What the h... is wrong with music today?

Qvist

Active Member
And when one needs context of the life of the artist to enjoy their work, I'd argue you're venturing close to didacticism.

Did I write that one needs the context of the life of the artist to enjoy their work?

As much as I revere their importance and enjoy their body of work as a whole, Joy Division are overrated in my opinion and the only reason I can see Closer giving one deeper appreciation for the band is because much of their work is, like Sonic Youth, too cold to penetrate and putting a face on the pain makes it more personal and approachable. It doesn't make it good art

Really? I must be stupid then.
No work is "too cold to penetrate". What you are describing is not a trait of Joy Division, but a way to experience them - and if there's a shortcoming involved, is it on the side of Joy Division?

Very few people go to Joy Division with no context. What Control achieves is the displacement of one type of context in favor of another. It has been Ian Curtis' fate to become one of the most heavily mythified characters of rock history, quasi-deified into the pope of pain, acquiring a perverse sort of of ultimate street cred by backing it all up by hanging himself. Which I suspect is what tends to create the peculiar perception you describe, a combination of reverence and impenetrability that leads people to employ words like "majestic" and "God-like" in describing them. At least if they like them more than you seem to do.

Personally I never could see anything remotely "god-like" in Curtis' lyrics, rather something desperate. But pain and desperation are concepts who do not tend to thrive artistically when shorn of any context, divorced from any specific experience or personality. They are quintessentially personal. That doesn't neccessarily mean "biographical", but with Ian Curtis' lyrics there aren't many other options available, as they invariably take the form of an inner monologue - they don't set up any sort of context for themselves in the way lyrics or literature can do, for instance by the use of fictional characters or specific situations. There are no Dagenham Daves or mute witnesses in there. In my opinion, both the music and the lyrics gain considerably in force when experienced in the context of Curtis' specific circumstances and story, and I would suggest that it is exactly the absence of that context combined with the presence of their deified status which makes it seem "too cold to penetrate". The lyrics are personal - to introduce that angle is not to add something alien and superfluous to them, but rather to return them to their natural state, from which they have been displaced by 30 years of rock mythology. Since most of us didn't grow up in Manchester in the 1970s and didn't know Ian Curtis personally, the only way we can access that context other than tentatively trying to imagine it on the basis of the lyrics themselves is through other works of art, such as "Control". I'm sorry if it didn't work out for you, perhaps you ought to give it another go.

cheers
 
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PregnantForTheLastTime

Hideous trait.
Worm--

That music is interesting, but doesn't really sound different, does it? However, I can see that they've incorporated context right into the music, and they're using the internet as an intentional delivery method, not a substitute one. Is that a significant enough shift to call it "the future?" Not every song can successfully contain that much exposition--it reminds me of Lynch's Dune.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
In a limited sense, yes, the insistence on context can be an exercise in didacticism. There's no doubt context helps deepen and enrich our experiences, but it isn't totally necessary. I knew nothing about The Smiths when I first listened to them.

By "context" I had meant to convey an ostensibly vaguer, but in fact much more immediate and direct experience.

Nobody has commented on the first passage I quoted from Patti Smith's book. The charm of the anecdote consists of all the things we now look at as incidental, trivial and unnecessary: Matthew feverishly changing 45s on a record player, Patti pulling her collection of singles out from beneath a pile of laundry, Robert's (I assume) bemused facial expression, all of which takes place in a single setting on a single evening in honor of Phil Spector.

True, this impromptu party could have taken place with an iPod, but I think it serves to get across the point that how we experience music is, in most cases, for most people, very different than kids in the early Seventies did. I liked the anecdote I quoted because it was so small and commonplace, but you can apply the same thinking to the context of bigger events. For instance, Morrissey seeing the Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall. If Morrissey had downloaded eight tracks by the Sex Pistols and played them on his iBook, would they have affected his life as they did? Wasn't there something more than just the music, the shock of the songs?

We've abstracted a few elements out of context, but the context is much more than understanding the British unemployment rate, the cost of cigarettes, where John Lydon was born, and so on. By "context" is meant, also, the venue, the smell of beer and pot in the nostrils, the cold and damp in the air outside, the acoustics of the hall, the mood of the crowd, the posturing of the band, the overflowing toilet in the back, the strange looking tramp in the alleyway Morrissey saw on the way over, Elton John on a radio in the lobby. There were a thousand details, almost all of them humdrum, that were attached to that one gig-- yet we think we know the Sex Pistols, Morrissey, and Manchester in the late Seventies!

