Hipster Olympics!

December 6th, 2010

Alternative Subcultures

December 6th, 2010

Yay, it’s indie music week! This is what I’ve been waiting for – to be able to talk about my favorite genre. Basically, I’m an indie music aficionado. It always satisfied me in such a way that no other genre could quite manage. It’s oddly satisfying – as a celebration of weirdness, indie music gives me the fix I need to make me feel like I’m listening to music in outer-space played by a band that uses a Styrofoam cup, plastic spoon, washboard, didgeridoo, chorus of squirrels… Wait, does that actually exist yet? As all indie people are fully aware of, the coolest band out there is unheard of by all and actually does not exist yet. I think the human paradox of wanting to be a part of something larger but also wanting “otherness,” exclusivity and something different is what leads a certain niche to people to music that celebrates independence and freedom from the dictatorship of major labels. It’s such a breath of fresh of air to hear something different and real.

Wald’s article on feminism discusses Gwen Stefani, her songs and her style. I remember being very young when “Just a Girl” debuted – my friends and I went nuts over it. But what I remember most clearly was Stefani’s look. The essay describes it as a sort of “punk Marilyn Monroe,” which I think is the perfect description. She is a feminine figure but toes the line between girlishness and mocking conventions. With her platinum blonde hair and attitude, she was the new role model we aspired to be. We were just starting elementary school and Gwen Stefani along with the Spice Girls entertained us primarily. The Spice Girls appealed to our glitzy, girly side, while Gwen Stefani appealed to both the glamorous little girls we wanted to be while softly rebelling against the establishment. I must commend the marketing teams for the artists – cleverly done. Gwen Stefani covered all bases.

The article on Mexican music was difficult to understand at points. I imagine this is because I am completely unschooled in Mexican music, with the exception of Ritchie Valens (La Bamba remains one of my favorite movies and songs since I saw it when I was in elementary school). I must be honest here – I had a hard time getting into the article. However, something interesting I picked up from it is that “No Hay Manero” puts memories of the past back into a social and economic landscape that would rather forget them. Music should indeed keep memories of everything possible within a world that moves towards globalization daily. It is a valuable artifact that can record histories and sing them back at us.

The Hesmondhalgh article discusses record stores, which are among my favorite places on earth. Specialist shops arose because of changes in the distribution sector of the British music business. Do-It-Yourself, or DIY, labels started to pop up. The labels themselves were formed by the specialty music shops. The presence and significance of independents was increased. Even though it says Rough Trade went bankrupt in 1991, is there where today’s Rough Trade Records fits in? I could spend a few hours squealing over the bands on this label (Belle and Sebastian, The Strokes, The Mystery Jets, The Hold Steady, Arcade Fire, just to name a few). Rough Trade was a shop, a big label and a distribution company. A major way the indies tend to market themselves is though Do-It-Yourself marketing all the way through. This is independence brought a whole new plane. I have to give them my respect, since I’m a firm believer that independence is the road to the true creation of art.

Savage, Young, Ferris, Hebdige

November 14th, 2010

Tricia Henry Young wrote an academic article about the Sex Pistols. There are worse ways one can spend their time than reading about the most notable punk band of the 1970s. The Sex Pistols were the “punkiest” punks and “baddest” bad boys on the scene, to the point of extreme. They represent the misfit, nonconformist rebel in all of us. One needs quite a lot of moral fiber to dare to present themselves as hedonistically as the Sex Pistols did. They succeeded in glamorizing the underprivileged. Rich, ordinary people pretended to be unemployed and poverty-stricken in order to present themselves as “true punks,” complete with punk credentials. But it is their ordinariness that makes them crave punk music. I have often said that if you look in someone’s music collection, you will see their true soul. Listeners of punk who lead ordinary lives wish to rebel in some form. Instead of living like an outlaw, they listened to rebellious music to satiate their craving. (I think it would be an interesting idea to research the psychology behind people’s music choices and see if they are subconsciously wishing for what the music holds.)

The article continues on to discuss the Sex Pistols and their anarchic, punk style and concludes with the tragic deaths of Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious. Movie recommendation: Sid and Nancy (1986) starring Gary Oldman.

