Tuesday, August 30, 2011

We are suffocating in our soft safety

Last night I got my ass kicked. Actually it was not my ass, it was our ass. It was the bay area getting a considerable musical ass kicking by a 5 piece band from out of town named The Sway Machinery. They just rolled in from SFO, had a perfunctory sound check, waited through there local support, weathered an extra 40 minutes of sound person buffoonery, walk out on stage in their sharp gray suites and well chosen ties, and proceeded to show the small crowd that was left on a Sunday night “just how it is done”.

The Sway Machinery at Beatbox 8/28/2011

From the opening bars of the first tune, till the grand finale of their closer, they owned us. They ruled, and they never for one moment let us think that they were not present right their on the Beatbox’s stage, reinventing music in their image. Unlike the “artists” I and so many of my colleagues purport to be, they were not doing the audience a favor by stooping to shower us with their own natural nobility and beauty. Nor were they mindlessly shoe gazing into the inner space of creative fugue (often a mask for wondering about whats for dinner later, your girlfriend back home, and the issues of late stage capitalism). NO. there they were taking sound and shaping it to their whims, all the time telling the audience with every look, gesture, or utterance, that they were here to entertain. Just on their terms, and not necessarily how you thought it might be when you held the box in the store. Like rough sex where you could not have imagined just how good that feels when they put something like that up there. And instead of saying no no, you are saying yes yes YES YES YES YES yeeeessssssshhhhhhhhh.

So I went home with that buzz and crackle in my ears. The hiss of too much sound, cause I could not bring myself to put in my $400 ear plugs, and miss a single piece of wave form, no matter the earthly cost of so heavenly a transcendence. And when I got there I had a good long think about the what how and why of my Sway Machinery encounter. From so much beauty just hours before, my mind traveled down many a sad and ugly road, and left me to conclude, we here in the bay area creative community are drowning, literally choking, on our safety. The hype of a permissive free wheeling anything goes creative mean is a lie, a sham, another self satisfied assumption of a soul that can’t stand to look at the truth in the light of day. The facts will out the truth as surely as the sun sets through the fog on Ocean Beach serially freezing our summer nights, that the proof in the pudding is 3.2, when we bill our selves as 90 proof.

While it would be impossible for me to know all the nooks and crannies where our several million residents make their cultural artifacts, and throw down their souls into public displays, I do get around a bit. I have a natural curiosity which has stalked off with a number of this cats 9 lives. So turning my unjaundiced eye on my collection of friends, connections, and recollections, I have to admit we are mired collectively in the past. Not just our past, but Miles Davis’s, Jango’s, Edith Piaf’s. Jim Morrison’s, The Carter Family’s, James Brown’s, and the past of any corner of the worlds ethnic heritage pre Beatles. It’s not that I don’t understand this longing for a richer broth than the thin soup of our self referential culture (a song referencing a movie based on a sitcom taken from an idea in a book inspired by a song), its a great garnish, a wonderful set of spices, but it’s just not the main course. Doubled down with the fiction of permissive anything goes equaling creativity, and you get a meal that’s past it’s shelf date, and ill prepared by an inattentive chef.

There are so many other factors at play, but when broken down to the fundamentals, there is nothing at stake for the majority of bay area artists or audiences. Rare is the bird who comes to the bay area to “make it” in any creative field not directly tied to stock options and ipo’s. We are neither the seat of Hip Hop, Performance Art. Slam Poetry, Contact Improv, or …well….anything beyond internet marketing. Few make a full time career out of such a passion, unless underwritten by a working spouse, or a trust from ones past labors (or ones predecessors). So if you succeed wildly, or flop disastrously, the results to your food and shelter situation are much the same. With your peers sharing that boat, what fuels the engine that urges you on to greater heights in imagination, or what governance do you have to perfect your craft, and so translate that which is within to your audience. And the audience, living a comfortable bay area life, can’t be too bothered by anything outside their sphere. They need to get up in the early AM to toil at their keyboards making widgets and gizmos to assist others to buy buy sell sell. They have far too much at stake in the prevailing paradigm to open up to dangerous ideas, and epiphanal moments that cast doubt on the whole edifice of their small measure of success.

