The Selling Sound:
The Rise of the Country Music Industry
by Diane Pecknold
Refiguring American Music
A Series Edited by Charles McGovern and Ronald Radano
Duke University Press
Diane Pecknold sees the world the same way I do. The Selling Sound leads with a quote from Theordor Adorno about the culture industry... a Frankfurt School reference you almost never see in the Cultural Studies field... and the starting point for a sure fire cultural studies hit about the business of the culture industry.
For Pecknold, the culture industry is represented by music publishers, radio stations, record labels and artists. She is writing specifically about the United States in the 1920s through the 1960s, and about the emergence of Country Music as a huge component of American Popular Music during that time period. However, unlike the millions of writers who pen self delusional valentines filled with romantic archetypes, Pecknold cooly appraises the constituent elements of the Country music and their interaction with each other as well as the audience.
Many of Pecknold's most trenchant observations have to do with the way that the culture industry transformed their audience into consumers using the techniques of mass persuasion and mass media. Pecknold makes a double point about this process: First, that the audience was aware of the attempt of the music industry to transform them from an audience into consumers, and second that they could not stop the process from happening.
Pecknold's history of the Country music business is one that should be on the book shelf of any self respecting critic of culture. Don't let the country music subject dissuade you from reading The Selling Sound. Country music is merely the reference frame for a discussion of the relationship between culture industry and audience that has wide reverberations continuing into today and tomorrow.
Pecknold repeatedly makes the point that fan culture was instrumental to the rise of country music, but that fans were elbowed out of the way to make room for a broader sounding "Nashville" sound. The incorporation of more sophisticated recording techniques in a greater variety of physical locations is something that cut across genres of popular music in the early 1960s, and Country music was no exception. For country music, Nashville was this place, and Pecknold goes so far as to literally end this book with a 10 page exegesis on Robert Altman's "Nashville."
The Selling Sound also does an excellent job of unraveling the etymology of terms like "hillbilly music." Here is a party fact for you hipsters: Country music was originally called "rockabilly music" and Country music wasn't used as a term until the 1960s. Thus, when rock music emerged in the 1950s, the use of the term "rockabilly" was merely the equivalent of saying country-rock or "rock music influenced by country music." Hillbilly music was just the common term for country music in that time period.
In conclusion, this book is amazing and if you've read some of my culture industry posts and kind of taken a pass, this book might be a good way to explore those ideas in a concrete context. And Diane Pecknold- if you're reading this- keep writing books.
Dedicated to classics and hits.
Saturday, June 05, 2010
The Selling Sound:
Friday, June 04, 2010
Thursday, June 03, 2010
The Washing of the Spears
The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation
by Donald R. Morris
Simon and Schuster
So last bit about the Zulus and South African history. Have you ever scanned through the programs they show on the History Channel and wondered History means "War" as far as television cable channels are concerned? I've often wondered about why history means "history of battles" to many people, and I think that's because people in the military have always been history buffs, and that shaped the market for books about history. Me, I don't give a fuck about military history. Who gives a shit? War may be useful sometimes, but it is always a pointless waste of life. (or it ain't a real war.) Here's a tip, if you buy a history book, and it turns out to be a military history book, skim that shit. Skim the fuck out of it, or you'll spend a week of your life learning about the background of soldiers who fought in wars, the difficulty of fighting wars in strange locations.
Even though the sub head of this book is "the rise and fall of the zulu nation" it's about as accurate as calling a book about the battles of the Civil War "The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy."
Military history is worse then useless, it's actually evil because it makes military types think that they can predict what is going to happen in a future war. And they are always wrong, and people end up dying because of shitty history books.
The Zulu's were defeated after the initial invasion was wiped off the face of the earth. Honestly, the description of the Zulu warriors annihilating gun toting red coats was the absolute high point of the book. Reading a book like this, the only thought I have is, "Gee, maybe the black South Africans should spring a genocide on the Whites left in South Africa and see how THEY like it." The Anglo Zulu war, the war that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Zulus and Europeans, was totally unprovoked. It was a war of extermination, fought for no reason, except to subjugate the Zulu nation. You know, Whites brought their racist bullshit to Africa, and maybe turn about is fair play.
