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2802Re: Dumbing down...

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  • John Everall
    Apr 2, 1999
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      Alex Stone wrote:
      > From: Alex Stone <alex@astone.u-net.com>

      > All I meant was that experimental music is experimental because it is
      > trying to bring about something which has not existed before.

      Is this strictly true? The avant-garde in numerous cases seems more immersed in *tradition*
      than the *pop* world. An example: Aube's new CD is constructed entirely from amplified
      brainwaves. Alvin Lucier did the same thing over thirty years ago. Does this mean that Aube's
      work is not *experimental*? Seems to depend on the listener. A lack of familiarity with
      Lucier's work would probably result in a listener perceiving the Aube CD as *experimental*.
      Another example: I was fifteen when "Second Annual Report" came out & to me it sounded like
      nothing on earth; yet older friends yawned and concluded that it had all been done before. I
      think context is important. TG were operating within the rock/pop world, rather than in the
      world of *art* music.

      It *usually*
      > takes time for experimental music to become mainstream popular, if it ever
      > does. Laurie Anderson was pretty much an aberration, and I wonder if it
      > sold more on novelty value than anything else.

      But hasn't a certain kind of *novelty value* been a constant feature of the avant-garde? Cage's
      "4:33" was released as a novelty record a few years ago & received plenty of coverage in the
      mainstream media. Also it is important to look at the way the music industry operates in terms
      of marketability. "Metal Box" was a somewhat experimental record, yet was eminently marketable
      because of Lydon/Rotten being sellable on the strength of consumer loyalty generated during the
      career of the Pistols. This Heat, for example, were obviously less marketable because they
      didn't possess such a strong selling point. I also wonder if Eno's records would have sold much
      if he hadn't been a member of Roxy Music. Merzbow could sell as many copies as Slayer given the
      right label & promotional budget, especially if Masami Akita allowed a record company to
      construct his image & market him as the genuine king of Heavy Metal. I had some friends in
      Nottingham who were in a band called Fudge Tunnel - they signed to Columbia & were told to
      change their name by the label because according to Columbia their name wouldn't appeal to
      Metal fans because they might be considered to be homosexual! They were also told to grow their
      hair long, etc, etc. They refused to do any of these things and were swiftly dropped. I don't
      really think it is a case of how *extreme* or how *experimental* an artist is that matters. Of
      course it is easier to market something with a high degree of redundancy, and consequently
      getting The Spice Girls in the charts is considerably easier than getting NWW in the charts
      (there were strong rumours that Virgin were interested in NWW in the eighties & curiously Smash
      Hits beat The Wire to a piece on Nurse by over a decade! Absolutely true.).

      I wonder how many of the
      > people who put The Flying Lizards on Top Of The Pops were aware of their
      > background as serious experimentalists? I know I wasn't at the time - it
      > looked like simply a more interesting kind of novelty record. As for The
      > White Album, I wonder how many of the people who bought it really enjoyed
      > Revolution No. 9 after the novelty wore off? Did Lennon and Ono's
      > subsequent experiments shift by the bucketload? If they did, I don't
      > imagine it was because Beatle fans suddenly became avant garde
      > connoissseurs! Some, perhaps, went on to explore the possibilities. Even
      > Paul McCartney didn't seem too interested in using his influence to push
      > experiemental music as hard as he might have done - and he does seem to
      > have known the score about it in the sixties. The Paul McCartney
      > experimental record might have been an interesting thing - so we get the
      > Frog Song instead (cheap shot I know).

      But if Steve Stapleton had recorded the Frog Song, then it would be considered avant-garde!
      Ever heard the Dorothy record on Industrial Records? An example of pure pop, yet because of
      context it isn't perceived that way. Or Andrew MacKenzie's "My Boy Lollipop"? Look at Rose
      McDowall's career: "Since Yesterday" by Strawberry Switchblade is a pop song, yet when she does
      the same track with Current 93 it suddenly becomes defined as *experimental*. Confused? Yes, I

      > >I have thought about this long and hard & have come to the conclusion that
      > >Les Dawson
      > >was as experimental as Cage - listen to his pre-Portsmouth Sinfonia warped
      > >piano pieces.
      > Rolf Harris, of course, invented World Music and Techno. Morecambe and Wise
      > created great art under the aliases of Gilbert and George. No Goons - no
      > Phil Minton. The list goes on.

      Yup. And Martin Denny unwittingly invented Industrial as he was the primary influence on TG &
      Boyd Rice (hence the source of Tim Gane's interest. Anybody remember his pre-Stereolab,
      pre-Macarthy project Uncommunity?).


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