So art becomes the back drop to sumptuous living. Some unobtrusive jazz (choose your period) at the bar, not so loud that you can’t bray back and forth with your friends, and feel like you are immersed in a cool blue bath of hipsterness. Or folk dancing to any old folk. It’s strange enough to be of interest, but as you don’t understand the words (if there are any) no intellectual shame need to intrude on your visceral fun. A good time had by all, except the poor Bosnian peasants who wrote the tune of sorrow during one blood bath or another. And doesn’t that painting of clean earth tone lines depicting a dog with a city scape for teeth look great above the sofa. Such an in joke of a dogs life for big city livers.

This paucity of repercussions leaves us open to a serious thrashing when the aliens , who grew up in a very different environment, with bigger muscles, quicker reflexes, and GREAT BIG SCARY MANDIBLES, land in our local night club, gallery, performance space. They might be working hard hard hard at their craft, and polishing their ideas day and night for years, up against similarly challenged people all vying for the limited number of seats at the table for shows, parts, or column inches. And that’s all they do Go out and win, or no supper, no heat, no shelter.

So my friends, let us collectively look deep into our cultural soul, and wonder what its all about for us. Do we want to continue on this road to nowhere. Being superseded by the flavor of the month that washes in from out of town. Forever marginalized by our acquiesce to the status quo. Or will you join me in reaching down deep, quitting that vacuous project to recreate the sonatas of some obscure 17th century Bavarian composer, ending your refusal to utilize electric amplification due to your purist pretensions, and boo the next weak ass bastards off the stage who aren’t willing to challenge you to feel, or unwilling to put the time in to make a credible showing of their true natures. Will you make a point of seeking out the people who are willing to give their all as collaborator, as audience, as fellow travelers on the way to somewhere better. Jump off the treadmill into the unknown. You have nothing to lose that was worth hanging onto anyway.



Saturday, November 20, 2010

Musics in the 21st century, record store versus library or both. Using a segmented market to create an Information empire

OK. I seem to raise some hackles with my last post. I would prefer to be thought a fool for what I was actually saying, so I will attempt to lay out a small corner of my reasoning on the subject at hand.

People want “Hollywood movies and TV shows,”....“they don’t want amateur hour.”
Steve Jobs 9/1/2010

I think Mr. Jobs has succinctly summed up how apple will relate to what culture it will deem feasible to distribute. As itunes is already the largest purveyor of music the world has yet to see, this would be worrisome. However I believe that while in the short run Apple is having huge success continuing this 20th century mode of operation, in the end it will prove it's undoing when technology moves just a few steps further in making information packets smaller, faster to download, and affordable to store. Because in the end it is all about convenience.

With over 13 million songs, itunes sounds like it has an impressive head start on any future competition. But even with it's early entry into the market, and a formidable parent company, that is no guarantee of continuing dominance. So let us look at these salient facts, and see if they are as large a barrier to entry.

Personally, I have almost 13,000 songs in my itunes library (a paltry 70 gigs, including less than a quarter of my CD's, and almost none of my LPs). Thus the itunes store at 13,000,000, has only 1000 times that amount of music as one fellow (me) who buys the majority of his music one CD at a time, and only loads them into itunes sporadically. One can imagining any serious contender for the online music crown closing that gap with just a bit of money and elbow grease. As for the apple itunes vertical integration connection. To some extent this can act as a negative. Apple is competing with other music players, and more significantly, phone providers. As the mobile is well on the way to replacing all other gadgets (camera, laptop, entertainment center) apples has not been motivated to let everyone in to play on their field, and certainly not with their ball. The web is awash in complaints and advice about making itunes work for your Droid, your Razr, or for those unfortunates who are running Vista on their PC. If I were seeking to launch a new web based music emporium, 3 guesses where I would seek my funding

Apple has a formidable R&D team, and a great can do culture. I have many friends there working on a variety of the Apple products/apps. They are a bright, talented, and hard working crew. I have no doubt that Apple can stay a step ahead of the technological competition barring any unforeseen game changers (a leap forward in nano technology for example). Yet we are swiftly approaching a juncture where the scalable base line technology for storing, organizing, searching, and distributing data (musical or otherwise) will be available to a much wider array of players. At that point other much more volatile factors will become decisive in who controls the online music market.

