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Minko is an amazing songwriter and musician who totally knocks my socks off.

We went to France this August and recorded some of her songs in the local church where we were met with a lot of friendliness (see the video description for that story).

Here is one of the first fruits of the session – stay tuned for more…

 

Minko’s debut EP, featuring ‘I Am The Bridge’ (the studio version), is available here.

Over the summer I was asked by Channel 4 to cover some live Q&As with on and off screen ‘talent’ for their website. One of my favourites was this chat with the creator and producer of E4’s BAFTA winning series Misfits, Howard Overman and Matt Strevens. They were exceptionally good value…

OK, not so much a new track as a new old track, Poison Wards by one of my favourite old projects, Charleyville.

Charleyville is the (almost eponymous) project of ace songwriter Charles Villiers. I contributed the bass lines to this track, and even though I’d moved to London and pretty much stopped playing with them by the time they recorded the song, the lines have made it through (on Su and Rosie’s clarinets).

I love this song.

[custom_field field=”image” this_post=”1″ limit=”0″ between=”, ” /][custom_field field=”image” this_post=”1″ limit=”0″ between=”, ” /]One of my favourite albums of 2010 was Owen Pallett‘s Heartland and I have loved his music since I first heard it (as the geekily but poorly named Final Fantasy). So I always try to see him when he comes to London and this year, it just so happened he was playing at the Barbican – on my birthday!

So I got a few mates together to go down and witness the premiere of his Violin Concerto, and in the second half a group of his contemporaries played together as ‘An 802 Moment’. They included Nico Muhly, Sam Amidon and other luminaries of the alt-folk scene.

I sang behind Sam Amidon at an Arctic Circle gig a couple of years ago, and since then have listened regularly to his deadpan experimental American folk. In the set, streamed below, Sam takes the vocal reins much of the time, although Owen sings the Neil Young classic ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ at about 41’40”. My highlight though was the epic murder ballad closer, ‘The Only Tune‘, here heard at around the 46’ mark.

The tune concerns two sisters:

In most versions of the tale, one sister kills the other over a boy. One is dark, and one is fair; one receives a token of the boy’s love, while the other seethes with envy. When the song is sung in Ireland, for example, her hair is used to string a harp played on the murderess’s wedding day, whereas in this rendition it strings a fiddle-bow.

During the reprise of this song, the violinists came out along the aisles to accompany those on stage. It was a simply staged, spine-chilling moment.

I went to the inaugural Development Producers Meetup the other day where Nicola Lees spoke on “10 Reasons Your Idea Isn’t Being Commissioned”. I thought it was a good list and worth sharing, which Nicola has kindly okayed – here are my notes:

According to Nicola, you might not be getting that commission because:

1 The idea is cr*p

You must think about what your buyer – channel, commissioning executive wants. You might have the right idea for the wrong channel – watch the channel! And don’t pitch a game show if the channel doesn’t do game shows. Likewise, you may have the right channel but the wrong commissioner. Make sure they have the authority to commission too – always aim for the decision makers, generally the people at the top of the hierarchy

2 It’s misdirected

Know the right people, get facetime (meet them in person) It’s often the offhand comment at the end of the meeting that gets the commission – if you’re not meeting them, you don’t benefit from this. It takes a long time to build up your contacts so be patient and persistent.

3 Bad timing.

Don’t pitch too early, don’t pitch too late. This means don’t pitch what’s on at the moment – lead in times in television are eg 6-12 months

4 It’s Unformed

Don’t pitch research, pitch a story. Also don’t just cut and paste from wikipedia You need to let them know who the characters are, what the strapline is, how’re you going to film it Glossy presentation of ideas isn’t better, in fact it can alienate your buyer

5 False Promises

Pitching exclusive access – make sure it’s exclusive! Nicola related a story of a commissioner who, unbeknown to the producer, was pitched exclusive access to the same police force by three different companies. Not good.

6 No Reel

You haven’t made a pitch tape/ ‘sizzle reel’ Commissioners want to be hit between the eyes with a dramatic moment. Increasingly, they expect a reel.

7 Talent

You haven’t attached the right talent Have them attached to begin with – momentum is key with TV ideas and you lose momentum if you have to take a few weeks to get talent on board.

