Hey- I think Daft Punk (or someone in the helmets) did a dj set at the myspace part for TRON last night (friday night) soooo... I just looked at webcams over petco- nothing going on there. I think the Daft Punk playing Comic Con rumors related to last nights myspace party.
Dedicated to classics and hits.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Cadillac Records is a movie about Chess Records. It's a disaster on many levels, but in a streaming Netflix world, it's worth a watch. There is no over-emphasizing the revolutionary nature of streaming Netflix. People are talking about streaming Hulu- for me- I don't give a shit about watching television. I mean, I watch it, but I don't care at all whether I see it or not. Television is so simple and boring. Nothing interesting ever happens on television, whereas film, with all it's deep flaws as an art form, always represents an end product that has been sweated over and cared about.
Cadillac Records cost twelve million dollars to make, and earned eight million at the box office and nine million in dvd sales. (THE NUMBERS) So, it wasn't a hit. It's not really a huge failure, either. Cadillac Records was released in 2008, though it has a timeless, television-y quality that has to be attributed to the director Darnell Martin(who is a white lady, btw), who is herself a director who works mostly in television. I'm not one to quibble over Hollywood taking liberty with factual details, but compressing two Chess Brothers into a single Adrien Brody really misses the emotional heart of the Chess Records story. So, that was an artistic choice that someone made, and it was a mistake, in my opinion. Beyonce is indescribably bad as Etta James. I think probably it's just a good idea to smother the horribleness of this performance in the land of "who cares?" Obviously, no one saw this movie anyway so it's kind of "No harm, No foul."
Cadillac Records certainly doesn't ask hard questions of the relationship between the Chess brother and artists like Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howling Wolf and Chuck Berry. Chess Records story is very much about the sales of "THE BLUES" to the point where the Rolling Stones literally show up in the movie. Specifically, Chess Records greatly influenced the popularity of Chicago based "Electric Blues." So much has been written and filmed and spoken about the impact of the blues on subsequent popular music that it kind of makes me car-sick. The movie is enjoyable during the fun parts, and super hard to watch during the emotionally challenging parts. It's just too much story for an hour and forty five minute film, and the failure to focus on a specific aspect of the story keeps this movie from even touching greatness.
It is kind of funny at the end of the movie where they are "desperate for a hit" and how one of the themes is how Leonard Chess stole from Chuck Berry to pay Muddy Waters because "the records weren't selling." Leonard Chess seemed to do all right, though. Certainly, for artists looking for yet another chapter in the "watch your back in dealing with the music industry" this is worth the time.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
The Commercial Revolution in American Music
by David Suisman
Boston: Harvard University Press
The strangest fact about this book is that there is another book called The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry (2007) that covers much the same thematic territory. I was also immediately reminded of That Moaning Saxophone: The Six Brown Brothers and the Dawning of a Musical Craze (2004). All three books are an example of a renaissance in academic Interdisciplinary Studies. The back covers of those three books provides an additional ten titles which all proceed from the same cross-disciplinary viewpoint. I don't think ANY of the books or the books listed on the back cover would be considered a "hit" within the publishing world except for Lizabeth Cohen's A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America. (2003) All of these titles represent a break down between departments in American Universities as well as a move away from trends in cultural theory during the 1990s. The happy result is the production of relevant knowledge in readable language.
Like the other books listed, Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music, selects different strands of music culture in the period between the end of the Civil War and the start of the First World War. Really, the relevant time periods here (time periods are important) are 1880-1917 and 1918-1929 (Great Depression) Like all of the books listed, Selling Sounds focuses wholly on the United States market. Suisman's analysis is strong as far as it goes. He uses the term 'culture industry' with comfort and his opening chapter on Tin Pan Alley is a tour-de-force.
I think... the limits of this book are best expressed in the failure to introduce similar analysis of different groups of ideas that were "out there" at the same time during the course of the time periods here. There was certainly a heavy exchange between Germany, France, The United Kingdom and the United States. Specifically, one of the intellectual ideas that pre-dates the time period covered here is the "Folk Music" movement in EUROPE in the mid 19th century.
I think the influence is especially salient when one considers the role of white European immigrants in the founding of record labels that specialized in African American folk music and jazz influenced popular music. This leads me to the other main omission in Selling Sounds, which is, by the way, an amazing book. The second omission is any treatment of hillbilly music, the analogue to Suisman's focus on "Race Records" in this book. There is hardly any overlap in the time periods covered in this book (1880s-1929ish) and the time period covered in Selling Sounds: The Rise of the Country Music Industry (1920-1970s.) By the way- the overlap is "the invention of broadcast radio."
