"Second, there's a huge difference in scale among "content creators". Your local garage band may be similar in quality to Foo Fighters in your opinion, but the fact is that they aren't."
'Fact'? The quality of a musical act and their material is a 'fact'? Really?
"What people actually like and are willing to pay for matters. In short, content creation is a competitive marketplace."
So music that doesn't sell as much is objectively lower in quality to music that sells more? Really? So Lady Gaga is the greatest musician in the world?
I guess this means that McDonald's makes the best hamburgers, right? I mean no one else sells nearly as many hamburgers, right? The market has spoken!
But of course, to anyone who knows anything about food, this is quite irrelevant, because these people evaluate the quality of food based not on its creator's market share, but on their experience while eating it. This is, in fact, the way most intelligent people evaluate the things that they care about.
Finally I should note that while 'content creation' can be related to the activities of a competitive market, it is not itself a market at all. e.g. Bach wrote very little for a competitive market, and if he were around today, he would sell much less than the Foo Fighters.
Do you really want to go on record as saying that Bach is less good than the Foo Fighters because his music doesn't sell as much?
"As for the recent development of celebrity it's the name we give to them that's recent not the actual "status", if you want to call it that How else to explain the status of the romantic poets at the beginning of the 19th Century? Other than the stirrings of mass media which, I'll much more than concede."
'Status' doesn't imply 'celebrity'. The romantic poets had to be exceptional poets to achieve their status. Fergie just had to be kind of hot (if you like that sort of thing). If she were famous for being hot, that would be OK, but she is famous as a musician, which is...unfortunate to say the least.
What I was talking about in my first post was simply that people who aren't musicians seem to need more than the raw sound to 'relate' to music.
Are you really disputing this?
"Being moved has everything to do with music as it has with poetry until the latter half of the 20th Century. There have been a number of studies done with look at the differences between what parts of the brain "light up" listening to music, pre-20thC poetry and prose. Prose lights up the fewest by far, poetry much more and music involves the entire brain regardless of whether the person being tested likes that style or not. Dismiss that all you want, it's fact. "
Yes, but what do these facts mean? This is not anywhere near as clear cut as you seem to think. To see just how confused some humanists can get about brain scans, try reading this.
I would never assert that emotions have nothing to do with music. But they don't exhaust it either. Musicians have intellects as well as emotions, though very few people seem to want to acknowledge this. And it isn't just late twentieth century music that demonstrates this. Beethoven himself quickly grew annoyed with the cult of sentiment that dominated his listening audience. He famously upbraided Goethe simply for telling him that he found his music 'deeply moving'.
"As for the Lee Eastwood song you mention I rather like it though I'm not a country fan and I'm not an American. To those who are moved to tears the song isn't pablum"
And to people who like McDonald's, a Big Mac isn't junk food. And yet nutritionists insist that it is.
"If you're talking about music theory, you're probably right but if you're talking of human reaction to music then, with respect, you're full of it."
What you are calling the 'human reaction to music' is actually the human reaction to a tiny subset of music.
"music, as does anything involving rhyme, rythymn and metre (a beat) engages not only the logical parts of the brain but also all of the emotional and visual (yes, visual) and other sensory parts of the human brain."
Rhyme is not properly a part of music, but of lyrics or poetry (which music doesn't require). Nor is music visual. This is figurative thinking that only confuses matters.
Pitch, on the other hand, which IS a part of music, goes unmentioned by you.
"If you want to argue that point then explain to me how easily people can be brought to tears listening to music"
It's called sentimentality. It is far from being the apex of music. The reason it appeals to so many people is because it is easy. It requires no reflection or knowledge to be experienced.
"He conncected, as did the rest of the band when they began to do much the same, however reluctantly. The fans cared because people were moved by their music not just their celebrity status."
You keep talking about 'people being moved' as if that proves something. People are 'moved' by the most tawdry and predictable pablum that can be imagined. Some people cry when they hear Lee Greenwood sing about how he is proud to be an American. So what?
"There's no need to be profound, certainly Charlton Heston never was yet he was genuine in his connection through the NRA in the United States no matter how much I personally disagreed with him."
Here I admit that you have lost me. What do Charlton Heston or the NRA have to do with anything?
"We humans will always develop celebs."
Actually 'celebs' are a fairly recent phenomena. Look for a copy of Daniel Boorstin's 'The Image' for the relevant history.
"And artists made the connections as a matter of course before the invention of the MPAA, RIAA, agents or publicists hangons that attach themselves to them now."
