Richard Marx is webcasting during the pandemic #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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Richard Marx is webcasting during the pandemic

EntertainmentJun 13. 2020Washington Post arts reporter Geoff Edgers interviewed singer Richard Marx on Instagram Live on May 26 to talk about the singer's newest projects. (The Washington Post)
Washington Post arts reporter Geoff Edgers interviewed singer Richard Marx on Instagram Live on May 26 to talk about the singer’s newest projects. (The Washington Post)

By The Washington Post · Geoff Edgers · ENTERTAINMENT, MUSIC 
Like so many, national arts reporter Geoff Edgers has been grounded by the coronavirus. So he has launched an Instagram Live show from his barn in Concord, Mass. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/d8716300-016c-44df-9035-6ca46848f616?ptvads=block&playthrough=false

Every Tuesday and Friday afternoon, Edgers hosts “Stuck With Geoff,” an hour-long show with whoever will take his calls. So far, that has included musician David Byrne, Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” singer Annie Lennox, and actress Marlo Thomas and her husband, talk-show veteran Phil Donahue. 

Recently, Edgers chatted with pop singer Richard Marx, 56, from his home in Malibu, Calif. Here are some excerpts from their conversation.

Q: So your voice is impeccable and the falsetto, it’s all there. But I’m curious. My son, who’s 10 and plays guitar, is obsessed with getting an autotune pedal. Have you used autotune? His feeling was it wasn’t even about fixing the notes. It was because many of the songs he hears have that sound in it. He wants to re-create that. 

A: He’s absolutely right. And I was sort of on this get-off-my-lawn kind of bandwagon about never using autotune for people who can’t really sing. And then I listened to new music, to what’s on the radio. And there is a sound that the autotune processing creates. In some cases, people need it because they can’t sing in tune. But if you’re not insecure about it, sometimes it’s a really cool effect. 

Q: The Beatles, they used effects in their voices. And I know John Lennon was very insecure about his voice and would multiple track it. My boy loves Harry Styles, who performed a version of Peter Gabriel’s song “Sledgehammer” on Howard Stern’s show. 

A: I love Harry Styles, and I love the way the way he does it. But if I knew him, I’d be like, ‘Dude, you’re being so faithful to the Peter Gabriel version.” I would love to hear him sort of (mess) with it a little bit. Because I always feel like if you’re going to be really faithful to a song in a performance, then you’re just going to be constantly compared to the original as opposed to sort of doing it your own way. 

Q: Now we’re in this lockdown. You’re in Malibu, and I keep getting notes from your publicists and they’re like, “Richard’s launched this podcast called ‘Social Distancing.’ ” You’ve got like two videocast things. What’s going on? Why are you launching so many projects that have no clear revenue source? 

A: (Laughs.) The short answer is I was filling time to avoid my anxiety. The first couple of weeks, my wife (former MTV personality Daisy Fuentes) and I were, you know, we were acutely aware of how fortunate we are to be going through this in the way that we are. We have each other. But there was still a lot of anxiety about our three sons, grown men. I worry about them because I’m a dad. I have an 84-year-old immunocompromised mother. There were just a lot of things that were weighing heavily on me, and I found it was just a really great distraction. 

I’ve had no experience with this kind of thing (podcast on Zoom). But it’s been really fun. You know, people I’ve never met before. And we’ve posted it. I met Paul Stanley from KISS. We had the greatest conversation, and we text each other now. I met (designer) Steve Madden a week or so ago. He was really fascinating. I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to say that I’m interviewing these people as much as just chatting with them. 

Q: A couple of weeks ago, I covered my first assignment out of my barn in a long time. I covered a concert in New Hampshire as the first sanctioned concert, and it was a guy on a stage they built outside a venue called the Tupelo Music Hall. You know that place.

A: Yeah, I played there. I did my solo acoustic show there last year. 

Q: Great place. I mean, you played there, Richard Thompson, Buddy Guy. What they did was build a stage outside and they numbered parking spaces. Seventy-five spaces next to where you could put your chair. You weren’t allowed to wander in any way, and they just had a guy on the stage. It was really a test and it went OK, but the energy was different. What’s your kind of comfort level, or when do you actually get out there and perform again? 

A: That’s a really good question, and I think it’s going to be much like the reopening of state by state. I think it’s going to be a gradual process. And anything could happen. I think what we’re probably going to see over the next few months are things like you just described or where everybody’s in golf carts, distanced. There are going to be several iterations of it as we go. And then we probably are going to get hit with the second wave and all bets will be off again and again. It’s one of those weird things, especially because I tour. Probably 75 percent of my touring is just me, solo acoustic. 

I don’t think we’re going to really see what it’s going to look like for at least six or eight months. All my concerts for 2020 have been rescheduled to early 2021. But who knows? I get messages on social media all the time from people. Is the London show still gonna happen? Who knows.

BLACKPINK’s Thai member loses Bt25 million to cheating former manager #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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BLACKPINK’s Thai member loses Bt25 million to cheating former manager

Jun 02. 2020
By The Nation

South Korea’s YG Entertainment confirmed that BLACKPINK’s band member Lalisa ‘Lisa’ Manoban has been swindled out of 1 billion won (about Bt25 million) by her former manager.

On Tuesday (June 2), South Korea’s Market News reported that the band’s Thai member Lisa had been deceived by her former manager “A”, who offered to take care of the artist’s real-estate but actually lost the money in gambling.

The manager has resigned and has returned some of the stolen cash. YG Entertainment said it will help Lisa recover her losses.

For artists hit hard by isolation, a creative jolt #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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For artists hit hard by isolation, a creative jolt

May 30. 2020
For one of the 10 new Library of Congress commissions, violinist Jannina Norpoth is collaborating with composer Niloufar Nourbakhsh. MUST CREDIT: Handout photo by Laura Ise

For one of the 10 new Library of Congress commissions, violinist Jannina Norpoth is collaborating with composer Niloufar Nourbakhsh. MUST CREDIT: Handout photo by Laura Ise
By The Washington Post · Michael Andor Brodeur · ENTERTAINMENT, MUSIC 

The limbo of this extended quarantine has forced us all into a state of increased resourcefulness. This has been especially true for artists, curators and musicians, whose outlets for sharing their work have been swiftly limited to laptops and balconies.

Take David Plylar, lead curator in the music division at the Library of Congress. In considering how he could continue the library’s mission to commission new music (about 600 pieces since 1925), Plylar reached for an idea he’s had on his bookshelf for 20 years.

When he was in school studying music composition, he read “The Decameron,” 14-century author Giovanni Boccaccio’s masterful collection of 100 stories as told by 10 acquaintances isolating from the bleakest stretch of the plague in a secluded Italian villa.

“I always wanted to write a piece about it, doing something with this idea of having multiple viewpoints presented,” Plylar says in a phone interview. “But of course, the problem was that I was just myself and didn’t have time to do 100 pieces.”

He still doesn’t. But Plylar did detect parallels between Boccaccio’s tales – which served as tethers to a world left behind by its sheltering tellers – and our current circumstances.

