Dedicated to classics and hits.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

THE INTELLECTUAL MILIEU OF JOHN DRYDEN BY LOUIS I. BREDVOLD

Book Review
The Intellectual Milieu of John Dryden
by Louis I. Bredvold
published University of Michigan Press 1934
this edition Ann Arbor paperbacks 1966 edition

   There are some books you'll never find on Amazon because their sales rank is more then 5,000,000 and the Amazon associative system doesn't go down that far.  I can't emphasize how unpopular this book is at Amazon.com. However, at the book sale I went to I managed to pick it up for fifty cents or whatever. The reason I bought The Intellectual Milieu of John Dryden is because it was intellectual history of a 17th and even 16th century vintage.  Generally speaking, the history of ideas is comfortable with ancient and modern times, and anything in between is dicey, in terms of interest, audience, etc.   So when I saw a book on intellectual history ("the intellectual milieu" in the title) and that it was about a 17th century subject (the English Poet John Dryden.) I just grabbed it.

  The subject "JOHN DRYDEN" doesn't have a large audience, so books about the subject are relatively rare.  Also, it was slim- less then 200 pages- which is always a plus for monograph level books about academic subjects.

  Dryden is a 17th century Poet who has obviously fallen out of favor with the contemporary market for such things - and his last hey-day was thanks to noted crowd pleaser T.S. Eliot:

    "It is hardly too much to say that Dryden found the English speechless, and he gave them speech; and they accordingly acknowledged their master; the language which we can refine, enrich, distort or corrupt as we may, but which we cannot do without.  No one, in the whole history of English literature, has dominated that literature so long, or so completely. An even in the nineteenth century the language was still the language of Dryden, as it is to-day."

   Dryden actually has a pretty good N-Gram- which shows spikes in the 1820s-1840s, another spike in 1880s and then an intitial burst of enthusiasm at the beginning of the American University system expansion in the early 20th century- i.e. 1934- when this book was published, and then a falling off, and rise in the last decade.

  There are specific reasons that Dryden fell into disfavor with audiences, mostly because he wasn't much of a democrat.  Of course, dispelling misconceptions of what, exactly, Dryden thought, is the entire subject of this book.  Dryden was deeply religious, but was exposed to the resurgent classical tradition of philosophical skepticism.  The pandora's box of these skeptical ideas was opened because of intellectual competition between Catholics and Protestants in the last part of the 17th century.  Roman derived skeptical arguments were the quasi political "dirty tricks" of their day.

   Artistically, Dryden is significant because he introduced the theme of secular doubt into English Art.   There... was no one else doing it: taking ideas derived from 17th century French political theory (Montaigne) and mixing them into the tradition of English poetry.   Revolutionary in it's own day and time.  Incendiary, one might say?

  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DIRTY BEACHES 2012 EU TOUR DATES FEBRUARY/MARCH


DIRTY BEACHES 2012 EUROPEAN UNION TOUR DATES  (dates are backwards to Americans- that's how they do it in EU)

4/2  One in a Million Festvial - Baden, Switzerland
7/2  CISIM - Ravenna, Italy
8/2   Astoria - Turin, Italy
9/2   Traffic Club - Rome, Italy
12/2  Festivel Antigel - Geneva, Switzerland
15/2  La Lune Des Pirates- Amiens, France
16/2  La Condition Publique - Lille, France
17/2 La Temps Machine - Tours, France
18/2  Rockstore - Montpellier, France
19/2  La Maroquinerie - Paris, France
20/2   La Java Des Paluches - La Rochelle, France
23/2  Vera - Gronigen, Netherlands
26/2  Indra- Hamburg, Germany
28/2  Stengade - Kopenhagen, Denmark
25/2   Kater Holzig - Koln, Germany
26/2   Indra - Hamburg, Germany
29/2   Debaser Malmo - Malmo, Sweden
1/3     Bergen Kunsthall - Bergen, Norway
2/3      Revolver - Oslo, Norway
3/3     Debaser Slussen -  Stockholm, Sweden
7/3     WORM - Rotterdam, Netherlands

    Two things about this tour- first- Elastic Artists- Dirty Beaches EU/UK booker- delivers the goods.  Second thing- Dirty Beaches actually has an active press/pr presence in almost every single one of these territories- not just France, Italy & Germany, but also Switzerland- where his set will be broadcast live on the NPR equivalent, and Belgium- where Badlands is being reviewed like a new release in the relevant periodicals.

  That's almost a full year after Badlands release and the lesson I've learned is you don't give up on a hit release just because it's nearing the end of it's original press cycle (one year)

TEOTWAWKI

TEOTWAWAKI TEOTWAWKI TEOTWAWKI.
DIG IT!