As Selling Sounds eases into chapters on the recording career of Enrico Caruso and the lost history of the player piano, we move into familiar culture studies territories. However, Suisman writes with a light hand and doesn't engage in debates of interest only to specialists. A strong late chapter is his set piece on The Black Swan, the earliest substantial African American owned record label. It's actually seemed to me that the book emerged out of that chapter, which has a somewhat clunkier theoretical apparatus then the rest of the book. Also is the chunky conclusion, with a 'pointing out paradoxes' hook that left me yawning.
I don't think you can talk about modern music culture without adding in the underlying folk culture. Certainly, it might surprise a trans-Atlantic Professor of History that one would seek to write an account of a specific aspect of American Culture without discussing the impact of ideas generated wholly within Europe or the United Kingdom. Additionally, this is an example of what David Hackett Fischer calls the fallacy of presentism in his book Historians Fallacies: Towards a Logic of Historical Thought. Fischer defines the fallacy of presentism as
"a complex anachronism, in which the antecedent in a narrative series is falsified by being defined or interpreted in terms of the consequent. Sometimes called the fallacy of nunc pro tunc, it is the mistaken idea that the proper way to do history is to prune away the dead branches of the past, and to preserve the green buds and twigs which have grown into the dark forest of our contemporary world." (FISCHER: 135.)
This fallacy is demonstrated in the omissions I just pointed out. African American influenced music dominates the contemporary landscape. Meanwhile, the intellectual discussion over folk music as practiced in Germany and the United Kingdom in the mid 1850s is a footnote to a footnote to a footnote, studied perhaps only in the John Hopkins Department of Comparative Literature.
I don't think you can explain the commercialization of American music in the 20th century without reference to, first, the folk music culture of regular people living outside major cities as it existed before the Civil War, and second, the impact of ideas about Folk Music on the development of ideas about Popular Music in the 20th century. That's a pretty big subject though, so I'm going to give Suisman a pass and instead congratulate him on what is an excellent book, inside or outside the University knowledge production system.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Louis Jordan *What's the Use of Gettin' Sober* FIRST NO. 1 RACE RECORD IN AMERICAN HISTORY 1942.
1. The melody must be within the average voice of the average singer.
2. The title must be planted throughout the song via use of repetition.
3. The idea and lyric must be appropriate for both sexes...so that both will want to sing it.
4. The song should contain 'heart interest'(pathos) even for a comic song.
5. The song must be original... success is not accomplished...by imitating the hit song of the moment.
6. Your lyric must deal with ideas, objects or emotions known to everyone.
7. The lyric must be euphonious: simple and pleasing to the ear.
8. Your song must be perfectly simple.
9. The songwriter must look upon his work as a business.
American Magazine, October 1920.
Posted by catdirt at 10:10 AM
The Philosophy of Rhetoric
by I.A. Richards
New York: Oxford University Press
When I read Pitchfork it reminds me of what academics call New Criticism. Specifically, I think the "style" of Pitchfork is of popular version of techniques, like close reading which were developed by New Critics to talk about poetry. Close reading means:
A truly attentive close reading of a two-hundred-word poem might be thousands of words long without exhausting the possibilities for observation and insight. To take an even more extreme example, Jacques Derrida's essay Ulysses Gramophone, which J. Hillis Miller describes as a "hyperbolic, extravagant… explosion" of the technique of close reading, devotes more than eighty pages to an interpretation of the word "yes" in James Joyce's great modernist novel Ulysses. (WIKIPEDIA)Despite thinking this in my head, I really don't know anything about New Criticism or Literary Theory- also- I have no desire to know about any of that beyond bare framework. Close reading a poem is super annoying. BUT- I.A. Richards, who is one of New Criticism's FOUNDERS also wrote a book called "The Philosophy of Rhetoric," and I love rhetoric study so I was like "Hey- give him a shot." And you know what: The non-close reading parts are pretty interesting. The 20 page excerpts where he close reads a poem, not so much. From my perspective, Richards seems to be overlapping with Wittgenstein and the other language philosophers(another group of ideas I'm only barely familiar with) before he dives into the poetry nonsense.
New Criticism may have some use since it overlaps with other discourses, but man, 200 pages of poetry analysis puts me to sleep. Critics should learn about the techniques of New Criticism, and then do the opposite. What a waste of time.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Record Makers and Record Breakers:
Voices of the Independent Rock n' Roll Pioneers
by John Boven
p. Mar 2, 2009
Chicago: University of Illinois Press
Posted by catdirt at 8:45 PM
The Power of Sound
London: Smith, Elder & Co.