Working with other curators and specialists at the library over the past month, Plylar assembled 10 pairs of composers and performers to collaborate remotely on short solo compositions (between one and three minutes) that he’s calling the “The Boccaccio Project.” The pieces will be recorded and premiere on the LOC website over 10 days starting June 15 and continuing on weekdays through June 26.

Though taking only structural cues from “The Decameron,” Plylar expects the 10 works – the manuscripts of which will be archived by the library – to be as wide-ranging in tone and tenor as the text’s 100 tales, largely due to the project’s unique pairings and the unusual demands of remote collaboration.

The New York-based pianist Jenny Lin is collaborating with California composer Cliff Eidelman. Oboist Andrew Nogal and pianist Daniel Pesca of Chicago’s Grossman Ensemble are taking on works by Baltimore composer Richard Drehoff and Indiana-based Aaron Travers, respectively. Flutist Nathalie Joachim of Chicago’s Flutronix is paired with composer (and fellow flutist) Allison Loggins-Hull. And members of ensembles including San Francisco’s Del Sol String Quartet and New York’s Wet Ink Ensemble are teaming with composers such as Luciano Chessa, Erin Rogers and Ashkan Behzadi.

Violinist Jannina Norpoth of the New York-based PUBLIQuartet and composer Niloufar Nourbakhsh both had operas in progress when the pandemic struck and cleared their calendars.

“I was so uninspired to finish [the opera], I was really creatively kind of dead,” Nourbakhsh says over a Zoom call. “And then when this came up, because it’s so short and we have to get it done so quickly, it just gave me a lot of creative energy. It got me out of the hole that I was in.”

Norpoth, her neighbor in hard-hit Brooklyn, could relate. “As somebody who thrives off of working with other people all the time,” she says, “a lot of the places where I gather inspiration are just not there right now. So this was a really nice way to connect, even virtually.”

Nourbakhsh’s piece for Norpoth, “A Shared Solitary,” incorporates field recordings of the city (specifically its noisy nightly celebration of health-care workers) as well as a delay system she created in the programming language Max. At first, Norpoth’s notes stretch out and gently overlap, but over three minutes, their sound gradually tightens toward an ecstatic climax. Things change fast, it seems to say. But Nourbakhsh’s elastic approach to time and the music’s mediation through technology both feel like ways to capture this unsettling moment, if only for a few minutes.

Elsewhere in New York, composer and sound artist Miya Masaoka hasn’t left her high-rise apartment since early March. The pandemic forced cancellations of two premieres – an orchestral work and a Noh opera – a residency and a commission.

For her, the opportunity to quickly collaborate with cellist Kathryn Bates of the Del Sol quartet was a way for a familiar relationship (Masaoka wrote a string quartet for Del Sol in 2010) to explore an uncertain condition.

“I think the situation of these quarantines, these lockdowns, is that at times it’s really dark, and then at times it can also be a really creative space,” she says over Zoom. “It can flip-flop in a day and it can flip-flop in two minutes.”

Her piece for Bates, “Intuit (A Way to Stay in This World)” reflects this shifting sense of the present, capturing everything from the dizzying influx of daily data to the intense compression of our attention spans.

“You’re in this moment and you’re just trying to keep your feet on the ground,” Bates says of Masaoka’s piece. “There are these ebbs and flows in the way the music moves. For me, it’s what it’s like to be in this present. Every minute is different, every hour is different. It feels like it’s never going to change and yet it’s constantly changing.”

For both artists, Plylar’s initiative offered a way to be heard beyond the walls of their apartments, but also a heartening signal that they’re not alone in trying to keep the music going.

“I think as individual artists, we’re maybe already able to pivot very quickly,” Bates says. “But to see the great stuff that’s happening as the organizations are able to do things they’ve never done before, I think that’s really fantastic.”

And the feeling is mutual for Plylar, who, after just a few weeks, has already started receiving finished scores. He expects the forthcoming recorded performances to be enhanced by their tight timelines and technological constraints – features that lend the project a documentary subtext and “show what the situation is in a real way.”

“I’m amazed to see how adaptable these musicians are to the circumstances in which they find themselves,” he says. “We’re kind of embracing this element of making do with what you have.”

Virus-era Japan: Karaoke in masks, roller coasters but no screaming #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

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Virus-era Japan: Karaoke in masks, roller coasters but no screaming

May 29. 2020
Illuminated signs in Tokyo's Shinjuku district on July 21, 2018. Entertainment will look quite different in virus-era Japan. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Noriko Hayashi

Illuminated signs in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district on July 21, 2018. Entertainment will look quite different in virus-era Japan. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Noriko Hayashi
By  Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Shoko Oda, Nao Sano · BUSINESS, WORLD, FEATURES, ASIA-PACIFIC, TRAVEL

Singing your heart out at karaoke boxes may never feel the same in Japan in the coronavirus era.

To encourage customers to return following the lifting of the state of emergency, the Japan Karaoke Box Association has drafted a set of guidelines detailing recommendations on how the industry can safely resume. They call for a limit on how many people can be in one box — typically a small booth smaller than a motel room — and for people to wear masks “and/or other protective gear that covers the eyes and face” while belting out the latest hits.

A national pastime and cultural export, karaoke unfortunately ticks every box in the government’s guidelines of environments to avoid: crowded, cramped and potentially laden with virus-carrying droplets. But that didn’t stop customers from lining up outside outlets of Manekineko, Japan’s largest karaoke chain, as they reopened for business on Wednesday in Kanagawa, south of Tokyo.

“We’re asking for everyone except the person singing to wear masks,” said Hitomi Baba, a spokeswoman for chain operator Koshidaka Holdings Co. “We’re also giving out a mask to each customer where possible, and where we can’t, giving disinfectant sheets instead.” About half of the chain’s 527 outlets across the country have resumed business.

Japan lifted its state of emergency nationwide on Monday, as new infections and overall hospitalizations dropped to fractions of the peak. The government has warned people they must adjust to a “new lifestyle,” with recommendations covering everything from how to commute and shop to the right way to enjoy leisure and hobbies.

Some recommendations may be easier to obey than others, however. An organization representing theme parks, including the operators of Tokyo Disney Resort and Universal Studios Japan, unveiled a set of measures to reduce risk at the parks. Among the recommendations was one calling on customers to refrain from screaming on roller coasters and attractions and, of course, to wear masks while on the rides.

Countries around the world are cautiously reopening their economies as people try to resume a sense of normality while mindful that the virus could return in second waves until there is a vaccine for widespread use.

People in Japan have begun to speak of the “With Corona” era, meaning a time in which people live with the virus as part of their everyday lives and try to reduce risk of infection, instead of sheltering at home to avoid it. Japan’s approach to the pandemic has assumed that the virus won’t be wiped out, with small clusters already spreading days after the emergency was declared over.

Amid lingering questions over why Japan hasn’t seen anywhere near the level of cases and deaths from the virus as other countries, the nation’s experts have credited advice given early in the pandemic to avoid what they term the “Three Cs” — closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings where the virus is thought to spread most easily.

The seven-week loose lockdown — which requested some firms to close and urged residents to stay home, albeit no penalties for disobedience — has pushed many businesses to the brink, and left industries scrambling to create environments where customers will feel safe spending.

