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RE: [thewire] Re: subcultures and hegemony.

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  • Jawed Ashraf
    ... People have been reading *scores* for hundreds of years and critiquing music solely on that basis. But of course, with the passing of time, scores became
    Message 1 of 12 , Apr 2, 2001
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      > > It seems to me that along with the commodification of music has
      > come greater
      > > and greater sophistication of music. Of course, you could argue this is
      > > pure coincidence. Beethoven didn't continue to write music of ever
      >
      > I don't think so- the fact that the music has been recorded for on-demand
      > playback allows the listener to analyze it much more carefully than if it
      > were a non-repeatable experience (e.g. live show). For instance, you can
      > "study" jazz by playing records over and over and then go out and absorb
      > much more from a live performance.

      People have been reading *scores* for hundreds of years and critiquing music
      solely on that basis. But of course, with the passing of time, scores
      became a commercially available product, so they came to function like
      records in some ways. This is why the argument about capitalism/culture is
      all tangled-up - the last 100 years were *not* the formative years (well, I
      don't think so).

      But, I agree, recordings allow more people to get involved in criticism. I
      wrote my original email with that concept firmly at the front of my mind.

      One of the fundamental problems with this whole discussion is "the cultural
      frame of reference". I haven't a clue what kind of music the Egyptians,
      Greeks, Romans, Jews were all making, collaborating on, criticising in
      ancient times. What do we owe these cultures? What has been subsumed
      beyond contemplation? And as for the Americas/Africa/Asia/Australia, gulp.

      What sets Western culture apart is its willingness to chomp up its own
      arse...

      Jawed
    • R. Lim
      ... Classical music was a rarified privilege for most of the centuries you re talking about. The average person then would make no more sense out of a
      Message 2 of 12 , Apr 2, 2001
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        On Mon, 2 Apr 2001, Jawed Ashraf wrote:

        > People have been reading *scores* for hundreds of years and critiquing music
        > solely on that basis. But of course, with the passing of time, scores

        Classical music was a rarified privilege for most of the "centuries"
        you're talking about. The average person then would make no more sense
        out of a notated score as his/her equivalent today, much less be able to
        make any sort of criticism of it. Hence when you say "people" in this
        sense, you're not really talking about the same "people" that nowadays
        have access to recorded music. This also ignores the fact that some music
        (like jazz) are essentially unnotable.

        > became a commercially available product, so they came to function like
        > records in some ways. This is why the argument about capitalism/culture is
        > all tangled-up - the last 100 years were *not* the formative years (well, I

        If you substitute the term "political economy" for "capitalism" you might
        as well read Attali's book and do a book report on it. Otherwise, we'll
        have to go back to my previous point about scores.

        > But, I agree, recordings allow more people to get involved in criticism. I
        > wrote my original email with that concept firmly at the front of my mind.

        The quote I was responding to was "It seems to me that along with the
        commodification of music has come greater and greater sophistication of
        music. Of course, you could argue this is pure coincidence. Beethoven
        didn't continue to write music of ever expanding sophistication because it
        was a way to earn money (or did he?). On the other hand some might argue
        that music hasn't gotten better than that written by Beethoven (hmm)."

        You seem to suggest that sophistication of music is driven to some extent
        by the expansion of those able to appreciate it. While this can be true
        (c.f. my jazz example), I would say that the latest music industry
        triumphs (teenyboppers!) seem to suggest the complete opposite.

        > One of the fundamental problems with this whole discussion is "the cultural
        > frame of reference". I haven't a clue what kind of music the Egyptians,
        > Greeks, Romans, Jews were all making, collaborating on, criticising in
        > ancient times. What do we owe these cultures? What has been subsumed

        I think one of the fundamental problems is that people who contribute to
        these discussions have very little understanding of history, musically or
        otherwise (yet are more than happy to wax endlessly about the economic
        implications of digital media or namecheck Deleuzes).

        If you want to read about how Western classical music has completely
        kicked Greek modes of music making to the curb, read your Harry Partch.
        Or check out a CD on Harmonia Mundi by Atrium Musicae de Madrid called
        Music of Ancient Greece (actually, its French equivalent). You'll
        probably have to go to a corporate record store to get it, though.

        > What sets Western culture apart is its willingness to chomp up its own
        > arse...

        Or insert its head likewise.

        -rob
      • Jawed Ashraf
        ... Jazz was a rarefied privilege, too (but not, as far as I can tell, because of a lack of education/money). I think you re trying to accuse me of having a
        Message 3 of 12 , Apr 2, 2001
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          > > People have been reading *scores* for hundreds of years and
          > critiquing music
          > > solely on that basis. But of course, with the passing of time, scores
          >
          > Classical music was a rarified privilege for most of the "centuries"
          > you're talking about. The average person then would make no more sense
          > out of a notated score as his/her equivalent today, much less be able to
          > make any sort of criticism of it. Hence when you say "people" in this
          > sense, you're not really talking about the same "people" that nowadays
          > have access to recorded music. This also ignores the fact that some music
          > (like jazz) are essentially unnotable.

