Tag Archives: music

Saturday Night Ramblings

I feel a cultural movement brewing.  For a few decades now, all of our music, books, and movies have been controlled by corporations more concerned with marketing and bottom-line profits than quality.  Much of my generation was locked out, not because we didn’t have the talent but because we didn’t fit into tidy marketing pigeonholes, and we languished for years, wondering if we’d ever get our shot.  Meanwhile, a new generation moved onto the scene, and many of us felt as if our moment had passed.  All our study, all our hours of practice, all of our passion, all of our dreams seemed wasted.  Some grew bitter and drifted away.  Some became consumed by demons and succumbed to addictions.  Some trudged onward.  Some of us did all of the above.

But something amazing happened with the burgeoning of the internet and computers.  Suddenly, we no longer needed New York and LA to pursue our dreams.  Suddenly, the corporations could no longer lock us out because as long as we had internet access we had a potential audience of millions, so many of us started our own labels, presses, and production companies.  Sure, at first we struggled.  As we wobbled on unsure legs, our early efforts might have seemed like bad parodies, but we learned from our mistakes and pressed onward.  We polished our chops, grew our networks, and expanded our base.  We survived our early stumbles and the Great Recession.  We banded together.  On our own, we created new channels to reach more people and studied online marketing trends.  We learned and grew and shared information and encouraged each other.  Most of all, we survived.

Today, the movement of independents gathers momentum every day.  We’ve gained market share and established our reputations as serious artists in our given fields.  Through efforts of arduous determination, we’ve moved the mountain enough to be noticed by major media outlets as a legitimate force.  The amazing thing about this movement is that most of us are over the age of 35, and we’ve done this while juggling jobs and families and lives.  We’ve endured sacrifices corporate executives can never fathom, just to pursue our passion, just to chase our dream, and while we may not be there yet, we’re making great strides to that destination.

The cultural movement of the independents is upon us, and we’re here for the long-haul.

Friday Morning Ramblings

Caution:  Contents may offend self-indulgent precious snowflakes

Driving to work this morning, I was listening to PRX on Sirius XM.  It’s a newish public radio forum that plays only interviews, stories, Ted Talks, and other similar material.  I enjoy it for the most part because the station plays a fairly broad range of stuff, from Nobel Laureate scientists to street junkies, so I get to absorb a lot of material for future writings.  Normally, I just listen and enjoy.  Today, however, two pieces came on back to back that got my butt cheeks clenching, so I’ve scrapped the entry that came to me last night in favor of this one.

The first piece was a young scholar discussing the history of and debate over the “unreliable narrator” in literature.  Like all good scholars, he quoted the top experts in the field and laid out the major legitimate points of both sides of the debate.  As I listened to these quotations from highly regarded critics, I was reminded of why I despise literary criticism.  While all of them were intelligent, obviously highly well-read, and thorough in their reasoning, not a single one of them actually said anything of any value regarding anything substantive.  All of it was mental masturbation, reasoning for the sake of reasoning, debating for the sake of debate.  I’d also be willing to wager that not a single one of them could actually write a work of fiction worth reading either, but that’s another matter.  The whole thing struck me as highly self-indulgent, which has always been my problem with the upper echelons of academia.

There’s rarely if ever any practical application to real world dilemmas from the scholarly work of the humanities.  We live in an age when declining literacy is a real and serious issue that threatens the foundation of our democratic republic, yet these scholars are playing pin the tail on the donkey with abstract concepts that do nothing to promote literacy as a fun, engaging, accessible activity.  It seems to me an exceptional waste of finite time, resources, and brain power.  Instead of debating whether or not the “unreliable narrator” is a valid concept or even actually exists, why aren’t these highly intelligent people putting their efforts into developing curriculum or reading lists for disenfranchised children?  That’s just one example.  I’d be much more impressed by their work if they were doing anything that didn’t seem so damned self-indulgent at a time when people are really suffering.  In short, we have much bigger issues than the tuning of your fiddle, Emperor Nero.

