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Introducing Music Ed Tech Talk, My New(ish) Podcast!

Today I am excited to announce that my podcast, Robby Burns + Friends, is getting a long overdue re-brand. I am renaming the show Music Ed Tech Talk. It will continue to follow the candid guest/host conversation style and will focus on music, education, technology, and other mutual interests.

Given my investment in the fields of music and education, and my intense interest in technology, most episodes of Robby Burns + Friends were already centered on these topics. I felt it was time to rebrand the show to better indicate to new listeners what they should expect when they press play.

That being said, I see this show, in combination with my blog, to be my digital megaphone, so don’t be surprised to hear me venture into the unknown. This is not a show about music technology education. It is a show about music, education, and technology. Three separate interests, sometimes discussed in isolation, sometimes in combination, and sometimes not at all. What I am saying is — don't be surprised to hear occasional digressions on Star Wars and pickling. 

I am hosting this show in the same place so you should expect to keep getting episodes in your feed if you were subscribed to Robby Burns + Friends. If not, please let me know. I am keeping the first three seasons of RB+F in the Apple Podcasts Directory under the new title because I feel that they are, spiritually speaking, the same show. I will be tightening up the format a little bit, and am planning to speak with new and exciting guests.

That about sums it up. Ushering in this new season of Music Ed Tech Talk is my very first guest ever, Jon Tippens. You can listen to the new episode and read the show notes here or click play right below.

Subscribe to Music Ed Tech Talk:

Apple Podcasts | Overcast | Castro | Spotify | RSS

Favorites of 2018 - Albums

These posts will never happen if I don’t make it fuss free. So here is it! With little introduction or fanfare, the ‘stuff’ that made up my year. My favorite albums, live shows, apps, and ‘things’ of 2018.

First up, albums!

Favorite Albums of 2018

Johann Sebastian Bach - Vinkingur Ólafsson

Ólafsson breathes new life into the essentials.

 

Time - Louis Cole

What a way to close the summer! Addictive, savvy, electro pop from a master technician (both instrumentally and as a producer.)

 

All Ashore - Punch Brothers

For reasons that will be detailed in a Favorite Live Music of 2018 post, this album will forever be associated with an amazing summer of travel with my wife, including seeing Punch Brothers debut this album in its entirety at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. This is an album made for the political landscape of our current time but that can be enjoyed for the beauty of its timbre, texture, and harmony alone.


Hawktail - Unless

My favorite bluegrass album in a while and my favorite bluegrass band discovery of the year. We have seen these guys a few times live this year and appreciate the relationships we have developed with the band members. If I were doing a favorite songs of 2018, the title track ‘Unless’ would be on it.

 

Book of Travelers - Gabriele Kahane

Around the time of the 2016 election, Gabriele Kahane took a trip all over the country by train on a search for empathy. This album features the songs inspired by this journey.

 

Heaven and Earth - Kamasi Washington

It would be easy to characterize this album as excessive but I see it differently. Even though many of the tracks have a similar contour, each one of them is its own epic. In combination, I am never exhausted by the result as I might expect to be, but instead rightly satisfied.

 

EP - The Fearless Flyers

Members of Vulpeck team up with Nate Smith on drums to create the “too-short-est” record I have ever heard. The dry texture of all three varieties of electric guitar on this record leave nothing to be desired. And Nate Smith can do more with a snare drum, bass drum, and hi hat than most drummers can do with a nine piece kit and plethora of cymbals.

 

Kids See Ghosts - Kanye West and Kid Cudi

I’d like to file this one under “listen to this if you don’t think hip hop is interesting.”

 

Dirty Computer - Janelle Monáe

If anyone wanted to argue that this is the most profound (and catchy) album of the year, I would hand it to them immediately.

 

See You Around - I’m With Her

Try to not enjoy listening to these sounds, even if you don’t like folk music.

 

Sampha - Process

Cerebral, groove centered, and colorful. One of my favorites of the favorites.

NPR - The 50 Best Albums of 2017 (Apple Music Playlist)

Holiday traditions I love:

  • Grandma’s Christmas Day lunch party

  • Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve

  • Drinking black and white peppermint mochas from Starbucks

Compiling and sharing a steaming playlist based on the NPR’s Best Albums of 20—insert year here !!!

The time is here. Below you will find a link to the playlist. Its Apple Music again this year. Sorry Spotify folks. This takes way too long to do twice and all of my “convert Apple Music to Spotify” workflows are broken. 

