It was a great pleasure to speak with Lucas Gonze for this week’s Innovators interview. Back in 2004, in Blogs + playlists = collaborative listening, I first wrote about webjay.org, the playlist-sharing service that Lucas founded and later sold to Yahoo. Later that year, I made an audio documentary about the people, the services, and ideas that I saw coming together to create a new kind of cultural curation. The factors in play included abundant talent, Creative Commons licensing, and linkable hypermedia.
That vision hasn’t materialized yet. In our conversation, Lucas and I discuss why it hasn’t — and how it might still.
In the realm of music, I think that Lucas’ project to reanimate 19th-century songs provides one of the missing pieces of the puzzle. Copyright restrictions are what sent him to the archives to learn, perform, record, and distribute these old tunes. But as he’s explored them, he’s realized that parlour music of that era was social and participatory in ways that are far less common today.
Lucas once wrote about how he was happy with a recording he’d made of a piece that he played with “only had a few mistakes.” The other day he wrote:
Imagine that we lived in a world where all photography was the kind you see in magazines. In this world all photos are taken by professionals and all the people who got their pictures taken are models at the peak of their career. If you had your picture taken normally, you’d think you were hideously ugly. That is the musical world we grew up in, and it’s bogus. Things don’t have to be that way.
In an era of cognitive surplus, as the pendulum swings back from consumption to production of culture, that’s a good thing to remember.