Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Max Makes it happen.

Maxim Micheliov is part of a robust Jazz advocacy community in Vilnius Lithuania that comes highly recommended by friends who have performed there. 

Max with Roy Campbell jr.

1. Describe your discovery of music.

"The sounds of music have always been heard at our home. Both my parents love music. We had a quite big collection of LP discs that included some jazz records along with classical music and easy listening. From early years I was introduced to Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin as well as selected recordings by people like Mingus, Gillespie and Miles Davis (though it took me years to re-discover them). My mother loves American easy listening from pre-Elvis era like Bing Crosby, Pat Boone, Doris Day and many others. Obviously  we listened to a lot of European and Soviet songs. But my father’s main passion is European classical music.

At some point I started own quest that haven’t stopped to date. Instrumental music has absorbed my attention as it offers certain depths usually unseen in song/vocal genres... or maybe it’s just that I listened too many songs as a youngster. However no matter how far I am from the musics of my childhood a few aspects remain intact. I refer to such things as huge respect and admiration of melody, diversity of my interests and openness to the new and unknown."

Valerij Anosov (Thelonious, NB), Max, Howard Riley, Danas Mikailionis (NB)

2. Describe your research into various periods of the idiom as an advocate and fan.

"A fan, in the first place. My development as a listener has been quite typical - from popular genres and artists to more specific musics; things that can’t be heard unless one takes an effort to discover them. Let me mention a few “bridges” - musicians-bands-genres that linked entertainment with the art of jazz and improvisation.
  • Mike Patton - an MTV super-star, front-man of Faith No More and a leader/participant of various experimental bands and projects like Mr. Bungle, collaborations with John Zorn, Tomahawk, Fantomas and many others.
  • Rock, particularly “progressive” or “Art rock” was a good introduction into jazz rock and fusion.
  • Jazz rock came up around my final years at the university... All music was mostly on cassettes; also first CDs appeared [in my life]. I remember that my very first compact disc was “The Promise” by John McLaughlin. I thought it was a stunning piece of music. Soon after I got Tutu (Miles of course) and “The Mad Hatter” - Chick Corea. These recordings are some sort of keystones in my listening experience. The Mad Hatter is the one recording that today represents all Jazz rock/fusion music for me. I think it is just genius and also that it sort of closes the theme. Of course I can only speak for one not too sophisticated listener.
  • John Zorn, Masada, Naked City,... - that was great introduction into so called “avantgarde”. Speaking of advocacy, Zorn is one of the mightiest advocates for free music - everybody knows him or at least heard of him.

These were “bridges” that provided paths to other realms in music not covered by media and neglected by massive attention. Also it taught me to perceive more subtle matters.

After the university I went to London and stayed there for about 3 years doing various temporary jobs. That allowed an opportunity to hear more music. 10-15 years ago the CD market was thriving in Russia and Lithuania but concerts of big jazz musicians were still rare. London Barbican offered huge jazz program with the best international stars playing in various styles and directions. During one month you could listen to Wynton Marsalis with Lincoln Center Orchestra and a double bill Zorn’s Naked City + Derek Bailey... and that was just fine. That time i had no idea of divisions and cliques in the world of this music that I called “jazz”. And I loved most of performances ;)

Probably the first live encounter with the sound of saxophone in all it’s beauty and glory was at the concert of Joe Lovano. He introduced his “new” program “Rush hour”. I was carried away! Yet another stunning experience was a concert of Masada. I had a sit in the first row and could see them all - Zorn in his combat trousers, string trio - Mark Feldman, Greg Cohen, Eric Friedlander, and then Dave Douglass - his interplay with Zorn gave me one of the most vivid impressions ever, Marc Ribot, Joe Barron, Ciro Batista. It was an excellent concert!
Back in London I also saw Naked City and Mike Patton’s bands Mr. Bungle and Tomahawk. Such live experiences gave huge inspiration to learn more, see more, hear more and comprehend more.

I was already acquainted with the music shop Thelonious, its founder and owner Valerij Anosov and other guys - all music lovers and records’ collectors. I sent them letters with reports about my musical experiences. Valerij started concerts not long after my return from the UK. And that was when I really dived into free improvisation."   

