Friday, June 29, 2012

in re. the ambition/hubris of 20th Century government, Graeber / Koolhaas, why isn't the Future as Grand Scale Science Fiction-y and Giant Steps oriented as as we once thought it would.... 

digital hardcore dude Patric C tells me of this documentary, or possibly mockumentary

i almost don't care if it's real or not, it's so enjoyable
chronos versus kairos, pt 176 / digital versus analogue, pt 16589

A Scarlet Tracery:

"Difficult not to think that one of the most telling features of pop now is the play-counter on iTunes & Last FM. One of the reasons I buy mostly vinyl now... is the experience of listening w/out a continual awareness of time, crawling or dashing on, & the number of times you listen to a song...  The only way of telling how often a vinyl record has been played is how worn-down the grooves are... how bad the sound’s become... The only other court of measurement was the charts, w/ wh/ one’s experience of listening to a record would concur or diverge....  Reading [Guralnick's Presley biog]  the strangeness of the screaming crowds that... greeted the band everywhere they played – so loud as to drown out any attempt at a gig... isn’t simply the seemingly impossible libidinal expenditure (now that pop has become a lifestyle accessory)...  [but] the possibility of recognising oneself in the massed objectivity of the crowd, the flashed face of the World Spirit. The slowly ascending number of Last FM plays testifies to the inviolability of one’s island of taste, the justification for solipsism posing as music writing"

Yes yes and one other thing about the Analogue System and the sale of music in the form of physical objects is that it provided a metric for whether things mattered and also whether you and other people cared about them enough to actually pay money for them...  (which could also include being so curious/intrigued/buzzed/hyped that you'd buy them unheard, a sort of gamble, a bet on a future state of caring-so-much-you-are-prepared-to-pay). 

it seems much harder for things aquired in pure digital form (either paid for or particularly in the case of downloaded for nowt) to accrue personal value....  the dematerialised nature of it seems to tending unavoidably to immateriality (in its second dictionary sense: "of no substantial consequence", not mattering).

I suppose you can tell something by the number of repeat plays you give an MP2 or podcast or whatever, but that can might relate to contingent laziness or something being playable in the sense of not interfering with other activities, slipping comfortably into the background, not imposing itself... there are records that have made much deeper impression on me that i've only played a few times compared with things that get a lot more play because they're more compatible with everyday life functioning, are more palatable to other family members...  

But it's the Analogue Time aspect of the Analogue System that seems most precious and most jeopardised... the time measurement function on your iPod or on YouTube, the irresistible temptation to cut off before it's fully unfolded, or skip to something else...  pushing us by some diabolic logic towards the Thomas Jerome Newton / 12 TV screens brink of trying to listen to two pieces of music  at once ...  maximise your time, because time is quantitative, a scarce resource

Chronos, kairo and aeon (via):

Like English, the Greek language of the New Testament, has a wealth of terms to express the experience of time.  There are three words that are used most often:
                Chronos: a point of time, a short span of time, linear, orderly, quantified.
                Kairos: the right moment, opportune time, rhythmic; and
                Aeon: a long period of time, or eternity.
Unfortunately, most of us live in allegiance to chronological time. The clock, by which chronological time is measured, and our daily fix of caffeine often elevate our blood pressure, making us feel constantly rushed.   Time is money, and money makes the world go ‘round and to the speedy belong the spoils.  Of course there are deadlines to meet, kids to put to bed, jobs to be done and a thousand and one other things.  This is where we live most of the time. Sadly, it can drive us to places we would rather not be, like blurting out, “I just don’t have time for this!”
Sabbath creates kairos.  When I sat with my children in the darkness of my son’s room, the three of us entered a Sabbath moment. The quality of the time changed from a frustrated, stressed-out chronological quagmire, to a graceful, renewing, pleasurable, kairotic moment.
Something else happened. I felt God’s presence in that time. It was as if we entered, however momentarily, into a place of aeon.  The ineffable presence of the Holy filled the room.  It was awesome. It was prayer. Sabbath creates opportunities for graceful transformation. Sabbath moves us from a quantified time, measured by a clock and calendar to a time measured only by God’s loving presence.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


1/  Purple Legacy

As Angus Finlayson notes in his review of this comp for FACT, it does seem a trifle premature to doing a retrospective on a sub-flava of post-dubstep that was in vogue only three years ago, But that's what Purple Legacy: A History of Purple Wow is doing viz-a-viz the sound invented by Joker, Guido, and Gemmy.