itunes, with over 5,000,000,000 served is certainly making money hand over fist. However we know that the majority of those sales come from a relatively few numbers of items. Much of the rest (like Go Van Gogh) makes only a few pennies a month, or has "not yet" been unearthed. While we were all caught up with the Long Tail concept back in the early days of the web, those with cooler heads, and better business models have concentrated on pushing their users/consumers towards that which makes a sale. However that does not invalidate the long tail theory, more so, it points out that we were not yet ready to make the transition to a more mature web commerce. The briefly lived Lala cloud model had much to recommend it. You could port your whole playlist around with you, and load up what ever you already had in your library (a very slow process) . But they were a bit ahead of the curve, and I certainly wasn't willing to buy a song, even for a dime, if I could not port it to the other parts of my musical world (you need to posses the mp3 file, to make it the soundtrack of your youtube video). So without a stronger revenue model, they died a terrible death. IMHO the cloud/individual ownership hybrid will win in the end, if a savvy player can utilize both the targeted market of the hit parade, and one stop shop of retaining and growing long tail capabilities.

As I said above, it;s all about convenience. Of the 13,000 songs in my itunes library, only 40% are represented in the itunes store. Thus not only are they un-pingable, so a waste from the marketing/social network perspective, but I had to find and purchase 60% of my music from a divergence of non apple sources. "Had I had a single place to turn to for my "destination for music" , I would not be spending so much time down at Amoeba Records, and may have saved many barrels of oil.

Obviously there are issues inherent to having all the recorded music on the planet available from a single source. Take licensing. It's a big world, the music is owned by a plethora of artists and labels, and add to the pot all the market differences between selling songs for a dime online in Ghana, and a buck online in the USA. Makes for a scary set of legal and intellectual logistics. And who will pay for content that generates no revenue, just sitting there waiting to become the flavor of the month. These problems are not insurmountable, but require someone looking at the the long term, not the short payoff. To date, itunes is still using the 20th century business model of an individual artifact selling for a specific fee in a specific market. This is a holdover from the days of records, and radio where access to music was constrained by the physical limitations of time (airplay) and space (retail square footage). At 160 gigs, the ipod can already carry a quarter years worth of continual music Pandora, with its small library of 700,000 songs would take almost 4 years of continual streaming to get through, so while we still have a limited amount of time to learn of music, we certainly are well on the way to solving the space issue,

So why this insistence on selling songs one by one as the only workable model. We know that as individuals we need to have full portability and control before the dollars can be pried from our tight little fists. We also know many of us are only interested in buying a small number of items preselected for us by marketeers, freeing us from the tyranny of choice. But we also know that a significant sub set of us are seeking exposure to more options, and that even the most mundane tastes can still seek a bit of depth in their proclivity, and be shopping for tracks too obscure to fit the itunes bill.

The model with most hope to shoulder aside itunes will succeed with a multi channel approach, like itunes they will sell single downloads, but also offer a subscription service like Netflix watch instantly, married to a pay per extra download function. The consumer can choose to buy the one off, or pay a small monthly fee ($10 is small enough to get a groundswell) which entitled them to unlimited streaming of all content, plus the download of a few tracks (enough to get them thinking about downloads every month, but not so many as to eat up the cost of doing business). If one wishes to download more, they can pay a members rate per extra download. Content providers would be paid based on actual traffic percentage of the pie ( by per stream or per download). Providers like Go Van Gogh would continue to make their pennies, but could attain more revenue by driving traffic to the service for streaming and potential downloads. much as we do with our current song widget which links to the itunes store, This will increase overall traffic, and thus more filling overall in the pie. Apple/EMI would still make their millions off the Beatles as they would still be driving sales.

The consumer will be happy to have the convenience of a one stop shop for all of their music needs. The punters will have their instant Lady Gaga, and the curious will have an endless supply of fresh music. And unlike itunes, with it's anti amateur hour, and lack of musical breadth and depth, as the culture continues to fragment, and tastes become more and more balkanized, the fact that all tastes are catered too will keep this boat afloat.