 All about 90s vintage survivalist movement as a reference point.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Matthew Arnold and American Culture

Matthew Arnold: Critic


Book Review
Matthew Arnold and American Culture
by John Henry Raleigh
p. 1957
University of California Press

  You could say that Matthew Arnold invented modern literary criticism.   He was also the greatest of Victorian critics.  His work is a conduit directly between the philosophy of the 18th century and the academia and journalism of today.   Arnold is not an author who is read by many today, but his influence on journalists and professors is so profound that it's hard to distinguish any kind of modern literary or artistic criticism that is descended directly- albeit in bastardized form- the intellectual equivalent of cave men living in a post-apocalyptic hell hole trying to piece together theater from a blasted copy of the complete works of William Shakespeare.

  That's all modern artistic criticism is- a bunch of monkeys clacking away on typewriters.   Arnold was the first critic to castigate a group he called "philistines" but who in later times would be called Babbits, bourgeois, etc: the unlettered middle class and would be middle class.  Arnold is also the first English critic to embrace the French style.  Considering the direct dominance that Arnoldian disciples had in the literature departments of American private and public universities from their inception, it is not difficult to trace a direct line from Arnold himself and the French theorizing that infected the American academy in disciplines like Literature and Sociology up until the present.

  In short, Arnold is as important figure in our current understanding of literature, and the role of literature, and of the significance and importance in Art in life, as exists.

  Matthew Arnold and American Culture actually documents the transmission of Arnold's idea to American writers and Professors from about 1850's into the 1950s.  The main line of transmission is Henry James, to T.S. Eliot to Lionel Trilling.   The main punching bag for the "American Arnoldians" is Edgar Allen Poe and H.L. Mencken.  Another favorite target is Emerson- himself a contemporary and fan of Arnold.

  Matthew Arnold was a bridge between Classic, Romantic and Modernist thought about Art, Artists, Audiences and their relationships with one another.

  It's kind of like... he laid the dinner table and put the food out on the table for modern Artistic criticism, but he wasn't a modern critic himself.  In that way, he has little appeal for non-specialists, thought I think critics should at least understand what the phrase "philistine" means as used by Matthew Arnold, and how his ideas about aesthetics combine Classical and Romantic ideas in a way that pre-sages Modern thoughts about aesthetics.

  One thing that Arnold doesn't discuss is the economics of Art and Art Production- in that way he is friendlier to the non-economically inclined aesthetes in a way that is utterly charming.   Arnold worshipped Beauty and despised the Market. 

FORTUNE'S FOOL: EDGARD BRONFMAN JR. WARNER MUSIC & AN INDUSTRY IN CRISIS

BOOK REVIEW
Fortune's Fool: Edgar Bronfman Jr., Warner Music, And An Industry in Crisis
by Fred Goodman
p. 2010
Simon & Shuster

  Did you ever wonder what it would feel like to lose twenty billion dollars dabbling in the music business?  If so, Fortune's Fool: Edgar Bronfman Jr., Warner Music and An Industry in Crisis, is the book for you!

  Part obituary for the music business after the internet era, and part cautionary tale about the vagaries of operating at the highest levels of that business, I imagine that Fortune's Fool was a little bit much for the general Audience at the time of publication.

  It also can't help that there is no redemption in the end.  In fact, this book reads like it was written before the end. Specifically, it was written before Universal- run by Vivendi- who Bronfman originally sold Universal to- snatched EMI from his own Warner Music- which he had bought from Time Warner back in 2004- that happened last fall. And then on December 5th, Bronfman Jr. announced he was stepping down from Warner Music, which he sold to Len Blavatnik of Access Industries, for 3.3 billion, this summer.

  To put that in some perspective, Bronfman Jr. was able to get involved at the highest levels in the music business because Seagrams acquired 20% of DuPont in 1981.  At the time, Dupont traded at 7 dollars a share.  Today, Dupont stock is worth 50 bucks, and the companies market cap is 45 billion dollars.  Today, a  20% stake in DuPont would be worth nine billion dollars.  The drink side of business was sold by UniversalVivendi in 2000 for nine billion dollars.  Diageo has a market cap of fifty billion, Pernod Ricard of roughly twenty billion dollars.  So Seagram's is a major part of that income, at least.

  So, to conclude, Edgar Bronfman Jr. LOST at LEAST six billion dollars (what 20% of DuPont is worth today- the 3.3 billion he got for Warner Music.  AND- arguably, let's say 30-40% of BOTH Diageo and Pernod-  we're talking somewhere between 15-20 billion.  Using the low end, that is 21 billion dollars reduced to 3.3 billion dollars.  That is breathtaking in magnitude.