The second piece was about “artistic” bands seeking corporate sponsorship for their bands.  Apparently, this is the newest trend in music to help independent musicians survive until they’ve built a following.  Maybe I’m just old and out of touch, but all of the music the piece sampled from these bands was pure shit.  I’m no expert, but I know good music when I hear it.  Also, each of the musicians interviewed went on and on about the “artistic” nature of their work.  If artistic has devolved into a synonym for “shitty,” I guess I missed the memo.  Much like the scholarly debate over the unreliable narrator, paying unskilled musicians to continue their craft seems like a frivolous waste of precious resources.  I don’t claim to be the gatekeeper for all things music related, and it’s not my money the corporations are giving away, but to me, this money would be much better spent on middle and high school musical education courses that actually teach people how to play an instrument.  Again, the whole thing strikes me as rather self-indulgent, both by the “artists” and the companies.

We face real issues today.  Inflation, living wages, energy, waste, education, healthcare, and fiscal sustainability are just some of them.  Our nation is crumbling around us.  The very fabric of our society seems to be fraying apart.  Today, we should be seeking solutions to these very real, very substantial, very important problems.  Today is not the time for self-indulgence and mental masturbation.  Sorry, but if you’re a shitty musician who plays avant-garde drivel, you don’t really deserve to earn a living when police officers, firefighters, and teachers, people who add real value to society, have to work second jobs to afford their mortgages.  If you’re a scholar wasting your intellect on ridiculous flights of fancy, please stop wasting taxpayer money.  Please, set down your fiddle, look up at the burning buildings, and do something to help put out the fires.

Thursday Morning Ramblings

I only speak for myself and don’t purport to know the motivations and aspirations of the protesters at Wall Street, but if I were among their ranks, the following would be my clearly stated goals of the protest:

I want to live in a nation that respects and rewards a person’s contribution to society fairly and justly.  I would like to earn enough money to pay off my student loan debt, save for retirement, have access to adequate healthcare, and send my children to college, not feel at the end of the month as if I have to choose between food and gas.  I would like to know that my contribution as a professional educator is respected and appreciated, not just by my students and colleagues, but by society as a whole.

I want to live in a nation that holds corporations and CEO’s accountable for moving jobs overseas and hiding billions in profits offshore to avoid paying taxes.  I’d like to see CEO’s punished for bankrupting companies, not compensated with multi-million dollar severance packages.  I want companies to be held accountable if they poison our water supply, make our air unbreathable, taint our children’s toys with lead paint, contaminate our food supply with lethal bacteria, or in any other way recklessly endanger our lives in the name of profit.

I want to live in a nation that once again embraces innovation and ingenuity and doesn’t allow other countries to outpace us in technological advancement.

I want to live in a nation that respects all people who are willing to work full-time, regardless of occupation.  There is dignity and honor in contributing to society, whether that be as white collar, blue collar, or red collar.  All jobs are important, and anyone who is willing to work and be productive should be viewed, not with cynicism and disdain, but with appreciation and admiration.

I want to live in a nation that embraces diversity and respects everyone’s rights to freedom.  Liberty is our birthright, guaranteed by our Constitution, and these freedoms are granted to all citizens of this country regardless of sex, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or any other artificial stratification created to keep us divided and bickering.  We are all American citizens, born with certain unalienable rights.

I want to live in a nation that celebrates and aspires to greatness, not promotes and rewards mediocrity.  Not so long ago, our music, our movies, our books were the best in the world.  Today, we create paper-thin melodies with no soul, recycle worn-out franchises, and cheer poorly written, cliche-riddled narratives.  We have half-baked reality shows rewarding talent-less jackasses and washed up celebrities.  We promote buffoonery and incivility, while creative geniuses play street corners for handouts.

I want to live in the America I was promised as a child, a land of freedom and opportunity, a place where if you built a better mouse-trap, the world would beat a path to your door.  Today, if you build a better mouse-trap, Corporate America and government bureaucracy will trample your aspirations with a myriad of confusing regulations and a maze of overbearing documentation, stifling your innovation in name of preserving the status quo.

Those would be my goals for the protests.