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click opera
February 2010
Mon, Dec. 10th, 2007 03:53 pm
From Stockhausen to stock repertoire


Mon, Dec. 10th, 2007 11:14 pm (UTC)

"Think of pop radio, with its ring-fenced playlists of evergreen retro classics. Pop now has an iconic, canonical tradition more hidebound and static than 19th century classical music ever was."

The parallels between pop and classical you make are true. They are bastions of conservatism. In pop's case,I put it down in part to economics - it is cheaper to use formularised, tried and tested cliches, cover versions etc, than to take a RISK on someone offering a new vision. Risk is incompatible with the accountancy mindset which controls such large sections of the arts. Taking a chance on exposing the new to an audience which may like it if it only had the chance to hear it requires investment and promoting and helping their career to develop, but would yield more diversity in the artform and attack the slide into sameyness.

It is surely no co-incidence that the increasing mergers of record companies since the late 1970s and their ownership being concentrated in fewer hands (and hands of multinationals like Sony at that) coincide with the ever increasing repetition in pop and the proliferation of manufactured bands, 'stars in their eyes' and 'pop idol' tv programmes - all based on repertoire and repetiton.

Whereas back in the earlier days of the industry before multinational corporations took it upon themselves to dictate the pop tastes of the PLANET, there was more risk taking, now it seems like those programmes have a mission: to drill into any young people entering pop these sickening industrial norms - basically 'sing this song, sound like this or you're not a star'. maybe there was always this tendency to a greater or leser extent but never so marked as today. It is the new 'classical music'. it is an anachronism.

Zappa said as much in one interview in the 80s:

"There are certain things composers of [the classical] period were not allowed to do because they were considered to be outside the boundaries of the industrial regulations which determined whether the piece was a symphony, a sonata, or a whatever.
All of the norms, as practiced during the olden days, came into being because the guys who paid the bills wanted the 'tunes' they were buying to 'sound a certain way.'
The king said: "I'll chop off your head unless it sounds like this." The pope said: "I'll rip out your fingernails unless it sounds like this." The duke or somebody else might have said it another way — and it's the same today: "Your song won't get played on the radio unless it sounds like this." People who think that classical music is somehow more elevated than 'radio music' should take a look at the forms involved — and at who's paying the bills. Once upon a time, it was the king or Pope So-and-so. Today we have broadcast license holders, radio programmers, disc jockeys and record company executives—banal reincarnations of the assholes who shaped the music of the past."

I'd add here that the rise of internet, private websites and downloads means people who do things which differ from the 'pop idol ideal' in music (and I think there are a number of us around here) have previously unimaginable exposure and a more direct connecton with a fan base. this is outside the pernicious arena of the multinationals and as such offers a new model for production and distribution of music. This phemnonomenon has coincided with the decline of the music business as we used to know it,(All a good thing as far as I'm concerned. familiarity breeds contempt) which seems to indicate that thre are many folk out there who have had enough of the corporate spoonfeeding and proves that the industry 's economically motivated reptition was giving neither the public nor the artists what they wanted.

Mon, Dec. 10th, 2007 11:17 pm (UTC)

sorry that should read 'phenomenon' at the end there - still , 'phemnonomenon' sounds like an OK name for a prog band ! ;-)

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Tue, Dec. 11th, 2007 12:45 am (UTC)

Some good points in your post electiktronic, it is interesting to toy with these comparisons between Western classical music and pop but ultimately the parallels run eschew.
I don't believe that classical music ever reached a point at which it became as entrenchedly formulaic as present-day mainstream pop.
I hate to be defeatist but it is very difficult to envisage of a juncture or more specifically of a movement that could revitalise the medium.
I think - as you indicate in your post - that 'Pop Idol' type television productions are unfortunately the last nail.
Thomas S.

ReplyThread Parent
Tue, Dec. 11th, 2007 01:58 am (UTC)

Yeah, although on a general level many 'production norms' or forces acting upon the production of the music seem to be shared by both classical and pop, as you say, classical was never so formulaic. I'd put that down to the fact that, although at the time of its production, classical was acted upon by certain powerful elites, unlike pop it never had a whole industry built around it, was never put through today's mass media mill and as such was never subject to the hugely 'standardising' forces inherent in large-scale production of any commodity.

Another issue here is that much pop, at least today, is something intimately related to showbusiness, eclipsing the actual music (the process of composition or musicianship is at best touched upon, at worst invisible...) In fact, that is the core of the whole thing: FAME as an end in itself. what people consume is a public personality AS a product, a brand. That is what is on sale, the EXPERIENCE of fame-as-lived, sold to frustrated wanabees queuing up in their thousands outside the casting venue for fame academy - subjected to a perfect form of alienation. But as I said, new spheres such as the internet mean that the contemporary is in a state of flux as these spheres establish themselves as new forms of legitimation of music and art generally.

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