Monday, March 23, 2009


The half-joke in the Clinton years was that if the amount of wealth which had been transferred upwards had gone in the other direction, we'd have called it a revolution.  It was only a half-joke because most people remained comfortable enough and the word "revolution" had lost much of its currency in the dull years that followed the '60s and 70's.

Now, here's a small article by Felix Salmon that seems to have the general measure of temperaments these days right, and, to be honest, I'm more than surprised by the ease with which terms like revolution, class, and even class warfare are now being thrown about:

"That dream is shattered -- and, what's worse, it turns out that very overclass is responsible for the working classes' own present straits."

Musicians, and especially new musicians are very much on the the margin of any debate structured in terms of class, let alone warfare and revolt.  (Cage or Cardew's writings about revolution now seem odd, even quaint)  We have the pocketbooks of the working class, yet make our livings by packaging our selves and our wares for the pleasure of an intellectual and capitalist class and the state that they have made.   But the condition and survival of new music in rough times is a serious topic, serious in the practical terms of assuring our livelihoods, but also in the aesthetic terms of the nature of our work.   Sometimes, historical examples provide some guidance.  However, for better or worse, it is next to impossible to generalize about new musical pratice in previous times of stress, as there is no general pattern.  Beethoven, Berlioz, and Wagner were each influenced, profoundly, by revolutionary times, but they are too far in the past to provide transposable examples.   After the First World War and during the Vietnam era, there were moments of true musical radicalism, some of which may now echo well with the popular anger of the moment, I suppose.  But after the Second World War, there was a turn to cooler forms of modernism, and during the Great Depression, the coincident styles of neo-classicism, folkloric nationalism, and socialist realism were all aesthetically conservative, if populist, moves.  Of course, technology is always the wild card here:  it may just be that the means of musicial pro- and repro-duction are efficient and cheap enough to sustain a greater diversity of both substance and style.   The half-joke of the '60s, that the revolution would not be televised, may have to be revised to the affirmative that the revolution will be online.



No comments: