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Bad news: I’m no longer adding any posts to this site.
Good news: I’ve moved this whole thing to a brand spanking new, self-hosted blog which you can find here:
Check it out.
Bear with me briefly, I need to tell you something in this first paragraph that puts the rest of the article in context. I’m writing this from my Macbook, with my iPhone and a copy of the book ‘The Rebel Sell’ next to me. I also consider myself quite creative.
Apparently I’m not the only one.
For those of you who don’t use it, LinkedIn is a social network with an emphasis on developing professional connections. It’s one of the ways you can search for new jobs or new business opportunities using the web. They recently posted a list of the most common words that people had included in their profiles this year, and guess which one came out on top? “Creative” was the most overused buzzword in Australia, Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, The US and the UK.
Taking the LinkedIn profiles to be indicative of similar language that people are using on their CVs, the word “creative” is something a lot of people would like attached to themselves. A majority of us would like to be seen as creative and organisations (full of people who see themselves as creative) want to hire creative people. Why?
The first answer to this is a practical one. In a recession, where redundancies and general job losses are going through the roof, one of the ways you can attempt to increase your job security is by ensuring your company views you as a “creative.” This person’s ideas can’t be computerised and it’s difficult to determine how much an employer is losing if they choose to fire a creative employee.
Another answer, and the general direction of this article is because being “creative” is a very cool thing to be.
Silicone valley has blossomed a whole host of companies accepting ‘cool’ ideas into their workplace to attract creative people. Creativity lies at the heart of good capitalism, so it kinda makes a lot of sense to get as many of those people on board as possible. It’s increasingly common to see offices full of people dressed casually, with hangout zones where cafeterias would once have been. These companies are adapting the modern work place to suit a very particular kind of worker.
It’s based on marrying the bohemian ideals taken from “alternative” cultures with the traditional workplaces. Creating offices more akin to hippy communes, but with rules, and a wage. Remember the grey image of an office that’s presented to us in American Beauty? Yeah…you can forget all about that in this brave new world.
From Chapter 7 of ‘The Rebel Sell’ “From status-seeking to cool hunting”:
It is best to think of cool as the central status hierarchy in contemporary urban society. And such as traditional forms of status such as class, cool is an intrinsically positional good. Just as not everyone can be upper class and not everyone can have good taste, so not everyone can be cool. …because cool is ultimately a form of distinction.
(I wont be able to completely break the concept of cool down here, there just aren’t enough hours in your day, so if you want to, read Chapter 7 of ‘The Rebel Sell.’)
Take a look at the famous Apple advert from 1984, representing a marketing version of the counterculture’s critique of mass society:
They then used key countercultural figures in their “Think Different” ads to really drive the point home: Apple is all about embodying the counterculture.
It’s also a massive multinational corporation with some unsavoury stories told about their dedication to their code of secrecy. (http://www.t3.com/news/another-suicide-at-foxconn-factory) Which is what I’m so interested in…how did Steve Job’s not only manage to merge the hippy ideologies into his workforce and management style, but also into the products it produced?
About half way through writing this article, I had a quick scan over the BBC iPlayer and noticed a documentary on the late Apple founder, titled ‘Steve Jobs: Billion Dollar Hippy‘ which went some way into answering these questions. Particularly interesting for me was a quote they used in the first few minutes, from Stewart Brand (Editor of the Whole Earth Catalog) “His Hippie background helped make him a better billionaire.”
This notion of a “business brain with hippy philosophies” was constantly repeated throughout the documentary, from several different people.
In ‘The Rebel Sell’ Heath and Potter make the argument that counterculture will never bring down capitalism, only help sustain it and make it stronger. The creative middle class are embody this blend between big business and teenage rebellion. Whether Apple realised this or not is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. Their products don’t just fulfil people’s needs for entertainment and technology, they have an atmosphere of creative “cool” about them which consumers like myself just can’t resist.
Inside Facebook BBC program (Very cool offices)
When I first came across Selah Sue (real name Sanne Putseys) it was in the video below, performing her track, ‘Raggamuffin’.
It looks honest, authentic and as a performer she seems confident on stage. I loved the way she’d blended reggae and folk, with a contemporary flavour. Using hints of a Jamaican accent to enhance the timbre of her vocals, it doesn’t come across as a parody, but instead as an artistic device employed because it fits with the song. The good vibes and feeling in the room comes across even on YouTube. Overall the entire performance absolutely reeks of honesty.