The hallmark of genres in the age of hyperstasis/atemporality is their accelerated life-arc and their inconsequentiality: they disseminate superfast, but burn out quick, leaving little trace in terms of influence...  that's what seapunk was parodying

2/ Electrospective

A website launched by EMI, as part of their campaign  to celebrate the legacy and living-ongoing history of electronic music (which involves a double CD compilation, promotion of classic albums, a round table discussion event, competitions, etc). Skewered here by Rory Gibb at the Quietus, who also invokes the dystopian image of the future: "Imagine crap trance riffs and recycled one note basslines stomping on a human face, for ever."

Personally I think EDM / Skrillex-Deadmau5-Bassnectar-stuff, as a bastardising/popularising move that brings out yet again the buried rock-ness of rave,  may well be a positive development.  After all, they dissed ardkore as "heavy metal house" in 91-92, you know!  Devolution of a style actually still represents a linearity, a kind of forward-logic, as opposed to the endless recursive involutions of hyperstasis (postdubstep, post-mnml, etc). Certainly I  wouldn't be surprised at all if this EDM moment had more fruitful and consequential reverberations than pico-genres like Purple.  

Keep stompin', you bastardisers!

Friday, June 15, 2012

the one-man timewarp cult, pt 142

from New York Times, "Living in the Past Is a Full-Time Gig", on retro-jazz lifer Michael Arenella:

"... a 34-year-old jazz musician and bandleader from Brooklyn who looks as if he had stepped through some wormhole in the space-time continuum. He is 6-foot-1 and dressed in windowpane-checked pants, a blue paisley ascot, a red-and-white checked shirt, a herringbone vest, a blazer with a blue pocket handkerchief, cap-toe faux-crocodile ankle boots, a pinkie ring and a brown fedora....

"Mr. Arenella inhabits the past as much as anyone thriving in the present can. Each summer he hosts the annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, singing, playing cornet and leading his 11-piece Dreamland Orchestra....

"Making Dreamland a reality takes lots of sweat and shoe leather — from shoes both vintage and custom-made. To recreate the jazz age, he not only studies the music of the ’20s and early ’30s but also wears its hats, cuff links and ties. He drives the cars, rides the trains (when possible), gets the haircut, plays the horns and sings through the microphones and megaphones (he owns seven) of the period...

"As a bandleader who wants to get every nuance of the era right, Mr. Arenella has been transcribing songs from old 78s onto orchestral charts for the last decade. Since most of the original charts are lost, it’s the only way to get an authentic sound for his musicians.

" 'As I was transposing these guys’ breath, recording their breath on pieces of paper, I was like: ‘"Wow. What were those guys wearing that made their breath sound that way?’ ” Mr. Arenella wondered. “How tight was that waist coat? What kind of timepiece did they have on their hands? What method of transportation did they take to get to the recording session? What did it look like when they crank-started their car?”'

"So began his obsession. He not only transcribes the music but also uses bottled ink and a fountain pen... 

"When they have the time, [Arenella and girlfriend] take a joy ride on the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad steam engine in Pennsylvania."

 paradox alert:

“'Dance music from the jazz era is very industrial in nature and sound,' he explained. 'It’s an onomatopoeia. You can hear the locomotives and the city sounds. When you hear an engine idling or a steam locomotive, it swings. You can dance to it.'” 

So he's fixated  on the sounds of a bygone modernity?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

despite the promising track title,  there's nothing really retro about this, apart from the time-honoured " ardcore.. junglist" sample
whale song

writing about "rock's historical turn" in Retromania and also in the interview with Greil Marcus at LARB, I mention The Band singing about late 19th Century farmers and the Civil War, and Randy Newman singing about the slave trade... but clean forgot about this song by Mountain, "Nantucket Sleigh Ride", the plaint of a whaler leaving behind his sweetheart:

Older Britons will remember an instrumental only segment of this (the good bit, basically) as the theme tune to ITV's Sunday political program Weekend World

info deposited at YouTube:

The term "Nantucket Sleighride" was coined by the whalers to explain what happened after they harpooned a whale. (Nantucket Island was considered the whaling capital of the world during the 19th century.) The first strike of the harpoon was not intended to kill the whale but only to attach it to the whale boat. The whale would take off pulling the whale boat along at speeds of up to 23 mph (37 kmh). The whale would eventually tire itself out, the leading officer in the boat would then use a penetrating lance to kill the whale.

The song "Nantucket Sleighride" is "(Dedicated to Owen Coffin)" who was cabin boy aboard the whaler Essex, which was destroyed by a sperm whale in 1819. Owen ended up in the lifeboat with Captain Pollard, his uncle. Two other lifeboats also put out. During the next 3 - 4 months, the lifeboats separated. One was never seen again, but some of those on the remaining two boats were eventually rescued.