          Jazz was a rarefied privilege, too (but not, as far as I can tell, because
          of a lack of education/money). I think you're trying to accuse me of having
          a black and white argument, when all I'm saying is that there is a continuum
          of the mutuality between culture/music and capitalism that stretches quite a
          long way back. Just because an audience is privileged doesn't reduce the
          cultural impact of the art that arises through that audience's consumption
          (maybe you could argue the opposite quite successfully -
          rarefied/underground scenes seem to be where the action has been in lots of
          cases). The fact the audience is seen as privileged, though, does seem to
          be a contemporary reason to ignore some music.

          On Haydn
          "English audiences were Haydn's principal target. He planned two extended
          concert tours to London, the first tour lasting from New Year's Day, 1791,
          to June, '92, the second occurring three years later. Both visits were
          coordinated by Johann Peter Salomon, a German-born violinist and conductor
          now working as a concert promoter in London. Well aware of Haydn's
          popularity in the English capital, Salomon arranged for Haydn to conduct
          weekly concerts, the highlight of which would be a series of new symphonies
          and other works written especially for London. His expectations of success
          were high, and ultimately, those expectations were rewarded. The concerts
          were a critical and popular success. One critic observed, "It is no wonder
          that to souls capable of being touched by music, Haydn should be an object
          of homage, and even of idolatry; for like our own Shakespeare, he moves and
          governs the passions at his will." Haydn's victory was so complete that even
          Oxford University participated, awarding him an honorary Doctorate of Music.
          On that occasion, his Symphony no. 92 was performed, and though the work had
          been composed for Paris, it would no be known forever as the "Oxford"
          Symphony."
          http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/cmp/haydnj.html

          >
          > > became a commercially available product, so they came to function like
          > > records in some ways. This is why the argument about
          > capitalism/culture is
          > > all tangled-up - the last 100 years were *not* the formative
          > years (well, I
          >
          > If you substitute the term "political economy" for "capitalism" you might
          > as well read Attali's book and do a book report on it. Otherwise, we'll
          > have to go back to my previous point about scores.

          I plan to read Attali, my interest has been piqued.

          I think this discussion is centred on music that has a cultural impact (is
          effectively "pop") and how it relates to commercial exploitation (how music
          develops through exploitation, and how commerce eats music up and spits it
          out). I don't see how you can suggest that the seemingly rarefied audiences
          of earlier centuries in themselves negate their relevance to what we're
          talking about.

          I think you might be trying to emphasise the development of music
          irrespective of commercial exploitation ("amongst the people" as it were, in
          a sense "folk"). e.g. withf jazz: where do you separate the birth of jazz
          from its assimilation as a commodity? I think you're saying that jazz had,
          for example, a long gestation (outta blues, traditional African music,
          American folk music) so that by the time commercial exploitation came it was
          virtually fully formed (though I suppose its forms weren't known
          collectively as jazz until much later). Is it fair to say that once it
          became commercialised its development became more radical? Or is its
          inception the most radical thing about it? Is the umbrella concept "jazz"
          so broad as to be meaningless for these purposes?

          Either that or you are trying to say that *only* in an era characterised by
          non-live music (radio, recordings) has this "mess" of
          music/culture/exploitation/capitalism arisen.

          >
          > > But, I agree, recordings allow more people to get involved in
          > criticism. I
          > > wrote my original email with that concept firmly at the front
          > of my mind.
          >
          > The quote I was responding to was "It seems to me that along with the
          > commodification of music has come greater and greater sophistication of
          > music. Of course, you could argue this is pure coincidence. Beethoven
          > didn't continue to write music of ever expanding sophistication because it
          > was a way to earn money (or did he?). On the other hand some might argue
          > that music hasn't gotten better than that written by Beethoven (hmm)."
          >
          > You seem to suggest that sophistication of music is driven to some extent
          > by the expansion of those able to appreciate it. While this can be true
          > (c.f. my jazz example), I would say that the latest music industry
          > triumphs (teenyboppers!) seem to suggest the complete opposite.

          No, I was merely including that possibility in the set of reasons for the
          development of music. It's why I said that some people would argue that
          music hasn't developed since Beethoven, as a counter-example.

          http://www.leri.org/memespaces/music.htm seems like an interesting place (I
          searched for "meme music").

