On Wednesday I was at The Hub’s One Dayer conference. This was the final event in their ‘Joining the Dots’ funding and knowledge-sharing programme around live independent music and technology. This was a programme in which I have been lucky to play a small part over the last two years. The talks and provocations over the day helped me to crystallise a few thoughts I have been having about contemporary live music in recent years, primarily as a punter, but haven’t had the wherewithal to develop. These are those thoughts.
I got more feedback on my recent post about the vinyl revival than for anything else I’ve written.
Some of these were useful correctives to my prose style (“reads like it was written with a goatee dipped in ink”); others were a bit more constructively engaged with the content and helped me clarify and nuance what I was trying to say.
The main point is this:
The current fetish for physical – including Record Store Day specifically and the vinyl revival more generally – is a digital phenomenon. Let’s not fool ourselves otherwise.
More waffle below.
Last week Jack White reached number one in the US album charts with Lazaretto, which sold forty thousand vinyl LP copies in its first week, and comes replete with format gimmicks like three-speed play and holograms.
As digital streaming services gain legitimacy as much as they court controversy, every week there is yet another article about the joys of physical music and the Guardian are currently crowd-sourcing photos of people’s record collections.
This weekend there is a two day conference on the materiality of music in the digital age at Sussex University.
Conversations about physical media are thriving in the digital era – but is the ‘physical revival’ actually preventing the most interesting debates from getting through?
On a recent Spotify crawl, this particularly amused me.
Insert witty Adorno quote here.
The ‘younger generation’ – the concept itself is merely an ideological catch-all – seems to be in conflict with its elders and their plush culture precisely through the new way of listening. In America, it is just the so-called liberals and progressives whom one finds among the advocates of light popular music, most of whom want to classify their activity as democratic. But if regressive hearing is progressive as opposed to the ‘individualistic’ sort, it is only in the dialectical sense that it is better fitted to the advancing brutality than the latter. All possible mould has been rubbed off the baseness, and it is legitimate to criticize the aesthetic residue of an individuality that was long since wrested from individuals. But this criticism comes with little force from the sphere of popular music, since it is just this sphere that mummifies the vulgarized and decaying remnants of romantic individualism. Its innovations are inseparably coupled with these remnants.
– On the Fetish Character in Music and the Regression of Listening