“Companies that don’t take care of their customers will be subject to fierce criticism if it comes to light,” said Tomoki Inoue, chief analyst at NLI Research Institute. “That’s a risk, so everyone will be looking to turn behavior into daily habits.”

Japanese TV shows will begin filming again, with one widely reported book of guidelines from Nippon TV calling for kissing and action scenes to be avoided to the extent possible, no meetings over lunch, and for actors to dress and microphone themselves.

“Japanese organizations like to create rules,” said Rochelle Kopp of Japan Intercultural Consulting, who advises and trains Japanese firms. “And Japanese individuals like to have rules so they know what’s appropriate or not. Going along with what the rule is, what has been determined, is very important.”

In Tokyo, the metropolitan government has laid out a three-stage reopening road map for when businesses can resume operations. While the government can’t force businesses to close during the pandemic, a name-and-shame campaign against outlets that defied calls to voluntarily close, such as pachinko parlors, was highly successful in securing cooperation. Karaoke booths can resume in stage three, while gyms may be reopened in stage two of the plan, which is reported to begin as early as Saturday.

High-end fitness gym operator Rizap Group Inc., which saw its shares drop as much as 59% this year during the pandemic as it closed outlets, has gone as far as announcing that it will provide coronavirus antibody tests to more than 6,000 employees and trainers, and in principle test all new clients.

“We have established our own safety and security standard protocol, ‘Rizap Standard With Corona,’ as a new normal, developed under the guidance of infectious disease control doctors,” the company said in a statement.

One sector that has yet to get guidance from the authorities is Japan’s nighttime entertainment sector, known as “mizu shobai,” meaning “the water trade,” which spans everything from casual bars where young women chat to customers to prostitution, which is in large parts legal.

Hostess bars, where female escorts pour drinks and chat with multiple tables of men throughout an evening, have been particularly singled out as a source of multiple infection clusters. The government has continued to urge people to avoid them, with several of the recent cases identified in Tokyo linked to such outlets, according to an NTV report.

With no end to the situation in sight, some have resorted to opening hostess bars online to alleviate the financial hit. Customers can choose a bar of their choice, and chat and virtually drink with a hostess or other customers in an webcam “nomikai” or drinking session.

Whether it’s a small bar or a fairly large one, you can’t avoid close-contact settings with these places as hostesses need to socialize with customers, said Mayuko Igarashi, who started an online bar. “We launched it May 14 and it’s been full house the past four, five days.”

Lana Del Rey announces a new album, but nobody is talking about it #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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https://www.nationthailand.com/lifestyle/30388345?utm_source=category&utm_medium=internal_referral

Lana Del Rey announces a new album, but nobody is talking about it

May 22. 2020
Lana Del Rey performs in Washington, D.C., in January 2018. Photo for The Washington Post by Kyle Gustafson
Photo by: Kyle Gustafson — For the Washington Post

Lana Del Rey performs in Washington, D.C., in January 2018. Photo for The Washington Post by Kyle Gustafson Photo by: Kyle Gustafson — For the Washington Post
By The Washington Post · Sonia Rao · ENTERTAINMENT, MUSIC 

In a dramatic instance of burying the lede, Lana Del Rey announced an upcoming album in the wee hours of Thursday morning by uploading to Instagram a lengthy preamble in which she lashed out at critics who have allegedly accused her of “glamorizing abuse” through her music.

“Doja Cat, Ariana (Grande), Camila (Cabello), Cardi B, Kehlani and Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé have had number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes … cheating etc,” the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter wrote. “Im fed up with female writers and alt singers saying that I glamorize abuse when in reality I’m just a glamorous person singing about the realities of what we are all now seeing are very prevalent emotionally abusive relationships all over the world.”

Backlash to Del Rey’s post arrived swiftly. Without denying that double standards exist within the music industry, critics found fault with her decision to name a largely black roster of female artists before stating that “there has to be a place in feminism for women who look and act like me.” Pieced together, her claims seemed to insinuate that these artists hadn’t faced the same level of criticism in their careers.

“Lana Del Rey really threw a bunch of black women under the bus before saying that feminism needs to accommodate women like her,” writer Zito Madu tweeted. “It’s art.”

Without naming the singer, writer Fariha Róisín tweeted, “thinking about how white women seem to be not as threatened or enraged by gatekeepers, or successful white men, or the countless disparities of capitalism – but by successful black and brown women that they really want to bring down, humiliate and dismiss.”

Del Rey addressed the backlash in the comments section of her post Thursday evening, writing that it “is sad to make it about a WOC (woman of color) issue when I’m talking about my favorite singers.”

“And this is the problem with society today, not everything is about whatever you want it to be. It’s exactly the point of my post – there are certain women that culture doesn’t want to have a voice it may not have to do with race I don’t know what it has to do with,” she continued, adding in another comment: “when I said people who look like me – I meant the people who don’t look strong or necessarily smart, or like they’re in control etc. it’s about advocating for a more delicate personality, not for white woman – thanks for the Karen comments tho. V helpful.”

Themes of abuse are woven throughout Del Rey’s work, most notably in the title track of her 2014 album “Ultraviolence,” which references the Crystals’ 1962 single “He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss)” in the chorus. (The album title could also be interpreted as a reference to Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel “A Clockwork Orange,” in which “ultraviolence” is a term that refers to unprovoked, brutal violence.) Some critics at the time did express concerns over Del Rey’s handling of abuse: Time magazine, for instance, wondered whether the song glorified domestic violence and quoted a 2013 Fader interview in which pop singer Lorde referred to Del Rey’s previous record as “so unhealthy for young girls to be listening to.”

In her Instagram post, Del Rey wrote that this assessment characterized reviews of her work “up until recently,” a reference to the critical success of last year’s “Norman F—— Rockwell.” But she still found fault with the coverage of that album, and stirred controversy by publicly refuting NPR writer Ann Powers’ claim – in a largely positive review – that Del Rey adopts a persona in her music.

“Here’s a little sidenote on your piece – I don’t even relate to one observation you made about the music,” Del Rey wrote in response to Powers tweeting the review. “There’s nothing uncooked about me. To write about me is nothing like it is to be with me. Never had a persona. Never needed one. Never will.”

The tweet sparked conversations on social media about the purpose of music criticism, and who it serves. Powers, for her part, told the Los Angeles Times she respected Del Rey, and that “it is a critic’s responsibility to be thoughtful and honest to herself in responding to artists’ work, and an artist’s prerogative to disagree with that response.”

Perhaps Del Rey will feel differently toward reviews of her upcoming album, due for a Sept. 5 release. She concluded her Instagram post by stating that it would include “tinges of what I’ve been pondering.”

