Black Artists Built Country Music—And Then It Left Them Behind — TIME

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Reblogging this from TIME. Article by Andrew R. Chow. Enjoy! I’ll be back with you soon.

– Ty

Over the past few months, a contentious debate has raged over whether Lil Nas X, whose single “Old Town Road” spent a record 19 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 this summer, is a country artist. But for the filmmaker Ken Burns, the answer is clear. “The fact somebody has walked into country music, that…

via Black Artists Built Country Music—And Then It Left Them Behind — TIME

Iain Chambers on Music, Literature, and Nostalgia

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Music as a language (like all language) maintains this tension through its communal use and individuation. Its ready accessibility compared to other, more formally institutionalised [sic], languages such as literature, historiography and the visual arts, permits a ubiquitous and unexpected punctuation of the scripts we are expected to follow. Music, in its anonymous consumption and innumerable moments of articulation – from the desert ceremony and forest clearing to the bar, street corner, subway exit, and modern consecration in the recording studio – perhaps provides an altogether more extensive and irrepressible configuration of a language that sings time and being while recording memory. If music provides a home for nostalgia, it also offers a point of return for what becomes a new point of departure.

– Iain Chambers, in The Cinematic City (edited by David B. Clarke), p. 237.

Dr. Chambers, I don’t always understand what you write, but when it hits, it HITS.

Alex James on Music (or, why it doesn’t hurt to judge people based on their avocations)

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   The earliest tonal instruments were made from reindeer toe bones. They’re closer to a whistle than a flute to look at, but they are technically flutes because you blow across the hole, rather than down it… It didn’t look like much, I must be honest. It didn’t sound great either but those crusty little bones were where it all started. A primitive musical instrument made by a primitive scientist.
Twenty thousand years later, anyone sitting down at a piano is sitting on top of a huge mountain of accumulated knowledge. When you hold even the cheapest guitar, you’re wielding a very sophisticated tool. The twelve-tone scale is a triumph of scientific understanding. It’s such a perfect structure that it’s rarely questioned or even understood by the people who use it. All musicians know how to tune up their instruments, but very few have any idea what they are actually doing as they tune. Musicians rarely have any more of an inkling of what music is than an electrician knows what electricity is.
All the really tricky business of the evolution of music has taken place, and it’s not important to know everything. It’s just important to know what sounds good. All anyone needs is one little idea. It can even be someone else’s idea. All you’ve got to be able to do is pick the good ones. There are no rules that can’t be broken in music-making. Confidence is all-important. Things that are completely wrong can sound new and interesting if they are done with conviction.

via the artist’s twitter

– Alex James, pp. 158-9 in his autobiography bit of a blur (London: Abacus, 2008). I’ve always been interested in the non-musical passions of musicians, and James is perhaps one of the prime examples of proof that a truly brilliant brain cannot be shut down by mountains of cocaine, booze, and women. Over the course of his towering rock stardom, he became a Visiting Scientist at one of England’s top research facilities, a recreational pilot (following drummer Dave Rowntree down that path and terrifying Damon Albarn in the process), documentary (about cocaine) host, and a devoted maker of fine cheeses. And somehow (probably by not being English), I missed out on this football anthem he ground out in 1998 with comedian Keith Allen (Lily’s dad) and everything-person Damien Hirst. Also, I just did some light googling to find that image, and I discovered via his twitter that he and Jamie Oliver are throwing a three-day food festival at his farm in the Cotswolds. Bizarre.

via the anti-emo empire

It’s no coincidence that the rock stars that history remembers the most kindly are the ones who were never content to be doing solely what their “role” in the public eye commanded. I recently went internet-rolling on the late Dead Milkmen bassist Dave “Blood” Schulthise as this past March 10 was the tenth anniversary of his suicide and my friends/colleagues Scott, Jose and I had a rare opportunity to catch The Dead Milkmen right after the AAG Conference in Tampa. Some say he was the band’s controlling force and secret weapon. I wouldn’t disagree, but either way he was definitely one hell of a bass player. The Dead Milkmen were (and still are) some of the finest satirists of the past three decades, and the more I read about Dave Blood, the more I understand how his way of looking at the world influenced their art. If you have a few minutes, check out this wonderful interview that Mark Prindle did with Blood the year before he died. He finally had the opportunity to explain the deep love he developed for Serbia relatively late in his life, and how it gave his life new meaning after the Dead Milkmen broke up, he had to stop playing, and he no longer had music.

These are the things I think about while I should be focusing on getting all my end-of-semester work off of my plate. That being said, I do apologize for the recent lack of updates. I’ll be back soon to talk about some projects I have coming up for the summer. It’s going to be a busy one.

Alan Lomax on Music and Transformation

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An art so deeply rooted in the security patterns of the community should not, in theory, be subject to rapid change, and in fact this seems to be the case. Musical style appears to be one of the most conservative of culture traits. Religion, language, even many aspects of social structure may change; an entirely new set of tunes or rhythms or harmonic patterns may be introduced; but, in its overall character, a musical style will remain intact. Only the most profound social upheavals – the coming of a new population, the acceptance of a new set of mores – or migration to a new territory, involving complete acculturation, will profoundly transform a musical style, and even then the process takes place very slowly.

– Alan Lomax (1959), in American Anthropologist, explaining why music may be the great barometer of culture. For the uninitiated, Lomax may be one of the major reasons that this site exists, and there will be more on him soon, especially as I try to sort through my own feelings on his system of cantometrics. All I know is, his 50s recordings from the American South are eternal.

On Kelner’s Theory of the Meaning of Life

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According to [Martin] Kelner, this theory states that life is all about acquiring STUFF, then acquiring more STUFF, maybe changing your STUFF around a little, then acquiring even more STUFF, then getting a bigger place because there’s no room for all your STUFF, getting rid of some STUFF, then getting a smaller place because you haven’t got as much STUFF. Then you die.

John Windsor, discussing broadcaster Martin Kelner’s “Theory of the Meaning of Life” in the volume The Cultures of Collecting (Elsener and Cardinal, eds., 1994). Emphasis his.

The sad part [a…

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The sad part [about iTunes-style downloading] is, I guess, a lot of songs don’t grab you right off the bat. But they grow on you, and you don’t have a chance for that to happen if you’re only going to download the things with the big hooks. Sometimes, the quieter or the subtle song is the one that gives the counterbalance to the loud and brassy one that preceded it. There’s a balance. There are shadings of personality that this band is coming forward with. Life isn’t just about parties.

David “right about everything” Byrne, as quoted in Travis Elborough’s highly opinionated, pretty funny book The Vinyl Countdown: The Album from LP to iPod and Back Again (2009, Soft Skull Press). To see Byrne dance with a lamp (and you have no idea how much you need to), see this video.