I'm not a salesman, but I'm interested in sales men. Whether you are talking the Wily Loman character, Alec Baldwin's speech in Glengarry Glen Ross or Gil on the Simpsons, the hapless sales man is an archetype of our culture. But sales is a discourse independent of the pathos of the profession. The sales pitch can be analyzed in rhetorical fashion. In every sales communication there is the same speaker, audience and purpose. Furthermore, the techniques used to persuade the audience to buy are the same as the techniques used in any piece of persuasive rhetoric. What this is all means is that despite the bad rap, sales discourse is worth considering because if you master it you can sell... anything, and if you ignore it you can't sell... anything.
Perhaps the single most important principle of sales discourse is that you never talk past the sale. If you are a speaker, and you have an audience, and you convince the audience, you stop. There is no purpose to your speech then to persuade, and once achieved, the speech should end.
Now, this principle excludes many areas- but so much of success in life is knowing when to stop. That's why it's true to say, "Don't talk past the sale." No matter where, when or who is involved, you should never keep going after you have convinced your audience.
Posted by catdirt at 6:23 PM
The Brown Brothers popularized the saxophone in the United States. This was a hit for them in 1915.
Posted by catdirt at 2:42 PM
I've read all of Thomas Pynchon's books. Huge fan. Don't like to make a deal about it because, frankly, I'm not that into a lot of his books, but he's written some monsters. Gravity's Rainbow is the hall-of-famer. Gravity's Rainbow is about World War II but it's also a trippy, crazy, modernist epic novel and Pynchon touches on themes that continue to resonate today (paranoia, conspiracy, show tunes, to name a few.) Pynchon is a west coast guy: Santa Monica, Seattle, the wilds of Northern California. I often imagine him hanging out with Jonathan Richman up in Yreka.
One of the interesting parts in Gravity's Rainbow is the story of Oberst Enzian and his Schwartz Kommando. Oberst is a survivor of the Herero and Namaqua Genocide, which occurred in German Southwest Africa in the early 20th century. Enzian is the survivor of a holocaust, working as a solider for the perpetrators of that holocaust. It's a fair statement of the role of Africans within their own society under colonial rule.
When Americans discuss Africa, there is really only one factor/attitude at play: ignorance. Even if you WANT to find about the history of Africa you are limited to five areas: 1) memoirs/novels, mostly written by whites 2) south africa 3) Rwandan genocide 4)anthropology books about bushmen 5) current affairs books about civil war and social problems since liberation. That sums up literally the entire Amazon top 100 on the subject of Africa, but it leaves huge gaps.
My take on Africa and the rest of the colonized peoples of the world: It sucks when modernity gets dropped on your head, but then it is sink or swim. The tough cultures make it through, the weak ones don't. C'est la vie. When you get to Southern Africa, there are tons of problems, but the survival of the people there is not in question, in fact, the population won't stop growing. Maybe that's a problem from an environmental stand point but I'm sure it's a problem a lot of cultures in the colonized world would love to have. You have to take interest and give credit to the strong cultures as well as appreciate the ones that are disappearing. Strength/weakness is separate from success/failure. One pair is objective, the other pair is something that each culture/civilization has to determine for itself. Even if you want to call attention to "failures" in African society, the strength is unquestionable.
Posted by catdirt at 8:18 AM
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
BANTU LANGUAGES MAP
One of the interesting bits about the history of South Africa is the role of the Bantu language group in pre-contact Africa. Bantu speakers dominate central and southern Africa almost completely. They played the same role in Africa that the speakers of Indo European languages played in areas like Europe and the Indian sub-continent, in that they mostly eradicated the earlier human groups in the area. The two most popular Bantu languages are Swahili and Zulu... but there are tons of minor languages. It's a diverse group, and Bantu speaking people's spread out over a huge area over a relatively short period of time. They led a herding life, like plains Native Americans or the Mongols, but had farms. They believed in witches and had elaborate religious rituals, a tribe/clan based family structure, practiced polygamy, etc.
Posted by catdirt at 9:27 PM
Am I only the one that thinks Sony is being super cool by making a non-hot chick into a pop star? I mean they don't have to pick Kesha to be Kesha, they literally could have selected anyone, and they picked this one. Think about it, does she look like a Britney Spears? It's kind of faux diy.