Unfortunately, her more recent performances have the same talented girl at their core, but leave a very different impression.
Wow. She’s definitely made her mark, and faster than I for one expected. I still remember the first time I heard ‘Video Games;’ in the early hours of a weekday morning, as my radio alarm switched to BBC 6 music and I started to stir, my whole head was full up with the sound of her voice and the warmth of the song.
It was like the audible equivalent of suddenly being presented with a colour photograph after years of black & white.
When I think back on the intervening time between then and now, the only other metaphor that springs to mind is either an explosion of the music industry, all suddenly focusing in on this one member of the human race.
There are more than enough blog posts out there already discussing Ms Del Rey and the question of authenticity, some absolutely crucifying her, and some defending, but I for one couldn’t give a toss either way.
There’s nothing particularly striking about Lana Del Rey for me outside of her music, she’s just another attractive person singing popular music, but I’m glad that she’s done what she has none the less. ‘Video Games’ on its own has so many people all flustered that it’s way too late to stop it from influencing people now.
She may have been viewed with more than just a faint air of suspicion, and I guess that’s to be expected, but whats important was a great song was released into the wild of the current music industry and it grabbed everyone’s attention. If this is the one thing she ever releases, it was worth it.
Here’s a video of her performing ‘Video Games’ live at The Premises studios in East London.
Getting hold of good, original musical gifts can be very frustrating…which I discovered over the past few weeks. I like to get all my Christmas shopping done before December, and whilst desperately trying to resist buying anything that I didn’t need, I compiled this quick list of awesome gift ideas, which you’re more than welcome to use, if you like.
Rihanna talking about her style in an interview with Ryan Seacrest on his US radio show –
“I just wanted to go right back to something simple and something flexible, something a little more natural. It’s more about the music.”
Rihanna has said she’s planning to tone down her provocative image and that’s a step in the right direction I feel. Not that there’s anything wrong with her baring a bit of flesh, she’s entitled to and it seems to help her sell records, it’s just refreshing to hear her saying she might start looking “a little more natural” and that she’s interested in something “more about the music.” I’m just hoping she isn’t lying or that she’s just decided to wear jeggings instead of hot pants occasionally…
From what I see of pop stars, the top pop princesses suffer from a distinct lack of clothes that you could wear to your Nan’s for Sunday lunch. This is ok…it’d just be nice to see one of the others follow Rihanna’s example and ease up the balance. The key phrase in the quote above was “something a little more natural.” I’m not saying she has to always dress like she’s going to her Nan’s, just maybe wear something that wasn’t designed to show anything her management think she’ll get away with.
I propose we divide the Pop Princesses into two distinct groups. Have some of them dressed like they do now, converting as much of their body into their image as they can to boost sales, but leave the rest to start concentrating on making great music as their main focus. Just because you’re selling yourself as a musician, doesn’t mean you’re ugly. Beyoncé has probably the best opportunity to change her style at the moment without losing face, what with being pregnant and all, and she might even carry it on afterwards if she likes it.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we turned round in thirty years, and the best way to get noticed in the music industry was to make great music and dressing up like a slapper was left to Barbie?
CMU Email 16/11/11
What follows is a VERY subjective account of my first visit to Ronnie Scott’s. It is more of an attempt on my part to incorporate something of a gonzo style of journalism into what I’ve done so far on this blog (and has been written primarily for entertainment purposes) then it is a real review of the evening I had.
It was my first time outside a real jazz venue and it was almost perfect. I wasn’t sure where I should head until I spotted the cool, unassuming sign outside the door, with just the name in red and a crude saxophone drawn in neon protruding from the darkness of the brickwork. There is undeniably something different about the atmosphere in Soho at night. Something authentic; a barely perceptible taste in the air. The lights have been specifically positioned to
draw your eye to parts of the building, allowing the black against red light contrast to enjoy the fullest effect on passers-by. To me, it symbolised a link to the history of music, a chance to experience something close to the jazz clubs of yester-year and gain a better understanding of the music as a result.
“Have you got a reservation?” From a man holding flyers on the front steps. I hadn’t noticed him, or maybe I’d ignored him whilst I was taking in the impressive exterior. I nodded, and, stepping under the dignified name above the door, we strolled past the illuminated upcoming events posters and double glass doors and took our first steps inside Ronnie Scott’s.
