Wednesday, February 10, 2010

ccMixter Biodiesels into Texas

Emily Richards, Jason Brock, Joe Jobe, at the 2010 Biodiesel Conference
Photo by Gurdonark; CC BY 3.0

This morning I drove an hour to the elegant Gaylord Texan resort in Grapevine, Texas. I went to hear a performance by Snowflake and Spinningmerkaba at the National Biodiesel Conference. The performance began at 9 a.m. sharp, kicking off the general session, attended by a highly sustainable crowd of hundreds upon hundreds of people seated comfortably in the huge Texan Ballroom. The tech at the conference was impressive, featuring not only lights, camera, and audio, but also action. Even my digital camera created optical illusions.

Snowflake and Spinningmerkaba have performed at this conference since 2004. Snowflake handled the keys, while Spinningmerkaba handled the guitar. Each handled the vocals.I handled the role of the anonymous spectator in the third row. Snowflake explained about ccMixter and the 4R project. She gave due credit to the dozens of folks who submitted dozens of remixes to the project. The audience around me proved quite interested. Folks took digital camera photos and listened attentively.

They played Wellman's version of "Harmony", giving it an extra improvisational lilt in the chording that worked very well. Then they played Spinningmerkaba's take on "Biodiesel Family", which discusses in a light tone the many disparate and impressive voices in the biodiesel movement.

Thanks to a modern invention called the cellular telephone, I was able to connect with them and get admitted to a thing I believe is called a "Green Room". A "Green Room" in this particular wonderland is a place in which a really hip video monitor shows folks within the room action onstage, for the benefit of those not immediately on the stage to enjoy the experience while off the stage. As a purely ambient spectator at the event, I found this room an excellent way to participate in a kind of furniture music way, by sitting on actual furniture. I was able to get to meet Snowflake and Spinningmerkaba in person, which was a joy. We talked about all those things they talk about in Alice in Wonderland, except that I always get mixed up as to what is cabbages and what is candlewax and what is kings in the poem, and so I cannot be more precise here. What I heard of the conference, by the way, was very interesting--tech-savvy, impressive and yet very down-to-earth. I'd have loved to have heard all the science talks. They even had a dialogue about the utility of castor oil. The panelists and speakers I got to hear were detailed, practical and free of needlessly clubby jargon.

After a while, Snowflake got up to help present some cool awards to deserving folks. Then Snowflake and Spinningmerkaba were joined onstage by National Biodiesel Board Chairman, Ed Hegland, and CEO, Joe Jobe [pictured with them above], for a cool rendition of a song called "Time for a Fuel Change". Our friends Snowflake and Spinningmerkaba are the leftmost folks pictured above

I got to meet a goodish number of friends and supporters of the artists, who came by the Green Room after the morning session ended to wish them well. We all spoke to a charming fellow named Chuck Zimmerman with an audio device from the website Domestic Fuel, who had us tell the story of the ccMixter 4R project.
I quizzed him about his cool audio equipment, which seemed particularly well-suited to the task.

Here in Texas things tend to be outsize and people tend to be friendly. On a chilly north Texas February day at a huge ballroom, I enjoyed hearing Creative Commons music being played for a mass of folks. Several people expressed an interest in downloading the Mixter music. Soon the time came for me to return to the world of my day job in law, and for my fellow mixters to head to the airport for a further rendezvous with destiny in another city.

I really enjoyed meeting Snowflake and Spinningmerkaba. I realized that they were only my 2nd and 3rd in person mixter meetings. I've been using Spinningmerkaba samples for years. The whole experience made me want to see more Creative Commons events here in Texas. I must work on that.


SackJo22 said...

Thanks for this swell write up -- sounds like a great, interesting and informative time was had by all! Sure wish I could have been there!

Emily Richards said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily Richards said...

it was truly a joy to be with you Bob....thank you for a wonderful account of our experience, through your eyes. i am amazed at the connection i feel with so many Mixters and feel especially grateful to have met you in person!

jp said...

Thanks for the lively review Robert. I have a couple questions, which I think are pertinent:

1) How did SnowFlake and SpinningMerkaba get to Grapevine, from where, I assume, LA? Were they on a bio diesel powered bus? Took the train? Bicycles? Reason I am asking is that we are in the start up phase of an interesting project here in Chicago..featuring two people who are well known and loved (ok make that one person, but I am in it too...) in ccM land. Our fan base is spread out all over the world, with concentrations in Paris, London, Amsterdam and Milan. I am an advocate of the work of British journalist George Monbiot, whose excellent book "Heat" clearly laid out a lot of the real issues re global warming. One of these is the huge problem of greenhouse gasses and air travel. Even when purchasing offset does a group travel the planet these days, while still being accountable? It's a thorny issue, and one that conscientious performers need to address.

2) Were the performers paid for the concert? Or was this pro bono? We (my group's members and I) have been discussing the various entanglements associated with being lifetime professional musicians as well as adherers to a sharing culture. We wonder how other professional touring musicians here at ccM are handling this. It has been obvious to me since attending a first conference of the Future of Music Coalition in 2001 that live performance, as opposed to "making records", is the only way to get paid for making music. (unless of course you like to work in the advertising world, but even there the job now is more for audio editors/IT people then musicians).

Thanks..sounded like a lovely time..and geebus.. rockin at 9 AM! Some of us are going to bed around then.

Gurdonark said...

John--I think they flew. The travel issue is a real dilemma that a lot of folks deal with in a lot of ways. I have my theories about such things, which are my own and not the One True Theory.

I do believe that there are things one can do to "offset" the impact, but wiser minds than mine can address that.

I'll don't know anything about the biodiesel show other than that it was fun. I think that touring musicians should be paid for their effort. My own view, by the way, is that the key issue
nowadays for the day to day musician is not the issue of liberal licensing of music, nor even the issue of illegal downloads. I think that the issue is the way in which virtual music making with hardware and software emulators will ultimately displace
traditional studio/session musicians. Yet that's a whole other discussion for another time.

What I vote for most is the Pazdan + pal show in Dallas! I'll promise to car pool to cut down the expense, if you can find a green way to get here.

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