Investigative reflection — performance technology.
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.
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.
He designed the poster for the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2014.
Woodkid writes often quite meaningful songs and brings together whole orchestras to back them on stage, or he sings songs 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.
Jacob Collier has created immensely complex Grammy-winning records using audio software. After he was signed with Quincy Jones, he developed his one-man live touring gig, with dynamic audio-visual capability, together with Ben Bloomberg of MIT Media Lab who was working on his PhD at the time. The on-stage “harmonizer” was included in that development as an essential part of Jacob’s one man experience.
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. Jacob creates his sound track using “Logic”, and also films his many individual parts. In his early days, he was producing multiple-split screen videos having a huge following on YouTube leading to him being “discovered”. His video backing animations for on-line albums such as Djesse are now studio created.
Jacob’s use of technology in both creation and performance thus fit the key characteristics this project is looking for.
Jacob Collier performances page on this site.
Comparison of these two
A third major item for our study is independence – self-sufficiency – how much in control is the artist in what he performs and how it is distributed. Jacob is a prodigy of Quincy Jones and connected to his influence of record label. Woodkid we think has a good say over his own distribution; at least 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 alternative distribution channels such as YouTube, independence is a key element; individual creators can be their own master and which access to technology enables. Wide, free visual distribution is a key enabler for so many 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. Yet, for companies who own rights to compositions and performances, distribution via internet streaming has necessarily become a major channel.
Musicians can no longer depend on record sales alone, they must embrace the visual experiences we have come to expect of our musical heroes. 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 of this project:
Good singer, good piano player, etc — the fact that Jacob sings so (incredibly) well and plays multiple instruments is not this project key differentiator — rather it is the way of pulling all these together and presenting them that counts. So if Woodkid is not such a good singer, nor does he perform as instrumentalist, is also not a differentiating criteria for this project. His creative and directive abilities, his use of technology and other production skills to make great performances are our focus.
Side note: 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.
Where next to look?
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 change, although it has evolved – it is about music, rather musicians, rather performing musicians, rather the live concert performance of those musicians, or a well-crafted on-line version of their performance. So the title now is: “Music performance technology”. Next step is to add Chick Corea to the matrix.
So how would Chick Corea fit into this analysis? We are fans of Chick so we want him to be there, and he scores highly in the music, composition, arrangement and performance characteristics, seems he does not really need to stand out within this project’s focus constraints of technology areas. Let us not forget that Chick is a brilliant and prolific musician across a broad spectrum of styles – and for decades — fine solo performer and constantly bringing together musicians of the very best to provide startling results. Chick probably is high on the independence characteristic, having a good balance of album-only recordings and widely-diffused concerts available on-line. Need to validate further here.
Chick Corea performances page on this site.
Here is a grid and Venn diagram of how we see the attributes of each performer so far:
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. We are, however, refining our technology characteristics definitions in general, plus we need to add being prolific or level of productivity as it seems Collier and Mozart have something in common there!