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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Animated music videos for Yiddish theater songs?

I found these tiny books of cabarat songs from Warsaw: the author, Itzik Zhelonek, said they were famous and popular and the latest thing. I was surprised and then saddened that most of them had disappeared from the world almost entirely and decided to find their melodies and bring them back.

A stupid, time-consuming, expensive project but it's engaged me wholly for more than a year now. After I got my friend Randy to come up from Florida and sing some of the songs with me, I made a digital-only cd called In Odess: Yiddish Songs from Warsaw (see below) with him and with the help of Aviva Enoch and Roger Lynn Spears and Ken Bloom we put out 18 of the songs. I'm also selling sheet music for these songs.

Then I thought I would like to do some animated music videos, but I didn't know how, so I took a couple lessons ... this is the first. (I did some cartoon music videos for the cd Mrs. Maccabee's Kitchen: new Hanukah songs in 2012, but I used the Youtube's GoAnimate rather than starting from scratch.)

There's hardly any point singing in Yiddish if you don't provide captions. The Cabaret Warsaw project proved that if you let people see the translation of your song line by line, they'll laugh at the jokes.

Here's the whole "In Odess" cd. You can buy it for the cost of a taco lunch at the food truck.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A rant: Content creators vs. parasites. Skimmers, aggregators, "curators," affiliate marketers and - real middlemen. Value added?

There's an old stone hand-dug well on my property and I thought it might be fun to put up some sort of pump on it. So I looked for antique pumps in Google and found a site called (more or less) Antique Pumps.
"Just the thing!" I thought. So I looked on the site and it said "Here You Can Find All the Antique Pumps You Could Possibly Want." But here's the thing, all it did was take me to eBay listings of "antique pumps."

Really? This is a site which has earned its slot in my search results?

Earlier today the aggregator site Thumbtack sent me (and sent, I suppose, all other vendors on the site) a harsh email saying, "from now on we will not supply the names of the people looking for your services, because you might contact them off our site (and we would not get our cut). Some rotten apples spoil it for all the rest."

Really? What value does Thumbtack add in order to justify the cut it takes? In my view, it removes value. If a bride searching for wedding music finds our site (Wedding Music in North Carolina) on her own, she can talk to me, we can agree on details and special requests in real time, like real people. And the gig is much more likely to happen.

Thumbtack, in order to preserve its business model of skimming every transaction, makes that impossible. We can send imprisoned emails through its own system but we can't talk to each other. And the cost to this bride is higher. She gets worse service for more money.

I see that people are now calling themselves "curators" - that is to say, the value they add is that they find stuff that's already on the internet. Pinterest is famous for "losing" the original creator of images which may be repinned hundreds of times.

Don't even get me started on "affiliate marketing." Really? You deserve a cut for telling me to buy something on Amazon?

There are middlemen who really earn their keep. For instance, musical agents in the old days may have taken 10-15% of the money paid for an engagement, but they may have earned that money. They may have found the gig or talked up the band or persuaded the client to pay more. Real estate agents in the old days dealt with fussy buyers and fussy sellers and sweated out compromises that got houses sold. I think matchmakers provided an equally difficult and valuable service. and other sites of that nature take hefty cuts but provide no service. If you buy something through a directory site, you are paying extra but getting nothing for the extra percent you pay.

A real middleman bravely undertakes to finds 1400 customers to buy the 1400 widgets that come in a crate. The customers don't have to talk to the scary wholesaler and the wholesaler - who hates customers - doesn't have to talk to them. That middleman earns a cut.

One of my ancestors was a middleman in the fur trade. He went tromping out in the mud in the back country and bargained with feral trappers who never took baths - he paid them for the pelts and cleaned them up (I hope) and sold them in nice tidy piles to the businesses that made fancy fur coats. He earned his cut.

If you consider yourself an aggregator or a curator in your eyes, I ask you to consider whether you are actually a parasite. What are you really adding to the world? (Please let me know in the comments.)

What the world needs more of: people who bring new things into it. What the world needs less of: people who recirculate previously recirculated bits of gossip and astounding stories about possums falling in love with armadillos.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Visiting the "Go Native Tree Farm" in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

I'm in Philadelphia visiting with my daughter and I suggested we go visit the Go Native Tree Farm in Manheim, PA (Lancaster County).

Traffic around Philadelphia is murderously miserable but we finally got out of town heading towards Amish country. It was Sunday so nothing was open, but we drove through some lovely scenery on the way to the tree farm.

Native East Coast trees at Go Native Tree FarmHans Rosenfeld is the proud proprietor of Go Native. He's a young man who's been interested in native species of trees for many years and showed us his robust assortment of hard-to-find native trees. I wanted to get some sassafras trees, which used to be common through North Carolina but now have been eaten away by the deer.

I came away with 4 sassafras trees and:
  • A blight-resistant American Chestnut (Castenea dentata) from stock Hans collected himself;
  • A couple pretty little Allegheny Chinquapins (Castanea pumila);
  • A hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) - I bought one that did quite well a few years ago, but Jethro ate it...
  • A persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) to keep the one I had already company;
  • An American beech (Fagus grandifolia);
  • A mulberry (Morus rubra)
Hans is very gung ho about hickorie trees ("how can you have the classic East Coast oak and hickory forest without hickories?) and has developed a way to grow them without mangling or stunting their long tap roots. Their native tree price list makes for happy browsing. You can like Go Native Tree Farm on Facebook. The farm, which has been in the family for four generations, is at 678 South Chiques Road in Manheim, PA; call for an appointment.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

New cd of Yiddish theater songs from Poland; new klezmer - cabaret orchestra class held in Durham NC this summer

This has been a very busy month. I finished the first of the Itzik Zhelonek cds (click at left to hear the songs) with the help of bass Randy Kloko, pianists Aviva Enoch and Roger Lynn Spears, guitarist Ken Bloom, and Jerry Brown at the Rubber Room recording studio. You can read the ongoing saga of the search for the Itzik Zhelonek melodies (he printed only the texts) at Polish Jewish cabaret: Yiddish theater songs from Warsaw.

For the last two summers I've been on the staff of Danny Gotham's PickNBow Folk Music Retreat Weekend at the Murphey School in Durham, NC. This year's camp will be held from Friday evening July 26 to Sunday late afternoon July 28. This year Joe Newberry will join us, there will be a concert by Craver Hicks Watson and Newberry, and...

... I'm going to see if I can get people interested in creating a klezmer / cabaret orchestra. I figure if I get five players that will be enough. It will be geared both for people who've never played klezmer music before but would like to try, and people who love klezmer music already but don't get many chances to play it. Also, since my love these days is cabaret music from Warsaw, I thought I'd introduce people to the ravishingly lovely tangos, foxtrots, and other delights of the Warsaw cabaret.

Are you interested in trying klezmer and cabaret music? Contact me at