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

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.

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13 Responses to “Miller 308-312, chap. 15, 17, Dyer, Lawrence”

  1.    robert shemanski Says:

    It’s ironic because I myself had conversations about Dyer with my friends. We had direct and inverse correlations of music preferences and political preferences too. I take my ipod in frustration and listen to music played by U2 because a lot of there music is about protecting the environment which I am a big fan of. I usually listen to music like linkin park who stresses out how politicians are greedy and only care about themselves. I feel people listen to music preference when they could relate to the muic being played in their personal life. However I feel that people lisyen to political music when they see politicians doing wrong and someone comes along with a song to shed the light. You listen to those songs because you want other people to hear there message.

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