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 Laâyani (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.



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