Trouble maker
Friend to the band

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beatles on Itunes, one old dinosaur climbing aboard one soon to be dinosaur,

Last night the TV commentators were all abuzz. The Beatles will finally be on itunes thanks no doubt, to running out of any other coherent idea to boost Beatles holiday sales this year. Yes, you can now have the same reduced quality audio, and the same 5 computer restrictions (unless you pay the "premium") for the entire Beatles catalog, which most of you already own in one form or another.

Why should we care. The Beatles are as ubiquitous as the bible in a Motel Six. It's not like this ushers in a new age of technological wonder, or a significant broadening of the itunes offerings. To my jaundiced eyes, this is just a further acknowledgment of business as usual over at itunes. A flawed model enjoying it's last halcyon days before someone comes along to eat it's lunch. And in this souped up web crazed world, with a new brilliant idea made possible by the latest fastest biggest yet every other second, this will be a short enough interval that even our attention deficit age will still be awake when the whip comes down.

itunes, sure we all got our product on it. Go Van Gogh make its pennies a month, month after month after month. We are out there, supposedly on the tipity tip of the long tail, garnering the very small benefits of someone else's considerable R&D.

Yet from where I am standing, there are galaxy after galaxy Apple/itunes seems to know nothing about. This was brought home for me in hearts when itunes introduced Ping, their recent move into the social networking sphere. By design, but what I see as a conceptual flaw, Ping is limited to music that can be found in the itunes store. While I am sure the graphs and venn diagrams aplenty that justified this business logic make great sense in a short sighted world, perhaps the MBA's might consult someone with more peripheral vision next time. Less than a third of my itunes library is matched in the itunes store, and thats not because I am a big ACDC fan, or any of the other mega platinum itunes hold outs. It's because the itunes model is not broad, it is looking to sell the same 1000 things to the same Billion people, while using smoke and mirrors to pretend to be something grander than the CD section at Best Buy.
Anyone with half an ounce of discernment has to get their music elsewhere, no matter what flavor that music might be.

And apple can only blame itself when Mark Zuckerberg, or who ever come from left field to make itunes the VHS tape of the 21st century. By not actively seeking to be the complete aggregator of all things musical, in a quality format, heading step by step in a declared manner towards the INEVITABLE subscription service we all envisioned several decades ago, they have set themselves a course to extinction. Whether it's a meteorite hit, or a profusion of flowers, itunes has failed to show how they will be able to go the distance when calamity strikes.

Will apple mend it's ways, invest the time and cold hard cash into creating the inclusive affordable model all artists and music lovers can embrace? Not without some fast and fancy foot work, and bringing in some fresh thinkers to their mix.


Bobo Bubalisky
Trouble Maker
Friend to the band

Monday, July 13, 2009

Will the Ukulele save us

I was 
listening to the radio this afternoon, and this quote came up 
"art is a hammer to beat the world, not a mirror to reflect it" 
I looked it up, and it's credited to  either Vladimir Majakovsky (the esperantist and assassinated poet) or Nikolai Vladimirovich Nekrasov (the suicidal Russian Futurist) depending who you trust (trust no one). 

The discussion was on the emergence of the avant guard
 artists in Europe  (late 19th early 20th centuries) who sought to challenge the democratization of culture made possible through the mechanism of the mass market. This has become a timely issue once again due to the growing ubiquity of the web. We worship technology.  Each day we try a new widget, get an upgrade on our x or our y and z.  It helps us run faster, smarter if we are already smart, or make it possible to live our science fiction lives in a more science fiction way. CGI  makes for new forms of entertainment.  Internet browsers make restaurant choices for us as we drive to dinner.  And if we look back, this utilization of technology has always been an engine for radical change. For example, the Impressionists sprang from the spread of photography, changing the economic model of portraiture.  Or that Art Nouveau arose as increased industrialization making it possible to create less expensive object of art, and  a burgeoning middle class able to afford them.  The Gatling gun started the
 road away from mounted calvary and frontal wave assaults .

I always looked on these phenomena in a positive light (perhaps not the Gatling gun),  "Oh, now we can do this instead", not "this repressive homogenization of the vitality of human culture".

