Monday, October 10, 2005

"Can you imagine? States of mind have sounds?!"

Today I found a great blog via the The Association of Music Writers and Photographers (AMWP) newsletter. This BeatnikPad post titled "Cool musicians who blog" was an eye-opening look at the fiercely creative minds of some truly visionary artists.

I was hooked the moment I entered David Byrne's online journal and read the following conclusion to a post on the philosophical implications of Japanese linguistics:

Can you imagine? States of mind have sounds?! Concepts have sounds!? Who’d ‘a thunk it? It this a kind of synethesia? So therefore a musical composition (musique concrete, most likely) COULD be a real map or analogy or model of a progression of concepts —a sonic map of a progression of thoughts… sometimes proceeding one after another, in traditional logical fashion, and sometimes overlapping, rushing onward, and sometimes happening simultaneously — as sounds certainly do, an maybe thoughts too? Each sound corresponds to an idea or concept, and then logically (or not) leads on to the next… eventually arriving as some sonic/psychic conclusion. Or merely an ending. Who needs philosophy? Who needs books? We have sounds."

Right? Crazy! And the list goes on... There's the photo-rich blog from The Doves and Tony Levin, the megastar modesty of Radiohead's journal or the spiritual outlook of Ben Lee. It was encouraging to note that the blogs, for the most part, were genuine and authentic attempts to a) connect with their audience and b) satisfy the uniquely postmodern, Digital Age appetite for content. Not coincidentally, the all, for the most part, make amazing, original, authentic, moderately popular music.

The blog strikes me as a standard feature of an artist's arsenal, both to unsigned and independent musicians and those on indie and major labels alike. Yes, occasionally these blogs become acts of admitted self-obsession, such as Rivers Cuomo from Weezer (on MySpace no less) or celebrity political rants from Moby (though he at least deserves credit for being one of the first musician-bloggers.) But in the general sense, the blog in an indispensable if not only for the fact that is so free and easy to use and pays large dividends in the attention your music will receive if your fans are involved on a more personal level.

If music is about communication before it is about profit, then the music with be better and the profit will thus grow larger as listeners buy more music. But if music is about profit first, all the communication manipulation in the word (i.e. marketing and promotion budgets) cannot restore the creative and aesthetic luster of the dull, repetitive, derivative, mass-produced sonic product that dominates the marketplace today. Besides, musicians promoting each other on their blogs edges out the authenticity of, say, Macy Gray wearing a dress to the MTV Music Awards that says "Buy My Album in July".

The musician blog is one step forward into what Jacques Attali (author of the book that I'm currently reading that's rocking my whole world -- Noise: The Political Economy of Music -- more on that in a future blog) referred to as a new phase in musical development, a methodology based on composition in which music listeners are also the musicians themselves as the musical experience becomes interactive. The blog is a harbinger of this trend as it opens a direct line of communication between musician and listener. As is seen in MP3 blogs, independent authors can thrive in extremely small niche communities. For musicians, this can mean an instant connection with listeners and industry people, which translates into greater musical and economic prosperity. With greater prosperity comes greater participation, and those who have important musical contributions to make to our culture will gain new opportunities in communication and remuneration.

My advice to serious musicians of the 21st Century: you have two instruments at your disposal... the one that you play and the one that you control with a keyboard and mouse. Individually, they are the two most powerful weapons of change in the known world. Together, you are unstoppable.


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