During those long months at sea (and on desert islands), many of the men died. The remainder eventually had to resort to cannibalism to survive. After the dead of natural causes were consumed, the men determined to draw lots to see who would sacrifice his life for the others. Owen Coffin ``won'' the lottery. The Captain tried to take Owen's place, but the youth insisted on his ``right''. The executioner was also drawn by lot. That ``winner'', another young man named Charles Ramsdell, also tried vainly to swap places with Owen. Again he refused. Owen's body kept the others alive for ten days (Captain Pollard refused to eat his nephew). Another man died, and his body kept Pollard and Ramsdell alive a few more days until they were rescued
[from "The Read-Write Generation", Houman Barekat's Los Angeles Review of Books review of Kathleen Fitzpatrick's Planned Obsolescence : Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy]

"Internet-based knowledge-aggregations systems — wikis, open-source software, blogs —  encode a new model for editorial practice, as communities of readers pool their ideas in a dynamic and fluid system of exchange. The journalist and blogging guru, Cory Doctorow, likened the Internet's economics of abundance to "a commons where the sheep shit grass." ...  The difficulty, as Fitzpatrick acknowledges, is how to reconcile this system with a culture in which reputations and credentials are indexed in an exclusively individuated manner. A degree of pluralism, in other words, is invading a sphere in which singularity was the measure of achievement. Quality control as we know it presupposes an editorial process that is, in the final analysis, stringently hierarchical, and the notion of a "content-agnostic" editorial process should, if taken literally, strike terror into the heart of any reasonable person. The whole point about scholarship is that some ideas are more persuasive than others — we are always searching for the right answer — whereas agnosticism by its very nature presupposes uncertainty. Seen in this light, the digital revolution threatens to flood the institutions of knowledge production with all manner of discredited irrelevancies, a final triumph for the specious egalitarianism of postmodernist thought.  As Fitzpatrick observes, our understanding of authorship is, at the present time, caught between two regimes: one a system of knowledge production informed by Enlightenment-era notions of the self, the other is a world of "technologies that lend themselves to the distributed, the collective, the process-oriented, the anonymous, the remix.

As anyone with even passing acquaintance with dance culture can surely attest, 95 out of 100 remixes are just a pure waste of time and energy.
(sigh) Another New York poseur pushing the supposed superiority of retro technology. It's the style of the stuff that appears to this guy, not the actual quality (or lack of it) in scratch records. Go ahead and write your Luddite essays with a crow quill, on ink you make yourself from the lampblack created by your oil lamp.


*yawn* Another supercilious techhead sneering at anyone who worships not at the Altar Of Jobs, dripping with ostentatious condescension. Yes of course, if one likes a thing that's more than ten years old, one must be a caveman, wearing skins and beating his meals bloody. How original.

two polarised reactions in the always fractious and tetchy comments boxes, in regards to a piece celebrating vinyl materiality over MP3/iTunes/iPod immateriality

vaguely connected -- this is new book forthcoming from Jonathan Sterne, whose The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction was one of the more interesting tomes I read while researching Retromania -- particularly dug his hauntologically-attuned concept of the vinyl recording as "a resonant tomb" -- groove as grave!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ecstatic Apophenia on Decadence and Dying Earth, part 1 and part 1.5

Part 1 looks at the  “dying earth” subgenre of science fiction, which "takes place in an unimaginably distant future in which the dying sun is but 'a coal-red decadent star, grown old beyond chronicle, beyond legend.'  Stories in this style often overflow the boundaries of both science fiction and fantasy, seeking a liminal space in which one can become the other.  In this pushing the boundaries of form, 'dying earth' ...  is the decadent style to science fiction’s classical style."

EA then quotes Gautier on decadent art: 
  "art arrived at that point of extreme maturity yielded by the slanting suns of aged civilizations: an ingenious complicated style, full of shades and of research... borrowing from all the technical vocabularies, taking colour from all palettes and notes from all keyboards…. rendering modern ideas and things in their infinite complexity and multiple colouration."
That sounds like it could have  lots of application to recent music, from digital maximalism, to what Woebot calls "audio trickle" (as heard in post-Ableton/DAW microhouse) to cutesy-poo (i.e. heavily arranged and orchestrally-tricked out "indie" in the post-Olivia Tremor/Magnetic Fields/et al sense) to...  you name it, really.

