Saturday, October 29, 2011

Music Journalism

Most music journalism is news about artists and events, new releases, hirings, firings and so on. But it also includes reviews of recordings and performances which is when it becomes, potentially, interesting from my point of view. Here is a piece about a new album, a collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica. I find it very odd, but then I find most reviews very odd. It seems to start with the conclusions, then go on to discuss specifics, but without ever linking them to the conclusions. I wonder if this is because of the distorting demands of journalism that seem to turn most stories upside down so you have to read to the end to find the most pertinent details that should have been at the beginning. Here is a bit from near the beginning:
It's not really designed for people who like music. It sounds like what it is: an elderly misanthrope reciting paradoxical aphorisms over a collection of repetitive, adrenalized sludge licks.
I went to listen to the album but couldn't get past the first thirty seconds of the first three cuts; but they do seem to bear out this comment. The article goes on for much longer, but after that beginning, I wonder why? He does make an interesting point towards the end. This collaboration is a free initiative by the artists, bowing to no commercial demands. The writer, Chuck Klosterman, comments:
For much of my life, I lived under the myth that record labels were inherently evil. I was ceaselessly reminded that corporate forces stopped artists from doing what they truly desired; they pushed musicians toward predictable four-minute radio singles and frowned upon innovation, and they avariciously tried to turn art into a soulless commodity that MTV could sell to the lowest common denominator. And that did happen, sometimes. But some artists need that, or they end up making albums like this.
There are some half-truths there. It is true that art needs discipline. Often that discipline is imposed from the outside--by the noble patrons of the Renaissance, for example. More often it is an essential part of the work of the composer to impose self-discipline. But a creative pop artist faced with, say the four-minute (or even two-minute) limits of a radio single, does not turn out the predictable, because that won't get you to number one!

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