Stretching out ahead was a corridor furnished with décor that implores you to think posh and luxurious, but which clearly has an ulterior motive: to last as long as practically possible under the weight of generations of music junkies. It sloped gently upwards, leading to a group of women looking intently at a clipboard. I guessed they were probably the people we needed to see first, so I ignored the knot of excitement and the rush of something like nerves which travelled up my spine and stretched itself out across the back of my brain. My head was swimming with excitement, but I managed to confidently approach them for verification that our places had been paid for in advance, and our seats were saved.
The rush of nerves had first hit me on the tube, and they took me completely by surprise. My best guess at where they’d come from was my own desperate need for the building to be perfect, to be the all-embracing Cathedral to London jazz that I’d always imagined it as. At the time, my head was spinning with imaginary jazz establishments. I had a rough idea about what the stage looked like, but it was what the place felt like which really mattered to me. I wanted to immerse myself in a thick mire of jazz history, sinking into a warm comfortable bath designed to compliment the free expression on stage. I knew that I could soon leave the brightly lit steel cylinder, which could have represented man’s industrial creations, for a world constructed around entertainment, music and listening to the free expression of an individual amongst a group.
The reality that greeted me as I followed our usher into the club was slightly different to what I’d imagined. The rush I’d had on the way to the venue ebbed away, leaving vague curiosity and wonder in it’s place. The furnishing looked exactly as I’d imagined and more, from the generally traditional feel of the auditorium and bar, to the tasteful touches of the modern where appropriate. Every single nuance was controlled and managed to give just the right amount of light, just the right ambience. The seats were mostly in dark, with a small orange lamp between two customers, encouraging you to remain silent. Most striking however were the tables in front of the stage, surrounded by a chest-high border made of smooth polished metal. It created a mythical separation, putting those willing to pay a little extra into a space of their own, as though they wanted to imagine they were at a private performance.
Despite the effort and control that had gone into every other aspect of the building’s luminescence, the monitors on the tills continued to glare out at you once the lights were turned down and the show began. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but they seemed to reflect an uncanny niggling feeling at the back of my head. There was something like a dawning realisation occurring whilst the rest of me was pre-occupied with the staggering display of music on stage.
The place had a slightly different atmosphere in the flesh to the romantic jazz clubs of my imagination. There was something about the way everything was set up. The impeccably arranged lighting, the service, the price of drinks and the harsh light from the tills created the impression that this wasn’t about the worship of jazz or music, it had much more of a focus on the paying audience. We had pockets deep enough to pay the entry fee and take advantage of the excellent hospitality. It was a church to jazz lovers, and how lucrative their passion had become for those who knew what they liked. It started to look less like we had been shown to our seats, and more like we had willingly hooked our wallets up to an automatic milking machine and been shown to our allocated shed.
Stevie Nicks’ opinion on the Internet:
“Children no longer develop social graces. They don’t hang out anymore. I’m financially stable. I’m okay. But what about the kids trying to make it in this business? If you’re not an established band, if you don’t have a hit single, they’re gonna drop you. There are a lot of people out there as talented as we were, but they can’t sustain being in a rock ‘n’ roll band for long without success. We were able to, but we’re going to die out.”
Unfortunately for Stevie’s opinion of the modern world, I can say (from experience) that young people today do have social skills and they do hang out… what else can we post on Facebook? I think it has much more to do with how the Internet bombards us with so much music with so little effort that its difficult to care about it as much as we used to.
To save space and your sanity, I’ve condensed my points and not included as much detail as I’d have liked to, so this is more of a summary of my argument.
As the modern world turns around and finds out that it has accidentally stumbled into something called the ‘digital age,’ most of the major players in the music industry woke up to the worrying realisation that they were no longer as high up the food chain as they were yesterday. The entire culture industry, along with support from legislation has placed the blame in the laps of online “pirates.” Although distributing large quantities of entertainment free of charge has had a short-term effect on the bank accounts of the major players, I believe that specifically in the case of music, the pirates are indicative of an attitude change towards music (driven by the extent that we can now produce digital reproductions of art) which was predicted years ago.
So what do we do? For me, pushing music forwards as an art form is the primary goal. Experimenting with sound, combining it with as many elements as you can is, in my opinion, the best way to create amazing artistic statements. I don’t feel like we can do that if we carry on selling music in the traditional way, genre specific people in genre specific clothes playing chords arranged in a genre specific manner. We’ve also had groups which broke out of some or all of those elements. Maybe there’s another way? We all need to grow up, get over the end of the 20th Century and stop trying to be Rock Stars. Let’s be artists.
