So Dreadfull A Judgment

Last weekend my band, The West End, played a show and in the midst of it I had just the best feeling. I looked out at the audience and saw that everyone was paying attention, listening to the music. They weren’t distracted by the ball game behind the bar, weren’t playing Liar’s Poker, weren’t embroiled in some animated conversation. They were just listening.

As a performer of original music, I can tell you there is no better feeling.

What’s more, the song we were playing is one of our more . . . unconventional . . . songs. It’s got this beat that’s sort of a cross between a shuffle and a carnival calliope.

The topic is even more unconventional. It’s based on the account of Mary Rowlandson, who was taken captive by Indians during the bloodiest war in North America — King Phillip’s War in the late 17th century. Her tract, titled  “The Narrative of the Captivity and the Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson” and collected in the scholarly work So Dreadfull A Judgment, became the archetype of a new form of American writing called the captivity narrative.

At the Rockville Wine and Music Festival
At the Rockville Wine and Music Festival

Ever since I discovered them, I have been fascinated by captivity narratives. Puritans saw events in the world as signs of God’s pleasure or displeasure with their amount of piety, and the captivity narratives always have a heavy philosophical underpinning of judgment and retribution. (The scholarly book’s title is taken from a sermon at the time that referred to the War itself as a “dreadfull” judgment.)

So one day I thought I would write a song about this one, taking events, words and phrases from Rowlandson’s own work. And this is the song where I noticed that people seemed to be paying attention. Were they really? I don’t know for sure, but it felt like they were!

I thought, therefore, you might be interested in seeing the lyrics to my captivity narrative song (if you want to hear it, you can listen on my band’s Facebook page).

So Dreadfull A Judgment, by Brad Rourke
Was the tenth of February 1675
King Philip's men they came and they left few of us alive
At length they fell descending on us like a devil's claw
It was the dolefullest day my eyes ever saw

Captured, I was taken left for dead
So dreadful a judgment on our heads
Go or stay they finally made me choose
Now I've returned to spread the news

Eight days come and gone and my baby passed away
That little lamb left me but she didn’t go away
I laid all night beside my darling precious little one
The next day saw my Mary who’d been traded for a gun

Captured, I was taken left for dead
So dreadful a judgment on our heads
They herded me from camp to camp for days
Sold and sold again and sold away

Providence reversed and at last they sent me home
After full a year among the savages alone
But to this day, I recall a woman with some meat
A piece of bear, a boiling pot, good enough to eat

Captured, I was taken left for dead
So dreadful a judgment on our heads
Our punishment is waiting in the hills
He’ll hurl them at our arrogance and will

Note: The photo is from an outdoor festival we played some time ago. I don’t have any photos from this weekend yet. If you are reading this and happened to be there, and happened to snap a photo or two, let me know!

Internet Radio, The Next Plastics

According to MinOnline, a little noticed phenomenon began to coalesce last year. While everyone was watching social networking and video sites soaring in popularity — Internet Audio was quietly taking off too.

It may be one of the Big Things of 2009 — indeed, it may already be. Says Arbitron: 33 million Americans listen to Internet radio each week. Among at-work listeners, Internet use went from 12% to 20%. And among college graduates, 30% of all radio listening is over the pipes.
It makes sense. Sites like Pandora and Last.fm allow listeners to tailor their experience and — more important — share favorites and playlists with ease. As people in general demand more and more customization from their organizational and institutional relationships, it boggles my mind that anyone still puts up with broadcast at all.
From the article:

Why is the rise and success of Internet radio important to publishers? On several grounds. First, this is what your prize in-office users are doing with much of their day. Finding ways to weave into one of the things they most enjoy about broadband should be a no-brainer for any veteran Web content provider. If you think they like social networks and video, then wait until you see how much users love their Pandora. The average session time is three hours. Also, Web radio is an enormously robust channel for audio programming, including podcasts. Services like Last.fm, for instance, let users find and save popular podcasts into their libraries for later playback as a channel.