  Is it his fault?  Well, yeah because he took his money from a very stable and dependable part of the global economy and went "all in" on a market segment that imploded just after he sunk a huge amount of money into it.  That is what you call "bad judgment." The sense that you get from reading Fortune's Fool is that Bronfman was motivated by something other business acumen to make the business decisions that he made.

 He was also basically wrong about everything he ever did.

  Bronfman Jr.  is really the spiritual heir to another business man of the 20th/21st century, Steve Ross, only failing from the outset instead of succeeding his whole life and then failing like Ross did. (2)  Ross started with what was essentially a parking lot company, Kinney National Services- which itself contained a parking lot and cleaning service division.  In 1967 Ross acquired Warner Brothers- which had just bought Atlantic- and then they added Elektra shortly thereafter- and it was in THAT configuration that Warner Brothers assumed the structure that it would have until recently- Steve Ross running the show and adding talent as it arose- specifically adding Interscope Records and Def Jam in the 1980s- through Doug Morris.

  Steve Ross's main guy at Warner Records is Doug Morris.  Doug Morris is still around- he was appointed Chairman of Sony/BMG in July 2011- which is kind of like the Yankees manager taking over for the Mets: Still New York city, but not quite the same prestige level. Morris though, came to Warner Brothers Via Atlantic Records.  Thus, within the Warner Records structure there was very loose association of labels, except when it came to distribution. Each label operated independently of the other labels in terms of release scheduling and even competition for Artists.

 Bronfman Jrs. foray into the music business consisted of three steps:

 1) Assembling his own "major label" called Universal Music Group.
 2)  Selling that Label, plus the rest of his families' business' to Viviendi and becoming Chairman of the combined company.
3) Buying back Warner Brothers Music from Viviendi after getting booted off the board of directors.
4.  Selling Warner Brothers Music to Len Blavatnik.
5. Losing about 20 billion dollars in the process.

  First, I bought this book- hard cover- brand new (remaindered) for  a penny from Amazon. (1)  Second, the only fact I knew about the Bronfman family before reading this book is that they used to own Seagram's, and that Edgar Bronfman Junior's son calls himself Ben Brewer, put out a So So Glo's record on his own record label, and showed really good judgment in marrying the artist known as M.I.A.  Yeahhh... good call on the wife, bro.

  The story of Edgar Bronfman Jr. and his simultaneously continuing AND ill fated venture into the world of recorded music is best described in this statistic:

  Edgard Bronfman lost more then three billion dollars of his families money investing in the music business.

  I am not talking about money that Edgar Bronfman Jr. earned himself, and then lost.  I'm not even talking about money his DAD made and that he lost.  I'm talking about money his grand father made, and then invested wisely.  Seagrams earned a bloody mint selling Canadian booze during American Prohibition.  After Prohibition ended they bought up a ton of US assets, making them even richer.  After that, they made an extremely smart investment in DuPont.

   None of that was good enough for Edgar Bronfman- he wanted something that would be his own.  Beginning as a failed singer songwriter (in the book the Author describes James Blunt as being a close approximation to what Bronfman would have wanted to be himself.)

  As Bronfman Jr., assembled his major label, Universal Music Group, he took direction from the business model that was current at the time: Over paying for talent, making a ton of CDs and selling a ton of CDs, "looking for hits."  Bronfman's reaction to the Internet is most kindly described as "un-savvy."  Here, we are talking about the period after 2004, when he bought Warner Brothers from Vivendi Universal.  Bronfman's "second act" as it were was to introduce the "360 Deal" to the record business, and serve as a hawk on issues like "suing fans for illegal downloading."

  The book actually interviewed Bronfman though really, no explanation is necessary- the facts speak well enough for how it went down. He doesn't appear to be sorry for anything.  I suppose his saving grace as far as the family was concerned is that they got 9 billion to split up- although if they got it Vivendi stock we're talking about a drop between 70 dollars a share and 20 dollars a share.


  As for the 360 Deal, which literally appears to be his legacy, his gift, if you will to the music industry, I would like to quote @wavveswavves on twitter, from March of 2011.  I think he speaks for me when he says:

AND WHILE I'M AT IT FUCK YOUR 360 DEAL I'M GETTING $$$$$$ OVER HERE W/O ANY FUCKING LABEL!  (TWITTER)
 


NOTES

(1)  First of all, I bought this book brand new for a penny, which means that they shipped a ton (publication date was July 13th, 2010) and didn't sell many of them.

(2)  Time Warner, of course, was acquired in AOL in 2000, a merger widely described as the "worst of all time."  Time Warner received AOL stock, and so that didn't really work out for anyone, long term.

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