in a low-pressure environment. I hadn’t been much of singer prior to that, but I didn’t think I could be very interactive with just piano-playing so I began to sing in order to connect with people more easily.

How did it feel when your YouTube videos got so successful? Did you expect it?
I thought that my first video was very funny, but no, I did not expect it to become that big. This is a cliché, but it was like a dream. The viewcount grew larger than any number of people I could rationally imagine, and it was very surreal.

Then, how did it feel when Ben Folds paid tribute to you? Did you feel exploited or honored at first?
I felt honored, simply because it was obvious that he was not really pretending to be me. That would be absurd, because I could just go out in public and show who I am and he would be disproven. He sent me an e-mail, explaining that it was just a tribute in good fun.

How did the whole story continue? Apparently you met up eventually.
He was playing in Colorado, near where I was going to be, so we decided to meet up. We only had about 15 minutes, but we had a nice talk about music and life and pianos.

Have you always been an internet person?
As a consumer, yes. As a performer, no. Prior to the ChatRoulette videos I had posted a few solo piano videos, which after 4 years on YouTube had about 200 views each.

Some people might now consider you one of the YouTube-15-Minutes-of-Fame Has-beens. How do you see yourself in this context?
I may have had my one big moment as a mass-media newsbite kind of phenomenon, but it has launched me into a career as a musical performer. My Subscribers currently number 346,000 and they increase every day, and I get increasingly larger offers for advertising and performance opportunities.

Did your YouTube fame lead to anything else? Did you make any money off it? (Did you even want to?)
I’m just starting to accept larger appearances, after spending the summer finding out if I could actually perform live and generate the same personal chemistry as on ChatRoulette. It works well in the right kinds of situations. Although I became well-known because of an internet tech gimmick, the basic format of what I do (a guy with a piano) can happen almost anywhere. If I make more money from it, I’d like it to be in the form of interesting performance opportunities, like being paid to play in an unusual public location.

You’ve built a brand around yourself, you are so recognizable that your outfit was even suggested as a Halloween costume by a webzine. Yet you prefer to remain a character with only a stage name. Why is that?
I’m a very private person, and it’s nice to have the advantage of taking off my celebrity costume and being unrecognizable. It’s the best of both worlds. It won’t last, but I really appreciate this little part of my life where I can perform for millions of people and yet remain anonymous.

What are your general thoughts about the social web? What does it do to music? To musicians? If you could, would you change anything?
I’m curious to see where we’ll find the balance between people’s desire for free music and the artists‘ desire to make money. It seems to be moving towards some arrangement where the individual consumer doesn’t pay, but a company pays to advertise somewhere in relation to the product. I think it’s great that musicians can now get widespread public exposure without having to convince a record company that they’re worth the pressing of thousands of albums.

For more interviews with Merton, check out this one by Mashable and this one by reelSEO conducted in song.

Next week: Gavin Castleton and „Won over Frequency“.

This post is part 5 of the series Success Story Internet?
The series talks with people, in whose lives the internet has changed something, about the internet.
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