Saturday, January 19, 2013
The Next Amendment to the Constitution
For me, the great danger to the arts lies in its commercialization for the sake of business. Here, the enormous task for the artist is to be able to control, to review, and to change if something is artistically doubtful. One of the greatest psychological, educational and, finally, artistic errors of nowadays is to confuse terms and their meanings, such as "music" (as an art), "entertainment music" and "entertainment" itself. The latter, besides the popular sense of the word, may also represent a spiritual action, a mind's efforts, even hardships. (Thus, life itself may be the best entertainment. However, as Oscar Wilde says, "Life is a beautiful theatre, only the repertoire is so poor.")
Let us try to clear this jungle-like state. Any music ceases to be an art when used for an extra-musical purpose. Therefore, a waltz of Strauss, for instance, may be perceived in two ways: one--as pure musical art, listened to as a sheer musical composition: two--as a background for business and sociable relations. There is no major social problem (still, there is always an aesthetic!) if a person uses both "musics" at his own will.
But there is a social crime if we all are surrounded in a pseudo-musical envelop in all public places, hotels, lobbies, elevators, banks, restaurants, planes, waiting rooms, etc., etc., not to mention all the radio and television commercials. First of all, it represents an intrusion of our privacy, and I loudly call for a serious action on the highest level. I sincerely hope this will be the next amendment to the Constitution.
Secondly it is a psychological error, this lulling and stupefying of our thoughts and imagination (almost becoming a slogan: "Don't think--we think for you.") Thirdly, it dulls our senses, making them insensitive to any musical sound. Fourthly, it injects into our blood only certain formulas of early 19th-century harmony, thereby forming an obvious block in our artistic capacity. Worst of all, our children sip it simultaneously with mother's milk.
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski from Seeking the Infinite, by Frederick Harris
+ + +
Behind the glitter of the spectacle's distractions, modern society lies in thrall to the global domination of a banalizing trend that also dominates it at each point where the most advanced forms of commodity consumption have seemingly broadened the panoply of roles and objects available to choose from. The vestiges of religion and of the family (still the chief mechanism for the passing on of class power), and thus too the vestiges of the moral repression that these institutions ensure, can now be seamlessly combined with the rhetorical advocacy of pleasure in this life. The life in question is after all produced solely as a form of pseudo-gratification which still embodies repression. A smug acceptance of what exists is likewise quite compatible with a purely spectacular rebelliousness, for the simple reason that dissatisfaction itself becomes a commodity as soon as the economics of affluence finds a way of applying its production methods to this particular raw material
Guy Debord, The Society of the Specatcle, Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith
+ + +
Media stars are spectacular representations of living human beings, distilling the essence of the spectacle's banality into images of possible roles. Stardom is a diversification in the semblance of life--the object of an identification with mere appearance which is intended to compensate for the crumbling of directly experienced diversifications of productive activity. Celebrities figure various styles of life and various views of society which anyone is supposedly free to embrace and pursue in a global manner. Themselves incarnations of the inaccessible results of social labor, they mimic by-products of that labor, and project these above labor so that they appear as its goal. The by-products in question are power and leisure -- the power to decide and the leisure to consume which are the alpha and the omega of a process that is never questioned. In the former case, government power assumes the personified form of the pseudo-star; in the second, stars of consumption canvas for votes as pseudo-power over life lived. But, just as none of these celestial activities are truly global, neither do they offer any real choices.
+ + +
The (black) president of the United States honoring the very British remains of Led Zeppelin at the Kennedy Center...that really did happen, right? That is the remains of Led Zeppelin there in tuxedos and important, official looking sashes, isn't it?
I guess by Stairway to Heaven time (ooh, don't play it backwards!) Led Zeppelin had just about stolen all the American Black music there was to steal, and by that point they were deep into hobbits and trolls and all the rest, so I guess we should all be relieved we didn't have to hear the Wilsons (or the soulful choir in cute little hats) demanding someone squeeze her lemon until the juice ran down her leg.
Maybe it is true that there is nothing so bad that it can't get worse--though the above spectacle puts that notion to the test. Either way, a fantastic new low with which to begin 2013.
For the two or three of you who read this blog, you may already know I've brought my brand of fun to freejazz-stef.blogspot.com. There, I do my part, mixing good deeds and punishment. Like this blog, that blog is the result of donated labor (the good deed part) and so to the readers and the senders-in of cd's keep in mind you get what you pay for (the punishment part.)
The narcissist part of me wants to act as ballast to the light-weight everything's groovy sentiment there in the land of mostly 4 and 5 star reviews. What the world needs now is more 1 and 2 star reviews of 1 and 2 star recordings says my inner, mildly autistic, addicted to truth telling self.
Then, part of me (the let's get serious about art-business by doing exactly what everyone else does part of me) says why not roll on to my back and, into the air sissy an unrelenting stream of brilliant warm positivism? Why not be part of the new media mandate of all boosterism, all the time, always? Led Zeppelin at the Kennedy center...sure, why not? Certainly Led Zeppelin could use a little more time at the trough, and since America takes such good care of American artists, why shouldn't all that surplus good will go to an off shore corporate entity as needy and relevant as Led Zeppelin? Yes Mr. Plant, it brought a tear to my eye too. Besides, I'm sure Margaret Thatcher is hard at work organizing a celebration of Moby Grape's place in British culture at the Winston Churchill centre for Arts Excellence in Buckingham Palace.
The nagging question (my nagging question, anyway) is who get's chosen to wear the special sash? Who get's chosen for poll position at the trough? Who does the choosing? Who chooses the choosers? Who holds the key that winds up Big Ben?
I'm seeing it in "This Music"--the relentless boosterism for a select cohort. I'm seeing this boosterism for this select cohort morphing into bald faced corporate welfare. Does anyone else see it? Does anyone else feel the feeling that we need to kill the pig to save it's life? Anyone else a little uneasy with the rate at which the art-capitalist is able to commodify dissatisfaction? Does anyone else give a fuck in light of the larger, more pressing problems defining "our" social conditions?
Are the managers and minders of culture (or Spectacle if you like) aware of this, and in this chaos, taking the opportunity to anaesthetize our consciousness and critical facilities even further with an accelerated stream of 70 minute boluses of forgettable music by a small, select group of "artists?" Is forgettable music from a close knit, select group all "we" have to offer--or is it all "we" deserve?