Posted by catdirt at 11:44 AM
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Mangosuthu Buthelezi is the head of the Inkatha Freedom Party. Here is what you need to know about the Inkatha Freedom Party for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa:
1) The Inkatha Freedom Party is based around Zulu identity politics.
2) Their poll results have plummeted from 11% (1994) to 4.5%(2009).
3) They are rivals with the African National Congress (ANC) which rules South Africa.
When I was reading the Shaka Zulu biography by E.A. Ritter I was startled to find that the Buthelezi clan was practically the first clan that Shaka absorbed into his Zulu polity. Right there... at the beginning... then the successor is the leader of the democratic political party that represents the entire ethnicity 200 years later in a multi-party Democracy. That's a strong civilization, when something like that happens.
Posted by catdirt at 12:38 AM
Monday, May 31, 2010
The Selling Sound:
The Rise of the Country Music Industry
by Diane Pecknold
Format hat tip to my homie Edwin Himself.
Posted by catdirt at 1:53 PM
Sunday, May 30, 2010
A ritual is defined as "the performance of more or less invariant sequences of formal acts and utterances not entirely encoded by the performers." It has often occurred to me that night life in San Diego is a series of rituals. It's hardly an original observation, the Tina Fey/Lindsay Lohan movie "Mean Girls" was based on a magazine article about ritual practices of teen age girls. Any ritual has a related discourse, a way of communicating about the ritual that falls short of encapsulating the wholeness of the ritual itself. If you could communicate everything about the ritual, you wouldn't need the ritual, would you?
I was excited about the Spectrum show because I am not a die hard Spaceman 3/Spiritualized/Spectrum fan, but I've grown to appreciate them over the last five years based on friends tastes. I guess the main fact about that group of artists is how far back they go... Spaceman 3 was playing in 1982. 1982. You want to tell me who else had that sound in 1982? Going in I knew exactly what to expect, and I was excited to hear it. If there is one positive contribution that Pitchfork has made to musical taste in the United States, it's helping people develop a taste for drone influenced pop music. The way I see it, drone is one of the constituent elements of rock music today, as much as blues was in the 1950s. Then, it was blues, country, hillbilly music. Now: Noise, drone, psychedelic rock, mod rock. Succesful rock will always be an amalgam of different sub styles.
I arrived too late to see Jeans Wilder, but I was there for Heavy Hawaii, and they were amazing. I'm not here to put words in people's mouths, let alone attract the Mexican Summer's of the world, but wow- Heavy Hawaii are ready to hit the road. The fact that they have five members makes me think that getting up and down the West Coast in one piece this summer would be a worthy goal. Maybe as part of an Art Fag Recordings tour. Hypothetically. People get ready for that show.
From there, it was a natural segue into the drone rock of Spectrum. The Soda Bar was packed, in the neighborhood of a sell out. I was frankly impressed especially considering all the norms were at the North Park Birch Theater blah blah sitting down and listening to the dulcet tones of Transfer et al. What I say is, "A sell out is a sell out" but I was stoked that so many showed up for Spectrum. And people were into it. The entire night had a kind of Platonic excellence that left me charged up and ready for the summer concert going season. Cue the Black Eyed Peas anthem!
- ► 2013 (142)
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05/30 - 06/06
- Book Review: The Selling Sound by Diane Pecknold
- Art Fag's Best Coast 7" is #2 Seller at Insound
- Mountain Dew Haz Record Label and Wavves Single
- Book Review: The Washing of the Spears by Donald M...
- Don't Talk Past The Sale
- That Moaning Saxophone *The Brown Brothers* (1915)...
- Oberst Enzian and his Schwartz Kommando
- Bantu Languages
- Diddy f. T.I. and Rick Ross *Dirty Money*
- Ke$ha *Your Love is My Drug*
- RAPID CITY///ROCK CITY
- INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY LOGO
- The Inkatha Freedom Party
- ON MY DESK: THE SELLING SOUND THE RISE OF THE COUN...
- Best Coast covers Wavves *So Bored* @ Primavera
- Show Review: Spectrum & Heavy Hawaii @ Soda Bar
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