Copyright bots and classical musicians are fighting online, and the bots are winning #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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Copyright bots and classical musicians are fighting online, and the bots are winning

May 21. 2020
An image from a Camerata Pacifica video that was blocked on Facebook for alleged copyright violations. Molly Morkoski on piano, Richard O'Neill on viola and Jose Franch-Ballester on clarinet play Mozart's

An image from a Camerata Pacifica video that was blocked on Facebook for alleged copyright violations. Molly Morkoski on piano, Richard O’Neill on viola and Jose Franch-Ballester on clarinet play Mozart’s “Kegelstatt.” MUST CREDIT: Camerata Pacifica
By The Washington Post · Michael Andor Brodeur · TECHNOLOGY, ENTERTAINMENT, MEDIA, MUSIC

A few Sundays ago, Camerata Pacifica artistic director Adrian Spence, aided by his tech-savvy son Keiran, went live on Facebook to broadcast a previously recorded performance of Mozart’s Trio in E flat (K. 498), aka the “Kegelstatt” trio. At least they tried to.

The recorded performance was one of many that Spence had drawn from the Camerata’s extensive video archives. When the covid-19 crisis abruptly canceled its season, Spence launched a weekly series of rebroadcasts to fill the silence. These broadcasts, even with their modest virtual attendance of 100 or so viewers per stream, have been essential to keeping Spence’s Santa Barbara, California-based chamber organization engaged with its audience.

Adrian Spence, Camerata Pacifica's artistic director. MUST CREDIT: Timothy Norris

Adrian Spence, Camerata Pacifica’s artistic director. MUST CREDIT: Timothy Norris

That is, until that recent Sunday, when his audience started to disappear, one by one, all the way down to none.

“What the hell is going on?” Spence recalls shouting to his son across the living room as the viewer count conspicuously dropped. Just minutes into the airing of the concert, Facebook issued Spence a notification that his video – an original performance of an hour-long piece composed by Mozart in 1786 – somehow contained one minute and 18 seconds of someone else’s work, in this case, “audio owned by Naxos of America.”

Spence, and presumably Mozart, would beg to differ.

“They’re blocking my use of my own content,” Spence said later in a phone interview, “which feels dystopian.”

As covid-19 forces more and more classical musicians and organizations to shift operations to the internet, they’re having to contend with an entirely different but equally faceless adversary: copyright bots. Or, more accurately, content identification algorithms dispatched across social media to scan content and detect illegal use of copyrighted recordings. You’ve encountered these bots in the wild if you’ve ever had a workout video or living room lip-sync blocked or muted for ambient inclusion or flagrant use of Britney or Bruce. But who owns Brahms?

These oft-overzealous algorithms are particularly fine-tuned for the job of sniffing out the sonic idiosyncrasies of pop music, having been trained on massive troves of “reference” audio files submitted by record companies and performing rights societies. But classical musicians are discovering en masse that the perceptivity of automated copyright systems falls critically short when it comes to classical music, which presents unique challenges both in terms of content and context. After all, classical music exists as a vast, endlessly revisited and repeated repertoire of public-domain works distinguishable only through nuanced variations in performance. Put simply, bots aren’t great listeners.

After the removal of his clips, Spence’s only recourse was to file a dispute with Facebook by filling out a single-field form. This was followed by six hours of fruitless chats with various Facebook representatives. It took nearly four days to clear the spurious claim, and in the interim, Facebook suspended Camerata’s access to live-streaming.

Clearing copyright claims has since become part of Spence’s new routine, casting emails into an opaque dispute system he describes as “the DMV on steroids.”

And the hits keep coming: YouTube blocked a recent live stream of a recorded Camerata performance of Carl Nielsen’s Wind Quintet, Op. 43, after it attracted a swarm of five automated copyright claims from different record companies. It’s gotten to the point where Camerata videos are prefaced by a warning screen, explaining their anticipated disappearance in advance.

“I have no protection for my own produced material,” Spence says. “If you want to put a copyright claim against me, I’m happy to take the time to write back to you and say, ‘This is an erroneous claim and here’s why.’ But when you’re immediately blocking videos or streams, that’s negatively impacting our very mission in a time where this now has become mission critical.”

These systems aren’t just disrupting the relationships between classical organizations and their audiences; they’re also affecting individual musicians trying to stay musically present – and financially afloat – during the crisis.

Michael Sheppard, a Baltimore-based pianist, composer and teacher, was recently giving a Facebook Live performance of a Beethoven sonata (No. 3, Op. 2, in C) when Facebook blocked the stream, citing the detection of “2:28 of music owned by Naxos of America” – specifically a passage recorded by the French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, whom Sheppard is not.

The takedown led Sheppard into what he describes as “a byzantine web of ridiculousness” starting with Facebook’s dispute form: “Beethoven died in 1827,” he responded. “This music is very much in the public domain. Please unblock it.”

And this wasn’t Sheppard’s first run-in with Facebook, which has blocked or muted past performances of Fauré, Chopin and Bach for being too digitally reminiscent of other performances of Faure, Chopin and Bach. Frustrated with the intrusive claim of infringement, the imposed busywork of defending himself, and the helplessness he felt trying to get these issues recognized and resolved, Sheppard took to Twitter.

“Dear @naxosrecords,” he tweeted May 9, “PLEASE stop muting portions of works whose composers have been dead for hundreds of years. It does 0% of people any good, especially musicians like myself who are trying to make a living in time of crisis. #UnmuteBeethoven.”

Two days later, Naxos tweeted back, thanking Sheppard for his request and confirming that his video had been “whitelisted.”

“There are people worse off than me whose only income is their performances,” says Sheppard, who accompanies his streams with a “virtual tip jar.” “But if it’s muted, what’s the point? Other people are doing the same thing and getting stymied by this.”

The covid-19 crisis has certainly driven more classical musicians online to experiment with streaming, but the struggle between bots and Bach isn’t new. The pianist James Rhodes went viral after Sony claimed ownership of the living room performance of Bach’s First Partita that he posted to Facebook in 2018. The same year, musician and blogger Sebastian Tomczak received multiple copyright claims against a 10-hour stretch of white noise he uploaded to YouTube three years prior.

And in January 2019, students of conductor Jonathan Girard at the University of British Columbia presented a live-streamed program of orchestral works by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky that Facebook cut off and blocked midstream.

“This is a real, viable way of reaching audiences and communicating art to the world,” Girard says. “And it’s going to be blocked by copyright algorithms that don’t actually fairly look at what’s happening. That’s a serious problem for musicians that are playing music that’s in the public domain.”

It might be tempting to glance at the copyright claims and simply blame the names listed at the bottom – the seemingly aggressive record companies issuing them all. But many of those companies are as helpless against the system as the targets of their claims.

Take Naxos, the classical mother ship that represents about 2.5 million tracks and, according to senior manager of video and new media Duncan Hammons, considers copyright protection “among our chief duties per our relationship with our distributed label clients.”

“We’re at the mercy of automation in order to uphold our obligations to our clients,” Hammons says in an email. Like other record companies, Naxos relies on Facebook’s and YouTube’s content identification systems to track potential illegal use.

“Though the technology works most of the time in terms of correctly identifying instances of our clients’ content on-platform, it still generates a not-insignificant amount of mismatches that require human review to differentiate,” Hammons says. “The chances of conflicts with this amount of content are considerable. For these reasons there is always a volume of potentially erroneous auto-generated claims that unless contested, I may never be made explicitly aware.”

Hammons says that most claims contested by Facebook and YouTube users are cleared within a week of dispute, and that arrangements can be made for channel owners who are able to prove “the legitimacy of their status as a performing arts entity, (or) that their channel constitutes a low risk for abuse of the privilege.”

