Musicians into technology

This post is an investigative reflection —

Where will it lead?  How to make the link if there is one — success stories for Jacob Collier and for Woodkid are built on their own use of technology — behind the scenes and in their performances. 

The matrix will expand to include Jacob Collier, Woodkid, Chick Corea and Mozart.


Woodkid

Before creating ‘Woodkid’, Yoann Lemoine was already a singer-songwriter into graphic design and music video direction. From his bio linked below, we learn: “Woodkid is a whole creative project . . .  where every aspect is treated: both music and image.”  Look at the awards he earned: Best Director of the Year 2012, Music Video of the Year 2011, Best Cinematography, and Best Art Direction 2011, Best Music Video 2012 x2 .

Woodkid writes superb songs and brings together whole orchestras to back them on stage, or he sings beautiful solos and backs them with dramatic cinematography or fascinating self-made graphic creations. He has developed advanced graphics skills to create complex videos which are central to his own film and stage productions. A 2014 report (translated from a Russian text) says that, “Yoann currently lives in Paris and New York, working as a media director, painting, silkscreen, sculpture, knitting (?!), holograms and photography.”

As mentioned below, he is releasing a new album only after 7 years — important message there.  This question is addressed in a video recorded early on during a 2020  Radio France interview.

Woodkid performances page on this site.

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Jacob Collier

Jacob Collier envisaged his on-stage “harmonizer” and has created immensely complex Grammy-winning records using “Logic” software.

Jacob Collier writes songs and arranges existing songs where he is often the main performer or rather he is the many performers heard on the record or seen in his videos. His vocal abilities and instrumental dexterity are clearly his key assets outside of the technology. To our understanding Jacob creates his sound track using “Logic”, films his many parts, but is not handling the complex video production and editing which are very much resource demanding (time, brute processing power).

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Comparison of these two

A third major item for our study is independence – self-sufficiency – even though Jacob is a prodigy of Quincy Jones and thus connected to his record label. Woodkid we believe controls his own record label – is that true? What we do know is that Woodkid gave his complete blessing in 2017 to a independent concert in Poland cloning him and using only Woodkid songs and music. In the new order of performers and record companies and independence this is a key element; one which the individual performer being the master of the supporting technology will enable.  And YouTube is a key enabler for these and so many other musicians, to get started, to become known, and to be present to fans way beyond what even the longest tours and the largest venues can reach. Musicians can no longer survive by selling records, and in any case audio alone doesn’t provide the visual experience we have come to expect of our musical heroes. Money is made through concerts and it seems more fans go to concerts because they have seen a video and now want the real live version. Then they want to see, or even have, the recorded movie of the concert they attended. Both Jacob and Woodkid upload or live-stream also “intimate” video sessions which could never work with audio alone, nor through the traditional concert, live or packaged.

Inside and outside the focus:

Good singer, good piano player, etc — the fact that Jacob sings so well and  plays multiple instruments is not a criteria — rather it is his way of pulling all these together that counts.  So if Woodkid is not such a good singer, nor does he perform as instrumentalist, is also not a criteria for this project. Yet his creative and directive abilities, his technical and other skills to pull together great performances are key.

Interestingly, Woodkid has seven years between his first album, “The Golden Age”, 2013, and “S16”, 2020. Could that have been healthily possible in the music world of record companies and their demands?  Although he had not been idle – he composed, produced, performed, and created the artwork under the name of Woodkid, 12 pieces of motion picture score from “Desierto” (available on Spotify which says “exclusive license to Virgin Records, France”  although the disc source says label is Green United Music GUM02G231). Does this huge work not count as an “album”?!  One track available on YouTube:

Jacob Collier at MIT is a good introduction to his very wide skills base.


We look for the links, and we look for others who follow similar musical pathways.  We do not yet know where this examination will take us or if it will take us.  The title might be wrong – could change. Next step is to add Chick Corea to the matrix.

Chick Corea

So how would Chick Corea fit into this analysis? We are fans of Chick so we want him to fit, and he comes top in the music, composition, arrangement and performance characteristics, yet probably does not fit this project’s focus constraints in the technology areas. Question is if he fits the “independence” filter — maybe he does. Let us not forget that Chick is a brilliant and prolific musician across a broad spectrum of styles. Fine solo performer and constantly bringing together groups of the very best. So our “fitting in” comments are based solely on the context of use of technology in creation and performance.

Here is a grid and Venn diagram of how we see the attributes of each performer.


Mozart

Now we find it fun, but also instructive, to add Mozart to the comparison:

Mozart became, in Vienna, as independent as any musician could possibly be in that age of patronage – supported by the Royal Court and to write by decree. Independence criteria remain unchanged: hard work, being very good, taking risks in new adventures, being prepared to fail and moving on. Mozart was a prolific producer of music and performance in many forms which captured his public. We thought our vocabulary would need to change to incorporate him into our comparison – but surprisingly not so much.