More to the point, however, streaming audio represents a massively popular mode of online behavior that invites a range of publisher partnerships: branded audio channels or “editor’s choice” channels, for instance. Why shouldn’t an online site offer an audio feed of its editor’s Web radio channel or channels created by that issue’s featured celebrities? What would an Utne radio channel sound like, or a BHG or High Times channel, for that matter? Lifestyle, art, regional and certainly music publications all aggregate taste groups that likely share musical or even talk radio preferences. Web radio listeners already swap their music channels in much the same way the rest of us trade and share article links in social media. Audio is the next content type users will want to coalesce around and share. This is a Web trend in the making that Web publishers should not take lightly.

As I tweeted a few days ago, the rise of Internet radio seems to me to spell game over for satellite. SiriusXM recently got a reprieve from having their stock delisted from NASDAQ, but how do they stay afloat over the long term?

The Power Of Music

My friend Caryn Martinez has this interesting story about subliminal advertising. Seems that when hearing French music, more shoppers purchased French wine. During German oompah music, it’s all Piesporters and Rieslings.

The kicker: in post-purchase surveys, only a handful ever mentioned the music when saying why they bought what they did.

Such is the secret power of music.

An Interview With Prince

I ran across a very interesting piece the other day. It’s LA Times pop critic Ann Powers’ blog post about her five-hour personal interview with none other than Prince.

This piece was interesting for two reasons.

First, it was interesting on a journalistic level. The piece is a great example of how a reporter can humanize him or herself by consciously being present in the narrative. Instead of “this reporter” doublespeak, we get a great opening salvo:

Tuesday morning, I received the Golden Ticket of journalistic invitations: a summons to Prince’s mansion, high atop Mulholland Drive, to hear the new music he’ll be releasing sometime after the holidays. At 8 p.m. that evening, I drove my dirty Mazda past the fountain in his courtyard, parked by the limo in the back, and entered his manse. The man himself greeted me in a candelit study, where he was laboring over a laptop with his Web designers . . . .

Man, I want to be there.

The other reason the piece is interesting is the window it gives on Prince, one of the most interesting performers out there. The big P has plans to release three records in 2009, without the help of a record label. Yes, there will be digital downloads and whatnot, but more interesting is that there is evidently a direct deal with a retailer to carry physical product.

Prince evidently said repeatedly in the interview “the gatekeepers have to change” when it comes to the music business.

Great news from a deep thinker in the music business. I look forward to reading Powers’ full piece on January 11.

Changing The Meaning Of "Community Work"

I do a lot of work with organizations trying to change how they relate to — and work with — communities. As a result, I write a lot of reports about “changing work habits in order to make change in communities” and whatnot.

There’s a challenge in writing such things. Often, it is hard to make them seem real. The results are often things like: “staff have new ways of relating to one another,” or “people in the community see the organization in a new light.” Even if it’s all true it sounds sort of . . . lame. I always imagine someone reading the report and shouting, “These are results?! We spent how much money on this?!”

I am always trying to write these reports a little punchier, a little more solid, a little better. So my eyes widened when I came across an excerpt from an article that seemed to me to strike exactly the right tone.

It’s about an organization that totally changed out it relates to the community, embracing a number of Web 2.0 ideas and shifting from being an old-school organization to a nimble, community-centered outfit. It revamped its website and started seeing itself as a resource to the community. The results (and this is always where it’s hard to write) were astonishinng — awards, accolades, all the metrics pointing up. Wow!

The kicker? The organization is the Roxy on Sunset Strip. You never know where connecting with the community can take you!

(Thanks to my good friend Thomas for pointing this out to me.)

Read on:

…[Nic] Adler {who owns the Roxy] realized that radical change was needed as the venue could no longer rely on reputation alone. It was no longer “cool” to play at The Roxy, unless you were a hair metal band. It was getting harder and harder for The Roxy to be competitive.

The final straw came in October 2006. Adler was driving up Doheny on his way to the club when a sign-flipper tapped on his windshield with a big GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sign, for Tower Records. He had grown up with Tower Records right down the street from The Roxy. He knew that if he didn’t do something to turn things around…The Roxy, and the rest of the Strip would be next to go.