“We would love to work with these platforms to improve their technologies so that they are better adapted for classical music,” Hammons says, “but as the situation stands, our input on the issue is limited.”

For its part, YouTube has invested more than $100 million to refine its proprietary Content ID technology, according to a company representative. And its apparatus for handling disputes – which, according to several musicians, is more robust than Facebook’s -has managed to resolve nearly all copyright issues before they escalate to legal matters. YouTube doesn’t actively mediate content disputes, but it does passively enable them.

And this week, Facebook posted updates to its music and video policies, including clarified guidelines concerning the use of music in video. It highlighted its free Sound Collection library of thousands of unrestricted tracks, and announced pending improvements to the notification system “to give people time to adjust their streams and avoid interruptions if we detect they may be approaching our limitations.”

But the finer points of those limitations remain mysterious. Facebook scans uploaded content through two systems: its own platform-tailored Rights Manager, which, according to Facebook, can be used to protect only copyrighted works, and a third-party platform called Audible Magic, which helps automatically block audiovisual uploads that match content in its database. Audible Magic advertises services that allow such social media platforms as Twitch, SoundCloud and Vimeo to “identify content in real-time with unparalleled accuracy” and “operate in ‘fire-and-forget’ mode using a simple end to end solution.”

Despite the robustness of such databases, classical performances remain sitting ducks for erroneous challenges. And in general, the “solutions” to these growing problems seem more tailored to rights holders than to, say, pianists. Lowly disputers are left to fight their own battles, whether they started them or not.

“There is no good solution right now,” says Meredith Rose of the Washington, D.C.-based intellectual property advocacy group Public Knowledge. “Maybe in another couple of years they’ll get the technology to the point where it can actually distinguish between two recordings of Beethoven’s Fifth or whatever. But they’re not there yet.”

Likewise, the faith that platforms and record companies invest in these technologies may be as flawed as the systems themselves.

“We built these systems around the presumption that everybody is either: A, a pirate, or B, should be a copyright expert,” Rose says.

As it stands, the relationship between classical musicians and copyright bots is a study in contradictions, as newborn technologies police music that has been with us for centuries and individual musicians battle back against the indifference of massive corporations.

But this unhealthy dynamic also presents a consequential conundrum in terms of how the arts engage with social media as they grow more and more dependent on each other.

“These (classical) organizations have been cultivating large audiences through these social media sites,” notes Girard, the conductor, “and now they effectively can’t access those audiences with their most prized content.

“Considering everything that’s going on, it just seems like just yet another thing that’s marginalizing artists’ ability to communicate with the world.”

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‘The Masked Singer’ has become the reality TV hit coronavirus can’t touch

May 07. 2020
A giant human flower that turned out to be Patti LaBelle performs on

A giant human flower that turned out to be Patti LaBelle performs on “The Masked Singer.” The show has flourished during the coronavirus shutdown. MUST CREDIT: Michael Becker/Fox
By The Washington Post · Steven Zeitchik · ENTERTAINMENT, TV 

On a momentous Wednesday in March, the world changed. Within the span of a few hours, the NBA suspended its season, actor Tom Hanks revealed he had tested positive for the coronavirus and President Donald Trump gave a rare Oval Office address on the growing threat.

That same night, the Fox reality-show hit “The Masked Singer” attended to a different matter. The singing character of Bear was revealed to be one-time vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who commemorated her “unmasking” with a spirited performance of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

Coronavirus-induced quarantines have led to vast sections of American entertainment being shut down or reined in. But “The Masked Singer” has powered along like it’s any other spring. The show, which airs Wednesday nights, has garnered and even grown its audience while others have struggled.

And because it concluded taping in February, it has kept up a schedule of new performances that, with its raucous live crowds, seem to have been zapped in from a distant historical period.

“What we’re finding is that viewers love a show that gives the feeling that this time, post-covid, is no different than the time pre-covid,” said Peter Hamilton, a veteran consultant for unscripted television. “A show exactly like ‘Masked Singer.’ ”

Reality competition shows have become key earners for broadcast networks, attracting large portions of their viewers, especially younger ones. Five of the top eight non-sports programs among adults 18-49 last TV season were reality competition shows.

But nearly all have been thrown into disarray by the virus, which has halted the live spectacle on which these shows rely.

After suspending production for a month, ABC’s “American Idol” has just picked it up again but with the top 20 contestants recording performances from their homes and panelists judging from theirs – a major switch from its live shows at a theater in Los Angeles.

NBC’s “The Voice” has been forced to retool its un-shot final episodes, and no one quite knows what they will look like.

And producers of “America’s Got Talent,” NBC’s summer juggernaut, haven’t shot its final rounds, leaving the show in limbo; many of its performers need a full stage, something they’re unlikely to find in their basements.

“The Masked Singer,” though, will air all its competition episodes as planned all the way to the season finale on May 20, a fact that could well seem mystifying to viewers who have watched so many of its counterparts disrupted. The show will likely continue to draw high ratings throughout.

What makes “The Masked Singer’s” success even more surprising is its noisy tone runs counter to television’s current trend of intimate, stripped-down and Zoom-like musical performances.

“If you had to predict which show was going to do well when the Living Room concert and all that began, ‘Masked Singer’ would be one of the last you’d choose,” said one executive at a rival network, referring to the group of benefit concerts from performers in their homes. The executive spoke on the condition of anonymity to be able to speak about a competitor.

Last month “The Masked Singer” even managed to launch “After the Mask,” a postgame interview show of sorts, shot mostly remotely. The first two episodes saw a retention of about half the flagship’s audience, a high number.

Adapted from a South Korean hit beginning early last year, “The Masked Singer” features a panel of regular and rotating judges in front of a boisterous studio audience. Each episode features several musical performances from a mystery character in elaborate disguise, usually as an animal or food; they sing in their own voice but speak through distortion technology.

After characters are eliminated, their identity is revealed; past personalities include Tony Hawk, Chaka Khan, Bret Michaels and, of course, Palin. The show has a circuslike atmosphere, with many costumed supporting characters, heavy doses of showmanship and a free-for-all bantering spirit between panelists and contestants.

The coronavirus has been one more challenge for a broadcast-television sector beset by them in recent years. Yet “The Masked Singer” is proving adept at avoiding virus problems, like it has many of the others.

With a 25 percent increase among adults 18-49 and a 26 percent increase in average total viewers this spring season, “The Masked Singer” has the largest increases in both categories of any show on network television. Only one other of the roughly 130 network shows this season, ABC’s firefighter drama “Station 19,” has double-digit growth in both categories. And just nine of the 130 have shown positive growth in both categories.

About 9 million people per week watch “The Masked Singer.” But the bigger story is the youth of those viewers: The show this spring has drawn more adults ages 18 to 49 than any other show in 2019-2020 by a margin nearly 50 percent greater than its nearest competitor. That competitor, “The Bachelor,” wrapped its season March 9, just days before the coronavirus crisis exploded in the United States.