I am obviously a bit slow,  After all, for Majakovsky and Nekrasov the industrial revolution and mercantile imperialism  had been in full swing for over a century, How could they have failed to view the seeds of cultural homogeny as a threat.  Our historical counterparts were no more slouches, and perhaps less so, than our current crop of radical thinkers.  The Luddites may have arose from concern with the loss of their livelihoods.  Yet there were far reaching negative effect from the changes in their industries.  In 1812 the average person had real need of  more affordable rugs, trousers, and coats.   Unfortunately we long ago passed the point w
here we can produce all that everyone needs at a price everyone can afford, and have moved on to a world almost solely about possessions and economic relations.

Majakovsky and Nekrasov are active at what I consider the tipping point, In my groovy 21st century mindset, I always thought the emergence of phonographs, nickelodeons , and radio to be exciting.  The ability to transport cultural artifacts made for many lively new mixes.  Jazz found it's way around the world. Tango swept the globe, and on and on.  I had failed to see that, much like my own issues with the army of one ubiquity of culture generating and distributing technology, that the flood of modernity might be seen askance by those who wished to not be buried under an avalanche of bakelite and steel. 

So here we are in 2009.  We are nearing a possible artistic endgame of one big culture controlled by whoever owns the filter (buy your ad words here, now with extra zilch), there is less and less to be excited about, and more and more reason to pull at the bit.  One can wish to turn back the clock, but how many clicks. Prior to Democracy Now podcasts.  Before Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy.  Earlier than mass produced penicillin.  I think not   We can't go back, so we have to move forward wisely and with a great more vigor than we used  to get on the road we want to get off.  Shorter showers, and composting won't get us there.  The basic precepts we live by need to shift.   The lie is that we all need to continue to consume at faster and greater rates or the world will end.  Maybe the house of cards of centralize corporatism will end, but life will go on, just with less stuff.  We don't need a 762 Billion dollar a year US military, to defend the strategic interests of the riches 500 people on the planet. Nor do we need $150 concer

t tickets, or 8 dollar blouses. The quality of either is questionable.

But, let us get back to the origination of this post, as it got me thinking about what does re
flect our current culture, and how little there is that might smash through societies apathy.

One could say that reality TV, like Real Housewives of New Jersey or American Idol are more than metaphoric mirrors.  I am not so sure, as i have come to distrust my thinking on mass culture, due to my total distain and snobbishness (yet I can't look away from the 100 million car pile up).  

The hammer is also an oddity.  I think it's the Ukulele. A very gentle hammer indeed, but

look at how subversive it is.  It is small, and can be carried everywhere on foot.  It is intimate, meant for small gatherings (perhaps your living room), unlike most of our VERY LOUD AND OBVIOUS corporate culture that needs REALLY BIG SOUND SYSTEMS in GIANT STADIUMS.  It makes a gentle sound, unlike the aggressive aggro of most common fare.  It is amazingly simple (four strings) in an increasingly complicated world. It's made of wood (that alone is a dangerous idea), so can be made with fairly primitive tools.  

Now everyone doesn't need to take up the Uke.  That would just lead to flagship Uke stores on Union Square, and KTELL Uke hits sold on late night TV.  A Uke in every hand, a chicken in every pot, not a  world for vegetarians or Bobos.

 What we do need is that which enliven us, that which brings us together in celebration.  With or without Ukes, REALLY BIG SOUND SYSTEMS, or consideration if you are a mirror or a hammer (I am smashing, I spent a lot of time smashed). Thats why I will be spending this Saturday night at Cafe International.  Go Van Gogh (no Ukes), whether mirror or a hammer, are people sharing their love and efforts with who ever cares to know. I for one can never get enough of such a kind offer. So there I will be, to dance and frolic.  I will have my life energies recharged.  I will relate to my existing friends, who I have real, not virtual connections with. And I will have the opportunity to meet new people, and forge new relationships in an environment that is neither alienating nor hostile. 



Thursday, July 9, 2009

Purists are really annoying


As I am always willing to put my money where my mouth is, I am sharing with you some of our recent work. In this case it is a tune written in the late 19th century by my great grand father Israel Isaac Shamfrof. I have taken a great deal of liberty with the tune, adding whole sections, and the band has gone off the dub end as well. While there were no recordings made by old Izzy Isaac, there is sheet music which we used to infer his intent. For us, this was a point of departure. Looking at this Klezmer tune as part of my folk tradition, I did what any good folk artist does, and used the tune as a vehicle to move through the musical world we inhabit. That world encompasses Lee Scratch Perry, Tiny Tim, John Coltrane, The Thrills, and legions more.