Adler turned to the Internet. He created a MySpace profile for the club. Within three weeks he saw an impact on the club. Earlier that year he had hired Megan Jacobs, former talent buyer for Temple Bar, in attempt to bring in some new talent to the venue. Jacobs introduced Adler to online media specialist Kyra Reed in November of 2006, and Reed brought the change he was looking for.

Reed convinced Adler that the future was online and it was time to be bold. The Roxy website ditched their old-school site and moved to a blog format. Furthermore, Adler took the spirit of community and transparency a step further by including listings for other businesses and venues on the Strip. This radical departure from the competitive nature of the industry has made an impact, although few — if any — venues have followed suit with their internet presence. Adler is admittedly hooked on social media now and it’s apparent — The Roxy, which only years ago went after camera-wielding patrons, now has a massive presence on the web and even hosts user-generated photos and videos on the site. The Roxy is also one of four nominees for Best Rock Site for this month’s VH1 Rock Honors.

The staff at The Roxy embraced the blog and the blogosphere at large. They’ve expanded their horizons beyond the rock staple that had become synonymous with The Roxy and began booking more “eastside” bands like Peter, Bjorn,and John and started a three-month partnership with Filter magazine.

Changing The Meaning Of "Community Work"

I do a lot of work with organizations trying to change how they relate to — and work with — communities. As a result, I write a lot of reports about “changing work habits in order to make change in communities” and whatnot.

There’s a challenge in writing such things. Often, it is hard to make them seem real. The results are often things like: “staff have new ways of relating to one another,” or “people in the community see the organization in a new light.” Even if it’s all true it sounds sort of . . . lame. I always imagine someone reading the report and shouting, “These are results?! We spent how much money on this?!”

I am always trying to write these reports a little punchier, a little more solid, a little better. So my eyes widened when I came across an excerpt from an article that seemed to me to strike exactly the right tone.

It’s about an organization that totally changed out it relates to the community, embracing a number of Web 2.0 ideas and shifting from being an old-school organization to a nimble, community-centered outfit. It revamped its website and started seeing itself as a resource to the community. The results (and this is always where it’s hard to write) were astonishinng — awards, accolades, all the metrics pointing up. Wow!

The kicker? The organization is the Roxy on Sunset Strip. You never know where connecting with the community can take you!

(Thanks to my good friend Thomas for pointing this out to me.)

Read on:

…[Nic] Adler {who owns the Roxy] realized that radical change was needed as the venue could no longer rely on reputation alone. It was no longer “cool” to play at The Roxy, unless you were a hair metal band. It was getting harder and harder for The Roxy to be competitive.

The final straw came in October 2006. Adler was driving up Doheny on his way to the club when a sign-flipper tapped on his windshield with a big GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sign, for Tower Records. He had grown up with Tower Records right down the street from The Roxy. He knew that if he didn’t do something to turn things around…The Roxy, and the rest of the Strip would be next to go.

Adler turned to the Internet. He created a MySpace profile for the club. Within three weeks he saw an impact on the club. Earlier that year he had hired Megan Jacobs, former talent buyer for Temple Bar, in attempt to bring in some new talent to the venue. Jacobs introduced Adler to online media specialist Kyra Reed in November of 2006, and Reed brought the change he was looking for.

Reed convinced Adler that the future was online and it was time to be bold. The Roxy website ditched their old-school site and moved to a blog format. Furthermore, Adler took the spirit of community and transparency a step further by including listings for other businesses and venues on the Strip. This radical departure from the competitive nature of the industry has made an impact, although few — if any — venues have followed suit with their internet presence. Adler is admittedly hooked on social media now and it’s apparent — The Roxy, which only years ago went after camera-wielding patrons, now has a massive presence on the web and even hosts user-generated photos and videos on the site. The Roxy is also one of four nominees for Best Rock Site for this month’s VH1 Rock Honors.

The staff at The Roxy embraced the blog and the blogosphere at large. They’ve expanded their horizons beyond the rock staple that had become synonymous with The Roxy and began booking more “eastside” bands like Peter, Bjorn,and John and started a three-month partnership with Filter magazine.