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…

Saturday Summary 024

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

Saturday Summary 023

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.

Saturday Summary 022

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.

Saturday Summary 021

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.

Monday Musing: Art, Folk, Pop And The Taxonomy Of Musical Culture

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…

Saturday Summary 019

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.

Monday Musings: Music, Politics, Subculture and Resistance

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.

Saturday Summary 018

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…

Saturday Summary 017

This week, Myspace gets humiliated again, and lots of people have thoughts about new models for the music business. http://blancomusic.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/whats-all-this-about-spotify-again/ An enlightening perspective from an independent label on Spotify’s business practices. While there is an undeniable parallel with radio, and presence on streaming services may be of real promotional value to some of the smaller players, unless you’re a major then the paid streaming model is essentially based on theft: someone other than the rights holder being the financial beneficiary of distribution.

Saturday Summary 015

Freemium, and streaming models that offer entirely chimerical value are struggling this week. Which is nice. Pointless middlemen are finding it harder to get by in a market where they can no longer control access, and where ideological control structures are slipping away (or are starting to reflect a reshaped power structure). Oops, did I sound Marxist? I’m not, but the industry’s travails give the lie to the line they peddle about the nature of the business.