          >
          > > One of the fundamental problems with this whole discussion is
          > "the cultural
          > > frame of reference". I haven't a clue what kind of music the Egyptians,
          > > Greeks, Romans, Jews were all making, collaborating on, criticising in
          > > ancient times. What do we owe these cultures? What has been subsumed
          >
          > I think one of the fundamental problems is that people who contribute to
          > these discussions have very little understanding of history, musically or
          > otherwise

          Count me in. Or had you already?

          > (yet are more than happy to wax endlessly about the economic
          > implications of digital media or namecheck Deleuzes).

          I haven't done those things, yet. There was someone on this list, recently,
          who said they'd made more money in something like 18 months of MP3.com music
          sales than they'd made in five years (or something huge) of trying to sell
          CDs by mail.

          >
          > If you want to read about how Western classical music has completely
          > kicked Greek modes of music making to the curb, read your Harry Partch.

          What, specifically? I haven't a clue about him (except the bits I've just
          picked up from a few webbies)...

          > Or check out a CD on Harmonia Mundi by Atrium Musicae de Madrid called
          > Music of Ancient Greece (actually, its French equivalent). You'll
          > probably have to go to a corporate record store to get it, though.

          Had a quick web-rummage. Is this it (hmm, will the link work)?

          http://www.cdnow.com/cgi-bin/mserver/SID=538001502/pagename=/RP/CDN/FIND/alb
          um.html/ITEMID=116814

          Sounds interesting (listened to the snippets).

          Jawed
        • R. Lim
          ... In what sense? ... I m not really challenging your overall claims (as I keep saying, it s already been said in a much more in depth fashion). However, you
          Message 4 of 12 , Apr 3, 2001
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            On Tue, 3 Apr 2001, Jawed Ashraf wrote:

            > Jazz was a rarefied privilege, too (but not, as far as I can tell, because
            > of a lack of education/money). I think you're trying to accuse me of having

            In what sense?

            > a black and white argument, when all I'm saying is that there is a continuum
            > of the mutuality between culture/music and capitalism that stretches quite a
            > long way back. Just because an audience is privileged doesn't reduce the

            I'm not really challenging your overall claims (as I keep saying, it's
            already been said in a much more in depth fashion). However, you keep
            referring to "commodity" and "capitalism" in inappropriate ways. Read
            your Marx, for Christ's sake.

            For instance:

            > a sense "folk"). e.g. withf jazz: where do you separate the birth of jazz
            > from its assimilation as a commodity? I think you're saying that jazz had,

            It sounds like you're suggesting that jazz is something that has to be
            mined out of the earth and that the "capitalists" have laid waste to the
            site of authenticity by strip-mining. Another thread about the
            co-optation of "our" underground music by "the man," how fascinating!

            I used jazz as an example, because a) it's an idiom that requires study to
            appreciate (more or less from bop onwards) and b) even after all this
            time, it is essentially a performance-oriented music. I don't think it
            has been "assimilated as a commodity" so much as it has been embalmed and
            made museum-ready. Its situation is very similar to classical music,
            whose current practitioners have found their natural audience (basically,
            themselves) and which is otherwise preserved as historic legacy.

            Anything else you think I'm saying about jazz is probably stuff you made
            up.

            > Either that or you are trying to say that *only* in an era characterised by
            > non-live music (radio, recordings) has this "mess" of
            > music/culture/exploitation/capitalism arisen.

            Yes, because without mechanical reproduction, there is hardly the
            possibility for capitalism, no? How many Backstreet Boys concerts can you
            give at once? How many Backstreet Boys CDs can be listened to at once? (I
            would use 'N Sync as a more contemporary reference, but I can't be
            bothered).

            > > I think one of the fundamental problems is that people who contribute to
            > > these discussions have very little understanding of history, musically or
            > > otherwise
            >
            > Count me in. Or had you already?

            Um yeah, sorry.

            > > (yet are more than happy to wax endlessly about the economic
            > > implications of digital media or namecheck Deleuzes).
            >
            > I haven't done those things, yet. There was someone on this list, recently,

            Dude, you just posted a link to a website about "meme music".

            -rob
          • Jawed Ashraf
            ... I mean in the sense that jazz was a scene , an underground or whatever you want to call it. I don t mean this pejoratively. ... Not my intention. This
            Message 5 of 12 , Apr 3, 2001
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              > > Jazz was a rarefied privilege, too (but not, as far as I can
              > tell, because
              > > of a lack of education/money). I think you're trying to accuse
              > me of having
              >
              > In what sense?

              I mean in the sense that jazz was a "scene", an "underground" or whatever
              you want to call it. I don't mean this pejoratively.

