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
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…
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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) …