Part of “The Masked Singer’s” corona-era success, experts say, is a function of schedule momentum. The show experienced no delays; it was able to wrap its entire season by the end of February, thanks to an accelerated schedule that has it shooting three episodes each week. (The presence of so many celebrities, in contrast to the ordinary-citizen contestants on other competition shows, places a time squeeze; it proved lucky here.) The show began taping in December to make a deadline for a post-Super Bowl slot Feb. 2 and barely slowed down until it wrapped by the end of that month, before states imposed stay-at-home rules.

During a recent episode, the only hint the world had changed came from a brief voice-over recorded later by host Nick Cannon. “While you’re safer at home, our singers’ secrets are safer with us,” he said.

A Fox spokeswoman declined to make “The Masked Singer’s” showrunner, Izzie Pick Ibarra, or the head of the network’s reality division, Rob Wade, available for comment for this story.

The show also has the benefit of forgoing live episodes. While many reality-competition series opt for them, partly to tamp down on spoilers, “The Masked Singer” instead rolls the dice. It tapes the shows months in advance but enforces elaborate secrecy requirements for participants and limits in-studio audience during character reveals, making sure it doesn’t need to still be going in April or May.

But experts say scheduling continuity is only one reason “The Masked Singer” is flourishing. Also important is the show’s pre-covid vibe – far from seeming out of step, they note it’s become a kind of counterprogramming advantage.

“One of the things that made ‘The Masked Singer’ appealing when it first came on was its ridiculousness, its ludicrous fun, its masterpiece stupidity,” said Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture and television historian at Syracuse University. “And I think one of the things that makes it appealing now is that it doesn’t have any of the melancholy or sincere piano tinkling of so many other shows and every other commercial on TV. People watch all of those and can’t wait to get back to the dancing llamas.”

“The Masked Singer” has sometimes gone the extra step to preserve that anti-earnest quality. Even “After the Mask,” which has been recorded during the time of quarantine, has featured a high level of cartoonishness and trash talk. Only occasionally do performers puncture that bubble.

When they do, though, they can inadvertently explain their show’s success.

After Michaels, the former Poison frontman and reality-TV franchise, was eliminated (he played the character of Banana; fans showed their adulation by making peeling gestures) he came on “After the Mask” from his home.

Cannon asked how he felt about “The Masked Singer” now that he’d appeared on it.

“I want this to go on forever,” he said. “It’s such an upbeat positive party. The world needs it right now.”

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Coronavirus concerts are music to our ears and eyes

May 04. 2020
Photo credit: YouTube

Photo credit: YouTube
By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg Opinion · Joe Nocera · OPINION, ENTERTAINMENT, MUSIC

For me, it began with Steve Martin. In addition to his talent as a comedian and actor, Martin is a superb banjo player and the leader of a bluegrass band called the Steep Canyon Rangers. On March 21, nine days after I began self-isolating, Martin posted a 76-second video on Twitter that shows him standing in the woods, playing a song. He turns on the camera, plays, and then turns off the camera without speaking. The title of his video is “Banjo balm.”

I have no idea what the song is, but it’s beautiful.

I must have watched Martin’s video at least 10 times that day. I found it deeply, surprisingly moving, and I wasn’t alone. “I literally cried watching Steve Martin playing the banjo and I can’t quite explain why,” read one of the thousands of replies. “I did too,” read another. “It’s because we are all in this together. Kind gesture from a beloved entertainer.” It’s since been played more than 500,000 times.

About a week later, Reuters posted a three-minute video of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra playing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Arjen Leendertz, the orchestra’s bassist, plays the first bars. Then in come three cellos, followed a few measures later by Galahad Samson, the assistant principal violist. Pretty soon 18 members of the orchestra have joined in.

Except this is no ordinary “Ode to Joy.” With a limited lockdown in place in the Netherlands, the musicians are all playing in their homes. There are no black dresses or tuxedos that can make orchestra members seem indistinguishable in a concert hall. Leendertz is wearing a suit jacket with an open collar shirt; Samson has an aqua baseball hat that says “vegan power;” Josephine Olech, a flautist, is in a bright blue sweater.

As the music nears its climax, the video goes from showing one musician or a small handful to showing all 18, in split screens, playing together. It’s like one of those CNN talking-head panels, except that beautiful music is pouring out of each panel. Although this is one of the best-known pieces of music in the world, viewers react as if they’ve never heard anything more powerful.

An emergency room doctor wrote: “You have touched my heart and given me, and others, strength to keep being what we are – doctors – because of what you are – artists.”

Another viewer wrote: “Expected: a melody we’ve all heard many times. Expected: the slow build as each musician comes in. Unexpected: all of a sudden being overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.” By now, the video has been seen 2.7 million times on YouTube and more than 3 million times on Twitter.

Before playing “Ode to Joy,” the musicians took a moment to explain what they were trying to accomplish. In “adjusting to a new reality,” they said, they searched for “innovation to keep our connection.” They innovation they found – as far as I can tell they were the first orchestra to do so – was simultaneous online video, something that appears to be (but really isn’t) Zoom.

It wasn’t easy. According to an article posted on Classic FM, the video took a week to produce. The musicians played their parts to a metronome and then sent what they had recorded to engineers who spliced it all together and used software to create the big split screens.

I’m guessing it’s become easier since then, because more and more of these virtual concerts are popping up. And thank goodness. Even though concert halls and nightclubs are now dark, music – and the technology that allows us to watch musicians play together while separated – is helping us get through this pandemic.

For sure, some institutions are going back into their archives to fill the musical gap; for a monthly subscription of $9.99, the Blue Note jazz club will send you, daily, a set from one of the jazz greats who has played there in the past. (So far they include Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Betty Carter and Herbie Mann.)

The New York Philharmonic streamed Leonard Bernstein conducting Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, which was broadcast in 1963. The Metropolitan Opera has been streaming a nightly opera, including its classic version of “Aida” that starred Leontyne Price.

These are all worth watching. But the virtual concerts are something else again. They allow you to see musicians in a different light. Because they are not on stage, they seem more like the rest of us, just doing their part to help us get through this difficult patch. We can see the expressions on their faces, of ecstasy or sorrow as they play certain passages. Look, and listen, for instance, to Yo-Yo Ma, who has been posting regularly.

And sometimes the musicians tell stories, giving us a glimpse of their lives. I’m no rock guy, but I’ve become hooked on the daily posts by the bassist Leland Sklar. With his bass in his lap, he tells us the backstory of some famous recording he played on. Then he puts a song on while we watch him, up close, playing along.

What I find most compelling about these virtual concerts is how intimate they seem, how they allow us to feel a connection to the music that can be, yes, overwhelming. I didn’t expect that to happen, but it did. I don’t know if this feeling will last; I suspect it won’t because some of this intimacy surely stems from the crisis we’re living through. But for now, the best of these concerts infuse a sense of joy and surprise that even live ones can’t match. I can’t get enough of them.

Finally, you may have already heard about the virtual concert to celebrate Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday – the New York Times, The Washington Post and even Forbes all gave it rave reviews. And while almost everybody who performed was sensational, there was one moment that stood out. You’ve probably heard about that, too: Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep and Audra McDonald singing “Ladies Who Lunch.” Enjoy.

