Context for my music

15 Nov

From here.

“and what i studied in college was economics and when i am not reading about music i am mostly reading about the economy, except sometimes i can’t bear to read about it anymore because there is this pervasive sense of hopelessness about it and we are living through a rare occasion in economic history when mainstream economists and wackjob economists are in agreement about America’s economic present and short-term future. Kim Jong-Il’s speeches about North Korea’s wildly prosperous economy sound preposterous and the rest of the world laughs at him because his people are starving, but it’s harder to laugh when are own leaders are making the same speeches and people here are starving (“new york city’s 1.7 million recipients of food stamps”). and so i guess it is intuitive to think that american independent music, made and received in the context of a collapsing economy, is a product of a similar escapism

and there’s a general understanding among economists, and this might be true among scholars in other fields too (about their respective disciplines) but i didn’t study other fields so i don’t know, that history can be accurately understood through an economic lens and almost any mass idea or action can be tied to a parallel circumstance in the economy and there are superficial circumstances that are put forth as explanations for these ideas or actions but if you dig deep enough, or sometimes you don’t even have to dig that deep, there’s an economic motivation to explain anything. wars, art movements, political movements, trends in mass psychology, etc etc etc. there are aesthetic changes that shroud economic changes, you know, “cash rules everything around me”

and sometimes i read Pitchfork reviews for chillwave records or witch house records and think of how often they review a record and use words like “amniotic”, “womblike”, or “womb” to describe it — it’s like pretty much all the time right? five or ten years ago every other twentysomething wasn’t making hazy, woozy, droney, “womblike music”. there was no band called Baths and no crop of hundreds of projects that sound like washed out. but suddenly there are multiple micro-movements that sound like nosedives back into the uterus, “amniotic”, because the world has gotten too hopeless and terrifying to handle. two years ago bands like toro y moi (age 23) and baths (age 21) and the hundreds of other projects that sound like that might have been (or were) on the beach, because two years ago it seemed like the economy might recover soon and the beach was a fun place to wait it out or escape it temporarily. now they’re crawling back into bed or getting into the bath

and missing the idea that chillwave and its siblings are the product of a collapsing economy and the instinct to escape it, and the effect the economy is having on the first generation of kids to have it worse than their parents, kids who graduate prestigious schools and wind up working at the supermarket, kids who have no hope of making a decent living as a musician for very long if at all, is like thinking that citizen kane is a movie about a sled and animal farm is a book about some talking animals. every music writer that has written about chillwave and neglected to understand this just failed the kids who make it. chillwave is an economic phenomenon, and it’s the sound of kids who are long past anger and frustration and defiance

after the japanese economy collapsed in 1991, the country went through what is referred to as “the lost decade” (1991-2000) and the kids who graduated college during that time are known as “the lost generation” because they lived with their parents for an unusually long time before being independent and went through a bunch of other social turmoil associated with chronic unemployment and turned out as semi-functional adults a lot. american economists have been talking about avoiding “the lost decade” since 2008. one of the symptoms of that is “hikikomori” which is a term that refers to “the phenomenon of reclusive people who have chosen to withdraw from social life, often seeking extreme degrees of isolation… from various personal and social factors in their lives.” how many chillwave artists are one-man bedroom projects? like almost all of them right? (dave hawke, ernest greene, chaz bundick, will weisenfeld, alan palomo, tom krell, etc etc etc)

and it’s frustrating that the music press considers the sonic choices of bands like Toro Y Moi and Baths in isolation, because that cheapens their ideas and turns chillwave into an aesthetic fad or a trend or a bandwagon instead of a more psychosocially-rooted movement or a communal reaction, a bunch of kids going through the same thing and reacting the same way. and chillwave (and whatever microgenre How To Dress Well is) is resonant because listeners want to get into baths too, you know?”


One Response to “Context for my music”

  1. dwhitake November 24, 2010 at 12:29 am #

    I was thinking about our lunch conversation, Edmund, and about how people are so unaware of the processes which produce the things they encounter on a daily basis, and I was thinking about that in relation to this post, and it sort of fits with what we were talking about. That is, when we confront the music we listen to, it’s in this finished state. Whether you buy the cd or download the tracks, it exist for you as this entity in isolation of its production. You don’t know about the creative stages that led to it or the production behind it. You don’t know what influences are at play or what sort of experiences stimulated the artistic response that you are listening to. To a degree, you are alienated from it. And for many this is okay, and they can just keep consuming the music as commodity without any thought to process. And for some that isn’t enough, so they read or talk about the music to find out more about its development, and then music becomes more than static entity; it becomes process. And i think that is better. But maybe even that isn’t enough, and I think that is what Reviews Reviews is getting at. Maybe you have to go beyond the individual, because the music is, after all, not produced by individuals in vacuuums, but by people who are always acting in relation to historically defined situations. Music as cultural production is a response to both the past and the present and it cannot be abstracted from its historical situation or else you lose an essential part of that production’s meaning.

    Like with what RR says about chillwave music: obviously it is more than just an idiosyncratic decision; and its not just a random trend, an aesthetic that is popular at the time for no apparent reason; what it is is a collective response [American youth as the collective] to something that is collectively felt at a given moment in time. I think that is the right perspective to take on music—and all cultural products for that matter. You can’t view it as if it is static or synchronic. It has to be viewed as process, like a Bath, you know?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s