Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The camera films a different time signature

A recent WIRED magazine article describes new high-speed cameras that can stretch incredibly fast action into minutes. This results in footage that slows action down to the smallest of elements. The entire article can be found online here.

The most amazing view is of a hummingbird as it feeds. The discovery, apparently, is the way the bird stores the water in its outstretched throat. But the most fascinating part of the film is the the hummingbird's flight: watch the wings. Incredible grace; they almost flow with every beat. The human eye only sees a mad blur of wing. The camera demonstrates how fluid and powerful the wings' ballet truly is.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Musical Box

Pam and I worked at Proctors Theatre on Friday night. The event was “The Musical Box”, a Genesis tribute band – although the participants would blanche at that description. This group has done this show since 1993, and pride themselves on meticulously recreating the sound and staging of Genesis tours. They duplicate the clothes, the projected slide show, the exact play list, even the nuances of the guitar and voice lines in each song. They have accumulated a library of film clips and play lists for as many Genesis shows as possible, and even copy the patter between songs. Each player on stage takes the persona of a member of Genesis at the time of the concert.

They view themselves as a stage show. This iteration is a recreation of Genesis’ “Trick of the Tail” concert tour in 1976. Peter Gabriel, the leader of the group for nearly a decade, had just left the band, taking with him the more dramatic and operatic bent of their music. Phil Collins was taking over most of the vocals. Within two to three years, Collins would alter their sound and they would put together a huge string of radio hits. They became darlings of the FM music crowd deep into the 1980s.

But that’s not who the crowd came to see this past Friday. These were progressive rock devotees, groupies that shared a devotion to Yes; Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Asia; Rush; and all the iterations of the niche that Genesis filled along with those groups.

And they were male, at a ratio of about 3-to-1.

I’ve been to nine Yes concerts in my life, and I have noted this same phenomenon – albeit only when I bothered to look at the demographics around me in the last ten years. The louder and ‘heavier’ the rock group, the more it appeals to the male of the species. I could conjecture on the reasons for this, but they would be guesses. Power and volume; guitars that dominate all other aspects of the music; obscure, obtuse, or sci-fi lyrics that are unintelligible because they are totally drowned out by the driving bass beat and layered guitars. Rarely pretty, in the musical sense.

These are generalizations. And there are women at these concerts, just as there were on Friday. Some were there with their husbands, to be sure; but I bet it was the husband that did all the hooting and hollering. It’s a 30-60 crowd, of course, because Genesis’ pinnacle ended in the late 1980s.

After our bartending chores were over, Pam and I stayed for about 30 minutes of the show. The group is impeccable, and I was taken away by the music -- they did a great version of “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.” But our ears hurt.

And, to be honest, I wanted a beer.