Monday, March 9, 2015

Stats behind my essay

I've written an analysis of the statistics collected from keeping this blog for the past 15 months.  Here are the relevant bits:

210 music breaks

  • 60 unnamed instrumentals, mostly Arabic music
  • 10 times when name and author of song was unclear, mostly because they were Arabic or Ukrainian or French authors of instrumental songs and I couldn't figure out their names based on Amy's pronunciation of names unfamiliar to both of us
  • 140 music breaks not counting unnamed/unclear ones mentioned above
  • 12 songs/instrumentals where artist is named but whether they're famous or not is hard to determine for one reason or another, usually because they're foreign
  • 128 songs/instrumentals where fame or lack of fame of author is clearly known
  • 106 songs in English
  • 103 songs/instrumentals by famous authors
  • 88 songs in English by famous authors
  • 25 songs/instrumentals by indy artists
  • 18 songs in English by indy artists
  • 40+ of the authors are dead
  • 69+ musical selections that predate this century, especially music from the 1960's and 1970's

Percentages:


  • a bit more than half of music breaks involve songs in English
  • most of the rest are Arabic instrumentals, along with some songs in various languages (Arabic, Ukrainian, Russian, Spanish, Japanese)
  • of the songs in English, 17% are by indy artists
  • of the songs in English, 83% are by famous artists
  • approximately 53% of music is from the 20th century, mainly 1960's and 1970's (not counting unnamed instrumentals)
  • at least 31% of the authors of the music breaks are dead (not counting authors of unnamed instrumentals)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

3/2-3/6

3/2
Israel/Chomsky
"We Are the Wave" by Harry Belafonte

Chomsky
"I Can't Breathe" by Pussy Riot

3/3
Chomsky
Named Arabic instrumental

Silvio Rodriguez

3/4
Michelle Alexander
"Be Free" by JJ Cole

Amy Goodman re John Legend:  "culture is so important in getting out information."

"Glory" by John Legend

3/5
Supreme Court health care decision
"Masters of War" Dylan cover

Before Attica story
"Attica Blues" by Archie Shepp

3/6
Selma -- "We Shall Overcome" (led by Pete Seeger I think)

Friday, February 27, 2015

9/15/2014-3/27/2015

The format here is date of the show, topic of the story, and then what music was played.

9/15
Iraq
Unnamed South Asian tabla/scat

Before story on ebola
Unnamed African instrumental

9/17
Interview with Congressman McDermott
"Stand" by REM

Scotland independence
Billy Bragg's "Take Down the Union Jack" (perfect)

9/18
Climate change
Instrumental music with the video, "the History of Climate Negotiation in 38 Seconds"

Climate change
"Do It Now"

9/23
Flood Wall Street
The Canary Project singing "Wall Street"

Next, Helale, live at Wall Street protest

9/24
Patrick Cockburn on Islamic State
"Is It For Freedom" by Sara Thompson

10/1
Colorado School Board
"What Did You Learn in School" sung by Pete Seeger (written by Tom Paxton)

Riker's Island
Instrumental by Paddington Bear

10/3
Iraq
"Soldier's Heart" by Jacob George

"Yellow Ribbon" by Emily Gates

10/6
Haiti
Prince with Cornell West

10/7
Ebola
Electronic instrumental

American geriatrics
Instrumental by Bilal Abdulrahman

10/10
Malala
"I Am Malala" -- Girls of the World benefit CD

Ferguson
Lauryn Hill -- "Black Rage"

10/17
Police killing in Denver
Unnamed instrumental by Paddington Bear

Police
Old blues song about voting -- "Be Careful How You Vote" by Sonny Land Slim (sp?)

10/31
Richmond, California and Chevron
Unnamed song

Green Party
"Stuck Here in the Middle With You" done by Stealers Wheel (sp?)

11/6
Before GMOs, after TTIP
Song by native Hawaiin musician, Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole

Before drug policy story
"Wild and Free" by Ziggy Marley

11/7
Banks
"Money Blues" by Laverne Baker

"Am I Evil" by Diamondhead (heavy metal instrumental)

11/10
After Mexico before Iraq
Instrumental oud music from Iraq

Before ebola
Song about ebola in French

12/4
Eric Garner
"Let It Breathe" by Kanaan

1/2
Julian Assange
Song by Leonard Cohen

Russell Brand
Russell Brand

1/8, 1/9 and 1/12
Massacre in France dominated the news, and all music breaks on these days was instrumental French music

1/20
Yemen
African musician Anjali Kujo (sp?)

