Friday, July 17, 2009

Friend Request

so i talk about the fork a lot, and now i have an opportunity to explain why.

every time they publish one of these "poptimist" columns, i know damn well that something stupid is contained within -- something abrasively, arrogantly, obviously stupid. i'm sure one or two can be dug out that aren't masturbatory pieces of garbage, but if that's what you go in suspecting you usually won't be disappointed.

this one, subtitled "chartopia" is quite disturbing in that it addresses much of the crap i've been yelling about on and off for a few years now. he's talking about culture, about our much vaunted "new media", and how it's affected whatever remains of aggregate taste.

he says something that is stupid, and it's importantly stupid. "In a recent blog post, marketing guru Seth Godin touched disdainfully on the much-predicted demise of newspapers, writing 'Neatness is for historians.' This bon mot duly buzzed around the digiverse. Godin was addressing-- and dismissing-- journalism's much-honored role as 'the first draft of history,' its mission to make sense of the world for its readers. Social media, according to Godin and many similar thinkers, give people the tools to do this for themselves."

now here's why this is really stupid. some people call bloggers "citizen journalists". david simon once asked if you would call a man who puts out a small trash fire he sees while on a walk a "citizen firefighter". he then asked if your next conclusion would be that real firefighters are obsolete.

in reality, bloggers tend to be parasitic (as this blog). we live commenting on other companies' actual reporting. foreign policy blogs link to the new york times and the washington post, and most people don't follow links, meaning readers are consuming the product of a news company, but the company itself has no imaginable way to profit from it. aggregators (blogger's spell check doesn't recognize this last word; is it made up?) like google news and huffington post are the biggest violators of this, but the same dynamic exists for low-traffic blogs.

now, extend this to "social media" (i'm now realizing how orwellian this term truly is). some asshole TWEETS about a band; of the thirty five people who read his TWEETS let's say five take interest in the band; of those five presumably plugged-in folks, let's say one buys a few songs on itunes, while the rest torrent every single song the band has ever recorded and proceed to live the rest of their lives with thirty additional never-to-be-listened-to mp3s. the artist thanks the tweeter for the additional eight cents of income.

the problem with newspapers going out of business is that in order to produce news you actually have to pay some poor cunt to go somewhere and ask some questions and write some shit down. as adorably motivated as most "citizen journalists" are, someone needs to buy your food while you sit around at courthouse all day. reporting news is not an inherently profitable thing to do. neither is making music.

what tom ewing promises in his column is that social media allows people "to make sense of the world". i disagree. i think social media confuses its users, and disrupts any perception of the difference between the real world (of people, things) and the digital world (of pixels, numbers). as this happens, the real life institutions of the real world (newspapers, concert venues, etc.) die very rapidly, because the entire money-having nation spends ten hours out of every day typing and staring and typing and staring and typing and staring, all the while expanding their knowledge of everything, finding more people they know, being lords of their own universe.

sideshow bob once threatened to kill all television from a jumbotron, and i feel kind of like him, i guess. a luddite born in the 80's has a hell of a time these days. at the end of his sprawling, unfocused column, mr. ewing actually says, "There is still a great deal to be poptimistic about." as a musician, i find myself in another camp.

"social networking" (another phrase our society could probably do without) is incredibly useful for self-promotion. as an artist without any institutional support, it's more or less irreplaceable. but the rest of you, those non-creative people, whose generosity has fed us guitarists since the birth of our profession, you need to get off your god damn screens (right after you agree to attend my show). stop talking to each other all the fucking time and do something!

there's only so much that people can share. part of the equation has always been injecting new ideas, previously non-existent and unknowable, into the stream. mr. ewing thinks new media can do this job just fine, and that's why i called him stupid before. for real culture to happen, culture that we can be proud to pass to our children one day, we need to interact with one another in a way that can never be mechanized, a way that simply won't be made obsolete by tiny little machines that break if you kick them.

i'm talking, of course, about live music and fucking. who's with me?!

Monday, July 13, 2009

this post has been heavily influenced by african rhythms

pitchfork has an interview up of the dirty projectors guy, and even though he's talkiing about the fact that he's more of a band than a one-man act, even as we see pictures of the newly formed group being a group, the interview is with the guy and the guy alone, who says an awful lot of shit. wow, what a lot of thoughts he has. must be sharp.

anyway, what i want to focus on is the african influence section of the interview. check:

Pitchfork: You've been influenced by musical styles from Africa, and I wondered if you could speak to what you've listened to and the avenues you took to find it.

DL: To me it started with being into just sort of like, Motown shit, and into some of the earlier James Brown shit. And then there's that Brian Eno essay about the return of these Americanized African music to Africa, in music like Fela Kuti. I guess that's where I began, and I quickly ran through a whole bunch of those Nonesuch and the Okura discs, more like ethnomusicological folk musics.

And there's that book by John Chernoff, African Rhythm and African Sensibility, in the same way that Ian McDonald's Revolution in the Head served as a kind of gateway to me getting into 4-tracking and the recording artifice as something to be into.

Pitchfork: What do you think that influence has brought to your music?

DL: I don't know. I guess it's an ideal for me to take what you love in the same way that you take elements of your life, your personal experiences or whatever, and digest them into something new and incoherent. I like the idea of trying to make what you love unrecognizable. Although Bitte Orca is also sort of about doing the opposite of that.

i've omitted nothing. this is the entire bit of conversation on african anything in the whole stupid interview. seriously, it's as if it's a major influence, only it's not at all, even for a moment, relevant to any of the direct questions asked previously. when the journalist (hehe) asks questions about specific songs, about lyrical phrases, about various creative choices that were made, african music does not come up.

when prompted, however, by the statement "You've been influenced by musical styles from Africa," Mr. Dirty Projector, of course, has an answer loaded up. needless to say, the answer is incomprehensible. he heard some records, read a book, and though he likes the idea of making "what you love unrecognizable", his most recent record is about the opposite of that (this last part is a doozy). a simple listen to his music reveals the dearth of African influences, such as the writer means here. does this guy like african music? probably, but if it's altered his music in any significant way i can't tell. (to my ears it still sounds more Lauper than Farka Toure.)

but there's another aspect to this trend (and it is a trend; i have to hear about "african influences" playing out in all these white as paper bands and i'm like "nigga what? nigga please."): if you listen carefully, most indie rock adheres pretty strictly to the twelve-bar blues. arrangements may be getting out there (dirty projectors). vocal harmonies can be piled on top of one another until the listener gets the impression of depth (animal collective). broadly speaking, though, all of these college educated culture-loving wankers are playing songs that were written by people whose FUCKING GRANDPARENTS WERE FUCKING BORN IN FUCKING AFRICA.

just saying.