Friday, February 24, 2006

Ways of hearing.

Perhaps you’ve heard about this report, which links ease of access to web-based motherlodes of music to listener apathy, and a devaluing of music in general. I’d link to the many blogs that have taken this up, but for this post, anyway, will refrain, because such links can be, for me, part of the problem.

Which isn’t the overwhelming availability of (free) music, but the time-sucking, addictive, overwhelming presence of recommendations for new music. I’ve turned into a pathetic consumer of music journalism; I’ve fallen down the blog-hole. Where ten years ago I might’ve got my music news from a handful of friends, the Village Voice, the radio, and the occasional Spin or Pulse, I can now read the sometimes daily piquant assessments of an army of talented, opinionated writers (an uncommonly well-selected assemblage is here for your browsing pleasure), from Canadian Carl Wilson to Oregonian Mike McGonigal to the ILX kids. I’m a music-porn addict.

I fetishize the information. My edge was lost so long ago I can’t cut cream cheese. And yet it’s all I can do to keep up with that never-ending tunnel of insidery music news that feels like connection and only later reveals itself, in the form of a vast empty feeling, as a waste of time. I’m collecting unpackaged, hand-lettered CD-Rs at a rate whereby the technology will be rendered obsolete by the time I absorb each disk. All based on solid information, mind you.

The upside, of course, is awareness of and access to a host of fantastic sounds I wouldn’t otherwise have encountered. No quibble there. The downside—and this extends beyond music—is nothing more that the loss of time, and serendipity, and a dangerously outgunned aesthetic sense. This is where the devaluing comes in, not from unfettered access to music, but the avalanche of copy that carries this music into the world. The same press release fatigue that must sap the enthusiasm of all but the hardiest journalists now creeps its way into the hearts of lowly bloggers.

Not that I blame the avalanche. It’s my choice to be buried. And maybe this is how the organism survives: only those able to maintain limits, deeply held loves and hates, equilibrium on the sea of words, lives to enthuse about the next big thing. I’m reminded of someone’s recent call to celebrate one’s inner nerd, the tastemaker in the machine, the one that pays no heed to hipsterism, lastest-thingism, or even the NME. This is the struggle, one of the largest there is: with all-access passes to every gig going, what show do you catch? What’s your time worth? What do you like?

(No, not you; that guy next to you. With the Rvng pin.)

Lines discovered this morning at 5am while experiencing unusually strong gastric distress, from John Berger (the lines, not the distress): Publicity is the life of this culture—in so far as without publicity capitalism could not survive—and at the same time publicity is its dream. ¶Capitalism survives by forcing the majority, whom it exploits, to define their own interests as narrowly as possible. This was once achieved by extensive deprivation. Today in the developed countries it is being achieved by imposing a false standard of what is and what is not desirable.

In other words, time to wake up. One might also add that today (the Berger quote is from 1972) it is also being achieved via the opposite of deprivation.

Hm. I wonder what SFJ has to say about all this…

UPDATE: SFJ, not so much, but the inimitable Paul Ford, he of Gary Benchley fame, had something tangential to relate earlier last week, on the subject of fetishizing the object, sorta:
I think of my fascination, at 13, with the CD on the concrete in the office park. CDs had a brief chance to become objects of veneration, less time than vinyl, a few decades--just an eyeblink in time when compared to books, which have had over a millennia to build up mystique. So the CDs are easier to throw away. They don't resonate. But ultimately books are just as disposable (even the one I wrote).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the mark re: devaluing of music, vanishing down the bloghole, etc. Berger is right and you are also right in saying that the means are now being achieved by swamping people with the sheer number of things they need to consume just to maintain their status as an active consumer. The center will not hold. It's the 'Brave New World'/'Amusing Ourselves to Death' lifemodel.

BUT. One sure way to overcome an unhealthy relationship as a straight-up consumer: CREATE YOUR OWN SHIT. Make something. Something more than just writing about other people's opinions about other people's opinions about someone else's music. Otherwise you're part of your own problem, etc.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually that sounds harsh. Maybe better put: If the blog is more about commenting on other people's observations than your own opinions maybe this is feeding into your issues with over saturation. That said: I enjoy the blog.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Prof. Drew LeDrew said...

Yeah, you nailed it, and me. To a pretty big degree, the post was an effort on my part to do just what you recommend: make something. A somewhat sidelong (and, I'd say, belated) calling out of myself, and a spur to avoid the pitfalls I spell out. We'll see how it goes. Thanks for reading, and for the feedback.

10:15 PM  

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