              >
              > > a black and white argument, when all I'm saying is that there
              > is a continuum
              > > of the mutuality between culture/music and capitalism that
              > stretches quite a
              > > long way back. Just because an audience is privileged doesn't
              > reduce the
              >
              > I'm not really challenging your overall claims (as I keep saying, it's
              > already been said in a much more in depth fashion). However, you keep
              > referring to "commodity" and "capitalism" in inappropriate ways. Read
              > your Marx, for Christ's sake.
              >
              > For instance:
              >
              > > a sense "folk"). e.g. withf jazz: where do you separate the
              > birth of jazz
              > > from its assimilation as a commodity? I think you're saying
              > that jazz had,
              >
              > It sounds like you're suggesting that jazz is something that has to be
              > mined out of the earth and that the "capitalists" have laid waste to the
              > site of authenticity by strip-mining.

              Not my intention. This debate does tend to implicate that point of view,
              though, as an ideal - for some people.

              > Another thread about the
              > co-optation of "our" underground music by "the man," how fascinating!

              Well, I think the co-optation is a by-product of capitalism and I'm all for
              capitalism (naively, naturally) so there it is.

              What's interesting is the audience's reaction to the co-opted music. If you
              have an audience that's there through no fault of its own, what's the
              reaction? If an excerpt from Matmos's "Cymbals and Aspirin (A Breakthrough
              in Pain Relief)" (track one on the April The Wire covermount CD Draw Me a
              Riot - really love this track) was used in a trailer for a TV documentary
              series on the history of painkillers/anaesthetics, we Wiresters could get
              pretty excited, but I'd expect most peeps watching would get well wound up.
              (In Europe terrestial TV broadcasters have a blanket licence that allows
              them to use any music they like in basically any context: drama, incidental,
              trailer, titles etc. I don't think broadcasters in the States have this.
              You get to hear all sorts of cool choons on the telly - Dead Can Dance is a
              particular favourite, it seems.)

              I accept that musicians like to throw things at an audience, so things like
              this happen at the instigation of the musicians - not merely in the course
              of exploitation by TV companies, say. I'm *not* saying the use of this kind
              of music in the trailer is wrong, or that it undermines that body of music.

              We're discussing musical sub-cultures and how the genie escapes, and what
              happens afterwards. What is the "pop" version of avant-wank electronica?
              Do those of us with an interest in electronica have much interest in the
              upcoming tide of pop-e? What happens to Matmos's new music when the
              musicians get ultra-rich and lose the plot, because of laziness bred by
              critical-laxness-through-exploitation. Does the audience that
              cares-for/grew-up-with Matmos simply shrug its shoulders? Do the kids even
              notice as they're transforming it in their own image?

              >
              > I used jazz as an example, because a) it's an idiom that requires study to
              > appreciate (more or less from bop onwards) and b) even after all this
              > time, it is essentially a performance-oriented music. I don't think it
              > has been "assimilated as a commodity" so much as it has been embalmed and
              > made museum-ready. Its situation is very similar to classical music,
              > whose current practitioners have found their natural audience (basically,
              > themselves) and which is otherwise preserved as historic legacy.

              You're saying that jazz and classical music are the essential preserves of
              musicians/audiences who care about these forms of music? First to people
              "in the industry" and second to people who have some historically detached
              view of these musics (i.e. listen to/study them from an historical
              perspective)?

              So jazz used to "set the mood" in drama (e.g. a love scene - a token mood
              piece, one step up from muzak), or classical music used to provide a feeling
              of centuries-old authority (e.g. selling pensions) are not examples of
              commodification. If not, then what is?

              >
              > > Either that or you are trying to say that *only* in an era
              > characterised by
              > > non-live music (radio, recordings) has this "mess" of
              > > music/culture/exploitation/capitalism arisen.
              >
              > Yes, because without mechanical reproduction, there is hardly the
              > possibility for capitalism, no? How many Backstreet Boys concerts can you
              > give at once? How many Backstreet Boys CDs can be listened to at once? (I
              > would use 'N Sync as a more contemporary reference, but I can't be
              > bothered).

              I think our whole discussion founders on this point. You're saying that to
              perform in an arena to 70,000 (e.g. as part of a world tour) is not
              capitalist because the performers are live? I am missing something. Can
              somebody explain this distinction because there's something going on here I
              just don't get.

              > > > (yet are more than happy to wax endlessly about the economic
              > > > implications of digital media or namecheck Deleuzes).
              > >
              > > I haven't done those things, yet. There was someone on this
              > list, recently,
              >
              > Dude, you just posted a link to a website about "meme music".

              Hehe, I got in there just in time, didn't I? But, erm, that page of links
              isn't about "meme music", it's with reference to a set of memes *in* music
              that the authors value.

              Jawed
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