EA's contrast between “volume” and “density” -- "a classic style has volume, while a decadent style has density, so much so that it overflows its container" --  seems also to capture that epochal shift in the meaning of "minimal" in the last 20 years of techno. In the 90s, it meant stark, severe, emaciated, empty (early 20th Century modernist, basically). In the 2000s, minimal meant miniaturised, lots of tiny details (hence "micro"), a kind of imploded ornamentalism, an infinite subtilization ....

minimalism, in it first, modernist sense = music that is full of emptiness -- hence "volume"

minimal, in its current and misleading sense, since it is really a form of micro-maximalism = music that is emptied of open-ness... a congestion-zone -- hence "density"

as such it's in perfect homology with the tagliatelle-tangling unspace of the Internet

(as it should be since the same technology substrate underlines the machinery -- digital audio, archiving systems)

glutted/clotted, innit
three other highly quotables from the Graeber Baffler piece:

"But it’s also easy to see how choking off any sense of an inevitable, redemptive future that could be different from our world is a crucial part of the neoliberal project."


"The Internet is a remarkable innovation, but all we are talking about is a super-fast and globally accessible combination of library, post office, and mail-order catalogue. Had the Internet been described to a science fiction aficionado in the fifties and sixties and touted as the most dramatic technological achievement since his time, his reaction would have been disappointment. Fifty years and this is the best our scientists managed to come up with? We expected computers that would think!"

Internet activities-- and the same applies to stuff we do with our phones or GPS enabled stuff-- almost all of this activity, falls into the category I call "the mundane miracle": i.e. easier, quicker, more flexible or portable ways or _____ ways of doing things that we were already doing. It's the utter banality of the future that is so startling.

"In this final, stultifying stage of capitalism, we are moving from poetic technologies to bureaucratic technologies. By poetic technologies I refer to the use of rational and technical means to bring wild fantasies to reality....  The greatest and most powerful nation that has ever existed has spent the last decades telling its citizens they can no longer contemplate fantastic collective enterprises, even if—as the environmental crisis demands— the fate of the earth depends on it."

the great slow down

from the recent issue of The Baffler, a thought-provoking article on the future that never came -  "Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit" by David Graeber:

"There is reason to believe that even by the fifties and sixties, the pace of technological innovation was slowing down from the heady pace of the first half of the century... [but] because the space race gave everyone the impression that remarkable advances were happening, the popular impression during the sixties was that the pace of technological change was speeding up in terrifying, uncontrollable ways.

"Alvin Toffler’s 1970 best seller Future Shock argued that almost all the social problems of the sixties could be traced back to the increasing pace of technological change....Humans were not psychologically prepared for the pace of change, Toffler wrote. He coined a term for the phenomenon: “accelerative thrust.” It had begun with the Industrial Revolution, but by roughly 1850, the effect had become unmistakable. Not only was everything around us changing, but most of it—human knowledge, the size of the population, industrial growth, energy use—was changing exponentially....  

"While many of the historical trends Toffler describes are accurate, the book appeared when most of these exponential trends halted. It was right around 1970 when the increase in the number of scientific papers published in the world—a figure that had doubled every fifteen years since, roughly, 1685—began leveling off. The same was true of books and patents.

"Toffler’s use of acceleration was particularly unfortunate. For most of human history, the top speed at which human beings could travel had been around 25 miles per hour. By 1900 it had increased to 100 miles per hour, and for the next seventy years it did seem to be increasing exponentially. By the time Toffler was writing, in 1970, the record for the fastest speed at which any human had traveled stood at roughly 25,000 mph, achieved by the crew of Apollo 10 in 1969, just one year before. At such an exponential rate, it must have seemed reasonable to assume that within a matter of decades, humanity would be exploring other solar systems.

"Since 1970, no further increase has occurred. The record for the fastest a human has ever traveled remains with the crew of Apollo 10. True, the maximum speed of commercial air flight did peak one year later, at 1,400 mph, with the launching of the Concorde in 1971. But that speed not only has failed to increase; it has decreased since the Concorde was abandoned in 2003."


 among Graeber's arguments is that the misleadingly spectacular space race happened because the USA imitated the USSR -- NASA and Apollo was a gargantuan feat of planning and state-organised mobilisation of resources, and in that sense profoundly unAmerican...  and (once the race to the Moon was won) quickly abandoned

"It’s often said the Apollo moon landing was the greatest historical achievement of Soviet communism. Surely, the United States would never have contemplated such a feat had it not been for the cosmic ambitions of the Soviet Politburo. We are used to thinking of the Politburo as a group of unimaginative gray bureaucrats, but they were bureaucrats who dared to dream astounding dreams."

c.f. the Rem Koolhaas thing I quoted earlier in the year, where he--talking to Frieze about Expo 70 in Japan--identifies 1970 as a pivotal year, a peak:

