July 07, 2004

dylan, blood on the tracks and ubimedia

Speaking of Bob Dylan, when we were over the pond I read Gill & Odegard's book A Simple Twist of Fate, about the making of Dylan's classic record Blood on the Tracks. In my view the book was not so well written, but the underlying stories about the musicians involved, Dylan's mercurial studio working style, and the context of his difficult personal relationships, were easily interesting enough to carry it and make it an enjoyable read.

It was a chastening experience for [guitar player] Charlie Brown in particular. "I thought, what a treat this was going to be, man," he recalls. "And as it turned out, it was and it wasn't. In the middle of something, he would just turn around and say, 'Stop! Okay, I'm going to do this now,' and just turn right back around and go into it again. The only way you could tell what he was doing was to watch his hands, and the guitar player, me or Eric, would have to say, 'It's in E' or whatever, and bang, hit it! And sometimes it was in E, and sometimes it wasn't. He'd sort of scuffle around for a couple of bars, and somebody would hold up a hand that looked like an E, or an A, or whatever. But that was it -- he was real quick; he just wanted to go in and do it."

I like the premise of a book that tells the in depth story of a single musical album. In this book the texturing anecdotes about the times, the personalities, the conflicts and the musicians' excitement and trepidation added materially to my appreciation of the music. The inverse was true as well; I couldn't help but hear the songs in my head as I read about how they were recorded in the studio. This interweaving of text and context makes for a greater experience than either of the individual linear media forms provide.

So what other recordings do you think should get a book treatment? Of the ones out there, which do you recommend reading (or avoiding)? I'm looking for something new to fill my copious free time...

And now for a brief but nerdly technology digression: there's a nice opportunity here for ubimedia designers. We've been kicking the concept around for some time, that linked physical and digital media can weave new styles of storytelling and experience. Some simple but cool ubi-books have been designed already. But there's a deep rabbit hole here for the adventurous (yes, that's a paper on Yu-Gi-Oh media mixes that Mimi Ito wrote last year. Highly recommended). More on this later.

Posted by Gene at July 7, 2004 12:58 AM | TrackBack
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