Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gin Goggles

The other day, my Facebook friend Freddi filed this status update: 'Why bother with new music when untouched classics are everywhere?'

The line stuck in the ol' craw, so much so that I was compelled to visit my 'friend' Reggie, who would be dead to me were it not for his fab dirty Sapphire martinis. We talked:

Reggie: I agree with Freddi. There's nothing new under the sun anyway. Everything these days is pastiche.

Veronica: What's wrong with pastiche? We can draw from 100 years of American music since Jelly Roll Morton, as well as countless forms of indigenous and popular musics worldwide. Add modern technology to the mix and the possibilities are endless.

Reg: Yeah, but where's the magic? What are the unexplored frontiers? It's hard to capture imaginations by reigniting the space race just to revisit the moon.

Vee: So you're happy with simply watching footage of the original landing over and over? And why must all leaps be quantum? I find it amazing that, for all that's gone before, imaginative musicians can still string notes and words together in ways we have not yet heard.

R: What's this really about, V? Worried that if you stop keeping up you'll die?

V: Hmmm. I'll have to drink about that.

R: Really, what of interest has happened musically since 'Raw Power?'

V: Are you serious? How about new wave...

R: An outgrowth of punk, itself a reversion to a simpler rock form as a reaction to bloated prog and stadium bands.

V: Hip-hop...

R: Talk about pastiche. Like you'd understand anything about it, white girl.

V: Grunge and Britpop...

R: You're not even trying.

V: Worldbeat...

R: An overused placeholder term, but okay, I'll give you that one. But c'mon: where is the new Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart? The Coltrane, Mingus, or Davis? Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, or John Lee Hooker? Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, or George Jones? Chuck Berry, Beatles, or Jimi Hendrix?

V: Well, if we're back to your original assertion that there's nothing new under the sun, I'll say this:

Their inventive spirits live on in the likes of Michael Tilson Thomas and Mason Bates, in Nik Bartsch and Mulatu Astatke, in Tinariwen and Joe Louis Walker, in Paul Burch and Dallas Wayne, and in the guitars, laptops, and imaginations of kids we haven't even met yet.

R: Sounds like the toonies are weaving their spell again. But why the olive juice, Vee? You might as well be swigging Gordon's.

V: Well, before I start slurring and you start looking good to me, let me say this: the only thing I miss these days is the globally-shared musical experience. We'll never again see the Beatles on Ed Sullivan or hear a radio hit that spans four different genres at once. Tastes and the music serving them have split into fractions.

R: But that's the beauty part, Veronica. We have become sophisticated free-form DJ's. And the sheer volume of musical history, along with what is being added to it every Tuesday, is liberating. We need no longer be the first kids on the block; that anachronistic challenge can be left to the echo chambers of Stereogum and Pitchfork.

Every one of us is a micro-culture unto ourself.

V: Y'know, Reg, I reckon if I were to respond to Freddi's original post, I'd say this: Why not both? It's new if you've never heard it before.

Now fix me another and let me loosen your old-school tie.


Mama E Dub said...

I love Tinariwen and Desert Blues in general, but I also believe part of their appeal is the familiarity of the basic structure of their music. You can pretty much tell where they are going next and be ready to nod or air guitar along with it the first or second time around.

Not a coincidence that the Stones invited them to open some shows a few years back.

Veronica Fever said...

I agree; they have readily identifiable triggers. I love being well-manipulated by experts. The music of John Lee Hooker and Mississippi Fred McDowell has a similar affect.