Oasis' "Don't Look Back in Anger" - Cello Version


Here's a simple cello version of Oasis' "Don't Look Back In Anger." I didn't plan on it but the sun basically sets into the edge of my window as the video continues. I love the beauty of the Puget Sound - I hope it comes out in my photos and videos.

Sigh No More - Looping Cello Version


I put together a simple arrangement of Mumford and Sons' "Sigh No More." For this video, I used a condenser microphone, which delivers a far richer sound than a typical pickup. Hope you enjoy it!

Crazy In Love - Looping Cello Version


About a month ago, I got this nutty idea to perform a looping cello version of "Crazy In Love" with a pole dancer. Why was I moved to try this?

Firstly, I loved the new "Crazy In Love" rendition that was done for the Fifty Shades of Grey film. It was dark, brooding, and its tone really got to what the implications of the original song were. Plus, beyond the fact that I already had connections with an incredibly talented pole dancer that I knew could deliver on an amazing interpretive dance (Danae Montreuil), I also knew that looping cello, pole dancing, and Fifty Shades of Grey had never been combined in this way before. I'd be creating something that would be wholly unique, even though it was based off of a song that had been remade.

After weeks of planning, we shot the entire video in about 5-6 takes at Divine Movement in Seattle using pre-recorded audio. This video was shot using a Canon 5D Mark III (primary camera), as well as a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and a Canon 60D. After we'd got all the material with me in it, I repositioned the Canon 5D Mark III and shot Danae at a more close-up angle, which I spliced in to the rest of the video. I think the result is fairly seamless.

This video was picked up by my colleagues at MTV and Refinery29, along with many other pole dancing-affiliated sites and Facebook pages. It dramatically expanded the audience for my cello playing. I'm grateful to all the people that made it possible.

How My 'John Wick' Video Essay Went from 0 to 30K Views


In late October 2014, I published the above video essay on the action of John Wick. I had a great time watching that film and I wanted to put together a brief video that demonstrated my utter disbelief at the audacity the film's set pieces.

To create this video essay, I used film clips from John Wick's Electronic Press Kit. These kits typically include a few videos that broadcasters and videomakers can use as b-roll while putting together packages. They are intended to be shared broadly to generate interest in the film.

Originally, I wanted to run this video essay on /Film but ultimately decided against it because it was a bit too thin. So, I simply published it on my YouTube channel (which has around 4.5K subscribers) and just let it sit there with pretty much no promotion.

I was stunned when I checked the video in recent months, only to find that it had reached 30K views, surpassing the vast majority of video reviews I'd done for /Film. I know that 30K is not a high number, but typically, when I publish a video review at /Film (go here for an example), that review will bring in anywhere from 1K to 15K views.

Curious as to what had caused this traffic, I checked the YouTube stats. By far, the greatest number of people had come from YouTube searches. And what were those searches? Check'em out:

Tons of traffic comes from people just looking for specific scenes in movies. The other top traffic sources were YouTube Suggested videos, and from social sharing sites.

I know this information may be obvious to a lot of people, but when a film becomes prominently and well known for a specific attribute (e.g. John Wick and its fight scenes), then the more you can deliver on that with a video (legitimately), the higher the likelihood that it will be viewed thousands of times. Sometimes, the more specific you are, the better.

The Perfect Response

Adam Sternbergh from New York magazine takes on the concept of "The Perfect Response":

[T]he Perfect Response you cheer for and re-post frantically also tends to be one that (a) confirms whatever you already believe and (b) sticks it to someone you already despise. The Perfect Response is, in essence, not a radical new perspective, but simply a person saying a thing you agree with to a person you disagree with. It’s a kind of linguistic record-scratch, a perfectly crafted gotcha that ostensibly stops trolls in their troll-tracks and forces them to deeply reconsider the sad wreckage of their wasted lives. Which means the Perfect Response is also largely a figment of the internet’s imagination.

I agree with most of what Sternbergh writes here - that an actual  "Perfect Response" is essentially so rare as to make its sharing more like an act of wishful thinking.

But I think this headline format has really taken form primarily because of sharing sites like Facebook and Twitter, something that Sternbergh acknowledges. A "Perfect Response" is simply more interesting and attention grabbing than "A Really Good Response" or "An Adequate Response." Publishers often need to exaggerate to get attention on your News Feed these days.

My question is: What is next in the Internet arms war for attention? What happens when Upworthy-style headlines are so common that all they receive in response is an indifferent shrug?

The Rise of the Sh*tpic

Brian Feldman at The Awl charts the rise of low-resolution internet images that continue to degrade in quality as time goes on:

The Shitpic aesthetic has arisen from two separate though equally influential factors, both of which necessitate screencapping instead of direct downloading. The first is that Instagram, which has no built-in reposting function, doesn’t let users save images directly. This means that the quickest way to save an image on a phone is to screencap it, technically creating a new image. The second, more important shift is the new macro format that divorces text from image.