8 The Pitch

You might not be the right person to pitch the idea. You don’t have to be good at everything – it might be your idea or you might have written the proposal, but it doesn’t mean you have to pitch it. It’s hard to pitch and know what’s going on in the room at the same time, and Nicola suggested that working as a pair to cover these roles can be very helpful.

9 Unhelpful Colleagues

Your colleagues are undermining you in the pitch Nicola related a story about a junior producer pitching to Stuart Murphy while her senior colleagues rolled their eyes and told him he wouldn’t like the idea. Stuart behaved admirably apparently, hearing and liking the idea, though it didn’t lead to a greenlight on that occasion.

10 Great Idea, Wrong Production Company

If you want to make The Only Way Is Essex, but you work for a science documentary company…

Bonus reason!

11 Contact Details

…You didn’t put contact details on the proposal/ taster DVD/ Or you left the name of the commissioner at a different channel on the proposal…

 

In the Q & A, on the subject of formats, Nicola made the good point that there is a balance. You should be as specific as possible with a format proposal (this takes priority, as every detail in the format defines the format), whilst allowing the commissioner to have input. But know your boundaries, don’t compromise on elements which are integral to the idea, know when to say no (even if it means no commission).

 

I thoroughly recommend Nicola’s book, Greenlit which is packed with great tips and stories for anyone interested in developing television ideas. And of course, please feel free to get in touch with me if you’d like to discuss your idea for the tellybox.

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When I heard that these two very talented musicians from somewhat different worlds would meet at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of London Jazz Festival, many months ago, I was excited to see how they would collaborate: I had known Murcof‘s dark, experimental electronica for quite a while, but Francesco Tristano was a new find, a pianist with the rhythmic sensibilities of a latin or jazz player, but with the harmonic sensitivity of a Max Richter or a Phillip Glass.

I got tickets for three friends and when we met, the debate was over how cheesy the music would be. I said it wouldn’t, DC said it would. Needless to say, I won the bet 😉

This isn’t going to be a long blog post. I think both are fantastic musicians and the potential for their work together goes deep. But the dynamics of the set they built was flawed and I feel the need to set down the experience as an excited audience member.

Sadly, the interplay of the pairs’ consummate rhythmic abilities only really started to play a part after two very lengthy (we’re talking 10-15 minutes each), suspenseful and atmospheric ‘build up’ pieces, spread chords voiced like Rachmaninov and the (now ubiquitous) zither like, plucked notes inside the piano over long, breathy synth pedals. One overture would have been fine – two was indulgent.

But after a piece that featured Murcof’s filter sweep flourishes in witty conversation with Tristano’s arpeggios started to hint at what was possible, in the finale, a quarter of an hour long, they at last stepped up to the mark. Tristano finally took a role structuring the rhythm, albeit around a simple two note bass line which didn’t allow for much harmonic extemporisation. And gradually, the music started to free up, Murcof’s piano samples from earlier in the piece taking up the reins, allowing space for more spontaneous play from the keyboard, whilst the electronics could also relax and contrast with themselves. The rhythmic counterpoint between the two was finally tense, exciting and satisfying as gradually the filters closed, only eventually giving way to intense applause and (unrequited) calls for an encore.

This collaboration, at its height actually one of the finest I’ve yet heard between an acoustic and an electronic musician, showed so much potential and finally, after much too long a wait, lived up to it. But I desperately want to hear more of these two fine talents taking risks and playing together boldly, and much, much less caution.

Queen Elizabeth Hall

Thanks to Olex.org for the photo of QEH

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BBC Backstage have made a prototype of an automatic hypertext overlay for their news live feed. As a prototype of course it’s rather dry at the moment and obviously the user interface hasn’t been developed, but the mashup of subtitle data with relevant concepts and DBpedia structured Wikipedia data is a great idea. Take a look at the video:

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Google TV and Project Canvas both launching soon, and Yahoo Connected TV. The big question is cultural; how will our viewing and surfing habits evolve. Will our lean-back way of viewing TV mesh with the more proactive use of eg the web?