"But then you go look at the Twitter feeds of folks who really connect with their fans and you see something totally different. You look at Kevin Smith or Amanda Palmer or Zoe Keating and you see that they talk about all sorts of interesting stuff that goes way beyond what they're famous for -- and they talk back to lots of other folks as well. They talk about their lives. And it's amazing how just doing that helps connect them even more to their fans. It makes their fans that much more loyal and committed. It really is about building a connection. Too many artists like to mock these forms of communication ("who wants to hear what someone had for lunch"), but they don't realize that sharing, listening, communicating... and just being human and authentic is an amazing way to connect with fans in a powerful, lasting and meaningful way."
What depresses me about this is that it is an extension of celebrity culture into a medium that shouldn't require artists to be celebrities. The mass market economic conditions that necessitated the creation of celebrities in the first place no longer obtain. But while the inefficiencies of the old media have been bypassed, the unfortunate mental habits that they gave birth to are still walking around like cultural zombies.
I guess what depresses me is how all of this demonstrates convincingly that ordinary people care very little about music. Without some sort of narrative to make them feel 'connected' to it, music is as uninteresting to most people as Boolean algebra.
"I apologize for repeating myself, but I can't say this enough: words do not hurt. They never do. When someone says something designed to inflict pain, you get to choose how to react and respond."
Actually, you get to choose how you respond, but not how you react, unless you are claiming to be a completely and consistently rational person.
Personally, I am far less sanguine about the glory of open comment sections. I think that they can drive a lot of traffic to your site, and can get you lots of followers, but I simply haven't seen very much insight in any of these comments. I've seen some that were quite funny, mind, but that's about it.
I much prefer the Joel Spolsky kind of blog: no comments, fewer articles, but better writing. I also like message boards, and I am a member of several. But for some reason the hybrid of the two represented by sites like this one and Reason's Hit and Run just doesn't work for me.
Except, of course, as a source of sometimes quite brilliant humor.
This is an argument where I honestly disagree equally with both sides.
The idea that any work being created today is particularly original is indeed usually quite risible. Most cultural work is overwhelmingly derivative, and people like it that way.
But the idea that nothing is truly original is every bit as wrong.
Conlon Nancarrow was original. Harry Partch was original. Anton Webern was original. Charles Ives was original.
The fact that these people didn't form their ideas in a vacuum doesn't mean that they weren't original, still less could anyone assert reasonably that 'they were just remixing like musicians have always done'. They had unique visions that resulted in extremely distinctive music that could not easily be confused with the music of anyone else (save imitators, of course).
Of course, this is rarely mentioned in these conversations, because most of the apologists of originality are playing a shell (shill?) game: talking about originality and copyright as if they are naturally related, when in fact they have little to do with each other.
Originality is usually a curse: a curse that befalls people who are smarter, more far-seeing, or just plain more gifted than other people.
Such people do exist. I realize that this is a very undemocratic sentiment, but it's true.
"I should probably remember to log in before posting next time..."
That's ok, I figured it out. ;)
"I think that, and your own post answers the question of why the audience is so important. The audience (your "fans") do rule because they determine if a piece of artwork becomes famous and can make a living off of art."
I know that the audience 'rules' from a commercial standpoint. But consider: does anyone above the age of 12 think that fame=quality? I mean, most adults that I know realize that there is more to, say, music than the celebrity status of it's creator. It is this 'more' that I am interested in, and it is neither increased nor diminished by the artist's fame or popularity.
Maybe it's because most (not all) of the music that I am interested in has never been popular. Maybe it's because I have heard one too many shallow twerps say that Bach is boring and only stupid old people like that shit. Maybe it's because I know that skimming any history of art or music or literature will reveal dozens of names of people whose work changed the nature of their chosen art form forever, but who still died in obscurity. But whatever the reason, I am really starting to get sick of hearing about the importance of the audience. Acknowledging their economic importance is one thing. Pandering to their bored impatience, and pretending that it is some sort of instinctive insight of vital epistemic import, is quite another.
"Intent is, in the end, meaningless. Sure, from an academic perspective the artists intent might have some value, but art is all about how it affects the audience (this includes movies, music, and the written word). The artist can say whatever they damn well please, but what matters in the end is what the audience thinks."
Why is the audience so important?
This navel-gazing self-congratulatory 'Fans Rule!' attitude might seem obvious to you, but I am yet to see a compelling argument for it. Artists need an audience to get famous; they don't need an audience to make art.
"I would be fascinated to have more insight into the agenda behind this blog. "
Nothing gets more tired than reading competing conspiracy theories about which 'corporate puppet masters' are controlling the agenda behind blog x or blog y. The Koch empire on one side, and the Soros empire on the other, have been blamed for pretty much every last bit of political commentary on the net. And every single time, the blaming is an excuse for dismissing someone's argument without trying to understand it.
Arguments can and should be evaluated on their own merits. Allegations concerning the writer's motivations, whether secret or otherwise, add up to little more than ideological cheer leading.
