Now that the bad taste of the vuvuzela has left the mouth of those who watched the World Cup, check out this track by the Tshe Tsha boys of South Africa. It’s a mashup of Shangaan music from northern South Africa and Braindance/IDM electronic. The dancing– well that speaks for itself.
“….[T]he median age of [Jay Leno's] viewers has crept up to 55.6 from 46.6. Mr. Letterman’s audience is slightly younger, at 54.7.” The latest findings by the League of American Orchestras, drawing on their own studies as well as the most recent NEA study of arts participation, indicate that the median age for the classical audience is forty-nine. In fact, that’s younger than the median age of the entire prime-time television public.
Yup, so classical music is younger and hipper than late night TV. The demographic that fondly refers to themselves as “baby boomers” and likes to think of themselves as revolutionary likes late night TV more than classical music.
Now most would think of classical music as stuffy olde-tyme stuff, but even the so-called “revolutionary” baby boomers would have no time for the likes of Iannis Xenakis, Charles Ives, or even 19th century composer Gustav Mahler– or even hell let’s bring Johann Sebastian Bach. No, that shit is too goddamned weird– “I’m a counterculture baby boomer open to everything– except, for well, almost everything.”
Late night talk shows on the other hand provide a pasteurized, puritan, and safe view of what “rebel” means. It’s okay to make jokes about politicians and celebrities. Those programs provide hand-holding for what it means to be funny and new– but you know not too funny or new.
Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Conan O’Brien were the popes deciding what banter is funny and different but yet not too funny and different was okay around the water cooler.
For all the talk of “counterculture” and “revolution” the baby boomers are a conservative lot preferring sanctioned music over contemporary classical that was too damed weird and humor wasn’t conformist. Granted, there were many comedians like Bill Hicks and George Carlin that were not water cooler safe– but the baby boomers preferred the late night talk shows. Some how because they preferred the safe, curated form of humor everyone else is supposed to think that’s a cultural touchstone.
Bill Hicks on Leno
Now at 55+, the audience cannot even stay up late enough for Jay Leno to tell us all about a movie we have been marketed to death by. The same audience may not be able to go to Probably Bad News but they’ll do their best to not doze off during Jay Leno’s “headlines.” They essentially crave curated humor, thatt’s okay to laugh at.
Perhaps when NBC shuffled Conan O’Brien from 12:30am to 11:30pm and installed Jay Leno at 10:00pm killed the whole “tradition” of late night TV. Or more appropriately, Jay Leno struck the last nail in its coffin while demanding a paycheck to fund buying more fucking cars since making millions per year and doing fucking Dorritos commercials just are not enough.
O’Brien seemed liked an intelligent man who enjoyed telling pop culture jokes and referenced things I had seen on the Internet several days ago. I did not find his show very amusing personally as he covered a swath of pop culture I simply do not care about or find interesting in any way. Though O’Brien seemed better at the job and far more clever, Leno won. Leno was somehow more docile and willing to shill shitty movies/TV shows and their celebrities. The ratings were safe since he was a hit before– and well better be safe than sorry NBC thought.
I don’t know if the United States is such a young country that we have to consider everything an institution longer than 5 years but some things need to die– or are just a bad idea. Despite NBC’s last-year-1+1=2-logic Leno’s ratings are lower than O’Brien’s were according to Nielsen’s second quarter ratings. NBC took an oozie to late night TV in an attempt to resurrect it.
All they proved trying to get back ratings is the same thing the talk show host’s staff found can be found on the Internet 24/7 and usually better.
On YouTube or blogs or the World Wide fucking Web are tons of people hawking shitty movies, have weird ass skills, and dumb ass headlines. We don’t need some fucks to have their staff find them and then parade them on stage at a specific time.
If you have a need for mindless programming, may I introduce you to 4chan?
In 1995 BBC Radio 3 recordings from several electronic artists including Aphex Twin, Plasticman, Scanner and Daniel Pemberton for a story called “Advice to Clever Children“.
What Stockhausen had to say about Aphex Twin:
I heard the piece Aphex Twin of Richard James carefully: I think it would be very helpful if he listens to my work Song Of The Youth, which is electronic music, and a young boy’s voice singing with himself. Because he would then immediately stop with all these post-African repetitions, and he would lookfor changing tempi and changing rhythms, and he would not allow to repeatany rhythm if it were varied to some extent and if it did not have a direction in its sequence of variations.
And Mr. Richard D James’ (Aphex Twin) response:
Mental! I’ve heard that song before; I like it. I didn’t agree with him. I thought he should listen to a couple of tracks of mine: “Didgeridoo”, then he’d stop making abstract, random patterns you can’t dance to. Do you reckon he can dance? You could dance to Song of the Youth, but it hasn’t got a groove in it, there’s no bassline. I know it was probably made in the 50s, but I’ve got plenty of wicked percussion records made in the 50s that are awesome to dance to. And they’ve got basslines. I could remix it: I don’t know about making it better; I wouldn’t want to make it into a dance version, but I could probably make it a bit more anally technical. But I’m sure he could these days, because tape is really slow. I used to do things like that with tape, but it does take forever, and I’d never do anything like that again with tape. Once you’ve got your computer sorted out, it pisses all over stuff like that, you can do stuff so fast. It has a different sound, but a bit more anal.
