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Famous Music

July 8, 2010

Featured Article, Video

Michael Lipton and a host of helpers and backers have done a remarkable job with the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. Contrary to what you might expect, the state’s now seven-year-old HOF does not exclusively showcase old-time, country and bluegrass musicians, though the Hall’s work obviously spotlights some of the best players in those genres, from Clark Kessinger to Hazel Dickens, Red Sovine to the Lilly Brothers. Lipton, though, has been a burrowing detective, sussing out performers, composers and arrangers in genres from classical music and jazz, to opera and voodoo lounge music. (And the Hall’s high-class induction ceremonies at the state Capitol Complex are not to be missed.)

Acting on advice from other states and their own experiences in establishing such institutions, Michael and crew have gone slow in committing to the high-ticket, high-obligation effort of building a bricks-and-mortar home for the Hall. Instead, they have — wisely, as the results have demonstrated — focused on research and education, painting a surprising portrait of the unexpected musical diversity you find coming out of West Virginia when you look deep enough.

The Hall of Fame recently established its first small, permanent exhibition space in the foyer of the theater inside the Tamarack arts and craft showcase near Beckley. I met Michael there earlier this year and did a musical SoundSlides on the exhibit and the Hall’s mission. The Hall of Fame recently redesigned their website and the audio slideshow landed a prominent place on the home page. I do a lot of multimedia work, but I especially like this piece in no small measure as I was able to work in such wonderful music, with excerpts by avante-garde composer (and Charleston, W.Va. native) George Crumb, a bit of the work of Maceo “Sweet Georgia Brown” Pinkard of Bluefield and a closing sample of the great singer-songwriter Bill Withers of Slab Fork. Click the image above or here to view the Soundslide.

The following is only for those interested in under-the-hood details of sound and audio online. Much as I like this audio slideshow, it’s not my favorite version of this piece. I used Joe Weiss’s super program Soundslides to make it, one of the best ways to present online still photos set to music or narration. You can also use the program to create what’s known as the “Ken Burns Effect,” the slow panning across a photograph as if a camera on a dolly was focusing in or pulling back from the shot, which Burns pioneered in his PBS documentaries on the Civil War, baseball and other topics. Problem is that when you convert a SoundSlides to YouTube, where you’re bound to find more viewers in this busiest of online souks, you lose the Ken Burns effects. So you have to make-do with not-as-good workarounds. Take a look at the YouTube slideshow on the Hall of Fame site and note the circular George Crumb score’s rotation and static shots of Maceo Pinkard and Bill Withers. Then, take a look at the original Soundslides and see how much more fluid those segments are in their Ken Burns-ian glory. Also, the original Soundslides are much bigger, with crisper resolution than the way YouTube compresses things. Here’s the original:

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2 Responses to “Famous Music”

  1. Gary Reynolds Says:

    Excellent slideshow. Nit: Maceo Pinkard isn’t mentioned by name at or near the beginning of his segment, so it took me a couple of viewings and a quick Wiki lookup to confirm who was being referred to.

    Okay, now for the compliments.

    The traveling museum is wonderful!

    I’ve seen a couple of the hall of fame inductions via WV Public Broadcasting. Very, very classy.

    Major kudos to Michael L. and all involved in the WV Hall of Fame project.

    I was excited and pleased to hear a recent recorded performance by Bill Withers on Jimmy Buffett’s 2004 release “Licence To Chill,” a record featuring duets with contemporary country luminaries including Martina McBride, Alan Jackson,Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, etc. Withers hadn’t appeared on a commercial recording since 1985! The song is “Playin’ The Loser Again,” written by Withers, and, I believe, written specifically for this release. Mr. Withers’ song is first-rate – a modern classic, IMHO. When I first heard the track, and Withers entered on the 2nd verse, it was frisson city. He is in perfect voice on the track, and his performance is superb. Here’s a link to the track:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzrXrkuYmVw

    • admin Says:

      Thanks, Gary. Hmmm, I guess my delayed Maceo Pinkard intro tease, with the album cover of his face and Michael’s introduction of his name at that time didn’t work for you. I will keep that in mind when considering such a technique in the future, as I did introduce the other musical segments by ID’ing the artist at the outset. Withers is indeed a treasure and there’s some pathos of his story that’s all the more interesting because of his shyness from his stuttering when younger, a shyness I understand that still figures in. If you saw the ceremony where he was inducted into the HOF he did not sing — someone else sang his music.