"I was referring more to the spirit of the world’s reaction to both the launch of Concorde and the Moon landing than to the Expo itself. But it’s not only about technical prowess: it’s more to do with what can be imagined and what dimension imagination has in serious life. An organization like NASA was, essentially, 4,000 people seriously entertaining fantasy: that scale of working on visionary elements is now incredibly reduced. At the moment we want to achieve goals that are very imminent, very realistic. Few organisations are able to define an unconventional aim and then to engineer its implementation, even over a period of ten or 12 years. These days, projects often have a maximum of only four years in which to be realized, as that’s the typical period that a politician is in power.... [What fascinates me is] the combination of imagination and government action, of architecture and bureaucracy. The public sector is the sector with vision, and I think this is something that, for whatever reason, we haven’t had for a very long time."

and here's a piece I wrote a while back for Salon on this idea of "we were promised flying cars"/the future turned out less epic and spectacular and impressive 

oh and Neal Stephenson has been banging on about the absence of Big Visions of the Future in science fiction and launched something called the Hieroglyph Project to agitate for more Optimistic and Heroic imaginings of the future (as opposed to the surfeit of dystopias and cataclysms and entropic wind-downs):

"The Hieroglyph project’s first concrete achievement will be a sci-fi anthology from William Morrow in 2014, full of new stories about scientists tackling big projects, from building supertowers to colonizing the moon. 'We have one rule: no hackers, no hyperspace and no holocaust,' Stephenson says. He and his collaborators want to avoid pessimistic thinking and magical technologies like the “hyperspace” engines common in movies like Star Wars. And, he adds, they’re 'rying to get away from the hackerly mentality of playing around with existing systems, versus trying to create new things.' "

 The idea seems to be that these visions and all this positivity and ambition will directly or indirectly inspire scientists, policy-makers, children who'll grown into those roles etc etc to actually make them real, or things of this Heroic Scale. But  (if Graeber is right) that would seem to be a doomed attempt at  top-down, superstructure-leading-the-base, change... 

retro necro holo-hauntology (continued)


"that's not 'tasteful', that's umheimlich"

[via Billboard] "Lisa Marie Presley is all good with her father being turned into a virtual image ala Tupac Shakur at this year's Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. Core Media Group, which owns Elvis Presley's  name and likeness for project development, and Digital Domain Media Group, which produced the Tupac illusion in April, have announced they intend to create a similar image of The King, with uses that range from a possible duets album and a TV drama series to "performances" at the Graceland mansion in Memphis and perhaps on the road. 

"Lisa Marie, who owns Graceland and continues to hold a minority stake in Elvis Presley Enterprises, tells Billboard that  'I've been maintaining that as long as things are done tastefully, I would never have a problem with it. And thankfully we've been very much involved, so we will be formulating how it'll be coming out and everything. There's no definite plans yet.'Presley, who helped curate the "Elvis...Through His Daughters Eyes" exhibit at Graceland, adds that she sees the Elvis image as the next step in something like Elvis -- The Concert, a traveling show that features footage of her father on a massive video screen while a live band that includes many of his former musicians plays live. 'If you want to go to the next level with that, (the image) is where you'd go. You have to stay with technology,' she says."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Marilyn Monroe Estate Threatens Legal Action Over Potential Hologram Concert"

"Digicon Media holds a copyright on "Virtual Marilyn" and plans to feature the projected blond bombshell singing and interacting alongside live music stars. But months of correspondence obtained by The Hollywood Reporter indicates that the Monroe estate is closely watching Digicon's activities, and if the show goes on, there could be a big lawsuit....  The "Virtual Marilyn" concert is said to use the same technology as the Tupac one (observers debate whether it is technically a hologram)....
In December, Digicon received a cease-and-desist letter from the estate that claimed that "Virtual Marilyn" infringed upon its intellectual property and demanded a stop to the use of any marks, names, logos and designs that were based upon the identity and persona of Marilyn Monroe.

"The digital studio insists that it has done something unprecedented -- copyrighted a human persona -- and that the statute of limitations has passed on any possible legal objection since the estate knew about what has been in development for more than fifteen years. The digital persona is also said to be completely distinguishable from the woman who died in 1962 of an apparent drug overdose.... "

copyrighting a human persona? pass the sick bucket.

THR also reprint a statement from The Marilyn Monroe estate:
"The Estate of Marilyn Monroe is the sole and exclusive holder of Marilyn Monroe's personality and identity rights and rights in the MARILYN MONROE trademark, and the unauthorized use of Ms. Monroe's identity and persona, such as that contemplated by Digicon Media, violates and infringes the Estate's rights in derogation of several Federal and State laws.