Charlie Hayden -- instrumental jazz

1/21
Obama's State of the Union speech
Song by Slater-Kinney, "Price Tag" (Amy noted that this is the band's first album in 10 years)

1/22
Guantanamo
Cover instrumental of a Metallica song

PJ Harvey song about Shaker Amed (Guantanamo prisoner)

1/23
Yemen
Arabic instrumental

Song by Kimya Dawson

1/26
Jordan Davis (Sundance)
Unnamed hiphop song about Jordan Davis

2/18
Greece
Unnamed instrumental, possibly Andean

"Swear" -- instrumental by Moby

2/26
Black site in Chicago
"Sweet Home Chicago" by Robert Johnson

Before story on IS
Unnamed Arabic instrumental

2/27
FCC
Craftwork song about radio

Iraq
Arabic instrumental

Sunday, September 14, 2014

August 4 through September 12

Democracy Now has continued to do fantastic journalism, brilliantly covering subjects from Iraq to Syria to Ferguson, as usual.  The music breaks have generally continued to fail to impress.  The implicit policy of "anything that's happened culturally after 1975 is irrelevant" continues unabated.

August 4:  after story on Gaza, unnamed classical Arabic music, instrumental.  After more on Gaza, John Lennon.

August 5:  after Gaza, oud instrumental.  Artist named, don't know how to spell it though.  Before a piece on the police strangling of Eric Garner, "41 Shots" by Bruce Springsteen.  Very appropriate song, but there are many other similar songs by independent artists that are just as good, and they've played this one before.

August 8:  after story on Iraq and Gaza, oud instrumental (artists named).  After more on Gaza with Uri Avnery, they played traditional Arabic music, a female singer they named, but I didn't catch the name.

August 12:  after Iraq, unnamed instrumental.  Before St. Louis, "Strange Fruit" sung by Nina Simone.

August 13:  after Iraq, oud instrumental by named artist.  Next break, Arabic (Iraqi) musician doing an instrumental.

August 14:  after piece on Ferguson, a group called Rappers Against Racism doing "Key To Your Heart" from 1998.  Before a piece on the Mexican border, "Deportees" sung by Arlo Guthrie.  (Very appropriate song, but one written around 70 years ago.  Many other more contemporary and thus probably more powerful songs written on the same subject, in English.)

August 15:  after Ferguson, "Wailers" poem by Amiri Baraka.  After story on Ebola outbreak, African instrumental by named artist that I didn't catch.

August 18:  after Ferguson, JJ Cole's new song on the subject, "Be Free."  Next break, Daniel Wilson, unnamed track.

August 19:  after Ferguson, instrumental by jazz icon, Max Roach.  Next, another play of "Strange Fruit" sung by Nina Simone.

August 20:  after Ferguson, unnamed song.  Next break, Julius Lester singing "See How the Rain Falls."  (Not related to the story at all as far as I could tell.)

August 21:  after Ferguson, Lauren Hill's version of a song called "Black Rage" (not sure who wrote it).  Lauren Hill was Michael Jackson's backup singer.  After Gaza, unnamed Arabic instrumental.

August 22:  after Ebola story, a song about Ebola from Liberia that was written to raise awareness about the disease.  Next break after more on Ebola, Arcade Fire, who are apparently supporters of the group, Partners In Health.

August 25:  after a story on the Middle East, "Red Sun" by something with the last name of Shankar.  Indian tabla music and scat singing.  After a story on the police killing of Eric Garner, Tracy Chapman singing her 1980's hit, "Talking About a Revolution."

August 26:  after story on the funeral of Mike Brown, music from his homegoing.  Next, Ravi Shankar instrumental before story about Libya.

August 27:  after Gaza, Arabic (Palestinian) instrumental.  Before Ferguson, JJ Cole doing "Be Free" again.