I'm not suggesting that we should expect gigs like that to happen all the time. Rather, I'm trying to illustrate that we should think more imaginatively about the history of music: we know what went right, but do we know exactly why? Lanier's argument-- and many others would agree, I'm sure-- is that our new digital world diminishes our capacity to have direct, unmediated, tactile experiences with music in 'real' settings. That goes for live music as well as for private experiences, such as the one described in Patti Smith's book. (The example of Joy Division is also instructive, because so much of the aura surrounding the band was created by a designer, Peter Saville.)

Maybe if we think more imaginatively about the past we'll conclude that many of the older ways of consuming music really didn't add much to the experience. It's possible. But trying it would be important. Not enough thought has been given to the conditions in which all the great music of the past was made. It's silly to try and reproduce those conditions, or try and 'un-modernize' oneself, but it's just as silly not to pay attention to the differences, and what they might mean.
 
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theboywho

New Member
Certainly the most interesting thread going,

'Morrissey seeing the Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall. If Morrissey had downloaded eight tracks by the Sex Pistols and played them on his iBook, would they have affected his life as they did?'

I'd agree with you there.... There has to be a medium though. To renounce new technology is tantamount to disaster for a noo band..

Still,
Mailing lists, street teams, repackage repackage..... BLEARGH.

There's always hope though. It'd be really refreshing for a band to make it the ol'fashioned way..... Gigs, word o'mouth, blackmail........

Ecoute (the shameless plug),
www.myspace.com/signalemusik
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Worm--

That music is interesting, but doesn't really sound different, does it? However, I can see that they've incorporated context right into the music, and they're using the internet as an intentional delivery method, not a substitute one. Is that a significant enough shift to call it "the future?" Not every song can successfully contain that much exposition--it reminds me of Lynch's Dune.

The music fuses hip-hop, rave, and probably half a dozen sub-genres of each. The idiom is South African. It's a hybridized, globalized mash-up. Recognizing various elements of previously-existing genres isn't important. It is 'new' in the sense that it's outside the boundaries of sanctioned culture. It represents the only way forward for music that wants to be truly, defiantly new. Hip-hop will not be re-invented, but we will see a South African flavor, a Brazilian flavor, a Scottish flavor, a Russian flavor, a Korean flavor...

When I call it "the future" I don't write without irony or ambiguity, by the way. :rolleyes:

But I'm not really joking. If popular culture in 2010 were a dart board, with the center representing the vital, beating heart of the youth culture of today and tomorrow, this would be near the bullseye. Morrissey wouldn't even be on the board.

Rest assured this style of music will never replace the old; we will have all of our favorite music sold and re-sold to us until we die, as The Who at the Super Bowl attest. So we can all ignore this music if we like, and continue to stock our crypts with as many copies of our mummified gods as we like.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Certainly the most interesting thread going,

'Morrissey seeing the Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall. If Morrissey had downloaded eight tracks by the Sex Pistols and played them on his iBook, would they have affected his life as they did?'

I'd agree with you there.... There has to be a medium though. To renounce new technology is tantamount to disaster for a noo band..

Still,
Mailing lists, street teams, repackage repackage..... BLEARGH.

There's always hope though. It'd be really refreshing for a band to make it the ol'fashioned way..... Gigs, word o'mouth, blackmail........

Ecoute (the shameless plug),
www.myspace.com/signalemusik

I'm in total agreement. As I said, there's no going back. I'm not going to sell my iPod so I can go buy an antique 750-pound phonograph, then spend a week brooding over a single 78-rpm record, bellowing a "hallelujah" every time I hear a pop or hiss on the vinyl. I'm sure there must be ways to make the new technology work for the benefit of mankind, and I think it would behoove us to try and address the question head-on rather than show blind trust in technology and 'progress'.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Another point. Patti Smith, least of all people, though "rock was dead" before she recorded "Horses". Her quote reflects the concern she had at the time, a concern echoed by many others in the first few waves of punk and post-punk music, that music was headed in a dangerous direction. Rock and pop were dominated by mega-corporations and were rapidly becoming soulless spectacles (see: the worst excesses of disco).

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that Patti Smith did think rock was dead. Let's say she sat there in New York, in 1973, and threw up her hands in despair and said "it's over, nothing else can happen, music is finished".

She still recorded "Hey Joe" and "Horses". She and some of her peers still helped kick-start punk rock, in one way or another.

If we imagine Smith flatly declaring rock was dead, and yet she helped revitalize rock, what can we assume?

