Archive for April, 2012
hat tips GucciSoFlosy and frankhats
After promising to post notes on Simon Reynolds' book Retromania I keep putting it down because it's so depressing. The nut concept, repeated over and over, is: after psychedelia in the '60s, prog and punk in the '70s, hiphop and house in the '80s, and rave and jungle in the '90s, why oh why* was there no new fresh, exciting, original music in the '00s?
My answers are:
1. Because, you, Reynolds, lost the passion and ability to make the case for "new" music. You're the critic but your job isn't just to complain that earlier generations were better.
2. Because all those earlier movements had one or two "stars" who broke through and were relentlessly promoted by businesspeople. Something like the chiptune scene could have been pushed to the forefront but the '00s also saw the collapse of "the industry" in favor of all the micro-trends Reynolds discusses. Malcolm McLaren even tried to play his old Sex Pistols svengali role with chiptunes but there was no industry to back it up and ram it home through relentless airplay and marketing. There was no Bit Shifter on Johnny Carson moment.
Reynolds excels at documenting all the backward-looking trends of the last decade -- we already discussed re-enactments -- and even the pre-'00s history of backward-looking trends. He makes intriguing sociological/semiotic observations about a couple of these:
The British "trad jazz" movement of the '50s. These folks eschewed bop or anything that smacked of "art" in jazz by keeping alive the freewheeling fun and danceability of New Orleans jazz of the '20s. Problem was they only knew this music through records. Reynolds quotes Hilary Moore that when playing live, the trad jazzers would faithfully mimic the "distorted instrumental balance and faulty intonation" of the music reproduced on vinyl 78s. Wish there was more detail about this but it takes your mind in weird directions.
The UK's "Northern Soul" movement fetishized classic Motown singles. Because American soul music had already moved on to funk and slower tempos, the Northern Soulsters tried to mine gold from the same overworked vein of older, almost-hits from Motown. Because the Motown "system" cranked out so many of these in search of a single monster hit, there was enough material to keep the UK scene alive for years. Reynolds: "Northern Soul found a strangely liberating gap within this system; it transformed redundant waste into the knowledge base and means-to-bliss of a working-class elite."
Again, pretty thought-provoking. Nuggets like this make the book useful even if its conclusions are repellent.
*Richard West: "[Daniel DeFoe] was the first master, if not the inventor, of almost every feature of modern newspapers, including the leading article, investigative reporting, the foreign news analysis, the agony aunt, the gossip column, the candid obituary, and even the kind of soul–searching piece which Fleet Street calls the ‘Why, Oh Why.'"
"War and Salsa" [7.3 MB .mp3]
I wrote these march rhythms using Reaktor's minimal morphing drum and then ran them through a couple of filter plugins. Then added some additional percussion and the inevitable jazzy Rhodes. The title was suggested by a transition around 2:19 from some harsh "videogame shooter" beats back to the smooth Latinoid piano. I may tweak the piano parts to make them a little less MIDI -- haven't decided. Update: naw.
hat tips GucciSoFlosy
An art & technology project (?) called a Descriptive Camera uses Amazon Mechanical Turk to generate, instead of photos, small slips of paper with descriptions of the object or scene viewed through the lens. The webpage summary got me thinking of the ethics of this type of endeavor, after I stopped crying over the people in trailers and hovels putting honest effort, for micro-pittances, into this sophisticated student project. The camera may not be art but it provoked an art-like emotional reaction and that reaction was Weltschmerz.
Usually with Wikipedia articles I go straight to the "Criticism" section; the Mechanical Turk article's is suprisingly small. The article footnotes led to these resources, however (all from 2010):
How Mechanical Turk is Broken. From an economics standpoint, "the site will continue to function primarily as an object lesson in the ways that poorly constructed markets fail."
Work and the Internet. Some considerations of whether Turk skirts minimum wage laws. (I'd say yes.)
Mechanical Turk: Now With 40.92% Spam. This one is truly perverse: it used Turk workers to classify Turk projects as spam or not.
No conclusions yet; this post is a listicle of other thoughts on the subject. Probably we should be thinking about this. Just because a tech service doesn't work doesn't mean it won't eventually become the new labor pool model for all jobs.
(hat tip Alessandra)
Joshua Kopstein has a good article in The Verge about the problem of making a buck off of art meant to be consumed via the internet. He considers the success or failure of the micropayments model, through the snake-eating-tail conundrum of 0-Day Art (dedicated to keeping art online) being included in an Art Micro Patronage show (which limits access to work by non-patrons, after a show has ended).
He mentions Lauren Cornell's GIF-selling gaffe at the Armory (as we are now going to describe it, for want of a real explanation). Cornell continues to insist the artist made her take the GIF offline so the collector could have it locally (which isn't how the artist has described her methodology) and even got an awkward disclaimer attached to the end of Kopstein's article!
hat tip blingscience for rabbit
"Swim With Dolphins, Run With Logan" [7.6 MB .mp3]
Back in the software realm with spooky beats and a nerdy 303 clone ending.
hat tip pecco