– – –

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Nocera is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He has written business columns for Esquire, GQ and the New York Times, and is the former editorial director of Fortune. His latest project is the Bloomberg-Wondery podcast “The Shrink Next Door.”

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Music that will settle you down – or at least resonate with your embattled vibe

Apr 15. 2020
Pianist Vikingur Olafsson. MUST CREDIT: Ari Magg

Pianist Vikingur Olafsson. MUST CREDIT: Ari Magg
By The Washington Post · Michael Andor Brodeur

Quarantine starting to wrack your nerves? I’m right there with you. Actually, that’s not true at all. I’m right here with me. In fact, everyone is right there with themselves. That’s what’s so nervewracking.

And while it may be frustratingly easy to forecast where I’ll physically be for the next few weeks, my emotional location at any given moment is really anybody’s guess. Perhaps you can identify, but I’ve been racing up and down the pandemic freakout continuum, from stultifying stretches of ennui, to giddy laughing fits, to extended Netflix comas, to pillow-muffled existential paroxysms. You just never know what the day will bring; or what day it even is. Eating helps.

So does music! When the sounds of my own thoughts (or the eerie rotation of silence and sirens outside) grow unlistenable, I reach across the table for my headphones, and across the centuries for music that will settle me – or at least resonate with my embattled vibe.

Thus, this batch of recommended new classical and experimental recordings and streams covers a full arc of our socially distant mood swings – from mild to wild. Listen closely, breathe deeply and hang in there.

– Víkingur Ólafsson, “Debussy/Rameau”

The French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau died a full century before his countryman Claude Debussy, but under the fingers of Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, you can clearly hear the two in conversation throughout this unexpected pairing – or, “defeat[ing] time and space with music,” as Ólafsson puts it. You may find yourself cheating to peek at the playlist as this juxtaposition jumbles your expectations of one composer’s impressionistic impulses and the other’s precise refinement. (But whose is whose?) You will certainly find yourself blissfully adrift in Ólafsson’s playing: rich, sure, attentive. His own lucid arrangement of Rameau’s “The Arts and the Hours” (an interlude for from his 1763 opera “Les Boréades”) finds this blurring effect at its most exquisite – uncertainty as a comfort zone.

– Alisa Weilerstein, “Bach: Cello Suites, BWVV 1007-1012”

If you’re longing for the familiar, the steady, the permanent, you could do a lot worse than Bach, whose six beloved cello suites come alive anew in Alisa Weilerstein’s new recording. The 2011 MacArthur fellow has been delivering gorgeous performances and leading lively discussions about the suites on Facebook Live as part of her #36daysofbach project (and she also recently offered an elucidating walk-through of the prelude of Suite No. 1 in G major – aka “that famous cello song” – for Vox); but these accounts feel like a master class all by themselves. And even if you don’t know them all by heart, just the familiar routine of moving from the tonic to the dominant and back can restore some sense of much-needed normalcy. (It actually feels a little like leaving the house.)

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein. MUST CREDIT: Marco Borggreve

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein. MUST CREDIT: Marco Borggreve

– Baltimore Symphony Orchestra OffStage

Orchestras around the world have adjusted and adapted quickly and admirably to shift operations and attentions (however scattered) online, but I find myself returning again and again to virtual Baltimore, where the BSO’s “OffStage” offerings of archival recordings and at-home live streams have been regularly rewarding (and helped me make up for lost Mahler). Pianist Lura Johnson’s at-home performances of Beethoven and Schubert, with their neighborly acoustics, have been pleasures. But on the day Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki died, cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski’s take on Penderecki’s 2011 Violoncello totale – with its frayed nerves and climbing dread – felt uncharacteristically intimate and of the moment (even if the recording itself somewhat shortchanges the work’s fathomless depths).

– Bernard Parmegiani, “Violostries”

If you’re feeling stir-crazy, Recollection GRM’s latest release collects three stunning electro-acoustic (or acousmatic) works realized by the French composer between 1963 and 1971 – and each one is a journey. The titular piece swirls like a massive cyclone around its second movement, a concertante for violin and “very tightly woven microsounds.” But it’s “Capture éphémère,” a stereo rendition of a quadraphonic composition assembled from “breaths, fluttering wings: ephemeral microsonic sounds streaking space, sound scratches, landslides, bounces, vertigo of solid objects falling into an abyssal void, multiple snapshots forever frozen in their fall” that can feel either like an escape from the confines of the crisis, or a plummet into its churning center, depending on how you listen.

– Rhys Chatham, “Drastic Classical Music for Electric Instruments” (live at the Kitchen)

And should you just need to unleash and let loose, pay a visit to the website of the storied New York City arts venue The Kitchen, which is approaching its 50th anniversary with regular updates to its Video Viewing Room. This month features a 1981 performance by the erstwhile “hardcore minimalist” Rhys Chatham of “Drastic Classicism,” a piece for four electric guitars, bass and drums that “synthesized two different traditions of music to arrive at a striking new form” and “was one of the pieces which inspired the noise-rock movement,” according to Chatham’s own program notes. What really matters is that it’s 10 minutes of pummeling, raw art-rock brute force that can keep you from clawing at the walls – though it may have your neighbors knocking on your door.

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John Prine, Grammy-winning bard of ‘broken hearts and dirty windows,’ dies at 73 of coronavirus

Apr 08. 2020
By The Washington Post · Matt Schudel · NATIONAL, ENTERTAINMENT, OBITUARIES, MUSIC 

John Prine was a raspy-voiced heartland troubadour who wrote and performed songs about faded hopes, failing marriages, flies in the kitchen and the desperation of people just getting by. He was, as one of his songs put it, the bard of “broken hearts and dirty windows.”

A onetime Army mechanic and mail carrier who wrote songs rooted in the experiences of lower-middle-class life, Prine rose to prominence almost by accident. He was at a Chicago folk club called the Fifth Peg one night in 1969, complaining about the performers, when someone challenged him to get onstage, saying, “You get up and try.”

Emboldened by a few beers, he picked up his guitar and sang three of his original songs. Within a year, he released his first album and was hailed as one of the foremost lyricists of his time, even as a musical heir to Bob Dylan.

He went on to record more than 20 albums, win three competitive Grammy Awards and help define a genre of music that came to be called Americana. He was a significant influence on a younger generation of singer-songwriters, including Kacey Musgraves, Jason Isbell and the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, who called him “the closest thing I could imagine to ever being around Mark Twain.”

Prine, 73, has died after being hospitalized in Nashville of complications from the novel coronavirus, the media relations family Sacks & Co. said on behalf of his family. He overcame throat cancer in the 1990s and lung cancer in 2013.

 

The three tunes Prine sang at his debut performance in Chicago were written during his breaks while delivering mail. All became classics in the singer-songwriter tradition: “Sam Stone,” about a Vietnam vet returning home with a drug habit; “Hello in There,” about the emotional loneliness of older people; and “Paradise,” an autobiographical lament about his family’s Kentucky hometown, plowed under to make way for strip mines.

Not long after he received a glowing review from Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, Prine quit his job with the Postal Service. His supervisor told him, “You’ll be back.”

His songs about blue-collar woes and hard-luck lives soon attracted a devoted following, which included Dylan, who described Prine’s work as “pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs.”

