Archive for March, 2008

Aesthetics And Social Cohesion

I have always rather presumptuously regarded myself as something of an aesthete.  I like to look or hear or experience things that seem to have depth and soul, I suppose in a way we all do however we choose to express it.

It is not important to me what source the aesthetic comes from and therefore I may not draw a distinction between the beauty that is inherent in nature around us from that which is created by those of us here.  I do not see one as being the product of an omnipotent creator whilst the other is the mere triflings of ‘its’ creations.  We are a product of the earth and just as anything that is beautiful here so anything we fashion is by extension a form of natural aesthetic.

Some people see that which is aesthetic and appreciate it, others seek to possess it and here the left-wing must stand against such action.  To own an item that has aesthetic value is to deprive it of much of that aesthetic for you confine the circumstances by which its beauty may manifest.  Something that is not only aesthetic but accessible by many is far greater in its power to influence and bring happiness than that which is locked away only for the dubious pleasure of the selfish individual.  To feel one must possess in order to enjoy is a product of the avaricious society in which many of us have been brought up and the hegemony of greed is camouflaged by the notion that such action is inherent in human nature.  It isn’t.

The removal of an item of aesthetic beauty from its environment may not seem per se make the item itself less beautiful but it may remove it from a part of the aesthetic makeup that may come from, or be in contrast to its surroundings.

Poppies are a pretty flower in themselves but the poppies that grew in the fields of Flanders were especially poignant precisely because of their contrast to all the killing that had gone on in the area before, their beauty showed that in spite of what had gone before an area could be reclaimed by nature and that the beauty nature had to offer transcended the deeds in that location that had gone before it.  If people were to wear poppies on their lapels all year round it would rob them of their symbolism as the antithesis of war and death.  If one were to pick the ones in Flanders and put them in a vase they would be no different from ones picked at the roadside anywhere.

We all have the ability to experience the aesthetic and the subjectivity of what we consider of beauty is something that marks out our individuality as people but in turn can bring much cohesion in common ground with those whom we might otherwise think we share nothing.  The appreciation of beauty transcends class, geography, race, religion and gender it is a unifying force like scarcely any other.

The artist that creates and does so as a form of expression may not initially be seen first hand to be providing anything to society as say a skilled labourer or professional but one must take this in the context that society is all of us, each one a constituent and equal part of it.  Much of creative expression comes from the exorcism of negative emotions and without this form of venting these feelings may fester inside and deprive the artist of their ability to be active and engaged.  The loss of one person is of detriment to us all, but by extension the victory of one person over the negativity of their lives can provide us not only with the joy of seeing another reborn but something of a beacon of hope as to the fact that this can happen and to some who are like-minded a template of how this might be done.  The re-emergence of that person into society renders them more likely to be a proactive and productive member of it and this in turn benefits both individual and society in which they may participate.


Song Of The Day ~ Supertramp – Take The Long Way Home 



For some time now I have been eulogising about the current British music scene in response to people who have only been looking at the very mainstream or pop market.  There is a vibrancy about it and a great deal of good bands playing their instruments well, writing good lyrics and tunes, influenced by real music be it from the 60’s 70’s or even the 80’s and 90’s.  However it interests me now that parallels have been drawn with the Britpop era in the mid 1990’s and others who have been looking at things from only the point of view of what is out there in the mainstream who have lost faith entirely in the music scene that may be going on.

There is now in the mainstream an even more factory-based approach than we have seen before.  Stock, Aitken and Waterman are usually trotted out and derided but the standardisation of music was first talked identified by Theodor Adorno in The Culture Industry in the 1930s.  Adorno identified the standard blocks that were used and shifted around in a formulaic way to create the semblance of new music whilst only ever using components that had been tried and tested.  Stock, Aitken and Waterman merely adapted the same technique that had been going on for many decades, the only difference being that they were so successful at it that it became itself the over-arching mainstream.

It is said that mainstream music is a constant battle ground of art and commerce.  I cannot see the forces of art as anything more than the heroic but often naive rearguard action.  Their survival is based on the occasional modicum of success and yet that is always its very downfall for that is what brings it to the attention of the commercial and therein lies the inherent paradox.  Art does not need to be successful to be art, in fact if it is merely trying to be successful there is a question mark over its validity as an artistic medium.  However to reach a wider audience and influence and inform the next generation it is necessary to spread its net at least beyond its own comfort zone so as not to stagnate.  

The Arctic Monkeys were the first to really come through, in a commercial way, an avenue that had not been exploited, namely the internet, but their emergence already signified the beginning of the demise of the internet as an independent medium for music, myspace itself having been but one online medium for the promulgation of music that did not specifically crave commercial success as its raison d’etre.  Such a process is never immediate and at present it is easy for those fans of regional bands forming organically in the schools and colleges of the country and playing their music from their influences and in their own words and accents.

In recent times The Arctic Monkeys were the first to really come through an avenue that had not been exploited, namely the internet, but their very emergence already signified the beginning of the demise of the internet as an independent medium for music.  Such a process is never immediate and at present it is easy for those fans of regional bands forming organically in the schools and colleges of the country and playing their music from their influences and in their own words and accents.  It is an almost golden age for lovers of Indie, Punk and Rock music as there is a huge selection of such music being played in the smaller venues around the country.
However for every Kate Nash who slips through the net with a little more grit in her voice and realism in her song-writing there is a Lily Allen who embodies the establishment with her faux emotion, bogus Working Class background and accent and a penchant for designer dresses with a smattering of just enough bad behaviour to make her seem a “rebel” the new enfant terrible  The establishment has always sought to capitalise on the underground, the anti-establishment and as soon as there is any consistency in the it, a degree of order amongst the chaos, it gives the chance to be consumed and exploited. As soon as the underground scene exhibits a popularity that can be milked for profit so the A&R men move in.  It starts off with groups being championed a little more and then the production and advertising becomes almost propaganda-like.  One can see at the moment with the marketing for groups like The Hoosiers and Dragonette whose relatively cult following would not normally precipitate much media interest at this stage but now are part of widescale advertising campaigns and pseudo ‘rockumentaries’ which are little more than infomercials.
This has been necessary for the record industry who have been losing revenue hand over fist due to downloads and an increasing dissatisfaction with their formula stage school pop.  The constant influx of reality popstars which served generally only to act as another method for the Italia Conti and the like graduates to obtain exposure.  On the rare occasions that the “right” candidate did not win, such as Michelle McManus or Will Young beating Gareth Gates the difference in subsequent marketing strategy was clear, with the one being marginalised to obscurity whilst the other was foisted on viewers and listeners at seemingly every opportunity.  This continued domination of mainstream music by the banal led to a backlash which took the form of the myspace and online music.  Myspace was of course very quickly bought up by News International thus to a point negating its ability to be an independent source of music distribution.
Music does of course go around in loops, to an extent this is organically-driven probably due to those influenced by the music of their parents, inadvertantly or not, creating music of similar genre.  In the early part of the 2000s there was a thriving neo-post-punk scene and a great deal of Clash and Ska-influenced music reminiscent of the anti-prog rock Punk scene of the late 1970s.  Now there is a great deal more early electro influenced music very emblematic of the Joy Division and beyond 1980-3.  If this means that we must endure the somewhat creatively bankrupt late 1980s then heaven help us all!  It will however be interesting to see just how much the music shapes the time and vice versa since it looks likely that the hedonistic commercial excesses of the mid-1980s are very much not on the cards over the next 5 years.
Song Of The Day ~ Vampire Weekend – M79