As a photographer it's sad to me that, in a world where we can replicate digital objects with 100% accuracy, our most popular memes are those that have degraded to almost being unrecognizable due to unintentional compression.

Titanium and Young and Beautiful - Looping Cello version

My latest looping cello video is some improvisation I did featuring themes from "Titanium" and "Young and Beautiful." Check it out!

'A Most Violent Year' Video Review


I really enjoyed J.C. Chandor's latest film, A Most Violent Year. I hated Margin Call but loved All Is Lost. It's been really amazing to witness Chandor's growth as a filmmaker and discover how each one of his movies is so different from the others.

All About That Bass - Looping Cello Version


I was so concerned with whether or not I could, I didn't stop to think if I should...

For more of my videos, go to DaveChenMusic.com.

My 15 Favorite Longreads of 2014

This past year has totally revitalized my "reading life." For the first time in many years, I've read entire books (not just longform pieces online) and it feels great. I've also discovered a love for Audible, which is fantastic if you choose works that are performed well.

All that being said, I thought was still worth sharing my favorite online longreads of the year, as I have in years past. Here they are, in reverse chronological order:

Justine Sacco Is Good at Her Job, and How I Came to Peace with Her  - Sam Biddle tells a personal, self-deprecating story of how the person beyond your computer whose life you're raging against online is likely a well-balanced, real human being. The internet destroys people's lives on a daily basis, often for no good reason. This piece is a good reminder of how senseless it all can be. There are a ton of quotes from this piece that I am going to return back to from time to time, including, "She knew the only divine truth of the internet: Do nothing. Never tweet. Never apologize. Never say anything at all. Be an inert bundle of molecules and let the world tear itself apart around you."

The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis - Jonathan Rauch explains some of the biological foundations of the "midlife crisis" and how to set yourself up for mid-life and late-life success.

I Regret Reporting My Female Boss for Sexual Harassment - Tana Ye┼čil describes, with great regret, an incident in which she had to make an incredibly difficult decision and the toll it took on her and her boss.

Big Sugar's Sweet Little Lies - The sugar industry has been trying to convince you that it's not killing you for many years. Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens break down how we got here.

Amazon, Publishers, and Readers - Clay Shirky, a professor who I've been fortunate enough to be a student of, always puts out some of my favorite pieces, and this year was no different. Here, he explains why Amazon will win any dispute against publishers in the long term: because it has a vision for the future.

The Price of Blackness - Lanre Akinsiku describes the psychological toll of being black in a country that has seen numerous high profile cases this year of young unarmed black men shot and killed by police with no repercussions.

17 Things I Learned from Working on Other People's Films - It's been an enormous pleasure this year for me to get to know local talented filmmaker Megan Griffiths (you can listen to a /Filmcast episode we recorded together here). This piece on 17 things she's learned during her time as a filmmaker was useful for me to have, as someone who's in the process of making my own film this year. I've also enjoyed her writing on her personal blog as well.

The Greatest Story Never Told - I didn't even remember that Passion of the Christ was supposed to have a sequel until I read this gripping piece by Luke Dittrich. Apparently, there are pretty good reasons why it never happened!

The Trials of Entertainment Weekly - Few people write as intelligently about pop culture as Anne Helen Peterson. As someone who used to read EW quasi-religiously (before the rise of fan blogs like /Film), I found this to be a fascinating journey through the magazine's history that also functions as a commentary on the state of the publishing industry at large today.

The Day I Started Lying to Ruth - This is one of the few articles I've ever read that have made me openly weep. Peter B. Bach, a cancer doctor, describes his last days with his wife. That last paragraph will likely haunt me for the rest of my life.

How to Write - Heather Havrilesky has been one of my favorite writers on the internet for at least 7-8 years now, and this piece demonstrates why. I won't say anything more about it, except that it is delightful.

Amanda, @TrappedAtMyDesk on Twitter, Dies, Age Unknown - Content goes viral every day, but often, it's not real. Jennifer Mendelsohn dives deep into the existence (or lack thereof) of Twitter user @TrappedAtMyDesk, whose death was repackaged into a viral video earlier this year.

Street Fighter: The Movie - What Went Wrong - Absolutely hilarious and unfortunate story by Chris Plante (fast becoming one of my favorite internet personalities - see his video essay on the racism in Gremlins here). Street Fighter: The Movie needs its own Lost in La Mancha-style documentary.

The Prophet - Unfortunately, this piece by Luke Dittrich (his second entry on my list this year!) is no longer available for free. However, the way it explores the background of Eben Alexander (author of Proof of Heaven) is fascinating and revealing. I was particularly interested in how the piece described Alexander's own reaction to the forthcoming the piece itself that Dittrich was working on as he interviewed him. It's rare to get a peek behind the curtain like that in these features.

Almost Everything in Dr. Strangelove Was True - Eric Schlosser describes in excruciating detail how the events of Dr. Strangelove easily could've happened.