Music Notes – January 2015

Rise Again

Rise Again: a Rise Up Singing sequel

Peter Blood and Annie Patterson created the popular group-singing songbook Rise Up Singing in 1988. The compact 1200-song anthology, originally published by Sing Out! Magazine, has sold more than a million copies, an impressive number considering that it’s chock full of songs that express several centuries of peoples’ struggles within the USA and around the world. Now, in response to popular demand, Blood and Patterson are releasing a second 1200-song anthology called, appropriately enough, Rise Again. The new book, scheduled for publication next summer, continues the original concept of providing just words and chords (with illustrations by Patterson). Pete Seeger, who died on January 27, 2014, was actively involved in the project. He encouraged the authors, helped select the songs and contributed a preface. Seeger believed that people need to sing together and that this new edition (with more blues, country, rock & roll, and recent popular and indie songs) would carry on the work of Rise Up Singing. Check out the website. It’s a valuable resource where you can listen to recordings of the songs. If you can help out, the authors are still accepting donations. For more info: http://www.riseupandsing.org.

Solidarity Notes on Burnaby Mountain

Not long ago I received a most inspiring musical video in the mail. It was the Solidarity Notes Labour Choir singing “We Won’t Go” at the November 8th rally on Burnaby Mountain, where activists had gathered to defend the Coast Salish Territories. The Texas-based energy infrastructure giant Kinder Morgan wants to expand its pipelines through this land, to carry oil from the tar sands to markets in the USA and Asia. If the plan goes ahead, every day an oil tanker will sail past Vancouver, Victoria and the Gulf Islands. The Solidarity Notes Labour Choir is a group of activist singers founded in 2000 with the support of the Vancouver and District Labour Council, which is seeking to bring community activists and unionists together. Today it has more than 80 members. Its criteria for membership is simply a willingness to sing and a commitment to the principles of the labour and social justice movements. While they have some pretty impressive gigs in their resume, what these folks mostly do is sing on picket lines, peace marches, demonstrations, memorials and social justice benefits. Look for “We Won’t Go – Solidarity Choir” on YouTube. Learn more at http://www.solidaritynotes.ca/.

Two new David Rovics releases

The outstanding radical singer-songwriter David Rovics is so prolific that he’s hard to keep up with. He’s recorded more than thirty albums over the last eighteen years. His latest release is a double album: When I’m Elected President and Wayfaring Stranger. The former consists of new compositions, while the latter is a collection of covers. It’s a fundraiser for what Rovics hopes will be an independent write-in “David Rovics For President” campaign in 2016. Like all of his work it’s both compassionate and militant. Highlights for me include Rovics’ response to the glorification of World War I (‘Neither King Nor Kaiser’), and his song for Michael Brown (‘His Hands Were in the Air’). Another new Rovics album, Falasteen Habibti (roughly “Beloved Palestine”), is actually a compilation of previously released material, but in spite of that it’s more a revelation than a repackaging. The many fine songs Rovics has recorded over the years in tribute to the Palestinian struggle are brought together and carefully ordered to make listening to Falasteen Habibti a deeply engrossing experience. As always, Rovics displays impressive narrative skill, incisive political analysis and a keen sense of history. For more info: http://davidrovics.bandcamp.com/.

Musicians campaign for streaming $$$

A special conference of the International Federation of Musicians (IMF), held November 20-21 in Budapest, has endorsed a worldwide declaration calling for a more equitable share for musicians of online music service revenues. The motion was presented to the IMF by American Federation of Musicians President Ray Hair and Alan Willaert, AFM Vice-President from Canada. The Budapest Declaration calls for a 50-50 sharing of streaming revenues with record producers. The shift away from physical recordings and digital downloads to on-demand service providers such as Sirius XM, Spotify and Pandora, has led to a drastic drop in royalty revenues for professional musicians. Last year U.S. superstar Taylor Swift withdrew her entire catalogue from streaming giant Spotify. In 2013 Radiohead’s Thom Yorke did the same. Former Talking Head singer and music industry critic David Byrne has declared that the company is “not a viable business model for musicians”. For more info: http://www.fim-musicians.org/budapest-declaration.

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