Category Archives: Quick Musing

There Is a Line

If you know me well, you’ll know that I’m liberal and progressive-minded in pretty much all aspects of life. If you read through all of my posts in this ToGa Learning site, which mostly focuses on issues in education, you’ll recognize that I’m an ardent supporter and practitioner for innovation, change, and  transformation in teaching and learning. I’m not a fan of the industrial model of education as I feel it does a disservice to how students need to learn in order to be successful in today’s world. I’m not a fan of the pervasive use of standards and benchmarks and standardized tests and I’m not a fan of policies like No Child Left Behind and Common Core.

Upon some personal reflection, I think part of this passionate attitude for innovation, change, and transformation was developed from being a huge fan of alternative and independent music from my youth in the early/mid-1980s until the present (You can read this post I wrote a while back about my life-long passion for music). My favorite musicians and influences have been those that have done things differently in music, upending the system in some way, being irreverent at times, and creating some controversy along the way. As Jack Black teaches the kids about rock-n-roll in the movie School of Rock, they “stuck it to the man!” Some of these influential musicians of mine are: Johnny Marr and Morrissey of The Smiths; Robert Smith of The Cure; Cocteau Twins; The Doors; Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz; David Bowie; Death Cab for Cutie; XTC; Jeff Buckley; The Pixies, and Radiohead.  These musicians and bands are ones people still talk about today, while other bands who played the status quo or mainstream style of the time have withered away.

Image Licensed from Shutterstock.

Image Licensed from Shutterstock.

Recently, U2, another very innovative band that has constantly evolved and pushed musical and social norms over the years, released a new album. Even though I was never a huge fan of U2 and I own only  few of their albums, I did always respect their innovative approach to making music. The Edge’s guitar style was like no one else’s before him, and I’ve always admired that. The way they released their new album, Songs of Innocence, however, pushing it into millions of unsuspecting iTunes users’ music libraries, crossed a line in my usually liberal opinion. In a recent article, Bono referred to their approach in releasing this new album as “punk rock.” I don’t think it was “punk rock.”

I’m all for the punk rock DIY ethic and attitude of sticking it to the man, but this manner in which they pushed their album into iTunes users’ accounts was a blatant invasion of privacy. As far as I know,  punk bands in the 70s and 80s didn’t break into people’s private houses uninvited, setting up their instruments and blasting out a set of music. This would have been illegal, considered an invasion of privacy, and the band would have been arrested. Also, as far as I know, no band has ever shipped out millions of cassettes, records, or CDs in the mail to random people around the world who didn’t ask for it. The investment of time and money to do such a thing never would have come back to benefit the band/label financially. Just because we now have the technology to push an album into people’s computers at little or no cost to the band and their label, it doesn’t give a band the right to make us receive the thing without wanting it, taking up space on our devices. It’s an invasion of privacy to do this. It’s really not any different than a hacker that pushes a virus or bug into your technology without your knowledge. Hackers that do this are usually arrested and tried as criminals if caught.

I’m not arguing here for U2 to be arrested. Apple is to blame for this, also. I just think the band needs to reconsider their action, apologize, and stop referring to it as being “punk rock.” If U2 want to give their album for free, that’s great. That’s their artistic choice, but let the people who actually want it go to iTunes or wherever to download it on their own free will. Many other bands have released an album for free in this more ethical manner.

U2 will never lose their place in history as an innovative and transformative alternative rock band. They’ve made some great music over the years and support some very important social causes. I also recently read that they are apparently working on a new digital music format with Apple. I’m very curious to see what this is and I hope it will be something awesome. As an educator and technology learning coach who works to instill ethical digital citizenship practices in my students, I hope this action U2 took doesn’t set a precedent for other bands and artists, both now and in the future. It will be a very slippery slope if it does, and I feel more problems than benefits will ensue.

If you want to remove U2’s album from your iTunes, follow this link.

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My Other Life Passion

Thomas Music CollageI typically dedicate this site to my musings about education and related topics for this career about which I’m very passionate. For this post, however, I want to use this venue to promote an album that I finally completed and released for free on the Internet, which relates to my other life passion- music.

I have been playing music pretty much my whole life. I started banging on pots and pans when I was two years old; got my first drum set on my 5th birthday (check it out in the photo collage!); took piano lessons not long after that; took drum lessons starting at around 11 years old; played drums in my first band when I was 17 years old; started teaching myself how to play guitar at 17 years old, and switched to playing guitar in bands when I was about 20 years old. I consider myself a multi-instrumentalist since I can also play bass and some keyboards along with drums and guitar. Since then, I’ve recorded dozens of songs in both home and professional studios, released a few proper CDs, and have played gigs in California and China to crowds of a few people to crowds of many hundred. Even though I never “made it” in the music industry to the point of having a career in it, music and making music has never ceased to be one of the greatest joys in my life.

Though weened as a child in the 1970s on my sister’s Cars, Pretenders, Rolling Stones, and Supertramp records, most of my musical influences stem from Alternative, New Wave, Indie-rock, Indie-pop, Brit Pop, and Post-Punk bands from the early 1980s until the present. Bands like The Cure, The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, Echo & The Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, The Sundays, Blur, The Cardigans, Stereolab, Beulah, Death Cab for Cutie, Phoenix, Bloc Party, Foals, Two Door Cinema Club and hundreds of others have tickled my musical soul both emotionally and in regards to song writing.

A few weeks ago I finally finished recording an album for a DIY, indie-rock project I have called South to Madrid. I actually recorded all the guitar, bass, and synthesizer parts for the songs on the album back in December 2005 and January 2006. I’ve only ever needed to get the drums recorded since then. Because I’ve lived in apartments over the years, having an acoustic drum set on which to rehearse and record wasn’t an option. I was never really a fan of electronic drums, so I didn’t consider using them for this recording until I moved here to Abu Dhabi and told myself that I needed to get the album done. I bought the Roland V-Lite HD-3 drums from a music store in Dubai and got to writing and rehearsing the drum parts. I then recorded the drums, mixed, and mastered the album. This album has been a long time coming, and I’m very happy to get the songs out to be heard. All the songs are on YouTube and can be listened to here:

Any or all of the songs can be downloaded on SoundCloud, as well.

All South to Madrid songs are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. So, feel free to use, remix, and/or add vocals to any of them!

You can see to what music I’m currently listening by checking out my Last.Fm profile.

You can hear some other songs I’ve recorded in my life along with some other musical detail by checking out my MySpace page.

You can hear additional songs at my SoundCloud site.

You can read biographies and download songs from my other original music bands Turquoise Twice and Allsoulsday.

Check out some songs and videos from one of the cover bands I was in in Beijing- The Friendlies.

I’ve even delved into electronic music under the moniker Benji Tomorrow.

Lastly, you can see some performances of a couple of cover bands I was in while I lived in Beijing, China, by checking out my Likes page on my YouTube Channel.

I would love to hear your feedback on the songs!

South to Madrid album cover3

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