Jon Savage writes about the Clash in his article about punk rock and anarchy. If there is one band that has influenced the music that I listen to, it is undoubtedly the Clash. Their low-fi sound and British themes illustrated in the lyrics of their songs was common of the bands that made up the first wave of British punk during the 1970s. The Clash has been incredibly influential – most of my favorite bands would not exist without them, including The Libertines, The Good, the Bad, and the Queen, Gorillaz, The Arctic Monkeys, and U2. Bono from U2 stated that the Clash were “the greatest rock band. They wrote the rule book for U2.” The leftist political ideology the Clash sang about would eventually inspire Rage Against the Machine, whose repertoire includes covers of songs originally from the Clash. I would not have survived until this day without them.

Dick Hebdige writes about David Bowie and glam rock and the connection to punk. David Bowie is famous for his androgynous looks and disguises which included wild makeup, platform shoes and multicolored, poufy hair. Punk is an add-on to glam rock that is supposed to disrupt glam rock’s decorative style. The new wave was directed towards reggae, which glam rock had originally excluded. It drew punks who wanted to give form to their estrangement. However, my interested is in David Bowie – his innovative glam rock music and look were one of a kind. My reaction to seeing him in full costume the first time was very similar to my reaction when I saw Michael Jackson on television for the first time – I felt like I was witnessing a completely originally display in the way the artist presented himself. There will never be anyone else who present themselves quite like that ever again in sound and visuals.

Timothy Ferris writes more about Bowie in the USA. He had a special talent and was able to command the audiences with his unique look and presence. Even though he borrowed from other artists, what he created as his on-stage persona was unique. His manager, Tony De Fries, called Bowie and his music the “product.” I know that that is exactly what David Bowie and his music is to De Fries, a product meant to be sold and make money, but I think the word “product” is rather harsh and cold. From a marketing perspective, which must be De Fries perspective, rather than the perspective of a fan, the artist and the music are indeed a product. However, to the fans, the artist is much more than a product – the artist is an inspiration and entertainer and producer of art. The word “product” just doesn’t do it justice.

Miller 308-312, chap. 15, 17, Dyer, Lawrence

November 5th, 2010

Pages 308-312 in Miller tell the story of how punk rock was actually a revolt against the studio-engineered sound of disco. Prior to coming to this class, I thought I knew a bit about the general histories of my favorite genres of music, but I was clearly mistaken because I have been learning so many new interesting historical tidbits from the readings each week. The pinnacle might be this week’s reading: punk was a rebellion against the synthetically produced disco music of the 1970s. Punk reflected the decline of 1950s youth culture. Punk musicians jammed about intolerant acts of society that angered them. This was real music, unembellished and complete with noticeable imperfections included in the recording.  What a breath of fresh air after the mechanically produced disco music. Music seems to be created when there is a need for revolt. Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley rebelled against the propriety of the music and era prior to them. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones put their own individual touches to rock ‘n roll. Punk rebelled against the “emotionless synthesizers” that produced popular music in the 1970s by jarring the senses. Without new generations rebelling against the former generations, we would not progress as a society, especially when it comes to music and art. It is interesting to note the need that people have to be a part of the coolest new cutting-edge scene and therefore latched onto punk.

The 1970s marked the phonograph’s 100th anniversary. The original talking-machine configuration by Edison and Berliner remained unchanged. The microgroove long-playing disc might be the best achievement of the music industry: the world’s most exact mass-produced consumer product. Just as the disc was reaching its height of glory, the cassette emerged to knock the disk off the throne of recorded sound. The microgroove long-playing disc did not disappear because of the difficulty involving in handling the large amounts of cassette tape. It is no wonder the masses found the cassette appealing – it is compact, portable, and easy to use. In fact, the modern iPod looks something like a cassette. The cassette assisted in developing rap because it was simple to record. Rap was created by teenagers who needed an available medium on which to record, and the cheap, simple cassette was perfect. Here we see that the technology available controlled the music that was being created;the technology driving the art instead of the art driving the technology. This observation makes one wonder what interesting new sounds will arise because of future recording devices.

Digital sound was being researched in Japan in 1977, which would lay the groundwork for the next great wave of technology and gadgets. The experiments at Japanese companies produced pulse-coded modulation processors that could turn audio signals into a series of pulses that correspond to voltages produced by a transducer like a microphone, analyzing thousands of tiny bits of sound. In order to capture the output of the PCM process, the information would be store on a plastic disk and a laser reader would play it back. This sounds as though the seeds of the modern CD have finally been sown. PCM processing and the microprocessor also led the way for binary codes which are used by computers to process information. Without advancements in sound, advancements in computer technology would not have been possible. Here we see different technologies feeding into one another.