New and emerging digital and holographic technologies present the Estate and Authentic Brands Group with a host of intriguing opportunities befitting an icon of Ms. Monroe's caliber.

To that end, the Estate and Authentic Brands Group look forward to teaming with best-in-class partners in these fields to bring Ms. Monroe's fans top-of-the-line, exciting entertainment experiences
... The Estate and Authentic Brands believe that the technological advancements made since that decade allow talented developers to create superior virtual characters, akin to the virtual Marilyn Monroe character portrayed in Dior's popular ad campaign for its J'Adore perfume"

Authentic Brands? top-of-the-line excitnig entertainment experiences? pass an only slightly smaller sick bucket

i wrote about this semi-speculatively back in 1995 off the back of John Oswald's Grayfolded record woven out of Grateful Dead live recordings:

"Jerry Garcia's death does shine a peculiar light on the whole project, in so far as it suggests that a kind of involuntary immortality for artists may soon become widespread. Oswald has shown that a sympathetic ear can 'play' another artist's aesthetic like an instrument. (Of course Luddites like Lenny Kravitz and Oasis have effectively already done the same thing, vis-a-vis Hendrix and Lennon/McCartney, by writing new songs in another's old style).  But what's to stop an unsympathetic, money-motivated ear doing the same thing?  In the future, will artists copyright their 'soul-signature' and then sell it to the highest bidder to be exploited after their demise? Fond of visual and filmic analogies, Oswald mentions that the movie business has been trying to devise ways of taking dead stars and creating simulations of them to play new parts. The mind boggles...."

Monday, June 11, 2012

is this Retro, or just fogeyism? and if it's fogeyism, is it real fogeyism or ironic or arch fogyeism...

the "I'm from a different era" move seems like a hardy perennial

a standard option on the menu of life-stances

the one-person timewarp cult, pursued to varying degrees of strictness or extremes 

and with any number of motivations and angles
for instance there's those downtown NYC artists David McDermott and Peter McGough, who were a sort of steampunk Gilbert & George -- from 1980 to 1995, they "dressed, lived, and worked as artists and "men about town", circa 1900-1928: they wore top hats and detachable collars, and converted a townhouse on Avenue C in New York City's East Village, which was lit only by candlelight, to its authentic mid-19th century ideal. " that's like performance art that never stops or that subsumes one's entire existence

but then I think also of one of my best friends at school, who around the age of 17 began to affect the manners of an old man... to the point of carrying a walking stick... I remember one time we went for a walk through some country meadows and as he levered himself over a stile, he complained "I'm getting too old for this, Simon".this might have been a protest against the perceived fatuities of youth culture (of the kind I and everyone else we knew were so deeply engaged with) but also had, I think, something to do with opting out of the sexual race (he was no oil painting, let's leave it at that).

then later here was a fellow student who alone of our  Brasenose History class dressed in tweedy stuff (dressed like his father, I should imagine). But in this case the style was congruent with his Tory politics. His tweed jacket, with the leather padded elbows, sported on the lapel a little badge that declared: Nuclear Power - Yes Please! Whether that was because a non-coal based source of electricity power would undermine the power of the National Union of Mineworkers, or because he just enjoyed going against the standard lefty-green position on nuclear power stations, I know not...

that look is not the same as, but similarly related, to the Sloane Ranger look as analysed by Peter York: dressing in the city like you are about to go tramping around your country estate with a shot gun crooked in your elbow

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"Nothing is without precedent, but how does one go through life with an increasing breadth of knowledge about the expanding palette of the present without becoming blind to the new when it does pop up?"-- a good question from Tim H Gabriele at 555 Enterprises, although I disagree with "nothing is without precedent": unprecedented things have actually been done in music, and the othersarts, although it is certainly not the only route to the shock of the new, and in the absence of new technology it's much harder to escape precedents. 

He continues: "In all likeliness, the new will never actually be holistically unheard- at least in the way electronic noises once were, but will rather defy simple categorization as a proximal amalgamation of reference points. This is the way P4K often used to review (and still does occasionally), using the musical past as metrics, ancestry as math- they're the MBAs of music, finding no problem a calculation or a McKinsey study can't answer."

This is but a throat-clearing before a detailed breakdown of all things he hears as constituents of the Death Grips sound . Of course a group can have a plethora of sources, influences, starting points and unwitting or semi-witting parallels without being "retro" (which implies an element of referentiality and/or reverence). 

