Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Miscellanea

Let's start with a list of the worst, and I mean worst, songs of the 1960s. Be warned, some of these songs may make you pass out from sheer aesthetic horror. But if you just listen to a little bit of each one, there may be no permanent damage! Here is a sample from the ever-popular Polish school of surfing music:

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This piece from the composer's site NewMusicBox on the purpose of art looked promising at first but just seemed to go nowhere at all, fairly economically...
After reflecting on these thinkers and their personal answers, I see a collective call for humanness, play, and social delight. In determining the answer for yourself, it might point you to different tools, notations, instruments, or actions that lead you outside the traditional bounds of music making, but in attempting to answer such a large question we become more considered in our approach to making it.
If only I could figure out what that could possibly mean.

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 Also from NewMusicBox is a piece on the Dutch electric guitar quartet Zwerm. Here is a sample of their work:

Ok, that sounds a bit like Erik Satie, if he were really stoned and a jazz musician...

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Now here is something really unusual: a mainstream (well, sort-of mainstream) article that precisely agrees with me on an important issue. In fact, that captures perhaps the main reason I started this blog: music journalism sucks! Here is the link. And here is the basic point:
One can read through a stack of music magazines and never find any in-depth discussion of music.  Technical knowledge of the art form has disappeared from its discourse. In short, music criticism has turned into lifestyle reporting.
Of course, it is even worse than that. There are whole books, like the one on Sibelius I was talking about yesterday, that also have virtually nothing about the music, replacing technical discussion with "critical theory". The article I am linking to is well worth reading in full because it outlines how talk about music has degenerated into talk about the consumer's lifestyle:
Even statements that appear, at first glance, to address musical issues are often lifestyle statements in disguise. I’ve learned this the hard way, by getting into detailed discussions over musical tastes, and discovering that if you force pop culture insiders to be as precise as possible in articulating the reasons why they favor a band or a singer, it almost always boils down to: “I like [fill in the name] because they make me feel good about my lifestyle.” Most disputes about music in the current day are actually disagreements about lifestyle masquerading as critical judgments.
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That's all I have for you this morning, so let's find a piece of music to end with. How about something that makes us feel good about our lifestyle? How about some Erik Satie? Here is his first Gnossienne:

UPDATE: I just ran across something that gives us another perspective on "music as lifestyle". Here is an article in the Wall Street Journal about people who curate playlists for music streaming services:
Music "curators" make mixes that serve not just as primers on broad genres or eras, but as soundtracks for increasingly narrow slices of the human experience, from romantic heartbreak to a bad day at the office. Professional playlist makers are suddenly in demand as the post-CD music economy reshapes itself. With access to just about any song ever recorded, music fans drowning in digital tracks on Spotify and elsewhere are looking for warm-blooded guides to find the best of them.
Sigh... I need a soundtrack for my increasing Weltschmertz over how people seem to approach music in a shallower and shallower fashion. Hmmmm, I guess I'll have to curate my own playlist for that one.

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