Meaningful utterances can be represented in physical form: a spoken sentence may be represented symbolically by writing, or mimetically, by an audio recording. Such representations may be reproduced indefinitely, whether by a symbolic process (someone reads the words and writes them down again) or a mimetic one (someone makes a photocopy of the writing). Each time this happens, a physical object becomes the conduit for an idea, for some units of meaning. You may be able to guess where I’m going with this: I’m going to be talking about music, as is my wont, and the reproduction thereof. This has been something of a hot topic since information technology made it so easy, and it raises a number of questions that anyone with much
Category: Monday Musings
Monday Musing: The Ideology Of The Album
I’ve been wondering about the way that I choose what music to write about, what the reasons for those choices are, and what the consequences of them might be. I feel I’ve been fairly rigorous in examining the way I think and write about specific pieces of music in detail, and I’ve gone to the effort of engaging with (relatively) current schools of thought in critical theory in order to inform my thinking. But this basic question, related both to my personal tastes and to the utility of my blogging, has remained something of a black box. I decided to have a poke around and see what I could break…
Monday Musing: Hacking, Creativity And Cool
There’s a cinema ad I see sometimes… I think it’s for a phone or something. So, a singular failure as an ad, but as an inspiring piece of film-making it hits the nail on the head. It basically shows people (mainly young and pretty people, but you can’t expect social realism in a phone ad) going about their daily lives, finding ways to be creative about what they do, finding modes of jouissance in the banalities of their existence, be it dancing while ironing, putting detailed artwork in the suds of a partially washed car, parking a bicycle by jumping off it moments before it lands in the rack, breakdancing with an ad-board strapped to their back …
Monday Musing: Is Art Political Again?
The more I write about different things, musical aesthetics, the music business, music industry politics, culture and all the rest of it, the less I feel like I’m writing about different things. It’s only when I take a step back that I can see how abstruse and theoretical some of the things I say about aesthetics, for example, must appear, because for me there is nothing less political about a topic like that than there is about any overtly social subject. Everything is political, everything is aesthetic, everything is emotional, everything is spiritual and everything is subject to fruitful theoretical examination …
Monday Musing: The Aesthetics Of Nature, And The Nature Of Music
Every human being is a unique individual, and inherently valuable; what’s precious about them, moreover, is somehow connected to their uniqueness, their particularity. Trees, on the other hand… well, one’s much the same as another. Agree or disagree with these statements, there are certainly a lot of people who subscribe to both, but today I’m rambling aimlessly on in my inimitable style about aesthetics, and I get the impression that commonplace aesthetic responses reverse those positions.
Monday Musing: Eclectic Taste and Artistic Truth
I’m decidedly omnivorous in my musical tastes; if you read my blog regularly, you know this. If not, a quick glance at the genres of the music I’ve reviewed in the past few months should confirm it pretty rapidly. Taste, however, is a matter of discrimination, of distinguishing one thing from another, and if I deny myself the use of genre as a basis for taste, I’m refusing what is probably the most widespread single criterion for forming musical value judgements.
Monday Musing: Special Pleading And The Ethics Of Culture
Every so often the liberal press likes to get up a nice bit of moral panic about ragga/ rap/ whatever singers’ appalling attitudes towards women, or exhorting their listeners to shoot gays; usually the right wing press likes to join in as well, as it’s a good excuse for them to trot out their ongoing concerns about black people, with their primitive passions and oversized penises (well, they don’t say that out loud any more, but the subtext is still there). So there’s that, but we need a few more examples. There’s a well known song in Britain which expresses a desire for Marshall Wade to ‘…like a torrent rush/ rebellious Scots to crush’
Monday Musing: Listening Communities And DIY Culture
My last Monday Musing was on the topic of music scenes; this time it’s on a closely related theme. Just as there are social networks of musical production and consumption (a confusing multitude of inter-related networks), so there are networks of cultural practice that contextualise our listening. It’s apparent to anyone who takes an interest that certain sounds are associated with particular demographics. Take a random sampling of ten people who listen primarily to new-folk, another ten who listen mainly to hip-hop, and another ten who mostly listen to post-hardcore, and as much as we might want to pretend that it’s all about …
Monday Musing: Music Scenes And Global Localities
There’s a music scene in your local town or borough. People obsessive or foolhardy enough to make the effort are inventing noises, and making them at other people. The chances are (particularly with small town scenes) that there’s a fair diversity of styles and genres involved, and you’ll probably find pub gigs where sludge metal bands share the bill with indie rock outfits, or punk bands with funk acts. This is the beauty of geographically specific scenes, because it’s always good, for musicians and audiences both, to make connections between musics: that’s where exciting new sounds come from.
Monday Musing: Musical Experience and And The Location Of Meaning
I often mention in the reviews I write, that I locate musical meaning in the experience of listening. This is in contrast to linguistic meanings, which are located somewhere other than the sound of the language, which points you at ideas to which it is only arbitrarily connected. This can be a difficult thing to grasp: this is what it sounds like, one might say, but what does it mean? If it means anything, then it must be something further, or deeper, than just its sound: otherwise, the word ‘meaning’ doesn’t really mean anything, does it? Or even if we concede that it does, surely a form of art that means only what it sounds like, is self-referential, abstract and navel-gazing?
Monday Musings: Your Local Scene Is A Weapon
On Saturday I went to RoastFest, a beautiful extravaganza of creative and utterly idiosyncratic music, all independent or unsigned, all uncompromisingly true to its various muses, and all performed for the sheer love of it (free entry to eight hours of music, including some acts who are pretty well known in their field). To see so much genuinely creative and original art on show in one place was more than a treat, it was moving; but it also struck me that I was seeing an accumulation of cultural capital to compare with anything mustered by a government funded national institution.
Monday Musings: Death of a Simplicity Geek
I’ve decided to devote this edition of Monday Musings to talking about Steve Jobs. You may wonder what a recently deceased technology corporation executive has to do with the sort of things I usually write about, other than iTunes, obviously. The short answer is that I’m not too sure, but I felt the need to write about Jobs at some length as soon as I heard he was dead. First, a brief chronology of my early encounters with the man. I suppose the first time his work impinged on my consciousness was when I started at secondary school…
Monday Musings: Shall I Compare Thee To A Fashionable Obscurity?
I’ve been wondering, if everybody listens to their own bespoke version of musical culture, with their own preferred historical narrative, is there really any point in describing the latest band I’ve gotten into as ‘a bit like Sun Records era Elvis, with a dash of Berlin era Bowie, and an approach to haberdashery directly influenced by Jamiroquai’? Because, let’s face it, many people won’t share my points of reference, and will be unable to interpret such an eminently precise and sensible description.
Monday Musings: Riot Grrls, Teddy Boys, Subculture, Music and Gender
I don’t usually narrow my analyses of musical sounds and genres to ‘single-issue’ terms, but looking at what I usually say, there’s only an occasional engagement with gender as an active discourse, so I thought I’d have a think about it. Because the central reason I don’t pay much conscious attention is that I’m a bloke, and gender is largely invisible to blokes, as race is largely invisible to whites, and poverty to the rich.