Dyer discusses the fact that although he is a socialist, he is choosing to defend his genre of choice, disco, and discusses it in his article within the context of its popularity in gay culture. Dyer mentions that those who share his political views see disco as “irredeemably capitalistic” because it is produced by a capitalist industry instead of by non-professionals. This reminds me of the numerous discussions I have had with my friends over direct and inverse correlations of musical preferences and political preferences. The stereotypical fan of over-produced, mainstream pop music is a sheep-like capitalist without an original thought in their head. The stereotypical fan of artsy, indie music is a free-thinking liberal. In my experience, this is completely untrue. I have met capitalist Wall Street-types who spend their free time at indie shows and people who claim to be free-thinkers but prefer the music of Britney Spears. Our world is made up of shades of grey. I would suggest peering inside someone’s iPod to see what is truly in their soul instead of pigeonholing them according to their political preferences.

Lawrence writes about Francis Grasso, innovative DJ who created original mixes and ground-breaking techniques in order to create a more intense, hypnotic sound. Grasso used intense strobe-lights in order to overpower the visual senses and create a disorienting effect. The space, light, sound and bodies packed into the discos create a unique interaction. The DJs lead and followed the crowd, by preparing certain musical selections beforehand but playing them according to the energy on the dance floor. This unique conversation between the DJ and the crowd created a revolution. My parents told me that people actually passed out in the discos because their senses were overloaded from the loud sounds and strobe lights.   I would love to have witnessed the scene of madness in the discos. I can imagine the flashing lights, intense music and the people being affected by the atmosphere. In today’s day and age, I would imagine Massive Attack or another “trip-hop” group being played from the DJ stand. This is one musical experience I really wish I could see, in all its glory and madness.

.::Research Proposal::.

October 15th, 2010

Music marketing practices, past, present and future. Mass music marketing began with the rise of the middle class, towards the end of the 18th century, when a mass market appeared. In the modern age, Internet marketing has overtaken promotional practices. My paper will analyze and discuss marketing techniques developed and employed by specific artists (including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, The Libertines and Radiohead) throughout the history of popular music, emphasizing new marketing practices and showing the evolution of music marketing by comparing and contrasting different methods. I will discuss where the marketing component of the music industry is headed as well.

Millard 10, p. 285-295, Porter

October 15th, 2010

The 1930s brought technological improvement. Among these improvements was the loudspeaker. The three-way speaker was launched in 1931, dividing sound into three frequencies, with each band sent to three transducers, each individual transducer intended to work best with high, medium and low frequencies. Soon, this system was used all over the world. Today, we have IMAX theaters featuring digital sound. They are so incredibly powerful they can blow out candles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIblZZwU0j0). It is quite impressive seeing how fast technology improved in the past 80 years when beforehand, there was far less improvement in time spans far longer. Why is this? Perhaps it is because of an increase in population, which allowed more brains to come into existence and work on advancing society.

The long-player (LP) broke the 2-3 minute barrier in the early twentieth century by doubling the grooves to the inch of recordings from 100 to 200, but the labs of the Big Three increased the playing time to 7-8 minutes in the 1930s. Without this development, we would not have the long-playing records we enjoy today. This fondly brings to mind Goodspeed You! Black Emporer’s longest track – the 29:02 minute-long ‘Providence.’ The absence of this development would be hindering musicians today.

As time passed, the fidelity, quality and transportability of recording and talking machines improved. The home stereo consisted of a rectangular cabinet with two consoles built into the ends, to blend in with the living room furniture. In the 1960s, everyone wanted a stereo at home. Sony and Panasonic, from Japan, produced lower priced stereos that were also portable, feeding into the public’s desire for smaller, portable machines that has continued until today. Home stereos were no longer luxury goods –high-fidelity was now available for all. Luxury goods made available for the general public by mass-production seems to be a recurring theme in history continuing today, with luxury companies producing cheaper, less detailed versions of their goods for lower prices for the average consumer.

Pages 285-295 talk about the recording techniques used in studios and on sound stages in order to perfect sound recording for records and films.

Much more interesting than technical details about sound recording is Eric Porter’s “Dizzy Atmosphere: The Challenge of Bebop.” Bebop and jazz are directly related in that bebop marked the rising of the small combo as the most basic performing component of jazz. Bebop is characterized by speed, and most importantly, musical improvisation.