August 28:  after climate story and 350.org, "Melancholia" by Duke Ellington.  After story on corporate tax, an electronic instrumental called called "Moby" by Blair.  (Or the other way around...?)

August 29:  after Ukraine, a song in Ukrainian by a group I didn't catch.  After story on immigration, Arlo Guthrie singing "Deportees" again.

September 2:  after story on abortion, Arabic instrumental "Baghdad Night" by named artist I didn't catch.  After piece on Iraq, same music.

September 5:  after story on Russia/Ukraine, the same Ukrainian music they played last time they covered this story.  Before a piece on $15 minimum wage struggle, a song on exactly that subject by a band called Jazeeri something.  Good.

September 10:  after a piece on the climate, Nina Simone singing "I Wish I Knew What It Meant to be Free."  Next break:  same song.  Amy mentions that producer Sam Alcoff's new baby is named after Nina Simone.

September 11:  after piece on Obama's "War on Terror" speech the night before, a cover of Dylan's "Masters of War."  Before interview with Tavis Smiley, the old Civil Rights anthem, "Freedom," sung by a church choir from the sounds of it.

September 12:  after interviewing Medea Benjamin about war, "War" by Bob Marley.  After interviewing Haskell Wexler (who used my music throughout his latest film), an Arabic instrumental.

Friday, August 1, 2014

April 1 through August 1

For the time period here -- April 1 through August 1 -- I have listened to DN regularly.  Certainly not every episode, but enough of them to form a representative sample.  As I write now bombs are falling in Gaza, among other places.  At no point during this crisis as far as I'm aware has DN had an English-language song in a music break that addresses the situation.  Although the shows have otherwise been fantastic, especially compared to BBC or NPR, the continuing lack of recognition of the power an appropriate song can have to "knock it out of the park" (to use a baseball term) is very sad.  Anyway, the details...

April 1:  after a story on police brutality in Albuquerque we hear Marvin Gaye doing an unrelated song, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his death.  This is a famous musician we've heard on DN many, many times, since the producer who picks the music is a fan of Motown.  The second story was on solitary confinement.  The song after that was by another famous artist we've heard many times on DN, Johnny Cash, doing "San Quentin."  The song is indeed about prison, so that part is good.  But there are lots of independent, contemporary songs on the subject that would have been much more to the point and otherwise more effective, as well as independent.

April 2:  after an interview with Bernie Sanders, an independent hiphop piece by Cambio.  Subject material may or may not have been really tightly related to the interview, but nice to hear independent political hiphop on DN every now and then.  (I just don't understand why we don't hear independent political hiphop on DN at least once every 2 or 3 days instead.  It seems so obvious.  This is primarily where relevant, popular political expression is happening in this country today -- indy political hiphop like Cambio.)  The next piece was a maddeningly irrelevant, pithy instrumental by a band called Paddington Bear.

April 3:  after a story about veterans, Neil Young's "Living With War."  Good song, very much on the subject.  However, the artist is one of the most famous people ever to walk the Earth, and there are other songs by much lesser-known artists that could be equally or more effective, so in a case like this, there is no excuse, to my mind.  Before the next piece, on Cuba, the very popular South American song, "Commandante Che."  It's about Cuba, which is relevant for the story, but it's a very well-known song and it's not the least bit contemporary.  Plus it's in a language most of the listeners don't understand.

April 21:  after a story on BP's spill, "Ludlow" by Woody Guthrie, on the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow massacre.  Good to note the Ludlow anniversary and play Woody's song.  But a shame to miss the opportunity to play a hard-hitting song about BP's spill, of which there are several that I know of.  After a piece about the death of Ruben "Hurricane" Carter, Bob Dylan's song about the man.  There is clearly no better song to play for that story.

April 22:  after a piece about Love Canal, "Nature Song" by Sweet Honey in the Rock.  It's related to the subject, so basically a fine choice.  After a piece about whaling, "Earth Crisis" by Steel Pulse.  In this case, there are lots of songs about whaling that could have fit much more powerfully, written also by artists who are far more contemporary and far less famous than the popular 1980's-era British reggae band.