Tim mentions John Calvert @ Quietus's contention that DG are an exemplary postpunk group, and in amidst JC's litany of late 70s/early 80s forebears, up pops the name Kevin Martin (he wasn't recording during postpunk, but Kev is the most diehard, true-school postpunk-until-he-keels-over chap ever, formed in his fibres by Metal Box etc). And that reminded me that when I first heard Death Grips I felt there was something vaguely mid-to-late Nineties about them...   like they were coming out of an aggy-hardhop zone inhabited by Company Flow, Oxbow, and ooh i dunno what else...  and  as it happens loadsa 90s coordinates pop up in Greyhoos's own little list  at Our God Is Speed ("mid-90s Wordsound.... Sensational... the various Scott Hard-produced acts like New Kingdom")

but DG's sound is neither a recapitulation, nor even a straightforward resumption of a path prematurely abandoned... but more like a two steps back, one step forward, three steps sideways...

the fact that they remind so many people of so many different things suggests that they might actually be true originals

Woebot: Rave Bum from Matthew Ingram on Vimeo.

Woebot: Rave Bum from Matthew Ingram on Vimeo.

the first single off Hallo, the great new album by Woebot

Friday, June 8, 2012

A fellow called BNJMN, whose music I know not, proposes in a FACT interview some routes to  originality/innovation/artistic distinctiveness:

1/ relative ignorance

"’I' m really into dance music, but I’m still quite naïve about the whole thing, which is why it comes out quite different...  Being open and naïve can help you create something completely original. If I knew a whole lot more about dance music, and all the different types of sub-genres, I’d probably start making music that sounds like other people. But because I don’t really know too much, it just ends up sounding like myself"

2/ relative ineptitude

"The more I got into electronic music, the more I found out about people like Theo Parrish and Efdemin, and it just made me want to create that kind of music. A lot of it is just failed attempts at making Theo Parrish tunes that sound nothing like him!"

"unachieved mimesis"--flattery that falls short--is a classic syndrome - postpunk musicians trying to sound like Nile Rodgers and producing something a lot more serrated and spindly, etc -- miscopying as creative error

the getting-it-wrong is closely related but not exactly the same (it can also include non-mastery of an instrument, or deliberately not learning to use a synth or a guitar in the manufacturer prescribed way)

knowing too much about other music can be paralysing, because it all feels like it's been done before

knowing the correct way to play or program an instrument or machine or piece of software can be paralysing, because you're just following well-worn paths

 (c.f. the post on Ry Cooder and session musicians as a non-creative class)

but how do you preserve and protect ignorance in this knowledge-saturated environment?
reverse Plato

In the imaginary philosophical dialogues of The Republic, Plato has that famous saying about music being inherently subversive.  (It's voiced through the historically real but here fictionalized figure of Socrates).  Well, that's how it's always paraphrased and second-hand quoted. Actually, he's more specific: it's not music per se, but changes in music that threaten the stability of the State  and the Social Order:

"the attention of our rulers should be directed so that music and gymnastics [dancing?] be preserved in their original form… any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole State, and ought to be prohibited... For the modes of music are never disturbed without unsettling of the most fundamental political and social conventions."

What I wonder, though, is whether that can be reversed....  can you deduce from a decrease in the rate of musical innovation of music that there is also a parallel slowing-down or stagnation in society?  Is a dearth of newness in music the symptom and indication of social stagnation?

Certainly there seems to be an approximate correlation there as regards the Sixties -- the peak of neophilia and acceleration in music (and culture and the arts generally)  can be indexed to economic dynamism and class mobility, the breaking down of all manner of taboos and out-of-date prohibitions, the release of social energies from the old constraints?

Thereafter the relationship gets more complicated perhaps... superstructure slips out of alignment with base at certain points... postpunk is actually going the opposite direction from Thatcherism, though that might well be regarded as A/ marginal music c.f. the pop mainstream of that time and B/ a sort of local and minoritarian resurgence fueled by a reservoir of Sixties idealism/energy that is freshly tapped and is able to sustain the relaunch of a neophile alternative culture which then tacks against the cultural winds for a while....  until it no longer becomes sustainable (leading to New Pop and entryism)

But certainly when you get to Now, a linkage between the two kinds of stasis/retreat  -- cultural-musical and social-political-economic -- is what Mark Fisher is getting at with that term he likes to use, the Restoration

remix politics

further to the post on Nicki Minaj's versatility and the big spat over "Starships"

"There is something increasingly chilling about this shape-shifter, isnt there? He views himself as a product to be marketed to different audiences at different times. And the actual content of that product is completely malleable."