First off, I must ask a question: Where did the term “bebop” come from? I cannot figure out where such a title would have come from, but it sounds to me like onomonopia.

With bebop, we see the African American culture growing into its own with different, non-mainstream genres of music. Bebop was “an anti-assimilationist” challenge to the mainstream middle class, which is a notion reminiscent of today’s rap culture (and other subcultures that wish to remain unassimilated and counter-cultural). Bebop reflected transformations in black life, attitude and politics during WWII. It challenged the self-righteous older musicians and economic exploitation by whites in the music industry by presenting an alternative. This genre of music built a subculture against the mainstream, an ancestor of today’s rap movement that attempts to achieve the same goal – fighting against the common, mainstream movements. While mainstream music has a certain order to it, bebop’s most important quality was the improvisation, similar to today’s improvisation in rap music.

The most basic form of distinguishing oneself from the masses is dressing differently in order to make a statement. Today’s rap artists dress in a certain distinct style, just as the bebop artists of year s ago adapted a certain style that included facial hair, berets and horn-rimmed glasses. This shows a desire to separate from mainstream fashions and ideas. (Another example is how hipsters have adopted Ray-Ban sunglasses and Urban Outfitters clothing as the uniform, further demonstrating how subcultures tend to adopt certain styles in order to distinguish them from the mainstream.) It is interesting to note how history repeats itself and reinterprets itself as the years go by.

Music as an art form is the best possible way to go about protest, illustrate individuality and challenge others because of its mysterious ability to stir emotion and inspire. We see examples of taking a stand through music in the past and present, and mark my words, with the amount of recording one can do just sitting at home with a Macbook, we will see far more individual opinions taking the form of music in the future.

.::”She’s Leaving Home” – The Beatles – Musical Analysis::.

October 2nd, 2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lG3nXyI41M

The diamond in the crown of the 1960’s musical British Invasion would largely be considered to be The Beatles, an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. Before The Beatles, rock music was rather rigid, wooden and almost formal, as was the world’s atmosphere at the time of the 1950’s. The Beatles brought the formality of the previous era’s music to its knees and revolutionized sound. While the world itself was undergoing radical change and evolving from an era of stilted emotions and old-fashioned ideals to a time of war protests, equality, civil rights and sweeping change, the Beatles were bringing the equivalent amount of change to the musical world. The changes the music of the times were undergoing mirror the social and political alterations of the era. Older, conservative values were being swiftly replaced by new, progressive values, causing the previous generation to gaze in mystification at the social changes taking place. In tune with the changing value system was the evolving sound of popular music.  “She’s Leaving Home,” recorded on March 17, 1967, released by Parlophone Records on June 1, 1967 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She’s_Leaving_Home), and placed  as song number six on side one of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, interestingly comments on the old-fashioned principles and ethics of the previous generation through a parody of classical music. The song provides social commentary by mocking the attitude of a mother and a father during the 1960’s who completely misunderstand their daughter and why she has chosen to flee. They represent all parents and children of that time.

The Beatles were regarded as the personification of progressivism. They were staunchly anti-traditionalism and the ideas they put into their music reflected this notion. The group originally consisted of John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Stuart Sutcliffe (who died of brain hemorrhaging after only having been with the band from 1960-1962), and Pete Best. Best was with the band from 1960-1962 (http://classicrock.about.com/od/bandsandartists/p/beatles.htm) and was replaced by Ringo Starr. John and Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote “She’s Leaving Home” together, which was produced by George Martin.

“She’s Leaving Home” was based on the tale of a young woman who had left home. McCartney and Lennon took some liberties and added details about how the young woman needed more from life, especially the fun that had always been denied her. The chorus of the song is from the point of view of the parents, who are traditional and do not understand how their daughter could possibly leave them when they genuinely believe they have given her everything she could possibly wish for. These are the victims of a communication gap between generations. As the song is analyzed, we see how the Beatles are actually commenting on the social atmosphere of the times, including the generational gap, and mocking the naivety of the parents and their old-fashioned sensibilities.

