Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Miscellanea

Just did not have time to get this up earlier. I want to start with a response I left to a comment because otherwise you might miss it. The comment was on this recent post.

The post was about the Beatles' album Rubber Soul. Here is the comment:
Northern Transmissions covers new music on a daily basis. It has a staff of roughly eight writers who all have a passion for various types of independent music. The site prides itself on being fiercely independent and honest in its coverage of albums.
and my response:
I love it when a company tries to use my comment section to advertise their product. It is so, uh, sensitive to the nature of this particular site. Now these "roughly" eight writers (and I have to ask, does that mean 7.9 writers, or that the writers are themselves rather rough?) who have a passion for various types of independent music, is this passion mediated by any sort of actual musical knowledge? And I'm so delighted to hear that they are not only independent, like the music, but "fiercely" independent. I just hope their prose doesn't suffer too much from all this rough fierceness. Investigating their website ( it seems as if their roughly eight writers consist of one Charles Brownstein. Here is some of this deathless writing on music: 
"Remember back in 2005-2007 when any indie band that so much as glanced at a synth or wore colourful clothes were instantly bequeathed the tag of ‘nu-rave’? Pull Tiger Tail were one of those acts lumped into this hodge podge genre that turned out to have the longevity akin to one of Kim Jong Un’s uncles. Rather appropriately PTT used to share a house with the godfathers of nu-rave, Klaxons. PTT’s lifespan was short and quickly dissolved after tangles with management and their record label. Out of the embers of their former outfit, Marcus Pepperell and John Harrison formed Thumpers and with it any nu-rave preconceptions have been brushed off for a quirky pop sound that makes up the spine of their debut LP Galore." Somehow, that does not make me want to seek out the source of so much breathless and maladroit prose.

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On the musical interrogation front, we have the news that Skinny Puppy, who are apparently among the founders of the electro-industrial genre, are upset that their music has been used as a kind of torture to interrogate prisoners in Guantanamo. They want to invoice the Pentagon for $666,000 for this. I have to say that I don't know the oeuvre of Skinny Puppy, but if some of my music were being used as an instrument of torture, I probably wouldn't want to advertise that fact. I can't put up a clip at the moment, but please, investigate for yourselves. Suitable for torture purposes?

* * *

Here is odd sort of fraud/controversy: all the music, much of it for video games, supposedly written by the deaf composer Mamoru Samuragochi, was actually written by the university professor Takashi Niigaki, who is not deaf. And neither is Mr. Samuragochi. Anne Midgette asks, is the music itself any good? I think this is the aesthetic question, is the music itself fraudulent? It seems an odd sort of controversy. Doesn't this sort of thing happen all the time in the literary world? Aren't most autobiographies supposedly by politicians actually written by ghostwriters? I suppose the typical kind of fraud is for a nonentity to try and pass off their work as being by someone famous. But I can think of an opposite example. Mozart's Symphony No. 37 isn't actually his work, most of it. He took a symphony by Michael Haydn, brother of Joseph Haydn, added a slow introduction, tinkered with the wind parts, and passed it off as being one of his own.

* * *

I'm rather envious of this article in the Guardian: it manages to insult just about everyone, something I have tried to do a couple of times! Apparently we classical musicians are "precious, egocentric, grandiose and socially stunted" and our management are "narcissistic, obtuse, living in the past" while record companies are "risk-averse and budget-deprived, relying on their back catalogue as a life raft." What about composers? Don't we get a gratuitous insult? How about we are all writing "absurdly overcomposed monstrosities that no-one wants to hear?" But all that was just a warm-up as it seems that the real problem is rampant sexism. And well, isn't that always the case? On the one hand it is reprehensible that there is not gender equality at the conductor's podium, but on the other hand, young women artists are marketed according to their sex appeal. It seems to me that if you are going to force gender equality at the podium, you should also be prepared to require that all publicity photos of attractive young women musicians have them wearing paper bags over their heads so as not do disadvantage the young men. Or, in the case of Yuja Wang, a burlap sack as well.

* * *

And now, to close, let's listen to the Symphony No. 37 by Michael Haydn/Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:


Rickard Dahl said...

Ah, the gender issue topic. Feminists focus on trivial issues like how women are portrayed in TV, magazines, video games, books, music etc. (a minor paranthesis: they themselves use make-up to potray themselves as more beautiful or ugly than they are, yet they don't like to be potrayed as such, irony works in mysterious ways) yet ignore or even deny the many issues that affect men in society. The reality is much more complicated than feminists can ever admit. Studies/research (see for many interesting facts) show for instance that domestic violence is not a gender issue, it's a human issue ( On the topic of music and "equality", basically, more women want to participate in the classical world then what is needed is to them to step their game up and compete on the same level as men. Affirmative action is discriminating to everyone, both the ones to get disadvantaged by it and those who benefit. Those who get disadvantaged by it are the ones who are better at doing what they do, thus they work harder only to fall lower. Those who benefit from it actually show everyone that they are weaker, that they can't compete with everyone else. It shows that they are entitled to special treatment due to race, gender, sexuality etc.

Rickard Dahl said...

if more women want*, forgot the if in that sentence

Mr. Sullivan said...

I've been enjoying your blog for a while now and I'm sorry my first comment is too offer a negative critique, but I cannot agree with your reaction to the Guardian article.

Nowhere in the article is there any indication of that the author believes we should "force equality" or impose any form of affirmative action. Instead, Rhodes simply offers evidence that the classical community does have sexism problem and should have an "instant and resolute change in attitude from the top down." I think we can both agree with this stance.

Also, I'm assuming your comment about attractive young women needing to wear paper bags over their heads so as not to disadvantage males is probably tongue-in-cheek, but I'll bite. As you have elsewhere pointed out (as does the Guardian article itself, which you fail to mention), the attractive female classical musician is already common, yet males still dominate the genre, with absolutely no sign of being disadvantaged.

As the article clearly indicates, women face plenty of prejudice in the field of classical music. Why not concern ourselves with that, instead of the imagined disadvantages males must contend with in the same field?

Bryan Townsend said...

My attitude to the Guardian article was mostly prompted by the snarky insulting of just about everyone in the first couple of paragraphs. And yes, my comments were very much tongue in cheek. I also think that, the conductor issue aside, sexism in classical music is very much an exaggerated issue. I suspect that there are a lot of old-boy networks running behind the scenes when it comes to conductors and that is, of course, a bad thing. But I also think that in the sexualised marketing that surrounds up and coming artists these days, that young men are really disadvantaged. Hence my sardonic remarks.

You may think that the article clearly indicates x, y and z. And that other things are "imagined", but I may disagree!