We can assume that she picked up a mic and a guitar anyway, rounded up a few friends, and busted through a big wall. There was space to innovate-- she found it. She borrowed the poet-singer aspect of Dylan and Morrison and got musicians together who could play a rougher-edged, more spontaneous music, or a little experimentally, or just plain idiosyncratically. Her mindset wasn't even 'futuristic'-- as she writes, the songs were inspired by subjects like Rimbaud, Jimi Hendrix, and her sister! The legendary "Piss Factory" wasn't William Burroughs set to rock, it was a poem put to music about a job she had as a teenager! In a sense you could say the album is slightly conservative rather than 'futuristic'. But at the end of the day it broke through a wall and helped others break down other walls. In explorer's terminology, there were still blank white spots on the unfinished map of the world.

Can the same be said now? If I'm sitting in a room, declaring "rock is dead", what could I possibly discover by grabbing a guitar and forming a band? Could I put poetry to music? Been done. Could I write angry music? Been done. Could I write snarky passive aggressive music? Been done. Could I fuse hip-hop and rock, or techno with rock? Been done. Could I look to Africa or South America for rhythmic innovation? Been done. Could I write humorous lyrics? Been done. Could I go farther afield and start making non-music, get into dissonance or pure noise? Been done. Magic? Shamanism? Charlatanism? Hard politics? Folksy idealism?

It's all been done.

I hear a question shouted from the peanut gallery: but, Worm, how is that any different than the Sixties or Seventies? Weren't they saying "It's all been done, what can I add?" To which I reply: that is precisely why it's important to determine whether we're just in the trough of an up-and-down cycle or whether there are certain external forces-- historical, political, technological-- that might have changed the game in a fundamental and irrevocable way. I don't see how anyone could look at what's happened in the world, in those three areas, and not at least be a little curious about whether or not things have changed underneath our noses-- especially when the dominant ideology of the marketplace is to affirm, aggressively, that nothing whatsoever has changed. "Yeah, some of the faces and the names have changed, but music's pretty much the same as it ever was-- lighten up, dude!": this is the voice of pure ideology.
 
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Anaesthesine

Angel of Distemper
Context can mean so many things. When I made that comment about the interwebs destroying or creating a false context, I meant it mainly in an experiential way (as you noted above, Worm).

You don't have to know the life story of an artist to love their music (but a great story always helps). The experience of music used to be rooted in a concrete time and place. The first time I heard The Smiths was in a dorm room - a friend got his hands on an early copy of the record, and we listened to the whole album all the way through, together - it felt like something was happening.

I can't imagine the difference if I had downloaded a few songs, listened to them on my iPod as I walked to work, or shuffled them in with a few Cure nuggets and a little Siouxsie. I probably wouldn't have given them nearly as much attention, and it certainly wouldn't have seemed like such an event.

Still, I understand that every generation feels that it was the last authentic generation. In a way, every generation is right, because technology, media and the nature of popular culture seem to arc toward homogeneity. The hard-won innovations of those artists lucky enough to be on a cutting edge are so easily assimilated and regurgitated in an ever-accelerating, increasingly standardized, pre-packaged experience. In the 80s, I had bitter friends who thought that the 70s were the last gasp of all that was truly gritty and rebellious.

As for gigs - if it ain't filthy, smoke-filled and in violation of several safety regulations, if you didn't have to jump over a few junkies and dodge a few bullets on your way to that particular basement, then it ain't art. ;)

Not every song can successfully contain that much exposition--it reminds me of Lynch's Dune.

In more ways than one.
 

PregnantForTheLastTime

Hideous trait.
I hear a question shouted from the peanut gallery: but, Worm, how is that any different than the Sixties or Seventies? Weren't they saying "It's all been done, what can I add?" To which I reply: that is precisely why it's important to determine whether we're just in the trough of an up-and-down cycle or whether there are certain external forces-- historical, political, technological-- that might have changed the game in a fundamental and irrevocable way. I don't see how anyone could look at what's happened in the world, in those three areas, and not at least be a little curious about whether or not things have changed underneath our noses-- especially when the dominant ideology of the marketplace is to affirm, aggressively, that nothing whatsoever has changed. "Yeah, some of the faces and the names have changed, but music's pretty much the same as it ever was-- lighten up, dude!": this is the voice of pure ideology.

Well, what if the sign of the times is blandness? What was happening in the forties and into the fifties until rock n roll sprang up? Everything can't be new and revolutionary. I suppose I'm voting that we're in a lull. It's just not possible that all ingenuity has been suppressed and all hunger has been satiated. If everyone in the world lived like the average American, maybe. But there's still plenty of genuine trial and conflict in the world. We're not completely drugged by consumer culture.
 

bk3000

Badhead
Patti Smith deserves credit for her artistic integrity and the fire she lit in others but I find her music a dull, nearly painful affair. And her quoted comments are self-important, inflated and out of touch. What I hear in those statements is that white music in her opinion was dead. The 1970's were a great decade for soul and funk music. Stevie Wonder's masterpieces or those of Parliament Funkadelic or the amazing Al Green apparently are discounted for reasons unknown.