“She’s Leaving Home” is one of very few songs by the Beatles on which they themselves did not play any music instruments. Paul McCartney sang lead vocals and backing vocals and John Lennon sang vocals and backing vocals. The Beatles hired Erich Gruenberg, Derek Jacobs, Trevor Williams, and Jose Luis Garcia to play the violin, John Underwood and Stephen Shingles to play the viola, Dennis Vigay and Alan Dalziel to play the cello, Gordon Pearce to play the double bass and Sheila Bromberg to play the harp (.http://www.beatlesbible.com/songs/shes-leaving-home/). Intriguingly, Bromberg was the first female musician on a Beatles record. George Martin, in addition to producing the record, conducted the string section as well. Mike Leander scored the piece. The stereo version runs at a slower pace than the mono mix, and thus is a semitone lower in pitch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She’s_Leaving_Home). A 2007 article in Mono magazine stated that the mono mix was sped up to make Paul McCartney sound younger and tighten the track (Irvin). The piece’s time signature is 3-4 (http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtdVPE.asp?ppn=MN0061861). The tempo for the entire piece is slow.

The song begins as we hear the rippling of a harp, seemingly mimicking tiptoeing and tentativeness. There is an uneasy, apprehensive feel during these notes. The lyrics—“Wednesday morning at 5 o’clock as the day begins”– are sung in a slightly melodramatic manner as the harp is plucked in the background, a brief, conventional sound faintly echoing classical music. Although the Beatles are not strangers to classical music, the initial harp seems to be an overt touch in this instance, leading us backwards in time to somewhat classical conventions. The intriguingly delicate harp plucks, evoking a different era, are joined by a somber violin playing deep notes evoking sadness. The music sounds as though it is in a minor key, reinforcing the concept of sadness. The harp and the strings combine to fashion the melody of the song.

The somber notes lead us into the lyric—“Silently closing their bedroom door/ Leaving the note that she hoped would say more”—which are sung repeating the same sequence of notes as the solemn violin played twice, sans harp, leaving the daintiness behind. This is pure seriousness. The lyrics are sung in a forlorn, hopeless mood. The young woman sadly must leave without her parents’ knowledge, leaving a note in her wake.

We are rejoined by the dainty sentimentality of the plucking of the harp while a cello joins in a lower register playing the melody above the lyric—“She goes downstairs to the kitchen clutching her handkerchief”. The combination of the deep notes of the cello and the lyric evokes the sad, lonely image of a young girl nervously wringing a handkerchief in anticipation of what she has decided for her future.

An interlude consisting of the strings playing the melody builds anticipation .The notes sound like flats, implying unease and sorrow with just a hint of mockery .The anticipation is met by the original melody played in a medium octave twice along with two sets of lyrics chronicling her emergence to the outside world as a free woman, albeit under sorrowful circumstances that the melody evokes.

The very last note of the melody, which sounds like the last note of a classical piece, leads us into the second stanza of the song, which consists of a chorus that is strongly reminiscent of a church choir. This is strongly suggestive of the religion and traditionalism that the parents portrayed in the song would hold dear. The vocal tones of Paul McCartney are transformed into an angelic chorus by being rerecorded to create the impression of more voices.  “She/is leaving/home,” sung in falsetto to mimic a boys’ choir singing a hymn, is joined by deeper choral voices representing the parents’ view on the matter. Paul sings their parts as though they were angels, but is in reality mocking them. He portrays them as saintly beings because, as they proclaim in the lyrics, they gave her their lives, sacrificing everything they could and gave her “everything money could buy.” The word “home” is wailed, to represent the bawling parents. “Sobbing violins” play in the background to mock the crying of the parents the chorus represents. These are the smallest violins playing the saddest tune. The parents were completely naïve as to their daughters needs; the musical narrators mock the parents because it serves them right their daughter left for greener pastures.

The last two verses of the stanza are also sung in a mockingly angelic voice, informing us that the daughter is “leaving home after living alone/ For so many years.” More sobbing violins play in the background. Physically leaving only confirms the fact that she has been alienated from her parents for years. The words “Bye, bye” are sung despondently over the first track of the words “so many years,” adding a sense of finality to the daughter’s decision.