For while Music on the clear side of its direct utterances its actual pleasure giving qualities is a subject which a vast number of people care about deeply and appreciate truly not one in a hundred of these has ever had a moment's independent curiosity to look beyond this direct delight and to distinguish even the most general characteristics of the things which impress him or of his own impressions The consequence is that among the deluge of musical talk and writing which the days bring forth there is hardly a view or a phrase too shallow or fantastic to obtain unquestioning assent.
(GOOGLE BOOKS FULL TEXT)
Posted by catdirt at 1:20 PM
Hot Date *I Wanna Do it to You* from the film Spring Break (1983)
Maybe I'm dating myself here but does anyone else remember what it was like to poke through the racks of a California (or other U.S. locale) suburban video store in the pre-Blockbuster era? A lot of them had the curtained off back room, and then just racks of tapes arranged by subject. One of the potential benefits of streaming Netflix is to bring back that vibe, particularly as it relates to the great lost genre of "sex comedy" that peaked in the mid 80s. We're not talking serious entertainment here, but ultimately, who wants to boot up the streaming Netflix to watch a four hour documentary about silent monks.
One of the fun scenes in this movie (two of the fun scenes, actually) involve the fake girl band Hot Date performing live in American Apparel style leotards. The film actually make a quasi verite attempt to capture the specific rituals of Spring Break: the wet t-shirt concest, the belly flop contest. Throughout the film the skin color and loose displays of sexuality made me think of sun burn and herpes. Truly, the early 80s were a more innocent time, before AIDS consciousness had penetrated the spring break milleu.
I would have like to have seen more location shots of "Fort Lauderdale." Once again, I question the average Netflix rating of 2.9 as well as Allmovie's contention that the film is "not...memorable." What world are we talking about here? It would in no way be extraordinary for an adolescent or grown up to watch 2-3 feature length films every day FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE... that is a lot of movies to watch. Thousands and thousands of movies. People who don't like the movie Spring Break are no better then the fuddy-duddy step father who provides the plot (such as it is.)
Monday, July 19, 2010
For our immediate purpose the main interest of Schopenhauer's position is its abstractness which is complementary to the vast historical complexity of Hegelianism. History for him is unessential to the idea only the eternal types which are framed within it are able to represent for example the idea of man. For knowledge of phenomena the true method is that of the understanding with its clear relations according to the law of sufficient reason for knowledge of reality the visions of art. The moving concrete of reason seems nonsense to him his ideas correspond to the fixity of species in everything he prefers the definite and the permanent.
The beauty of the beautiful for Schopenhauer has two sides it frees us from the will cations an j therefore from the whole apparatus that attends our greatest vice and misfortune the will to live from explanation causation means and ends purpose desire 6 and on the other hand it fills our minds with an idea an objecti fication of the will at a certain grade which we see in and as the essence of the merely particular object presented to our aesthetic perception As everything is in some degree an objectification of the will everything is in some degree characteristic and in some degree beautiful There is no further difference between art and nature than that in art the artist lends us his eyes to look through.
Music the analogy of which to architecture is very reasonably treated the enormous difference between the two arts being duly emphasized is placed by itself outside and above the series of the other arts. It is not like them the copy of the ideas but the copy of the will itself whose objectivity they are. The expression is mystical as in Schopenhauer's whole conception of the will in the universe.
Posted by catdirt at 7:00 PM
The distinctive Interaction Rituals of intellectuals are those occasions on which intellectuals come together for the sake of their serious talk: not to socialize, nor to be practical. Intellectuals set themselves apart from other networks of social life in the act of turning toward one another. The discussion, the lecture, the argument, sometimes the demonstration or the examination of evidence: these are the concrete activities from which the sacred object “truth” arises….
The basic form of intellectual communities has remained much the same for over two thousand years. Key intellectuals cluster in groups in the 1900s much as in the 400b.c.e. The personal contacts between eminent teaches and later to be eminent students make up the same kinds of chains across the generations. And this is so even though communications technology has become increasingly available, and the numbers of intellectuals have increased enormously from on the order of hundreds in Confucius’ China, to the million scientists and scholars publishing today….
Intellectual discourse focuses implicitly on its autonomy from external concerns and its reflexive awareness…
.This, then, is the intellectual ritual. Intellectuals gather, focus their attention for a time on one of their members, who delivers a sustained discourse. That discourse itself builds on elements from the past, affirming and continuing or negating. Old sacred objects, previously charged up, are recharged with attention, or degraded from their sacredness and expelled from the life of the community; new candidate sacred objects are offered for sanctification. By reference to texts past and texts future, the intellectual community keeps up the consciousness of its projects, transcending all particular occasions on which they were enacted. Hence the peculiar guiding sacred object- truth, wisdom, sometimes the activity of seeking or research—as both eternal and embodied in the flow of time.