3. Describe the attractions and appeal of your favorite periods.

"Speaking of favorite periods - probably I have none. I don’t perceive music in context of its historical development. It is all about people for me - those who live among us and who passed away but left the gifts of their art.

Some of the musicians who I’d call the biggest attractions and inspirations are Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, San Ra, Stan Getz, Bill Dixon, Wadada Leo Smith, Andrew Hill, Kahil El Zabar, Fred Anderson, Joe McPhee, Dominic Duval, David S. Ware, Matthew Shipp, William Parker, David Murray, Mats Gustafsson, Barry Guy, Howard Riley. Well, these are names that instantly come to mind; saved in my RAM memory :)
I am not afraid to sound pathetic when saying that these artists and people (i was privileged to meet some of them) support my hopes for better future for the mankind.

My attractions are well reflected in a discography of NoBusiness records and on the list of concerts carried out by music store Thelonious. Each such event opened up the whole new universe. Each concert required certain amount of preparation.

Back in 2005 a duo of Matthew Shipp and William Parker gave an absolutely ground shaking performance in Lithuanian National philharmonic. A couple of years later Thelonious carried out a concert of David S Ware Quartet. We had a pleasure to see Matt and William again. It was just an amazing episode, and the music released on NoBusiness as a double LP fully reflects that...fantastic!

Trio X is one more unforgettable music and humanitarian experience. The concert, a lot of communication with Joe McPhee, Dominic Duval and Jay Rosen, co-working on the documentary “The Train and The River” later released on CIMP (my technical part was to transcribe the audio track of this film for making DVD sub-titles)... They are among my greatest attractions ever." 

"Recently my interview with Dominic Duval came out on All About Jazz.

Acquaintance with works of European improvisers - Mats Gustafsson, Barry Guy, Howard Riley have had a huge impact on my further listening education. All three were our guests in Vilnius. I took chances for interviews that can be found on Bagatellen (Barry Guy, Mats Gustafsson) and All About Jazz (Howard Riley).

Also younger and lesser known musicians whose stunning works come to light through our label. Harris Eisenstadt released with NoBusiness an absolutely fabulous LP "Woodblock Prints". A bit earlier there were great recordings by Daniel Blacksberg Trio called “Bit Heads” and Adam Caine’s trio “Thousandfold”. These musicians appear among my favorites too!"

4. Describe the course of your work as an advocate.

"I help my friends at NoBusiness records (aka music shop Thelonious); occasionally I conduct interviews with musicians and write for Russian paper magazine Jazz.ru. In 2005 I started making websites for musicians. About half a year ago my work mate, Aleksej, joined my initiative and together we started design4music.org

The idea to offer my web design skills to musicians came up naturally. It “had to happen” sooner or later because design and music are not only my major interests but focuses of many efforts, certain hopes, expectations and beliefs.

  • As a designer I have concerns about personal responsibility for marketing things (because “design” is a technical sub-discipline of marketing). In most cases designers do not enjoy the luxury of choosing clients. A lot of things we dress up into a sleek package are pretty worthless if not harmful. This blog post rises some good points.
  • As a music fan i am not satisfied with passive consumption anymore. It’s cool of course to sit in the audience but it is thousand times more exciting “to be in”. Although “music speaks for itself” there are other channels that provide rich information on this phenomenon of human culture... for example a conversation with a musician.
Thus a web design service for musicians is a natural step; a much comprehended course of action that hopefully leads to self accomplishing both as a professional and music lover. My debut as a musicians’ webmaster was with Trio X. Within a year I built websites for the trio, Joe McPhee and for Dominic Duval. It was an important and joyful experience that charged me with confidence and inspired to continue along this path... and today design4music is here to provide excellent web design services to musicians, independent record labels, music (jazz) venues, festivals and organizations. We offer an inexpensive, while quality solutions! Check the proposal page."

5. Describe evolving methods that are a facet of your advocacy

"Firstly, and most importantly you’ve got to have a very clear understanding of what you are building and why. My answer: a website for a musician is a promo tool and an educational resource. In other words such website should “attract” wider audiences and contain comprehensive, frequently updated information about the musician and his works. Thus the website should satisfy 3 main concepts:

  • found-ability (how easy it is to find the website in search engines),  
  • update-ability (how easy it is to update website’s content)
  • usability (how easy it is to use navigation, read texts, etc)

Max and the Bad Plus.