The violin strings are struck three times as we enter the third stanza, which runs in parallel to the first stanza. The notes are in a deeper frequency than the notes in the first verse of the first stanza, because the situation is deeper and darker to the parents. The same somber violins play identical note progressions in both the first and third stanzas after the first verse. The string instruments play music that is far closer to the classical music of the parents’ era rather than the popular music of the 1960s, as Paul describes the parents’ morning routine. The two stanzas run parallel to each other: the first is about the daughter’s morning routine, the second is about the parents’ routine and their discovery of what their darling daughter has done. The second and third lines in the first and third stanzas seem to be near-identical. String instruments, with the exception of a few notes that add the effect of poignancy after “Picks up the letter that’s lying there,” add to add the feeling of suspense regarding what will occur after the mother has found the daughter’s goodbye letter. The strings in the fourth verse of this stanza play longer notes than in fourth verse of the first stanza, suggesting melancholic feelings. The fourth verse in the third stanza concludes with the use of a cluster of startling notes at the end of the line that signal the mother’s emotional agitation over her daughter’s actions. Beneath the disquieting violins the cello plays a deep, mournful melody. The mother asks how the daughter could possibly do such a thing to her as the string instruments play the same sad, dated melody as in the parallel verses in the first stanza louder. The sarcastic tone of singing is used here to mock the mother’s questions, as if to ridicule and ask how she could possibly have ignored the situation until now that the daughter has flown the coop.

The last two notes played on the strings lead us into another faux church choir. The sarcastically angelic tone and note progression of “She/is leaving/home” repeats from the second stanza, to emphasize the parents’ religious tendencies and traditional mindset. The counterpoint harmonies express the thoughts and feelings of her parents, who were under the impression that they were completely self-sacrificing for their daughter. The word “ourselves” is sung trill-like, as though the word is being sobbed. The weeping violins and rippling of a harp play beneath the lyrics, satirizing the weeping parents represented by the chorus. The last two lines of the stanza are near identical to their lyric counterparts in the second stanza. This repetition calls attention to the definiteness of the situation: the daughter is saying ‘bye, bye’ once and for all.

The violin is struck three times signifying alarm as we are led into a procession of notes that begin with the quick trilling of a harp for a brief moment as we hear deep string notes and the harp being plucked playing the original melody. The melody is played with the notes translated in a lower octave, sounding far graver in this section than in the beginning, as we find out the daughter is far away by Friday 5 o’clock. This runs in parallel to the very first line of the song, where our story starts. The melody is played in a lower octave and leads us into violins playing staccato as the narrator tells us she is “meeting a man from the motor trade,” implying a sense of urgency to this meeting. One can sense a note of uncertainty. The future is up in the air.

The violins lead us once again into a saintly church choir one final time. In this instance, the falsetto voice sings “She/is having/fun.” During the counterpoint harmonies, the parents ask what they did that was so wrong and claim they were oblivious. When the word “fun” is sung in falsetto, the counterpoint harmony sings that “Fun is the one thing money that can’t buy.” This is the parents’ and the older generations’ guilty conscience recognizing that even though they thought they gave their children everything, they know deep down that happiness cannot be bought. The string instruments play a quasi-classical tune as the parental chorus continues admitting that something inside their daughter was denied. The farewell, “bye bye,” is followed by a crescendo in the music, showing the intensity of the parents’ realization that true happiness was denied from her all this time, thus being the cause of her fleeing. The piece concludes with the familiar phrase “She’s leaving home” in a lower register, a cello playing after every word, causing the mood of the song to sink one last time. “Bye, bye” is repeated once more signaling that indeed, the daughter is gone, and the piece ends with a harp being trilled, mirroring the opening sentimental harp.

The use of lyrics, arrangement, instruments and music of “She’s Leaving Home” work together to demonstrate the theme of the social climate of the times in the eyes of the younger generation who felt that the older generation was completely oblivious to their internal needs. The Beatles depict the reality of the younger generation and the illusions that the older generation had about the younger generation by playing melancholy music in relation to the daughter and mocking the parents and their ignorance in the chorus. This is far from a rock ‘n roll song; this is a sad, stilted song. The arrangement for the strings and harp in the song are semi-classical and old-fashioned, highlighting the parents’ out-of-date naivety. They mock the parents and underscore the girl’s sorrow at leaving home. The song is anti-sentimental and uses the conventions of typical drawing-room style songs to ridicule itself.

“She’s Leaving Home” is significant in the history of popular music because it illustrates the ability of a musical group to tap perfectly into the zeitgeist and provide social commentary that expertly hits the nail on the head. The younger generation of the times felt alienated and misunderstood, and the song takes to mocking their elders from the young generation’s point of view. A young girl leaving home was a common topic in the 1960s and the Beatles sing about it with the attitude of the times: distrust towards the older generation. “She’s Leaving Home” was the only non-standard rock track on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and therefore stood out and emphasized its message. The song’s historical significance lies in the fact that the Beatles, a popular music group at the height of its popularity, tapped into the zeitgeist and provided a counter-cultural, anti-bourgeois social commentary of the late 1960s.