Collins, Randall 1998. Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change Cambridge: Belkap/Harvard University Press
Posted by catdirt at 4:20 PM
When We Were Kings is a 1996 documentary about the "Rumble in the Jungle," the 1974 heavy weight title fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire. As it turns out, there was a big music festival held at the same time. It was called Zaire '74: the headliner was James Brown. Other performers included B.B. King, Bill Withers as well as some stand out numbers from African artists Miriam Makeba, TPOK Jazz, and Tabu Ley Rochereau. The concert promoters, a "Liberian Business Group" hired a first rate documentary crew- this movie looks great- and then the "Liberian Business Group" ran into "serious legal issues" and the footage sat on the shelf for three decades- until 2008, apparently. when the guy who made When We Were Kings finally got this footage released as Soul Power.
This movie had a low over all rating on netflix of 3.3 which seems really, really low... I mean When We Were Kings was a big deal and this is like a lost classic of the 60s/70s era rock festival concert films. Think um WOODSTOCK? FYI- did you know that Netflix has 31 listed pages of Rockumentaries? The fact that this movie didn't come out for 30 years doesn't effect the underlying merit of the films. Don't people recognize a five star rockumentary when they see one? I guess not.
Just watch the part with the representative of the Liberian Business Group- a guy who looks kind of like me actually, reacts to the fact that President Mobuto unilaterally advanced the start date of the concert one day. He gets super pissed off about it, ultimately realizing that there isn't a damn thing he can do.
Posted by catdirt at 9:20 AM
The Metropolitan Experience
by Iain Chambers
London: Routledge Press
Intellectuals writing about music...what a fucking disaster. The utter and total failure of intellectuals inside and outside the university system to write accurately about the role of music in the lives of audiences didn't really manifest itself until after the full rise of popular music in the post World War II period: before then, music just wasn't ubiquitous or important enough in the lives of normal folks to expose specious intellectual attempts to discuss music and the it's role within the lives of audiences.
Regardless of the epic landscape of failure, the discriminating audience member needs to tackle this literature to understand the music of the present, and I would suggest that Iain Chamber's Popular Culture: The Metropolitan Experience (1986) is a Culture/Music Theory 101. Popular Culture is paperbook size, but it functions as a punk rock text book describing intellectual theories about popular culture from the 1800s through the punk era.
The bibliography is super solid, and Chambers does a good job mimicking the 'cut-up' techniques of the modernist inspired layout. The book design aspects of Popular Culture double or triple the value of this book. It's something a pop star could carry on in her handbag during a european tour and read in 5 or 10 page bites. It's affordable enough for the part-time musician working in a coffee shop.
This book costs .63 cents usd + four usd shipping on AMAZON. It's a light, fun, easy read that packs a huge informational punch on the description of intellectuals and their theories about popular culture. If you flip through it and go straight to the bibliography, like I did, then more power to you.
Personally, I think the combination of used books on Amazon, streaming Netflix and Google Books represents a revolution in the production of knowledge that will surpass the rise of the university system in 18th century Germany. This is the time to get on board that three headed hydra: used books on Amazon, streaming Netlix, Google Books. What do you need a university for in terms of the production of knowledge?
The goal of this blog is to help other people find their own path to understanding using the new materials that are available, not to push people down one particular path: but you should go somewhere, do something. It's a revolution in the production of knowledge, so produce some fucking knowledge.
People who make a living from music should be familiar with what intellectuals have written about music, because that is how they are going to be judged. There's no magic or creativity to writing about music, rather, the interesting part is how little the music writers themselves understand what it is they are doing, or even trying to do.
Thus, musicians who have a conscious understanding of how and why people write about music will have an advantage of those who do not, and audience members who understand their 'place' in the discussion .... well I guess the benefit depends on how much you care about the role of music in your life. If you don't give a shit, then you don't need to care about any of this information.
On the other hand if music 'means' something to you, ignoring these ideas means you are ignorant. Not stupid, just ignorant. Most of intellectuals theorizing about popular culture is them writing 'about' the audience- not as a participant, as a detached 'scientific' observer. What a bunch of bullshit. Popular culture is about experience not observation.
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07/18 - 07/25
- Daft Punk Played at the MYSPACE Part Last Night
- ESSENTIAL STONEHENGE + TRON SOUNDTRACK
- Movie Review: Cadillac Records
- Rolling Stones *Little Red Rooster* (video)
- Book Review: Selling Sounds by David Suisman
- THE SOUNDIES: A MUSICAL JOURNEY
- Louis Jordan *What's the Use of Gettin' Sober* (19...
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- Movie Review: Spring Break (1983)
- 11th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos
- Schopenauer's Aesthetic Idea
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