The 50 Best Albums of 2017:

Consensus wasn't easy in 2017. Maybe that's because the news this year kept us on edge, our eyes and ears pointed in many directions. Maybe it's due to the growth of streaming as the dominant listening platform, one whose rules have not yet fully been written. Whatever the cause, with the exception of our No. 1 album, it felt like there were few pieces of music this year that captured our attention instantly and simultaneously. Instead, we spent our year tracking down new sounds that gave voice to our struggles and breakthroughs, our search for joy and our need for release. When it was time for our staff and member station partners to come together at the year's end, we found there was plenty to celebrate. Here is NPR Music's list of the best albums of 2017.

There are a few albums on this list that are some of my favorites of the year. Thundercats’s Drunk and Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. made up a sizable portion of my listening while on runs and in the kitchen at evening. 

Many others on the list excite me. I am always down for an escapist pop album to carry me into the new year (Paramore). Vijay Iyer continues to be one of a few spiritual successors to Esbjörn Svensson Trio but I missed listening to the latest record this year. Same for Sylvan Esso. Everything they do is gold but I am just behind on listening.

A few reflections on the process from this year…

Only one album was not on Apple Music. And it was Marc-André Hamelin’s For Bunita Marcus (Feldman) . Which bums me out because I was really looking forward to it.

Apple Music has become considerably better at search, speed, and user interface. This was the easiest NPR best-of playlist I have built. 

Anyway, here is the playlist: NPR’s The 50 Best Albums of 2017

And here are links to all of my other playlists… (2013 and 2015 are personal favorites)

NPR Best 50 Albums of 2016 (Apple Music)

NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2015 (Spotify)

NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2014 (Spotify)

NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2013 (Spotify)

 

Spotify Buys Online Recording Studio Soundtrap

Spotify Buys Online Recording Studio Soundtrap:

STOCKHOLM — Music streaming company Spotify has bought online music and audio recording studio Soundtrap, it said on Friday, declining to give financial details of the deal.

Stockholm-based Soundtrap allows its subscribers to have an online music studio and create music together with other people in real time, its website says.

”Soundtrap's rapidly growing business is highly aligned with Spotify's vision of democratising the music ecosystem," Spotify said in a statement.

This is a really interesting deal for music technology education. Spotify is a major player in the music streaming space and is well known to the major public. I can definitely see how Soundtrap fits into Spotify’s vision. But it will be interesting to see what they actually do with it, and if it has any influence over Soundtrap’s usefulness in the music classroom.

Apple improves iCloud Music Library matching, ditches copy-protected matched files for Apple Music users

Apple improves iCloud Music Library matching, ditches copy-protected matched files for Apple Music users:

When Apple Music was released just over a year ago, Apple also debuted iCloud Music Library, a way of storing your iTunes library in the cloud. There were two ways to seed the cloud, either with iTunes Match or Apple Music. If you were an iTunes Match subscriber, matching your songs in your local library to your cloud library was done one way, and if you were just an Apple Music subscriber, matching was done differently.

This created some confusion about the way tracks were matched and stored in iCloud Music Library. Now, Apple is changing this, and will use the same matching method for both services. The company said in a briefing that Apple Music now uses acoustic fingerprinting and provides matched files without digital rights management (DRM), or copy protection, just like iTunes Match.

It seriously blows my mind that this isn't the way it worked from the start. Even after reading this article, I am still unsure if it is safe to cancel my iTunes Match subscription or not.

Subscribing to Apple Music is a huge risk on my part. For the record, I keep two local back ups and one cloud back up of music files in addition to my iTunes Match/Apple Music subscriptions. I of all people want Apple Music to succeed but things like this make me wonder why Apple isn't doing more to secure their footing as a musically relevant tech company.

For the times that Apple Music works as I want it to, it is still worth the experiment. More often than not, it syncs my iTunes Library across all of my Macs and iOS devices. But there are still frequent syncing bugs, in particular, the accuracy of metadata like album art and song titles. And don't get me started on how my MacBook frequently logs me out of my account. At the end of the day though, Apple Music shows potential to be much more than other streaming services..

If you are looking for a music subscription service like Spotify or Google Music, I think Apple Music is getting close enough to complete. But if you are more like me, and you keep a vast library of rare and live albums, personally created and uploaded mp3s, and rely on iTunes to get your job done, it might not be worth the headache.