Within Go Van Gogh we have had disagreements about this process. The fact that I almost always write a new section for the songs we cover is contentious. Everyone is not always down with how I take the song somewhere that the original composer would never have considered. I have different knowledge in my head than they did. As most of them are long dead, I doubt they mind. However one still must contend with the living.
So if anyone is interested, take a listen.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Professional Gear, No talent.

I was watching On The Rhumba River which could be considered a Congolese Buena Vista Social Club.  Papa Wendo (Antoine Kolosoy), a Singer and band leader now deceased, but then in his late 70's, is asked to put the band back together.  Not in any Blues Brother way (as this is real life) but to earn some cash. It's 2004 Kinshasa, the war and the final Mobutu years having taken their toll.
Wendo sets about finding as many of the old group as possible while being trailed by a French film crew.  In themselves, these slice of life scenes would make the film worth seeing, but the music, what little we get, is amazing. Filmed over the course of a few rehearsals, we are let into a world populated by his aging crew of players and dancers. Everyone already knows the material, so songs seem to emerge from the either, set off by a rhythm, or a snatch of melody.  The dancers, who's performance role is never clarified, glide beautifully around the rehearsal room, which made Go Van Gogh rehearsals seem so utilitarian and dull in comparison (who are a lively crew).
There were many stand out scenes, but one specific moment inspired this post.  I have included it here. 
This is the first rehearsal shown. The band is just fooling around. They glide into a tune, the dancers and various people are sitting  around chatting, and we are treated to the live take of what is happening in the room.  They are sounding great. They are coaxing beautiful tones out of their instruments,  but please note the instruments themselves. The saxophones are in need of re-corking, mouth pieces held in place with tape.  In later scenes you see the guitar is going through a tiny amp, and at the end of this cut, check out the hand percussionist.  He is playing on an old box missing half it's top.  Yet his rhythm and tone are spot on.
These old cats are making world class music in a concrete and tin rehearsal room, with gear that they have nursed through the privation of war and kleptocratic poverty.  They are well past the bloom of the rose, have not been a functioning group for quite some time, yet they hit the sweet spot.
Let us now venture back to the bay area.  Here one often sees posts
for musicians claiming to have, or demanding you have "PRO GEAR".  It's an absolute must for the aspiring metal head, or hard ROCKIN dude and dudette.  I did a simple search for this illusive "pro gear" in the current CL, and  the first one I came across was posted by a fellow who says "I smoke weed when I play. I’m psychedelic friendly, but not opiate or amphetamine friendly".  Following the link, we discover  his choice of drugs has not enhanced his first tune, which goes on and on, sounds like fuzzy shit, and held my interest for less than a millisecond.   He does include pretty pictures of his instruments.  Unfortunately lacking a clue, or much in the way of musicality, they are wasted on his 29 year old conception of use.  Perhaps when he is in his 70's he may be able to play a balsa-wood box to as great effect as our Congolese friend.  One can hope.
So the point is obvious.  We have become a society all about stuff, and the importance that brings to the process, rather than being all about intrinsic value and the quality of the craft. All about the show, and  not about the substance. 
In the two cases before us, the music says it all. One could say "a great mic makes a better recording".  But in whose hands.  Mr. "pro gear" has a current studio recording. He had the time to go back endlessly to make each note perfect.  Even if you love his music (which I did not), the actual sound quality could not hold a candle to the live recording  made in a cement and corrugated tin room back in 2004 Kinshasa. In fairness, not all the "pro gear" posts were made by people lacking skill (many were, not all)
We have become degraded by the consumerist culture. By the worship of bigger better, fast and faster.  Appearance has taken precedence, all form over function.  Part and parcel in the crisis capitalism we have bought into.
I for one, will endeavor to do more with what I have. My skills and WHATEVER falls to hand. It's the people and what they create that count.  Don't buy the lie.

Thats all for now.



Saturday, June 27, 2009

Revisiting the death of regionalism ( t)

OK maybe I am a Luddite after all.  While flush toilets, and central heating are wonderful, there are some things 19th century I will be sad to never know. Specifically I am on about the lack of local flavor due to the  ever consolidating forces leading to mono culture.