Found-ability (or visibility in search engines) is all about the right document structure, navigation and site tree. In our latest projects each recording receives a separate page with its unique, human friendly url address. For example a solo recording by Sabir Mateem “Other places, other spaces” lives on his website under: http://sabirmateen.com/recordings/leader/other-places-other-spaces.

Now google for “Other places, other spaces” - the search returns Sabir’s page in top 5 (my search shows #2 but it might vary). I did a check before... Sabir’s old website wasn’t in top 50 for this key phrase. 

Search for “Earth People - Now Is Rising” - I can see this page http://www.sabirmateen.com/recordings/sideman/earth-people-now-is-rising as #1 and Sabir’s name is not even mentioned in our search phrases. Obviously these are just couple examples to illustrate how the correct approach can help musicians; make information about their works more accessible and found-able on the web. I write more about it in design4music blog.

Update-ability is a big pain in the neck for both clients and webmasters. Clients need to be able to post frequent updates and they need a really simple interface for it. Ideally the routine of posting updates is as easy as sending an e-mail. Webmasters should provide a convenient control panel. It should be “simple to use” but give “absolute control”.

I have tried several solutions from a very basic to literally “all-inclusive” in most recent projects. The original idea was to simplify the control panel at cost of functionality. But gradually I shifted to somewhat more flexible solutions. One of my most disciplined clients - a pianist and composer Michael Jefry Stevens showed me how a musician can be a restless website administrator. Over the course of working on michaeljefrystevens.com he gave a lot of valuable feedback and requested some features. His website is one of my best works namely because of his rich input! And it is alive, frequently visited resource.

Usability answers such questions as “how quickly you can find particular info on the website” or “how convenient to read the text”. There’s of course a lot more to it. For instance it is important to foresee directions of the content building - make the site scalable. I pay huge attention to structure and consider it top priority in our projects.

6. What role does Web 2.0 and other tech have in your work?

"I am not 100% sure what this term Web 2.0 refers to. I visited Ad Tech conference in London back in 2008. Earlier this year my colleagues went to Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Looks like Web 2.0 is used to pin down all the newest web trends.
Although one important tendency can be stressed out. Modern web is no more static. Successful websites are not books, but newspapers better if daily. As a webmaster I should provide a convenient publishing platform rather than “designs and illustrations”.

Something half a year ago we started using a content management system called MODx... after trying some others we came to a conclusion that MODx is probably the most scalable system to date; very easy to use both as a webmaster and site admin; extremely flexible. I do not hesitate calling MODx our team member, who takes care of all server site programming."

7. What old media elements are used?

"HTML is not going to leave the scene. More over, introduction of HTML5 will leave lesser space for Flash. But the main and the oldest media element which is the true King of the Internet and won’t give up its position within foreseeable future is the TEXT.
Text content is the king

I do explain it to all my clients and greatly encourage them preparing text descriptions for each project, collecting reviews, etc, etc... The new project usually starts from me sending a website content check list."

8. How has change in the economy impacted your work?

"My mates at NB are joking that the economy has always been bad for free music. But of course, the situation isn’t funny at all. Sadly enough the musicians often find it difficult to pay even a bottom line fee for a website... as it turns. This puts under a big question my hope and dream to set up a highly professional service for musicians. With such limited budgets I can’t get on board other people; I am always stretched between a regular job, occasional commercial projects and music websites. While creation of a website is quite a bit of work, that takes time and effort."

9. Describe aspirations, projects and future hopes

"There are 3 projects in work right now. A new website for a bassist Joe Fonda is almost completed. Websites for Daniel Levin (cello) and Angelica Sanchez (piano) are in a planning stage. We target at Christmas as a launch date for these two. At the moment i am so totally absorbed with these projects that completely stopped all activities on a marketing front. Hopefully there will be more inquiries by then. I would really love to offer my service to all my best favorite musicians as well as discover new music and wonderful people through these projects.

Also I would be interested to get a commission from some sort of organization, festival, label...

Speaking of more distant future I envision a web design agency that specializes on clients from music industry. 3-4 people, reasonable fees, high quality work, a lot of joy and satisfaction... But these are dreams. Until then, I will continue this design for music adventure. That’s all about hopes."

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