April 23:  after a piece about contemporary school segregation in the US, they played "Turn Me Round" by the Roots.  Not a bad choice, though I wonder if there isn't any good, independent, political hiphop on the subject of contemporary school segregation (hint:  there is).  The Roots are good, sure, but very famous, featured on corporate TV every night of the week, and the song in question is associated strongly with the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's.  So there, too, it's related to the subject material, but in other areas it falls short of being an ideal choice.  After a story about a toxic river, Cat Stevens' "Where Do the Children Play."  It's a great song and is topically very connected to the subject, but the artist is very famous and there are, again, lots of independent, contemporary artists doing material on exactly this subject that could have worked much, much better.

April 24:  before an interview about drones, a song called "Drone Operator" by an independent artist.  Playing independent artists and songs related to the subject!  Good choice.  Except in the second music break they apparently thought that all of the many thousands of listeners to the program just needed to hear that song a second time.  Maybe no one else in the world has written another great song about drones that could have been played there?

April 25:  after a story about net neutrality, a song by the husband of the woman being interviewed.  The song had nothing to do with net neutrality.  Nice to play independent music, but an independent song on the subject would have been a much more powerful choice (they exist).  Before an interview about the New York World's Fair protests, "It's A Small World After All."  A song by Disney.  Someone please explain that bizarre choice, it's lost on me.

April 28:  after a story about the XL pipeline, Neil Young singing a lyric he put to the tune of Shenandoah, "Mother Earth."  It's topically related, but there are other songs specifically about the pipeline that could have hit harder, written by much less famous artists.  Yes, Neil Young sang at an anti-pipeline protest.  So did other people.  Is the fact that Neil is the most famous one relevant for DN?  Why?  What makes his fame so relevant for an independent show?  Of course for corporate shows existing in the corporate media echo chamber, fame is all-important.  But why for DN is it so important?  I'd really like to know, seriously, because I just don't get it.  It seems antithetical to what DN stands for.

May 1:  after a piece about FBI recruitment of Muslims, a song by the very famous artist, Patti Smith, totally unrelated to the subject.

May 2:  after a piece about the death of Vargas, if I recall, a piece by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra.  I don't know if the music and the interview were at all related, but it was great to hear a progressive independent band on DN for a change.

May 4:  after a piece about Abu Ghraib prison, some unnamed oud music.  I told DN people years ago that playing music from the region you're doing stories about is a good idea to do now and then (years ago at one point they weren't doing that at all, in the course of their random trajectory with concern to what to do with music breaks).  Next piece played was Neil Young's "Shock and Awe."  Again, very famous artist doing a song that's related but not directly enough to be worth playing instead of a more topical independent artist.

May 9:  after a piece about marijuana refugees in Colorado, Ziggy Marley's "Wild and Free."  While I personally think the songwriting here isn't very good, it is certainly on the subject.  While Ziggy's dad was one of the most famous men who ever lived, Ziggy is less well-known.  So if it were a good song, it would have otherwise been a good choice.  For the next piece we hear from Cat Stevens again, not because the song was related to the subject, but because he had just been admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I love Cat Stevens but can someone tell me why his being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is relevant for an independent radio show?  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

June 2:  after interviewing Richard Clark on drones, unnamed Arabic instrumental.  Next, a song about drones by an independent artist called Jimmi.  Nice, independent song totally on the subject!  Good!

July 16:  after a piece about Iraq, instrumental Arabic classical music from Iraq.  Then, before a story about nukes in Iran, a cover of the Spanish-language hit, "La Bamba."  No idea what was up with that.

July 17:  after a piece about Gaza, a song by the famous Lebanese pro-Palestinian musician, Marcel Khalife.  Nice to hear Marcel Khalife on the show.  Though the focus on Arabic language music in the breaks during the Gaza crisis is way disproportionate in terms of effectiveness.  The interviews they're doing seem to me to be crying out to be followed up by a hard-hitting song in English on the subject, but they're not doing it at all.  After a story on Honduran refugees on the US border, an unnamed Motown song.

July 18:  after Gaza, the famous Lebanese singer, Feyrouz, singing in Arabic.  Next break, unnamed Arabic song.

July 21:  after Gaza, unnamed Arabic instrumental.  Next, another song in Arabic by an artist whose name I didn't catch.

July 22:  after Gaza, unnamed female Arabic singer.  Then Marcel Khalife again.