Many people in Western societies now have the god-like ability to conjure entertainment, including text, pictures, audio and video, at will with nothing more then a swipe of a finger across a piece of transparent plastic/glass/whatever-it-is-they-make -smartphones-from. For the first time in history, we have a massive cultural pool of entertainment sources, which we, as users, can pick from as we choose. Music is in the background on websites, during videos or short animations all across the web. It increasingly permeates our daily lives too. So why isn’t it more important & profitable?
Listening to an iPod (or any other perfectly good mp3 player) whilst you go about your daily business allows people in an increasingly atomised society to separate themselves from the world around them and create their own headspace. As you pop the headphones in and find your favourite album, you block out as much noise from the outside as possible, overlaying your personal sound track over the top. In this way, music isn’t something you go out of your way for, it now has more in common with the atmosphere: it’s sort of just there.
The emphasis seems to have shifted and it appears as though the arrival of truly personal computers (aka smartphones), permanently hooked up to the Internet and attached to their respective owners are starting to change the expectations consumers have for their sources of entertainment. In the time between the Gutenberg press’ introduction, and the arrival of Edison’s phonograph, only entertainment (including sheet music) that could be written down could be faithfully reproduced and redistributed across our entire society.
However, assuming you have decent enough literacy expertise to read the book of your choice, you need the relevant practical skill, or a friend with them, to provide the actual entertainment. The book acts simply as an instruction manual. This means if you want to listen to whatever music you please, you have to learn to read music and pick up an instrument, or travel to see the musicians perform.
Why would you want to do that now? Why bother? I don’t even need to buy their CD or even bother downloading it, I can just look up my new favourite band on Spotify! Then next week, I’ll look up that week’s favourite band instead.
Music synchronised with moving images can make or break a film. The famous example, that Jaws wouldn’t be anywhere near as scary if it didn’t have music is true. I don’t think that all music needs to copy John Williams, but the synergy between music and picture create something special.
TV and the internet have helped to permanently blur the line between image and musical artists. We’re now hearing thousands of pieces of music for free every day, without even trying, in the background of adverts and programs, edited onto that cat video I keep watching on YouTube, etc. It’s now quite likely that most people, particularly young people and children surfing the web, will come across more content where music serves to enhance the visuals then the other way round.
Despite this, music isn’t unable to stand on its own, I just think that it’s heyday has come and gone, and it may be time for a new art, or a reinvented older art form to come to the fore.
5 minute video on Walter Benjamin (Thanks to Jon Stewart for the link!)
Why do albums like the latest collaboration between Metallica and Lou Reed exist?
How, in this green society can we justify the plastic that will go into the CDs? Why, when the culture industry needs some real creative revitalisation do we have an album released from the marriage of two long-past-their-former-glory musical acts?
Having just heard the preview of the Metallica/Lou Reed collaboration album, I can say that the YouTube commenter Jamie165 sums it up the best: “It’s the aural equivalent of that episode of Friends where Rach[a]el mistakenly combined the recipes for sherry trifle and shepherd’s pie.” It’s not often that the existence of a YouTube comment is this much more justifiable then the video it’s commenting upon, but there you go.
I mistakenly thought that YouTube previews of Metallica albums were supposed to pump you up, make you feel like you can become a mighty Viking warrior…while you air guitar along. The Lulu album preview however, makes you start wondering whether anyone bothered listening back to it before they stuck it up on the net.
Ultimately, chances are you already know if you’re a big enough Metallica or Lou Reed fan to buy this, and nothing I say here is likely to change your mind. However if, like me, you have a respect for Lou Reed and enjoyed Metallica’s earlier work, but was waiting to read some reviews before you took a look at this peculiar pairing, don’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I was never “against” Metallica or Lou Reed to begin with, the former was the first major gig I went to, and Lou Reed’s music became part of the soundtrack to my first year at University. However, there’s a reason I’ve never put them on the same playlist.
UPDATE: As an interesting comparison, skim read this article from the Guardian, which sounds quite hopeful for the forthcoming album, clearly written before anyone had experienced any of the confusing mess. The tone of the review written by Alex Petridis of the final product is much more in keeping with what I heard on the preview: tired old riffs and tired old vocals.