Just to annoy myself, I will dredge up a few boring well known ideas, to enable the getting on with it of todays issue.

1. 99% of all people have contact with some form of neighbors.  Thus no culture exists in a vacuum, as even that 1% will eventually meet someone in the 6 degrees of separation world. 

2, Cultures have been in constant flux for thousands of years.  Sometimes due to political factors, or more likely from the battle between the traditional/digestible, and the weird thing that just came over from next door.

3. Starting well before Alexander, kicked ahead by the Islamic conquest, and them amped up by European imperialism  this process has been gaining speed for thousands of years.  The world shrinks, our neighbors grow more diverse, and the politics of culture become more of an issue as we are subjugating, or fighting off subjugation.

 4. In the early 20th century with the new technologies of waxed cylinders, radio, and Motion Pictures,  "CULTURE" has been portable to the masses to greater effect. Subsequent technologic developments has increased this potential cultural interaction exponentially.

On to the bone I am currently gnawing.

In the post cold war period, the consolidation of all distribution of culture into fewer hands has almost strangled the spread of ideas to the masses, even while the availability of all cultural ideas has become possible to every individual.

Thus the war between the new and the old has taken on a more sinister tone. With the new being introduced from the outside, often simultaneously worldwide, instead of popping out of the imagination of an initiate, or idiosyncratically arrive from down river as an artifact selectively included in the baggage (intellectual or otherwise) of some stranger. The old jettisoned in a race for the perceived benefits of modernity.

This has brought us a wealth of dance floor favorites, and my personal tastes have always been more about the clash of cultures, than the purity of any given milieu.  Yet n
ow I worry that we will soon have no source material to work from at all.  The constant updating and further iterations through the perpetual influx of the same data globally will mean the stew in the pot in Cameroon will have all the same ingredients as the stew in the pot in Boston. Essentially making all our music,literature, film, etc one more BIG MAC experience.

On the flip side of this argument, as my friend Connie from Go Van Gogh expounds, this access to all things, both the latest, as well as all material ever recorded in any form, means that we each have the opportunity to use all source material in our individually odd way.  That creativity is not dependent on milieu, and comes from a much deeper place.  She claims that some artists will always be able to step outside the given box, and bring forth something new and valid.  No doubt thinking of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and "Interstellar Space".

I do not agree. Yes some people will pull from this deeper place.  But a writer will write using a language.  A language will have an underpinning of basic concepts about the world.  Even if you throw grammatical rules out the window.  Even if you make up new words for your new concepts, your writing utilizes some portion of the existing set of ideas, and your innovations still have a connection to all the knowledge you acquired related to that language and the underlying concepts it grew from.

Similarly, Coltrane, while transcending the bop and modal mediums, was directly influenced by contemporaries laboring in similar territory.  That he could take the ball and run so far ahead is a testament to his own brilliance and craft, but not a sign that he made the whole thing himself, unconnected to that which shaped him.

I hear great work every day.  Someone somewhere is always on the ball.  We are an endlessly creative species.  Some of the credit is due to technology.  Clem from Watchaclan throws some tracks together with the band.  He pops them onto his myspace page.  If I am linked, I get a notice the next time I login.  If I don't know Watchaclan, maybe I hear their tune Balkan Qoulou
on Eastblok Records Balkan Beats #3 which I happened upon somewhere else on the web.  So here is a tune I totally dig.  It's an old Algerian Berber song Qoulou L Ch'hilet LaĆ¢yani (it plays as the second song on the preceding link),  but redone as a Balkan brass tune as played by this very eclectic band from Marseilles.  It is a blessing to live in a time where so much cultural fecundity is possible.  

But I have to consider what happens next.  

What happens when the last Berber village gives up it's last song for repackaging. What happens when the last un-mined 60's era funk drum part is finally utilized as some pop songs break beat.  What happens, when hollywood has remade their last old sit com.  If all the new sitcoms were based on material from the old sitcoms, and all the new berber songs are based on Casio beats, or Michael Jackson melodies, how fast does the feed back loop descend into one bland piece of shit noise.

Thats all for now.