And as far as Joy Division being too cold to penetrate, I do find much of their work monotonous, lifeless and unvarying in its form. If you want to say that's on my side, fine, I've no qualms with labeling some of Joy Division's work, like Patti Smith (though not nearly as much as Patti Smith) grossly overrated and if you wish to label me as a dullard unable to appreciate the finer things in life because of such a statement, you may place the label on my back and I'll wear it proudly. One thing I do agree on, I find nothing at all god-like in the lyrics of Ian Curtis. He was a good confessional writer with a touch of poet in him and it's a shame he couldn't stick it out because I think his best work was yet to come.
 

Qvist

Active Member
You're not easily pleased, are you? You jump at me for comments that were plainly directed at someone else, ignore two clarifications of that in sullen silence, make rather a strawman of my points about context and now you're convinced I'm making you out a dullard because you don't like Joy Division. I could offer assurances to the contrary, but would it help?
 

bk3000

Badhead
You're not easily pleased, are you? You jump at me for comments that were plainly directed at someone else, ignore two clarifications of that in sullen silence, make rather a strawman of my points about context and now you're convinced I'm making you out a dullard because you don't like Joy Division. I could offer assurances to the contrary, but would it help?

Heh? I wasn't responding to anything you said, simply giving my take on Patti Smith and Joy Division. I certainly have no idea where I jumped at you. People are so incredibly touchy when you speak against a pop star they deem sacred, as if you've just debased their family name on public access television.

Edit--And I as I've stated, I do like Joy Division. I just find a bulk of their work repetitive and as a whole find them, and especially Ian Curtis, overrated.
 
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Worm

Taste the diffidence
Patti Smith deserves credit for her artistic integrity and the fire she lit in others but I find her music a dull, nearly painful affair. And her quoted comments are self-important, inflated and out of touch. What I hear in those statements is that white music in her opinion was dead. The 1970's were a great decade for soul and funk music. Stevie Wonder's masterpieces or those of Parliament Funkadelic or the amazing Al Green apparently are discounted for reasons unknown.

You got all that out of what I quoted?

In her book Patti Smith spoke often of her love of black music, and spoke of recording "Horses" in Electric Lady Studios as if she were standing in a church built by Christ himself. Your description of her doesn't even come close to the truth.

It really is fascinating to see what kind of baggage people are bringing to this discussion. As soon as you dare to question whether music is healthy, now or at any time, you're instantly branded as out of touch. Music must not be criticized-- say anything you want, but music must never be criticized. Patti Smith wasn't just wrong, she was wrong, too out of touch, and too white. I guess being a 24-year old living in near-poverty in New York City working as a hostess at the Scribner's cafe, re-selling used books on the sly to earn enough to buy bread and peanut butter, makes you a bourgeois puffball worthy of scorn.
 
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Worm

Taste the diffidence
Well, what if the sign of the times is blandness? What was happening in the forties and into the fifties until rock n roll sprang up? Everything can't be new and revolutionary. I suppose I'm voting that we're in a lull. It's just not possible that all ingenuity has been suppressed and all hunger has been satiated. If everyone in the world lived like the average American, maybe. But there's still plenty of genuine trial and conflict in the world.

You may not be wrong. The question remains: given the history of popular music between the Thirties and the Eighties, and comparing it 1990-2009, wouldn't it appear that we are in a awfully long lull? The kind of lull that might make you wonder a little...?

We're not completely drugged by consumer culture.

:rolleyes:
 

Qvist

Active Member
Heh? I wasn't responding to anything you said, simply giving my take on Patti Smith and Joy Division. I certainly have no idea where I jumped at you. People are so incredibly touchy when you speak against a pop star they deem sacred, as if you've just debased their family name on public access television.

What, was this addressed to the world in general? :

And as far as Joy Division being too cold to penetrate, I do find much of their work monotonous, lifeless and unvarying in its form. If you want to say that's on my side, fine, I've no qualms with labeling some of Joy Division's work, like Patti Smith (though not nearly as much as Patti Smith) grossly overrated and if you wish to label me as a dullard unable to appreciate the finer things in life because of such a statement, you may place the label on my back and I'll wear it proudly.

But hey, if you say so, who am I to argue.

cheers
 

PregnantForTheLastTime

Hideous trait.
You may not be wrong. The question remains: given the history of popular music between the Thirties and the Eighties, and comparing it 1990-2009, wouldn't it appear that we are in a awfully long lull? The kind of lull that might make you wonder a little...?

