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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Music in Second Life: A First Take with a Look at Maximillion Kleene and Kaleb Avedon- Fynnyus Resident Reporting



Being an academically trained media researcher, I’ve often wondered about various aspects of Second Life. The questions are numerous and never-ending. In fact, the longer I’m in Second Life the less I think I know. I ask, why do people come here? What do they get out of it? Why don’t male avatars have a penis? Why would you choose to be a furry, or why would adults want to represent themselves as a child avatar? Why is there food in Second Life? I see it everywhere. And what is the deal with music in Second Life? It’s everywhere, too, and comes in many forms. In many ways, music is a defining aspect of Second Life in the way it aurally shapes the virtual environment and sculpts emotions. Music gives our avatars something to do. Deejays create playlists, musicians play live for fans, and dance animations enliven our avatars to provide visual enjoyment. There are performers of all musical genres, clubs with live deejays who play a vast variety of musical styles, radio-like streams for our Second Life homes, and businesses, and much more.


I own a piece of virtual land and it has a music stream that I and my partner listen to. Most of you also listen to music streams. Sound streams are used by live musicians, deejays, and other denizens of Second Life.  The music stream is the bedrock for all music in Second Life. But what is a music stream and how is it used? That’s another question I have and hope to get into at some point, but I want to mostly talk about the music in Second Life: those who play it live, deejays who mix it, and all the people who dance to it. My hope is to write about a wide range of musical aspects in Second Life and to give a personal touch to what I write, but also, hopefully, provide some insights to the many and variegated aspects of virtual world music. And so, this first article is about a new music venue in Second Life and a couple live performers I happened to catch.


I arrived a little late to Maximillion Kleene's live performance on Sunday, June 8th at the grand opening of the Mad Twist. I teleported there and move out of the landing zone and wait for things to rez. Meanwhile I open my inventory and go to the Animations folder and pop open a few of my favorite dance animations and click one to get my avatar going; dancing, not quite on the beat, but close enough.


Then, because I'm writing this article, I want to be as informative as possible, so I click the About Land tab and see that this new place is a live music club with club events , art gallery and many more twists! So, the theme is music and various twists . . .  hmmm . . . will this bring me back here to see what sorts of twists there might be in the future? I'm not sure. What would a Second Life music club twist be? I rarely plan things out in Second Life, so it's unlikely . . . unlessssss . . .  I join the club group to get group announcements. Okay, I think, I’ll do that. Well, at least I tried to join the group, but the damn group joiner did not work when I right clicked on it and all I got was the landmark to the place. Oh well, whether I return here is a crap shoot, then, unless Max comes back here. I'm in his group and go see him now and then because yes, he's really good. 


Maximillion Kleene


The next thing I do is pop open my mini-map to see if anyone is too close, I'd hate to be dancing on top of anyone. That happens from time to time in Second Life. One of the quirky things about virtual life is you don’t always see another person’s avatar right away and you run right over the top of them, or stand right on them. Anyway, I note that there’s about a dozen or so people here when I arrive, and that number will increase as the hour-long performance goes on. I also look on my mini-map to see if any yellow dots are around. Friends (people on your “Friends List”) show up as yellow dots and people who are not are green). Then I open my World tab and click on "Nearby Avatars" to see who else might be here, former friends, former lovers, exes, or whomever, but I see none. All the while, Max is doing his thing, playing music, so I settle in and delete a few of the HUDs blocking the view of the venue on my screen and go on with my analysis.


Listening, Max is a really fantastic musician and it feels like he is really into what he does. He is very professional. He strums along on guitar, has smooth key changes, and the tunes are mostly up-tempo with an occasional slow tune. He sings popular tunes by Tom Petty, the Foo Fighters, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Duran Duran, and more. But Max is highly versatile, he has a repertoire of hundreds of songs and works in more than just guitar accompaniment. There is what sounds like a prerecorded music track of a Hoobastank song, and multi-tracking for harmonizing effects. He also plays electric guitar, and wow, it’s really good stuff! It's understandable why he's so popular. Digging into information about Max a little more, I look at his profile page. It says, "I stream into SL from Niagara Falls, Canada and sing Rock/Pop/Alternative solo acoustic tunes covering old classics (CCR to Johnny Cash) to fun, newer hip stuff (Jack Johnson, Foo Fighters, Green Day and Jason Mraz)." And he also quotes Jimi Hendrix, "The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye...The story of love is hello and goodbye... ...until we meet again." 


I’ve seen and heard Max play live in Second Life many times and will see him many more times, I’m sure. His performances are always fun and never the same. 

Next was Kaleb Avedon. He performed right after Max at the same venue. His group information describes him as, "a Hispanic Singer/Songwriter in SL.  He has been writing songs and playing the guitar since he was 14 years old.  His repertoire is filled with romantic songs from his bicultural heritage and his own inspiration.  They include songs from Garth Brooks, Jewel, Elvis Presley, Hinder, Enrique Iglesias, Jesse and Joy and many more. So come, sit by the fire, listen to him sing and be transported to a place of romance." 


Kaleb Avedon


And here again you have someone who genuinely sounds like he enjoys what he does. I would say that there's happiness in Kaleb’s voice. Today he is singing songs by Tracy Chapman, The Beatles, and some other more obscure (to me anyway), but beautiful acoustic pieces. His tenor voice with hints of falsetto, is clear and has a nice vibrato. He does one of the most beautiful renditions of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah I can remember hearing, on par with Rufus Wainwright's version as sung in the movie, Shrek. His is falsetto vocals shine in this song, especially. 


Hallelujah is an interesting song with obvious religious overtones. In Hebrew it means to rejoice in praising god. But Leonard Cohen was a clever song writer who taps into the human condition and the sexuality that goes with it. Indeed, the song alludes to the rush associated with an orgasm. We see this in the lyrics:


Well there was a time when you let me know

what's really going on below

but now you never show that to me do you

But remember when I moved in you

and the holy dove was moving too

and every breath we drew was hallelujah


“Below” is a reference to the female sex organ. She has, however, grown cold and holds back her feelings. Perhaps the relationship is dying. Thus, the meaning of love and intimacy lost emerges. It’s a complex song full of multi-layered meanings and when sung well, like Kaleb does, those meanings are further distilled and given their true essence.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see the entire hour of Kaleb, though I would have liked to. But real life called me away and we all know real life comes first. So, it’s time to fire up the grill for dinner. Salmon in a nice marinade, yummy. Hey, I wonder if I can get that in Second Life?


Until next time . . . I remain the Wannabe Music Critic, Fynn.


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