That's actually Andrew Sullivan on Romney. But it shows how the notion of integrity and consistency has traction in the political realm (or let's hope so, come November) 

If "realness" counts still in politics--the belief that even given that it's "the art of the possible" and involves negotiation and compromise,  there are these core principles about which you'll never bend and thus there limits to one's flexibility when it comes to terms of ideology and policy, and that these principles are grounded in and arisen organically from the pol's life experience and character--then why are we so certain that the apparatus of authenticity is to be dispensed with in culture and the arts?

 What Sullivan describes here--adaptability, mutability, endless reinvention of the self: all virtues in pop, supposedly--are negatives in politics, or should be. "The actual content of that product is completely malleable.  It can change as swiftly as Mormon doctrine, when market share is at stake. To predict Romney, in other words, you simply have to merely examine the market he's selling to." That's a bit like how pop singles come in multiple mixes targeted at different dance scenes and club styles.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

electronic pioneer Tod Dockstader interviewed by Geeta Dayal for

further to the post on Bat, Bean, Beam and the "don't be a dick" video -- are we no longer allowed to disapprove of or even critique mass taste, or the cultural likes of specific populations? - the big spat between Nicki Minaj and Hot 97 threw up some relevant matter.... check some of Minaj's rebukes of the Hot Jocks "this ain't real hip hop" on-air dissing of "Starship":

• "I'm a grown-ass woman, and everyone is grown enough to keep their opinions to themselves in order to give people a great time. I've traveled all around the world, and people come with one agenda, and that is to have a good time. Not to have their favorite artist be ridiculed or be made fun of.."

• "When you disrespect Nicki Minaj — and I don't care if it was in front of 2,000 people, which can equate to 2 million people when it's streaming live — you're disrespecting my fans. See, I don't have a problem with anyone saying what they have to say to me. But don't make those 3 million people that downloaded 'Starships' or whatever they downloaded, don't make them feel like they're inferior in any way for their personal taste in music."

this basically boils down to "don't be a dick about what other people like"

which has all the problems that Tiso brings up 

as does Minaj's repeated reference to the number of records she's sold and amount of money she's made

as if that made one immune to criticism!

it's basically 50 million Elvis fans can't be wrong

but surely criticism should cling onto the possibility, remote as it is, that 50  Million whatever-fans might actually be wrong (i  felt really tempted and almost compelled to place scare quotes around wrong but then the very point i'm making here, or toying with, is the idea that wrong might really be wrong... so no Rorty-esque equivocations here)

political criticism after all always contains the possibility that very large proportions of the population -- sometimes entire populations -- can be completely wrong in their ideas about the economy, how a society ought to be run, what is sexually proper, the respective roles of men and women

and in pop cult, 50 million people being wrong about something is naturally worth analysing,  it is highly interesting in fact, something to take seriously, it might actually tell you something about larger phenomenon ... you might get something out of being not tolerant of, but literally understanding vis-a-vis that mass wrongness

i should say at this point that I generally really like Nick Minaj and "Starships" doesn't bother me at all, it's fun

but it's intriguing and striking, the utter elasticity of her persona/music

i wonder, is it strategic, in a kind of board-room, market-positioning, maximum-market-penetration kind of way (as has been the norm since Thriller, arguably) ? or is this lack of stylistic integrity  actually more "authentic" in that she is just a product this Shuffle-culture....  so it's more like an integral dis-integration of taste (cf Grimes,. "post-internet" etc)...  unrealness (in all senses) is her real

but back to the meta-critical issue

something about the uniformity of the pro-Minaj/anti-Hot97dicks position taken by all critics everywhere makes me uneasy...

well, they're professional generalists, most of them, so naturally they are pre-disposed to the idea of genres not having borders, "death to the taste police", etc....  there's an occupationally-acquired reflex to reward those who don't stay stuck in one genre, aren't purist, exhibit diversity and versatility in their albums...

that in turn reflects on the kind of flexibility and open-ness required to actually do that kind of generalist job

it means that you can't actually ever become fanatical about one kind of music, you can't become a genre-ist -- because you are required to cover everything and find something non-dickish to say about as many things as possible

that may or may not be a virtue in the critic... or a life-advantage for the punter

on a purely philosphical level, if hip hop can encompass absolutely anything, what does hip hop actually mean?  

can we have identity without essence?

and regardless of whether the Rosenberg dude is a right dick and Funkmaster unFlex is the rap equiv of  ye olde punke roquer or not ....  there's a larger question:   if the idea of "the streets" in rap is an ailing, obsolete fiction.... because music can go anywhere and be heard by anyone....  what does that mean for the streets themselves, the real-world referent for that musical concept now said to be detached and set free into the infosphere?    those streets still exist