Banging on the door (Klub Kakofanney Lockdown Letter)

Banging on the door

It's the first Friday of the month and it's,.... well you know the rest. It should be a Klub Kakofanney night, but the country is not quite there yet. A government-sanctioned gig in Liverpool last weekend brought lots of positive press for rock and pop music, with one gig-goer describing it as "the best night of my life", Over the top? Perhaps, but it reminds politicians that both music and a social life is massively important to our well-being, and there is more to culture than the Opera House.

We can't take it any more

But we are not at a gig in Liverpool, just sitting at home, and we don't even have designer wallpaper to stare at, so here instead is a reload of pieces from Klub Kakofanney gigs in recent years of some great Oxford bands. There's the intricate and complex Brickwork Lizards from 2016, the powerful Lake Of Kings from 2017, the politically-charged Restructure from 2018, and to finish off, a more calming and peaceful piece by Full Circle Blue from 2019.

It seems increasingly certain that music events will be able to resume from Monday 21st June, provided we have venues to stage them. On a recent discussion programme I heard one of the talking heads say that any further lockdowns are unlikely, but then in a masterpiece of political double-speak added "However, there could be a roll-back of some freedoms".

Doesn't matter if you want it back

If your band puts videos on youtube, you really should read this. I recently spotted that YouTube has quietly added a new tick box in its uploader which says "Allow people to sample this content".

Allow sampling is a polite way of saying "Allow your video or your music to be ripped off and used for whatever someone else wants". You don't get to choose what it is used for. It could be used for a political cause you object too, a bad taste joke, anything. Mostly, the excuse of "legitimate sampling" is used by people creating click-bait videos which is already crowding the original content out of YouTube. Musicians and content creators are ripped off enough already and this will just normalise it. In the words of Amanda Palmer, doesn't matter if you want it back, you've given it away.

So back to YouTube, serious artists probably won't tick the "Allow sampling" box. After all, anyone who wants to legitimately use part of your video and music can always simply ask you for permission. Bad news. The box is pre-ticked by YouTube, and hidden behind the "More" option at the bottom of the upload screen, so you get opted in by default. You have to conciously decide to find it and untick it. Even worse, unlike other fields, the form doesn't remember your choices. You need to remember to turn it off on every upload. And as if that wasn't bad enough, every video you ever uploaded in the past has already been preset to allow sharing, without you ever being asked, and the onus is now on you to go through your videos individually and laboriously untick the relevant box.

Google may have had good intentions, who knows, but the way the juggernaut has steam-rollered this into place, and its heavy-handed approach of opting everyone in by default is just plain wrong. You are an artist and you have rights to the products of your own creativity. Do not sign them away lightly.

Somewhere, over the voice box

Have you ever heard of polyphonic overtone singing? It is also known sometimes as throat singing, though that is more often the lower pitched cylon-like voices and subharmonics. Anna-Maria Hefele, a German voice coach, does a mean line in overtone singing. This video is a cover of "Over the rainbow". The only instruments in this video are a plain old guitar and Hefele's voice sounding like a human theramin. There are no pedals, no special effects.

She makes it look so effortless that you could easily think there was an off-screen synthesiser playing the tones. Another example of overtones is the incredibly high-pitched notes achieved by Mariah Carey. Listen to her song, Emotions, when she sings "I like the way I feel... INSIDE". This is often described as singing in the whistle register, but it is actually a resonant polyphonic overtone you can hear. The vocal chords themselves simply cannot vibrate at that frequency.

On the subject of voices, I have been asked who speaks the words "Klub Kakofanney" on the branding screen at the start of our Klub Kakofanney videos. The answer is that no-one speaks them, well, no human anyway. It is 100% artificial. I used a synth to make the basic phonemes, edited them together and adjusted the pitch and flow, and added in some background noise to make it sound a bit less like a cyborg. On reflection, just using a human voice would have been so much easier.

Let's rock Valhalla

You know how I am always encouraging you to think of stage performances as visual events, not just musical, to wear brighter colours, consider costumes, add style and showmanship. I think this band might just have taken it a bit too far. Its the Cybertronic Spree and they are playing a cover of The Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin, and the vocals are great. See if you can spot the blue band member in the background, whose only function in this clip seems to be to dance, jiggle, be a bit of gratuitous eye-candy, and shake that booty.

Just like the Cybertronic Spree, keep wearing your masks. And please get your jabs. When you are vaccinated, you are not only protecting yourself, but protecting others too, including people who cannot be vaccinated right now. The faster we get this done, the sooner life and music will return, so let's not give the government any excuse for rolling back freedoms.

7th May 2021
The Lockdown Letters
Klub Kakofanney