When Prine was a 24-year-old mail carrier, he received a career boost from his friend Steve Goodman, a Chicago musician who wrote “The City of New Orleans.” Goodman persuaded singer, songwriter and actor Kris Kristofferson to listen to Prine after hours at a Chicago club. After listening to about seven songs, Kristofferson asked Prine to play them all again.

“He was unlike anybody I’d ever seen – such a young kid, and yet he’s writing songs like ‘Hello in There,’ ” Kristofferson told The Washington Post in 2005. “John was singing some of the best songs I’ve ever heard, and they still are the best songs I’ve ever heard.”

In “Hello in There,” an old man reflects on his life and its litany of sorrows: “We lost Davy in the Korean War, and I still don’t know what for, it don’t matter anymore.”

In the song’s chorus, Prine sings, “Old people just grow lonesome / Waiting for someone to say, ‘Hello in there, hello.’ ”

From the beginning, he combined pathos and humor, the lyrical and the satirical. One of his more high-spirited tunes, “Illegal Smile,” was interpreted as a nod to marijuana. Another was a spoof of the letters to advice columnist Abigail Van Buren:

Dear Abby, Dear Abby . . .

My fountain pen leaks,

My wife hollers at me and my kids are all freaks.

Every side I get up on is the wrong side of bed,

If it weren’t so expensive, I’d wish I were dead.

Signed, Unhappy.

“He is a truly original writer, unequaled, and a genuine poet of the American people,” Ted Kooser, the 2005 poet laureate of the United States, said of Prine. “He did a better job of holding up the mirror of art to the ’60s and ’70s than any of our official literary poets. And none of our poets wrote anything better about Vietnam than Prine’s ‘Sam Stone.’ ”

“Sam Stone” is a chilling ballad about a wounded veteran with the gravity of a three-act play. Prine describes the vet coming home “with a Purple Heart and a monkey on his back” and how “the morphine eased the pain” of his physical and psychic wounds.

A recurring chorus suggests the poignant view of a child growing up too soon: “There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes. Jesus Christ died for nothin,’ I suppose.”

Some listeners were offended by the invocation of Jesus in a song about drug addiction, but Prine said he was “just trying to think of something as hopeless” as a Vietnam vet succumbing to his private demons.

“You write a song about something that you think might be taboo,” he told Rolling Stone, “you sing it for other people and they immediately recognize themselves in it.”

His 1971 debut album, titled simply “John Prine,” received strong reviews – “he squeezes poetry out of the anguished longing of empty lives,” a Time magazine critic wrote – but modest sales.

Other performers recognized his talent, however, and Bette Midler and Joan Baez both recorded”Hello in There.” The Everly Brothers did a version of “Paradise,” and Johnny Cash sang “Sam Stone” (omitting the line about Jesus). Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty did background vocals for Prine’s 1992 album “The Missing Years,” and Bonnie Raitt had a memorable interpretation of “Angel From Montgomery,” which Prine wrote from the perspective of a woman regretting the missed opportunities in life.

His unadorned melodies were effective vehicles for introspective lyrics drawn from everyday sources. A haunting line from “Sam Stone” – “Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios” – was inspired by an Army buddy whose radio was held together with electrical tape.

When he wrote “Ain’t it funny how an old broken bottle looks just like a diamond ring?” for the 1971 song “Far From Me,” Prine said he recalled an image from childhood of broken glass sparkling in the city dump near his house.

“I don’t know of a better thing to follow as a writer than what your gut instinct tells you,” he said. “That’s where everything springs from.”

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John Prine was born Oct. 10, 1946, in Maywood, Illinois, one of four sons. His father was a factory worker and a union official, his mother a homemaker.

His grandfather had played guitar with the Everly Brothers’ father in Kentucky, and Prine’s own father enjoyed listening to the music of Hank Williams.

“I used to just sit and watch how he would be so moved by the songs,” Prine told the Los Angeles Times. “In fact, I might have been more affected by the way the songs touched him than by the songs themselves – they seemed to have such power.”

When he was 14, Prine learned to play guitar from his older brother Dave. Two of his brothers became musicians, and another was a police officer.

After completing high school, Prine was drafted into the Army and served in Germany, where he said he spent his time “drinking beer and pretending to fix trucks.” He returned to the Chicago suburbs and took a job with the Postal Service.

Prine’s music reflected his abiding connection to Kentucky, the birthplace of both of his parents. One of his most enduring songs, “Paradise,” is about the town in western Kentucky “where all my relatives came from,” uprooted in the 1960s by strip mines and a power plant:

Daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County,

Down by the Green River where Paradise lay?

Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking.

Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.

Before moving to Nashville in 1980, Prine had recorded seven albums for major labels, both of which dropped him. He launched his own record company, Oh Boy, which allowed him to pursue a more casual approach. He kept expenses down by driving himself to concert venues. His contract “riders” rejected expensive catering options in favor of supermarket deli platters, a bottle of vodka and Orange Crush soda.

Over the years, Prine experimented with musical styles, from raw country to hard-charging rockabilly, but his greatest gift was his ability to draw deep emotions from simple lyrics. “Broken hearts and dirty windows / Make life difficult to see,” he wrote in one of his early songs, “Souvenirs.” “That’s why last night and this mornin’ / Always look the same to me.”

He framed one of his most complex songs, “Lake Marie,” from the 1995 album “Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings,” as a virtual epic. In his 2017 book, “Beyond Words,” he said he wanted the song to begin with a spoken verse, delivered as a history lesson, about two lakes named for baby girls found abandoned in the woods.

With casual but memorable lines – “the wind was blowing, especially through her hair” – the song shifts to became the story of a couple “trying to save our marriage and perhaps catch a few fish, whatever seemed easier.”

Prine’s first two marriages, to Ann Carole Menaloscino and musician Rachel Peer, ended in divorce. (“Divorces have a way of turning into memorable songs for me,” he said.) In 1993, he married Fiona Whelan, who became his manager. They had two sons, and he adopted her son from a previous relationship. Fiona Whelan Prine said she also contracted the coronavirus. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

Prine received Grammy Awards for best contemporary folk album for “The Missing Years” (1991) and “Fair & Square” (2005) and received a Grammy Hall of Fame award in 2015. He was named to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019 and earlier this year received the Grammy for lifetime achievement.

In the late 1990s, he underwent surgery and radiation treatment for cancer in his throat. He quit smoking, and the operation left his head tilted at a noticeable angle. His voice deepened into a growling baritone, as weathered and scarred as his music. Part of a lung was removed after another bout of cancer in 2013.

In 2018, Prine released his first album of new music in 13 years. The 10 songs on “The Tree of Forgiveness” (some written with collaborators) showed the same blend of humor, sorrow and outrage that had long been his hallmark. The album reached No. 2 on the Billboard country chart and No. 5 on the pop chart, giving the 72-year-old Prine the biggest hit record of his career.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to describe the world the way I wished it would be,” he once told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s why when I finish a song, I’ll sit back and look at it and think, ‘Now if you could only practice some of those things in your own life . . . you wouldn’t have to write all these damn songs.’ ”