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Idea: swapmyvote.org.uk would allow people who feel their vote may be wasted to swap with someone in another constituency.The idea came this evening when a friend and I were discussing how she really wants to vote Lib Dem and I Green. She lives in Brighton, and I live in Richmond Park. So we agreed we could swap votes. That way we increase the chances of a first Green MP, and minimise the chances of Zac Goldsmith getting in. Simples.

I’m no web developer but I do have a sense of what is possible, and there is a lot of information available that would help build such a site. Asking users for their postcode, it could potentially use datasets from guardian.co.uk/openplatform and mysociety to allow voters to identify whether their vote ‘counts’ in their constituency, and which other constituency would benefit from a vote for the party they would wish to support.

Okay, so using the site could be something of a massive act of faith (that your vote ‘buddy’ would vote as claimed), but it could help progressive leaning voters acheive the parliament they desire. Call it ‘voter solidarity’!

It may seem illiberal but I don’t want to work to encourage the extreme right wing. Therefore I suggest the ground rules would be that you can only swap with other people who want to vote for progressive parties.

I’ve registered the domain above (swapmyvote.co.uk is currently occupied) and would love to see us use the possibilities the web offers better to represent the people’s wishes.

Clearly time is short (I wish someone had thought of it a month ago – or maybe they did!), but if anyone would like to help build it, please do get in touch.

Dear Susan,
Thank you for your response to my previous correspondence. Whilst I can appreciate many of your points I would much appreciate a further response to a number of urgent points.
Firstly I would ask that you probe more deeply into the veracity of the report of the 17th March which you cite. The point has widely been made that the figures on which the report was based were highly speculative and biased and take no account of the benefits of New Media on the industries which the report describes.
Your researcher Erin kindly said that she would let me know if the bill were to come up during the wash up process, which it I heard from other sources that it did, today.
I have therefore been following this reading of the Bill in the House, and note that it seems you were not present this Tuesday to debate this ill-thought out, poorly debated and heavily lobbied bill. Please correct me if I am wrong.
I note from your current position within the Liberal Democrat Party and from your voting record that families are clearly important to you. Please could you let me know as a matter of urgency how you think that allowing a bill to pass that could criminalise and cut off Internet access to families sits with your party’s policy, and indeed with your personal sense of morality.
You write in your response to my previous letter that you hoped that controversial parts of the bill would be subject to maximum scrutiny and that it would be possible to change them before a final decision is made.
Therefore, lastly and most importantly, please can you reassure me that you and your colleagues in the Liberal Democrat Party will be there in force today to oppose the third passage of the bill.
I await your urgent response,
Yours sincerely,
Tom de Grunwald

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Twitter has announced a new method of interaction, which they are calling @anywhere. It will allow us to tweet or follow a new user directly from a participating website – up till now, these have involved using either the API via a third-party application, or visiting the Twitter.com webpage.

@Anywhere will use a small amount of javascript to make tweeting possible without a page refresh. It sounds like it pretty much extends API access to the Web.

Initial participating sites will include Amazon, AdAge, Bing, Citysearch, Digg, eBay, The Huffington Post, Meebo, MSNBC.com, The New York Times, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, and YouTube.

When I started using Twitter, I loved that it was flat – you could follow anyone you found interesting and they could follow you – or not – if they felt the same way. Of course that started to change, notably when Suggested User Lists started shepherding new users towards the accounts of established celebrities (which, as has been pointed out elsewhere, destroyed follower count as a useful index like Google’s Pagerank).

Imagine being able to follow a journalist directly from her byline, tweet about a video without leaving YouTube, and discover new Twitter accounts while visiting the Yahoo! home page—and that’s just the beginning.

It sounds fun! But I’m particularly excited by how this will spice up TV viewing. Event Television viewing has been revolutionised over the last year or so by the public backchannel that is Twitter – hashtags have allowed strangers to debate, discuss (and perhaps mainly lark about with) live TV such as BBC Question Time (#bbcqt) or Britain’s Got Talent (#bgt).

Such behaviour (along with more sophisticated multiplatform conceptions) have led to a trend towards “2 screen” viewing.

But with the BBC this week announcing its ID system will be compatible with OpenID and other distributed authentication systems (OpenID, Facebook Connect, OAuth); at least two channels to date simulcasting over the Web; and web-style ‘widgets’ coming to the box in the living room (from a variety of directions!), will people still need 2 Screens?

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