Works Cited

Irvin, Jim. “The Big Bang!”, Mojo. March 2007.

“She’s Leaving Home.” beatlesbible.com. The Beatles Bible, n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2010. http://www.beatlesbible.com/songs/shes-leaving-home/

Lennon, John and Paul McCartney. “She’s Leaving Home – The Beatles Digital Sheet Music.” Musicnotes.com. Musicnotes.com, n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2010. http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtdVPE.asp?ppn=MN0061861

“She’s Leaving Home.” Wikipedia.org. Wikipedia, n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She’s_Leaving_Home

White, Dave. “The Beatles.” About.com. About, n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2010. http://classicrock.about.com/od/bandsandartists/p/beatles.htm

Vincent, Millard 5-7

September 17th, 2010

Ted Vincent, who has published several articles about the social aspects of the Jazz Age, writes about the Chicago community that played a large role in forming the Jazz Age. The South Side of Chicago housed the cabarets and dance halls where jazz and blues stars became famous, but the article specifically notes that the jazz musicians remember the more “intimate settings” better. Music, being an intimate experience, is always better enjoyed in smaller venues frequented by regulars. The audience has the chance to get to know each other better in smaller sites and the whole experience of music becomes more personal, as opposed to seeing music in large theaters where the audience becomes nothing more than massive blur of color. It is very interesting to read about the places that would eventually evolve into the sort of modern music venues we have today. Mobsters frequented these old-time clubs and eventually took their share of the action from the African American communities living in South Side Chicago who started the legacy. They obviously knew a good business when they saw it.

It is fascinating to read about racial aspects in the history of the Jazz Age. Jack Johnson originated the “black and tan” jazz club, where different races could socialize. Johnson was put on trial for his interracial attitude and white girlfriend and escaped to Mexico, where he engaged in entrepreneurial pursuits by opening a nightclub and a land company. He put his views on paper when he put an ad in the New York Messenger suggesting that “colored people” should move to Mexico because they are discriminated against in the so-called ‘Land of Liberty.’ They would not have to deal with such a horrible thing in Mexico, where racists are punished for their actions. Johnson’s tradition of welcoming all races into his clubs was maintained during this time. Creating a place where all races could enjoy the same type of music would be a very potent way to fight racism in the United States, in my opinion. Places where people subordinate their differences for their love of art, and congregate to enjoy good music and entertainment in order to forge friendships and alliances, is just what the doctor ordered.

Millard writes that jazz recordings in the early part of the century were much different from the improvised music played in bawdy houses and at creole dances in the south. The music was crafted to fit the correct time requirements of acoustic recording and loud percussive noises were removed because it would be too much for the recording stylus to bear, so sticks were gently knocked together. I feel that it is a shame that the stylus could not handle loud noises because music should always be preserved as original, not a watered-down version of what it truly is. The jazz that we know is a creation of the early music industry – the music did not influence the industry, instead the industry made the music conform to a commercial standard. The music’s intensity was diluted in order to market it to white audiences, instead of keeping it as close to the original as possible. Jazz is one of my favorite genres and I was not aware that what I listen to is not what the original artists intended. I feel cheated and lied to. When the true intentions of the artist are lost in translation, in this case from live music to recorded sound, the music loses a large part of its soul.

Thomas Edison successfully enhanced his phonograph, making it more compact and business-oriented. Eldridge Johnson redesigned Berliner’s gramophone and competed with cylinder players. A price war erupted and with the sound machine getting smaller and smaller and the price tag getting smaller and smaller as well, a mass market for recorded sound was created. In Blog #1 I was making comparisons between the early music industry and the modern music industry, and here is another perfect example. Technology companies are well aware that smaller music players are always more impressive, as exhibited by the incredible shrinking MP3 players on today’s market. Humanity’s fascination with tiny gadgets seems to be a recurring theme in the history of technology. Also reminiscent of the music industry of the olden days is today’s fierce price competition between different companies selling similar gadgets and the price competition between comparable sound machines. Another example comparing yesterday and today involves luxury versus mass market goods. The sound machine became a consumer good in the twentieth century, intended for the mass market, instead of remaining a luxury good. Even though the products did not have the technical specifications of the high-end machines, they were still quite adequate. This is comparable to today’s high-end/low-end market – certain companies release cheaper, low-end products that are not as polished as their high-end counterparts so the masses may consume them. Time may pass, but things appear to remain the same.