July 23:  after Gaza, a song called "In My Heart" by an Israeli/Palestinian duo.  Under the circumstances, a song against being bombed would have hit harder than a song about coexistence, but that's admittedly very subjective.  Perhaps a good song choice.  Next, Arabic instrumental.

July 30:  Gaza, then Arabic oud and voice.  Then a South Asian instrumental called "Traveling Souls."  Wrong part of the world if they're trying to keep an Arab theme with their instrumentals.

July 31:  Gaza, then unnamed female Arabic singer.  Next, unnamed male Arabic singer.

August 1:  Gaza, then unnamed instrumental, western-sounding music, with visuals of people holding signs against bombing Gaza.  Second break:  same.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A musician sang at a picket line! Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

OK, I've been terribly remiss at maintaining this blog lately.  Though I have been keeping track of DN's music breaks when I listen to the show for the past couple months, I haven't put it down here.  (Summary:  some of them have been choice, most have not been.)

In any case, I was just listening to DN's headlines today and I got annoyed at something which seemed worth spewing about here.  Among the other headlines, Amy mentioned that my friend Tom Morello sang at a picket line somewhere yesterday.  (A very worthy cause I'm sure.  I was distracted and didn't catch the details.  And for the purposes of this blog entry they don't matter.)

I just wanted to say that I think the fact that this picket line was happening was very worth covering, I'm sure.  The fact that Tom Morello was singing at it was also worth covering, because Tom Morello is a fantastic musician who should be promoted.  But what about when other musicians sing at other picket lines?  Most of the time that happens, DN doesn't mention it.

Now, I fully understand why the corporate media might mention that Tom Morello sang at a picket line.  They should definitely mention it much more often when Tom sings at a picket line to be sure.

But on the occasions that they do mention such a thing, the reason they mention it is not because Tom Morello is a great musician (which he is).  Not because he's a great songwriter (which he is).  Not because he's politically active and totally right on (which he is).

When the corporate media mentions Tom Morello sang at a picket line, they mention it for one reason:  because he's famous.  Because he was in a band called Rage Against the Machine.  Amy mentioned this, too.

I love Tom and I love Rage.  But who made RATM famous?  Why did they sell millions upon millions of records?  Their massive fame did not come just because they were a fantastically talented, ground-breaking band.  It came, at least in large part, because, for whatever reason(s), they got signed to a major record label and played on US corporate radio stations on a very regular basis.  To a very large extent, the corporate media made them famous.

What interests DN in the fact that Tom Morello sang at this picket line is, as far as I can tell, the fact that he's famous.  How do they know he's famous?  The corporate media told them so.  And that's what makes his appearance at the picket line relevant to this wonderful independent news broadcast.

Please, prove me wrong:  tell me the next time the fact that a little-known but very talented local musician has once again given a spellbinding performance at a picket line becomes a headline on DN.

Am I bitter?  Fuck off.

Monday, March 31, 2014

CIA, Egypt

Yesterday's DN featured a fascinating discussion between two lawyers, one of whom was a high-ranking CIA lawyer for decades, one of whom recently wrote a book about CIA misdeeds.  The first music break was unnamed instrumental music.  Intentionally discordant orchestral music.  Kinda worked I guess.  Second music break was well-known French musician Yann Tiersen doing "Monster's Waltz," an instrumental accordian piece reminiscent of the music street musicians might play outside a cafe in the Mediterranean.  Given that one of the lawyers being interviewed was essentially a monster, perhaps the title was the reason the piece was chosen.  Or perhaps because of the focus in some of the discussion about the CIA trial in Italy, where you'd hear similar music outside the cafes.  To me, a song about the CIA could have been much more powerful than either of these choices.  Preferably two different songs about the CIA, one for each music break.

Today's DN featured a powerful interview with an Egyptian democracy activist.  The first music break was unnamed instrumental music.  Second was Arabic-language hiphop by an artist whose name I didn't catch.  Musically, the latter choice felt appropriate, though I don't know what the rapper was saying.  Given the theme of what the activist was talking about, which partially focused on the conditions necessary to allow a revolutionary uprising to take place, I would have loved to hear a song on exactly that theme, such as the title track to a recent recording of mine, "Everything Can Change."