Two deaths loom large this week. The first is of a seminal figure in the history of the acoustic steel string guitar, folk innovator Bert Jansch. First coming to widespread attention as a part of folk/ jazz fusion pioneers Pentangle, his playing was influential on more than one generation of guitarists, starting with his contemporaries such as Jimmy Page. Here’s his obit in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/oct/05/bert-jansch and here’s one from The Quietus: http://thequietus.com/articles/07121-bert-jansch-obituary
Previously on Saturday Summary, Carmen is becoming suspicious of Raoul’s friendship with Anneka, while Jackson is paranoid that The Beast suspects him of involvement in Algernon’s disappearance… And also, I didn’t post any how-tos or regular bloggery, because I just got carried away with all the exciting Facebook news (yawn). So here’s a more balanced selection of links in the absence of any Major Events.
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.
This week your intrepid investigative correspondent has conducted a great deal of painstaking and potentially dangerous research, to discover that the main story around the new music industries is the f8 Facebook conference. Frankly I find the whole thing rather tedious, as my personal interest is in the varied, individuated, customized and hackable, rather than the monolithic and conventional, but it’s moderately likely that the announcements have some real implications for people’s listening and sharing habits in the near to middling distance.
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.
As far as I’m concerned, extending the copyright in sound recordings to seventy years is a depressingly retrograde step. The argument usually advanced is that royalties on recordings represent an important income source for aging session musicians who failed to make any provision for their old age. Well, I also have failed to make any provision for my old age, but when I’m old I won’t be asking anyone to carry on paying me for work I did in my 20s and 30s.
The big news this week is the return of the legendary Oliver Arditi to the world of regular music news posting. Okay, that’s bollocks. I don’t know what the big news is, because I haven’t been paying much attention, but here’s some links I found what you might find interesting.
Once when I was making my first, abortive attempt at getting a degree, I was sitting in a seminar discussing H.G. Wells’ The History Of Mr. Polly. It was stated, quite forcefully, by the tutor, that because it didn’t articulate a clear alternative, the book’s critique of Edwardian petit-bourgeois life was flawed and incomplete: I objected to this on two grounds. Firstly, the book’s central character simply goes off and does something he finds more rewarding, that attracts less status, and that is an alternative (that’s what I’ve done with my own life) …
Every so often in the history of music, something big happens. Beethoven comes along and suddenly everyone views artists (not just in music) in a new, heroic light. Punk explodes like a thermonuclear device, and suddenly popular music is a politicised site of struggle and revolution. Miles Davis releases Kind Of Blue and suddenly jazz harmony is revolutionised. As you can imagine, if you read me regularly, I’m not about to take these events at face value: there’s a great deal of mythologising to be unpicked around these, and other, moments.
There’s a broad classification of musical types that has some common currency, in artistic, marketing and academic circles. I want to briefly consider what it is, where it draws the lines between musics, whether it holds water, and what use it might be to those of us that think about music for whatever reason. There’s two additional widespread categories I could add to art, folk and popular music: jazz and world music. When I was training to teach music, my knowledge of music was assessed through a questionnaire which classified music on this basis…
The big news this week is Spotify’s North American launch, but there’s really nothing to say about that so far. It will have some kind of an impact, but exactly how much of one remains to be seen. I don’t know what the end user deal looks like at launch, but here in Europe it’s gone very crappy for those on the free version. It’s certainly true that listeners don’t really care whether or not they ‘own’ a sound, as long as they have access to it, but whether Spotify offers the most attractive means of access for Americans I don’t know.
My thinking in various areas has been converging in recent months. For a while this weekly series of essays was alternating between pieces on the music industry, and pieces on music criticism: it’s getting steadily harder for me to maintain that distinction. For one thing, my valuations of music are not entirely independent of my position on various aspects of musical production: recordings that contain audible signs of artistic integrity tend to sound better to me than those that sound as though they were made with the market in mind.
A few scattered shots in the long range artillery duel over free music this week, but nothing dramatic. Lots of interesting articles though, on various topics. http://dj.dancecult.net/index.php/journal/article/view/81/134 This is a really interesting and in depth article on the role of militarist imagery in industrial music, but its observations are clearly applicable to other musics that utilise similar visuals. There’s often a deliberate conflict between the associations of imagery and the use to which it is put, but often it is a less aware appropriation, as made clear by the musician in this article who seems to think that saying he uses military uniforms because he finds them sexy is the end of the debate…
Myths are everywhere, wrapped around common currency ideas, giving shape to our cultural narratives, and putting filters on the lenses of our minds. There’s a ‘myth’ about myths: it says that a myth is wrong. The term ‘urban myth’ perpetuates this usage, but that kind of a myth, the erroneous legend, is just a part of a broader class of ideological structure. King Arthur is a myth: a powerful narrative and conceptual complex, structured around the locus of a figure that may or may not have existed.