Albini, Millard 1-4

September 8th, 2010

Steve Albini, most known for producing Nirvana’s In Utero, has written an essay about how kids hoping to hit it big are virtually forced to sell their souls to the music industry for mere pittance. The industry lackeys sent to represent the industry are young, hip, and have indie cred. They are present in order to show the band a familiar figure they can trust. This “Artist and Repertoire” person is the first representative of the industry to make elaborate promises that will never come to fruition. Sadly, the “A & R” guy probably believes what he is telling the band himself because he is so young and has never had experience with industry goons who send out young people like himself to dupe bands into signing with big labels by telling them that no one will force them to change their creative ways. They band wrongly believes they are actually signing with this young music enthusiast. What is interesting to note is that both the “A & R” guy and the band are being fooled by those at the top of the food chain: the “A & R” guy believes his promises and the band believes in him. We see a chain of falsehoods. The band signs a binding contract disguised as a letter of intent that obligates them to finish a deal with the label. If they never want to sign a contract, no matter- there are many other bands salivating at the thought of being signed to a label, placing the label in the position of power and the band at their disposal. The band then leaves their little independent label for “greener pastures” and is pitifully left with almost nothing to show for it.

What strikes me as particularly wrong is the fact that the article implies that the label will interfere with the band’s creative processes. Creativity is difficult to cultivate when a controlling force is blocking out the sunlight. Musicians are prevented from growing naturally by an industry that is preventing them from indulging in their own creative processes and forcing them to conform to what the label demands them to sound like for the promise of riches. How can good music be made when the label is forcing the band to sound like what they are demanding of them instead of sounding like themselves? It is impossible. Good music is made when the artist has the freedom to “play” with their music as they please and make their own artistic choices.

At the end of the day, after the band has paid off all of its expenses, the members are left with the result of all their hard work; less than what one would make working at a convenience store and are actually in the hole on royalties. On the flip side, they have made the music industry far richer. This severe imbalance is downright depressing. Greed is the main incentive of the music industry instead of a true love for music. The industry people at the top of the food chain stuff their pockets while the bands earn beans. In a perfect world, there would be more a balance between the earnings of the bands and the earnings of the industry. Unfortunately, we live in no such perfect world.

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, the apparatus that planted the seeds for today’s music business. The reproduction of sound could be produced through different arrangements used by different inventors, and each inventor guarded his secrets closely. This is reminiscent of today’s many music players and the closely-guarded secrets of the different companies in Silicon Valley. Each producer makes a somewhat differently manufactured good, but the end results are products that perform similar functions.

The coin-slot phonograph was used as a cheap means of entertainment during the Depression. For just one nickel, a paying costumer would be treated to music, even though the sound quality was poor. The popularity of coin-slot players grew, and Edison realized that making pre-recorded cylinders to play music would be lucrative. At the same time, Emile Berliner realized that the gramophone would become a musical entertainer if he could copy recordings. But it was Eldridge John was who found success first with his duplication process. This competition reminds me of today’s competition in the technology industry. All the different players want nothing more than to beat their competition in the race for the invention of new gizmos and gadgets. The phonograph was marketed as a “necessity in your home, not a luxury,” which is how most people today feel about the phonograph’s descendant, the iPod.

The phonograph created an entire industry. The Big Three signed classical musicians and vaudeville stars to record contracts, while independent companies were forced to seek new types of music to record (blues and jazz). This reminds me of major labels vs. smaller labels today. The major labels have mainstream stars signed to them, while smaller labels have indie stars signed and seek a different audience. We see how history repeats itself.

Unfortunately, the music that could be recorded at the time was limited. For example, very loud sounds forced the stylus to the edge of the groove and sometimes ruined the recording completely, therefore drums were out of the question. It is interesting to think that without the perfection of sound technology, it would be very difficult to hear certain sound ranges. We are rather spoiled in the modern era, where it is possible to hear numerous different ranges on our little portable music players while the people of yesteryear had no such luxuries.

.::Introduction::.

September 3rd, 2010

Hi there! I’m a music lover and Media Studies major from Long Island. Some of my favorite artists are The Libertines,  The Strokes, Pink Martini, Regina Spektor, The Beatles, The Kinks, M83, Edith Piaf,  and zillions of others. There is a continuous soundtrack playing in my head. I have been playing the piano for thirteen years with no plans on stopping anytime soon. I am extremely excited to be taking this class!


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