Wonder whether art in music is dead? No, never. I refuse to believe that. Is writing (literature) dead? Not publishing, writing. I agree that the changes in delivery methods have compounded the soporific effects of consumer culture. Sensory overload tends to make you shut down. You notice less, not more.

Yes, you're right, mass media and the internet actually fragment our society more than they bring it together, as we've gone over in this thread. Do you think we'll grow to seek out community again, in other ways? I just find it hard to believe that humans could take 10,000 years of evolution into highly social, artistic beings and toss it away over the ability to Facebook.
 
First of all I apologise if I go over points made in the rest of the thread (I read through 2 pages). I merely want to state my 2 cents.

I personally think the thing is that music has been through so many forms that I genuinely think pretty much has already been done, making it pretty much impossible for anyone to be 100% original anymore. But that for me isn't a mega issue. People are still finding interesting ways to put there own touch to music.

It's a funny thing really, because we can piss and moan how about how there are no more brilliant life changing bands like The Beatles, Joy Divison, The Sex Pistols, The Rolling Stones etc. But, these bands came at a time where there were plenty of genres in music that hadn't been quite discovered or explored.

So I ask, what is more impressive. Being the Beatles and captivating a huge audience and changing peoples life in music at a time where there was still much to be explored, or be a band, for example Radiohead. Who have captivated a massive audience for themselves (although obviously not on the scale as The Beatles) and changed the lives of some, at a time where pretty much (In my opinion) 90% of music has been tried, tested and done to death.
I personally think the latter.

There is still plenty of music out there that I enjoy, and in some cases Love.

It's all subjective anyway. We can all scream and argue until were blue in the face but you can't and won't change someones mind. If you enjoy music being created today you enjoy it, no amount of people arguing can make you change your mind.
 

bk3000

Badhead
What, was this addressed to the world in general? :

Sure. I'm sorry, you and Worm seem to parrot each others thoughts so I possibly addressed something to him that I was to you or vice versa. I'm just dipping in here and reading bits when I can. I apologize for that.



But hey, if you say so, who am I to argue.

cheers

:guitar:
 

bk3000

Badhead
You got all that out of what I quoted?

In her book Patti Smith spoke often of her love of black music, and spoke of recording "Horses" in Electric Lady Studios as if she were standing in a church built by Christ himself. Your description of her doesn't even come close to the truth.

It really is fascinating to see what kind of baggage people are bringing to this discussion. As soon as you dare to question whether music is healthy, now or at any time, you're instantly branded as out of touch. Music must not be criticized-- say anything you want, but music must never be criticized. Patti Smith wasn't just wrong, she was wrong, too out of touch, and too white. I guess being a 24-year old living in near-poverty in New York City working as a hostess at the Scribner's cafe, re-selling used books on the sly to earn enough to buy bread and peanut butter, makes you a bourgeois puffball worthy of scorn.

What I got out of it is that she thought music was dead or dying. Unless I've missed it, has the blatant irony of that been commented on here? My second point I stand behind: if she thought music was dying she obviously wasn't paying attention to funk and soul in the 70s. Not only was it vital, hip-hop would soon evolve from it. Music hardly needed Patti Smith to save it anymore than literature needed Hemingway to rescue it. Great artists with vision but still nothing but drops in the bucket.

I don't know what you're getting at with music not being criticized, I've surely done a fair share of it with the sacred, pun intended, Horses of Patti and Joy Division. Dissent is welcome in my book.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Wonder whether art in music is dead? No, never. I refuse to believe that. Is writing (literature) dead? Not publishing, writing. I agree that the changes in delivery methods have compounded the soporific effects of consumer culture. Sensory overload tends to make you shut down. You notice less, not more.

And what you do notice, you notice distractedly.

Yes, you're right, mass media and the internet actually fragment our society more than they bring it together, as we've gone over in this thread. Do you think we'll grow to seek out community again, in other ways? I just find it hard to believe that humans could take 10,000 years of evolution into highly social, artistic beings and toss it away over the ability to Facebook.

You're comparing the last few years of human history to the previous 10,000 years. Technology changes things rapidly. A hundred years ago you couldn't say that a man could push a button and extinguish all life on the planet. Now you can. Why should other changes, even ostensibly trivial ones like Facebook, not have just as big an impact on our lives? Do we know what the new media technologies really do to our minds? Do you realize that most of us haven't really thought through what it all means? Have you noticed that nobody answered the troubling questions about shorter attention spans, but just stopped talking about it? Have you noticed that parents who were told that TV would rot their kids' brains are now watching the same kids govern the nation as adults-- both in office and as voters? How's that working out, would you say?
 
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