Friday, July 01, 2005

Music PSA

Stranded without music, I've taken to turning on the TV for background noise. I generally don't pay much attention. I've never been a huge television fan. But, yesterday, I did happen to hear an MTV commercial that got my attention. For once, "the leak" @ MTV dot com (a service that lets listeners preview upcoming albums a week or so in advance of their release) is leaking a good artist!

For your listening pleasure: Missy Elliot's new album, The Cookbook (to be released this Tuesaday, July 5th).

I gave it a listen last night, and enjoyed it quite a bit. The newest single Lose Control, in particular, is incredibly infectious. Knowing me, I will be dancing to it in my underwear soon enough.


Anonymous Maria said...

when i got a ride from shelly the other night, she played some cd's from the detroit festival she went to that had a lot of dj's playing there. one of the cd's she played had the exact same backbeat as lose control... only the guy that "made" it i guess you could say did so in the 80's. so i guess missy sampled it. this bothers me just a teensy bit for some reason that i cant quite place... just thought you should know.

11:55 AM, July 01, 2005  
Blogger Amy said...

Perhaps she did. I don't claim to know a lot about hip hop, and my definitive source isn't available at the moment to ask (hehehe). But, there really isn't anything wrong with sampling, so long as they cite the sample. It's similar to quoting someone else in a paper you write. It lets you encorporate the ideas of others into your own new work, building and expanding upon them (or even reworking them into something completely different), while still giving the originators props for their work.

12:39 PM, July 01, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Definitive Source(coming very late to the discussion) Sez:

Maria's slight unease with Missy's roving ears affords me an excellent opportunity to wax nerdy and rant and ramble obsessively about a debate that's been ruining friendships and causing fistfights among the geeky and dateless in the music-crit community for decades now. Others far smarter than I have better outlined the parameters of the conflict, and have avoided making brash generalizations and ignoring several trends like I will, but that's never prevented me from speaking my mind before;).

Maria is(perhaps unknowingly)expressing an iteration of the point of view that's come to be sometimes derisively known as rockism. Its tenets may apply to any form of music, or to any kind of artistic expression. First, bit of background. Musically, the folkies of the late 50's and early 60's, and their ethnomusicologist forebears like John Hammond and Alan Lomax, sought to record both the black blues singers like Leadbelly or Robert Johnson deemed freest of contact with white men and hillbilly balladeers thought most oppressed by the burgeoning mill and factory system. Their songs were considered the expression of the purest versions of the underclass, and the best vehicles for protest and revolution. The folkies themselves felt that reverently covering these songs, imitating southern accents, and dressing in denim work clothes was an expression of solidarity with the oppressed, and that music acquired artistic value based on its adherence to the social protest norm. The folkies were staunch cultural puritans, to the point of considering singers like Bob Dylan or Fred Neil immediately suspect because(gasp!!) they wrote their own songs.

Essentially an outgrowth of Dylan's electrified rejection of folkie puritanism, rockism in it's earliest forms arose from the attempts of the first generation of rock critics in the late 1960's to fuse their Marxist collegiate schooling with their love of the pop music of the time. This involved finding political purpose in songs about cars, girls, and carousing. Rock n' roll was held to be a form of proletarian protest against the stiff boredom of the middle classes; the songs of the early rock pioneers were examples of a life more authentically lived, and the songs of their late-60's counterculture descendents acquired value according to the levels of conviction and honesty perceived in their earnest shouting for revolution and against the establishment. Where the early rock critics differed from the folkies was in the veneration of personal expression over all else, as validated by Dylan and the Beatles, and the fetishization of wild romantic stereotypes borrowed from Baudelaire, Rimbaud and the Beats as antidotes to sanitized suburbia.

Critics of a slightly later period jettisoned the political position for a more aesthetically minded one, lionizing the Beatles/Stones/Dylan holy trinity beloved of the first rock critics, and judging the two guitars/bass/drums/three chords/maybe a piano or organ formula of the first British rock bands to be an artistic pinnacle. Honest personal expression, but not just of politics, was still the prized attribute of good music, and if the expression was done by someone who wrote and sang his own songs, preferably while playing the guitar in front of a band, that musician became a beloved genius. In a larger cultural sense, these opinions coalesced to cause an entire generation of critics and fans to consider rock and its values the lodestone of music; earlier genres like honky tonk and jump blues were important to the degree that they anticipated rock, anything a listener liked "rocked," and additional instrumentation like strings or horns was either an amusing novelty or an unnecessary, cluttering affectation. Furthermore, genres like jazz, hip hop, or disco were derided for either not rocking, or for featuring artists who neither played an instrument nor wrote their own songs.

This second version of rockism is the one that figures in Maria and Amy's back-and-forth. The problem with Maria's feeling bothered, and with rockism Mark II in general, is that viewing rock as a cultural Year Zero fails to take other genres by their own merits and shows an insufficient appreciation for the history of how American vernacular music (and its worldwide descendents) developed over time. The mixing of disparate cultural influences from each successive immigrant group means that a New Orleans R&B band, a Mississippi fife and drum corps, Bo Diddley, and Jerry Lee Lewis can play the same parts and follow the same rhythmic principles as an Afro-Cuban son orchestra and the singing styles of Scottish churches without even realizing it, and blues singers who write lyrics from the same communal pool of verses can stake claims to uniqueness and originality that a strict reading of the rock line would have denied them.

When a rap producer like Missy Elliott samples Cybotron and Afrika Bambaataa, she's simply the latest version of the American musical mongrel tradition of distilling what came before into a thrilling new potion. She's acknowledging that what happens now, in any area, is the result of the cumulative efforts of who came before, and the joy of her music is that she so powerfully stakes a new and unique position for herself while also venerating the work of the legends of the past.

So that's my lesson - long, boring, barely comprehensible, and it probably didn't add any insight to the matter either. Oh well.

11:31 PM, July 06, 2005  
Blogger Amy said...

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why he is the definitive source!

5:59 AM, July 07, 2005  
Anonymous Maria said...

I'm not rockist! :-p

12:35 PM, July 07, 2005  

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