I haven’t heard anything new by him; the last thing was a vocal record, Stimmung, and I didn’t really like that. Would I take his comments to heart? The ideal thing would be to meet him in a room and have a wicked discussion. For all I know, he could be taking the piss. It’s a bit hard to have a discussion with someone via other people.
I don’t think I care about what he thinks. It is interesting, but it’s disappointing, because you’d imagine he’d say that anyway. It wasn’t anything surprising. I don’t know anything about the guy, but I expected him to have that sort of attitude. Loops are good to dance to…
He should hang out with me and my mates: that would be a laugh. I’d be quite into having him around.
From: “Advice for Clever Children”
Regularly, instrumental songs became a #1 hit from Billboard’s inception in 1950. That is, until 1985. It has been 25 years since an instrumental charted that high. The last time an instrumental made the top 20 was 1996. What does this say about our culture today?
Walking in any shop by the magazine aisle now feels like a Philip K Dick novel. I see magazines featuring people with mentions of going-ons in their life: a new baby, an argument with a spouse, a disruption of lifestyle. While these events are important to the person experiencing them, they matter little to a stranger. All these people on the magazines are strangers– I have no idea who they are, what they do and why I should care. Sometimes I feel as if I have slipped into an alternate universe where things are a bit different, such as Dewey defeated Truman or Buddy Holly is alive. I feel like a character in a Philip K Dick novel wondering how I ended up here and if I’ll need a canister of Ubik.
I wonder who these people are and why they are famous or important. No one– even adoring fans– can tell me why.
Ultimately it seems they are famous for being famous.
In the BBC documentary Synth Britannia, part covered the rise of Gary Numan and his first breakaway hits. Gary Numan is as pop as they come, albeit a bit odd sometimes but still pop. Other electronic pop musicians were astounded as even in the same scene and location they had never heard of Numan. His music striked a few people, who told a few others, and soon he was on Top of the Pops in the UK performing. This is not the process today. I have no illusions that culture was driven by much more than sales in the past, but things are different. Rather than an artist’s ‘work’ attracting the attention of people, its just the artist. The son or daughter of a pop star, wrestler, or whatever is the commodity, not the work. The ‘work’ is added later– dubbed in, greenscreened, and composited as an afterthought. The usual formula for fame today consists of staring on a reality TV show such as American Idol or The Bachelor. From there it is up to the producers, investors, and executives to mold the person into whatever they think can bring a profit. Perhaps they consider themselves artists, crafting the pale facades dubbed the celebrity.
I believe the celebrity is not art, its rudimentary mimicry or “Paint by Number.” Paint by Number, a once popular activity but by no means obscure, provided a canvas with predefined areas labeled by number. The owner of the kit could then fill in the shapes by following the directions. Few Paint by Number enthusiasts would call themselves artists as they were simply following a predefined set of metrics. Something similar happens with marketing and ad sales people: there is a set of definitions which are then executed. Like any system of finite input there will be only finite output: much like paint by number or computer programming. Garbage in, garbage out.
The reduction of creativity seemingly spans across all forms of culture: music, movies, books– everything. As Jason Kottke noted, only one of the top twenty highest grossing movies in the 2000′s was an original screenplay not adapted from elsewhere: Finding Nemo.
The rest were made by combing attributes geared towards profit. Take the Transformers franchise for example: take a popular toy, add a dash of explosionporn from Michael Bay, toss in a healthy portion of a sexy actress stir and taste the blockbuster. Oh, and a plot, well, that can just be kinda fudged in later. If I made soup like Hollywood makes movies I would simply add some of my favorite foods (say gin martini, salmon, curry, green tea ice cream, spicy brown mustard, and jalapenos) in a large pot and expect it to taste delicious. Somehow I don’t think gin, ice cream, spicy brown mustard and jalapenos go well.
The result is culture products with carefully chosen content (Vampires, LOLcats, superheros, Twitter, ’80s retro) commodified into a package then distributed by a chosen ‘famous’ person who meets a similar set of trending buzzword statistical attributes. This is how a stock broker works, not an artist. We all know how successful those stock brokers are these days.
Now if you’ll excuse me I have to finish something for Simon Cowell where he’s a vampire LOLcat superhero that uses Twitter in the ’80s.
Alright, I confess: I still write and send actual, physical letters to people. People I know even. For non-special occasions, not even as a ritual or an outdated formality. I’m a sucker for physical objects, what can I say.
As often as I think that I’m the last non-corporate entity who still uses the post office, there’s still that enormous line at every sad outpost of the U.S. Mail. Weird. Who are these people?
Before this devolves into a pointless antiquarian rant, let me get to the meat: there’s an article brewing that I want to get a conversation going about before it starts.
Topic: how would you go about making the postal service relevant?
Included in this would be the issues of improving the user experience, competing with email for ease of use, making all those hackneyed storefronts do something and running it all without just digging a big hole to throw money in.
Somewhat harder than all that would be: how can we revive the culture of sending each other tangible objects? How does one create a market for the delivery of things?
Go nuts in the comments. Let’s get talking.