"My argument on that is that as more people make more music, they are making quantity, and nothing else. The skills of song writing, performing, recording, and all that are not likely to be on the same level as the well filtered music we tend to hear, which suggests that something in the quality of the product may be lost."
I don't think that people like you appreciate how much really great music never saw the light of day in the past because it wasn't 'marketable'; because the band who made it didn't have a cute lead singer; because the songs were too long, or didn't have lyrics, or weren't in 4/4 time.
I, on the other other hand, do appreciate how much great music was lost to the world due to the lowest common denominator imperatives of the industry. Which is how I know that the lawless internet has done more for music in 15 years than the RIAA has in 50. Which is how I also know that you, sir, are full of shit.
How can people know this when there are so damn many of them?
There aren't enough hours in your whole life to listen to just the albums made in the past year.
And why, WHY does everyone act as if pop music is the only kind of music that exists? There is a lot more to music than pop and rock. If you payed attention to it you might find out that it is easier to hear today than ever before.
"While your assertion may apply to the study's first finding (or, may not, since we're actually talking about a consensus of expert opinions), it does not apply to its quantitative findings."
While I agree in a general sense about the conclusions of this study, the idea that the writers at Pitchfork are 'experts' about anything more than what they think is cool this year is risible.
If you want expert opinions about music, it seems to me that you should ask, oh I don't know, musicians maybe?
I'm not arguing with the studies conclusions, because I think that most decent musicians would agree with them. The net, cheap audio technology, and music production software like Cubase have been nothing but good for the creation, preservation, and distribution of musical culture. Musicians who are more concerned with making music than being celebrities finally have access to the tools that they could only dream about back in the 70's and 80's.
No, I simply can't stand the idea of a bunch of musically illiterate journalists being regarded as 'experts'.
You see, Mike I think you are making a fundamental mistake about the legal mind.
There is never any question of 'right' or 'wrong' divorced from what one can get away with in court. There is no purpose to the law outside of it's practice.
I'm not saying that all lawyers are this amoral, but our legal system does seem to turn out quite a few who are. Perhaps it's a form of cynicism. Perhaps it's straight up nihilism. Perhaps it's a simple desire not to be a loser in what is perceived to be a zero-sum game.
But whatever it is, our country is filled with it: not just because of all the practicing lawyers, but because very few people seem to be able to enter public office without first becoming a member of the bar association.
"No kidding? What a concept! In fact, that--an attempt to assert and defend a notion of a standard of taste, discernment--is exactly what the critic who's been mocked and denounced in the opening of this thread--"
You misunderstand me. By 'establishing standards' What I mean establishing positive standards. To do this, you must point out, not what you think is execrable, but what you think embodies or defines excellence. Otherwise, you don't sound like a critic, but like a curmudgeon.
"Our critic in the thread's opening post, right from the outset, is denounced as being an elitist. Well, that implies his having taken a position--against the mediocre conventional and popular views urged and defended so lamely by so many here--and what is that except to "establish your own standards, and give voice to people who embody them or live up to them"? "
See above, regarding positive examples. These are even more necessary here, because your negative assertions are so sweeping and vague.
And why so offended by the tag 'elitist'? If you think that most people have horrible taste, you are an elitist, just like if you think that people are generally wise and just you are a populist. The word isn't an insult unless you take it as one.
"And that, too, is exactly what my posts have been doing as well. I ought to ask you: "Who are you arguing with?" !!!
I am arguing with someone who is failing to see that dreck has always been around; that the taste of most people has never been any better than it is now; that the internet merely makes ancient human tendencies more visible than they were previously.
But more than that, you are failing to see (or at least are being silent about) the power that the internet puts into the hands of proponents of the very cultural excellence that you are defending. That's why I brought up Conlon Nancarrow and Charles Ives earlier. Their music is getting a much larger audience now than it did before the internet. You no longer have to wait until the one copy of the scratched up cd down at the library becomes available. You can listen to it instantly. How is this bad?
As long as people like you talk of the internet as if it were nothing but tons of amateur crap, without ever mentioning the fact that it is also the best way of exposing yourself to cultural greatness; as long as you gripe about how many things suck without once providing a link to a single one of the millions of canonical public domain texts that you can download at the internet archive; as long as you fail to acknowledge that the web improves the communicative abilities of everyone, whether geniuses or idiots, I will continue to argue with you.
I argue with Mike all of the time too. I disagree with him about all kinds of things. But in this case, I share his optimism, perhaps because I remember how difficult it was to find interesting cultural artifacts before the internet. I used to read histories of music thinking 'boy, I sure would like to hear some of this music that I have been reading about; too bad I can't find any of it at my library or at any of the crappy local stores'. Music students today have access to so many more resources than I did that it boggles the mind.