Saturday, August 6, 2016

Lindsey Sterling - Shadows

In 2010 Lindsey Stirling competed on the fifth season of “America’s Got Talent.” She was voted out in the quarterfinals where professional British jerk Piers Morgan told her the world had no use for a hip-hop violinist. Like a lot of things Piers Morgan has said, he was wrong.

The music industry is changing. There was a time when most people were dependent on the radio to discover new music; then came music television; then for unknown reasons music television stop playing music, now we have the internet. No one, including Piers Morgan, could possibly have known how the internet would support and encourage musicians in so many new horizons. For Lindsey Sterling it was youtube; with a variety of videos comprised of original material, covers, and many collaborations, Lindsey Sterling has become incredibly popular, now maintaining eight million subscribers.

Sterling is an interesting case study for a variety of reasons; she is a fine example of the new blue print on how to gain an audience and become a musical sensation in the modern world, and also she is yet another reminder that the world craves original, unique experiences, and a hip-hop violinist is a new thing that Sterling currently holds the monopoly on. Lastly is the interesting divide between consumers, Lindsey’s audience exists almost exclusively online and it is almost entirely interacted with there, and then there is everyone else who still depends on radio and television to assist them on this front and they almost entirely have and could not have heard of Lindsey Stirling or any other internet based musician.

Two of my closest friends are huge fans of Lindsey Stirling. Many a drunken evening we have embarked upon taking turns choosing youtube videos to watch and every evening my two friends would go down a rabbit hole that always thoroughly endorsed Lindsey Sterling. To be honest I was not taken with Sterling initially. I had no negative comments to share but she struck me primarily as an interesting but forgettable creature. Given just how wild the internet has become a girl covering pop songs and video game music on violin did not overly impress me, but this got me thinking why do people like Lindsey Sterling so much?

There are several reasons.

Yeah, she is pretty cute.
Lindsey is unique. Piers Morgan was too quick to dismiss the popularity of something new and daring, and violin covers of hip hop songs was certainly something new.

Lindsey is talented. It is so strange we tend to overlook such obvious things when writing critiques, but we do. Lindsey is a very good violin player, and people like that, believe it or not.

Lindsey is cute. Yeah, she is pretty cute. She has captured the market for magical violin playing frolicking elf girls. Speaking of magical frolicking elf girls:

Zelda Medley:

Lastly, video games, Lindsey is popular because of video games. My friends are gamers, a title I cannot honestly claim to wear anymore, I played the hell out of World of Warcraft for a while there (for the horde!), but as a “gamer” I checked out long ago. There is something fantastic about gamers they are infinitely loyal and supportive. If you like the game they like, you are suddenly friends. If an actor voice acts in a game, gamers will start following their entire acting career. If cute girl dresses up like a video game character, gamers fall in love with her; should she thereafter make music videos about games like “Assassins Creed,” “Halo,” “Dragon’s Age,” “Skyrim,” “Final Fantasy,” and “The Legend of Zelda,” she is set for life. Lindsey Sterling having done exactly this, she now has a huge loyal fan base who will follow and support her forever.

Well I am not a gamer, so that angle did not hook me.

I was on a rabbit hole adventure on youtube by myself when I stumbled across Sterling’s “Shadows.” It was then I began to truly appreciate what she was all about.

“Shadows” falls into the category of original material. It is no surprise that an original musical composition is what won me over, I firmly hold to the value that creation is just as, or more so, important then performance.

Broadly, Lindsey does two primary things, she plays violin (obviously), and she dances. Most of her music videos are a combination of playing violin and dancing about the place with the energy of a magical elf girl, as explained earlier. “Shadows” is a full on embrace of these two talents with a charming concept that is both artistic and fun.

The video for “Shadows” has Lindsey playing before a propped up wooden base board in presumably a garage, possibly a warehouse. The light is shot at such an angle to project her shadow upon this said baseboard and as the song progresses her shadow begins to deviate from her own actions, and then breaks into a full dance while Lindsey plays, then they play together again for a while, with the shadow’s accompaniment possessing a sound distortion that is muffled. This visual ascetic gives the viewer a very engaging representation for every sound that this song produces. I really, really like it.

I really like the song “Shadows” itself as well. I really like the ebbs and flows of Lindsey’s violin and I love the subdued accompaniment of the “shadow’s” violin. I also really like how the climax of the song punches out with a silencing of the backbeat just before it arrives. It is a really good instrumental, has a lot of personality.

My two friends, have discussed at length how one day they would plan a trip down to Seattle, or Portland, or Denver, or really anywhere in the United States and see Lindsey Sterling perform live, because they were quite convinced she would never tour Canada. I, the more experience concert goer, always told them to just wait. A few days ago, on August 4th, of this year, Lindsey Sterling played the Jubilee Auditorium in our home of Calgary. Naturally the three of us attended.

I have seen a lot of concerts now, and visually, Lindsey Sterling may have been one of the best. There was some very intelligent thought put into how to present the liveliness of her music videos into a live performance. I suppose I should talk about “Shadows.”

"Shadows" live in Los Angeles

The fourth song of the show was “Shadows.” The road crew brought out three projections and as Sterling played her shadow was projected onto one of the blank slates behind her. Then Lindsey acted all surprised and cute when her shadow began deviating from her own actions. Then about midway through the song a stage size projection screen was dropped and Lindsey’s shadow was then cast onto that and dances away as the song concludes.

This full screen backdrop served the next couple of songs really well. “Elements” was next and the visuals for the rain and then flames were very impressive. Then they played a song I am not familiar with, but I really liked it, Lindsey used one of those machines that records what you play and plays it back in a loop, allowing a single person to create their own rhythm section for a song live, I really dig that kind of stuff, and as for the visuals a bird cage was gradually drawn upon the empty canvas behind her and then a pair of trees, it was simple but nice.

I think Lindsey Sterling made a
pretty good Aerith.
If I had one complaint, it would be Lindsey did not indulge her gamer fans enough live. She performed a nice medley of five or her most popular video game covers, but it was fairly short. Dare I say most slyly, “do not forget who brought you to the dance Lindsey.” The bulk of Sterling’s popularity can be directly linked to gamers, and while not a gamer myself I thought that medley should have been at least twice as long. Also a huge part of Sterling’s charm is her willingness to dress up as video game characters. I cannot fault someone for preferring to focus on their own creative work, but still, you see what I am saying.

The music industry has changed. Taboos such as nerdy or non-mainstream subject matter and weird creativity techniques are no longer a barrier to entry, now they keys to success. The old music industry would never give Lindsey Sterling a serious chance, but the new one embraces her and lifts her up to heights once thought impossible. The times, they are in fact, changing.

- King of Braves


It does feel a little bit odd/needless to post on the Internet an article promoting Lindsey Sterling, as this is the one realm she is so well known.

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