Serious old skool blog-era time travel!
I shall have to muse a bit more on Matt's "The Ascent of Man" thesis, which is both hilarious (Homo Albumus!) and serious.
But I'm not sure I completely buy this assertion:
"Whilst generally this discussion is dominated by ideas about content, how X artist of the past was superior to Y artist of the present; to my mind the key question, the location of the fetish if you like, is first and foremost the format."
But how would you ever become emotionally bonded to a content-delivery system if not for the content?
For instance, I think fondly of the public library system in Britain because as an avid reader with limited spending power in my youth I could access way more books than I could otherwise afford. But I feel particularly fond of it - such that I feel a nostalgic pang now thinking of those bulky camera-apparatus devices at the front desk, under which the book you were taking out was whisked by the librarian to photocopy info about when it was withdrawn and by whom - primarily because of all the science fiction I could access (including obscure works via the inter-library loan system). If U.K. libraries of the 1970s had only contained biographies or historical romances, would I have ever developed the same degree of attachment to the system?
Likewise, when you think about the vast range of stuff that was released via the long-player vinyl format - pretty much everything: plays, poetry, comedy, sound effects, natural sounds, as well as every form of music from classical to brass band.... it is striking that only the aficionados of certain genres of music exhibit the Homo Albumus mindset. Fans of rock, of jazz, of a certain era of soul and R&B ... a few others areas... these are the people who fetishise the format today, or look back nostalgically to it. Some genres of music worked particularly well with the 20-minutes on each side / 40-minutes-long-in-toto creatively sequenced journey structure, and with the concentrated, immersive listening approach. Other genres of music didn't particularly suit it - weren't enhanced or necessarily heard to their utmost at that length (classical music for instance worked better on compact disc, with the picked-out sound separation and the 80 minute duration lending itself to uninterrupted listening to symphonies). The aging fans of these other genres don't think wistfully of long-playing vinyl particularly - but they might do that for formats or listening-situations (radio, discotheques, etc) through which they encountered the music most potently. So it's the combination of the particular kind of content and the particular properties of the format / playback apparatus that creates audio-cathexis. And even then only for some listeners - a type of person. Most music consumers have a more desultory relationship with sound, and will go along with whatever's most convenient, what's available, affordable, least-hassle.
Another example: you don't get comedy LP fetishists to anything like the same extent that there fetishists of rock LPs or jazz LPs. That's because the comedy LP was only ever a stop-gap surrogate, during that period before the arrival of commercially available video and video-players, so that you could see the comedians in performance, not just hear them.
I think Matt is dead right about the Homo YouTubus thing, though - today as the era where video has really come of age. For sure, we've had promo videos for decades; Music Video Television dates back to the Eighties. But the idea of pop as indivisibly audiovisual seems at its most dominant now.
My daughter is nine and she listens to music almost entirely as videoclips she watches on her handheld device or on TV. Except when we're in the car with the radio on, there are nearly always pictures as well as sounds for her. She doesn't listen to pop; she listens-and-watches pop.
This has had at least one interesting side effect - she loves to dance, but she only dances for an audience, whether for her parents's delight or as part of some school performance. Well, that's not exactly true: she will practice her routines, alone, or with her friends, but the idea is that it is ultimately intended as a form of display, a show. Dancing is spectacularized; to dance means to make moves like the ones she sees in pop videos - choreographed, gymnastic, strenuous. The idea of dancing in a crowd of people, anonymously, or of grooving in a relatively low-key, "lost in rhythm" sort of way - skanking, boogieing, frugging, raving etc - is foreign to her at this point.
Completing the old skool bloggers trio... a link to this post on Zardoz by Carl Neville - not at his usual outlet but another sporadic (semi-secret?) blog of his....
The Zardoz post is #2 in a series of mini-essays on utopianism - this is the first
Zardoz! What a film. Only saw it for the first time a few months ago...
About this point of Carl's...
"The thing about the worlds of these Seventies' utopias is that people (or at least, the elites) really do enjoy equality and abundance, material comfort and personal liberation especially in sexual relations, though without taboo or danger these sexual freedoms themselves lose frisson, become dryly technical, passionless encounters. Connery in Zardoz represents the jaded bourgeois eternal longing for a bit of rough, but also, as Phil Knight would have it, the need for sterile, juiceless metropolitan centres to suck some manna and mojo in from the hinterlands, the untermensch, the subaltern"
The archetype of this would be John the Savage, who grows up in a conservation zone where atavistic passions and neuroses are allowed to persist, then gets thrown into a Brave New World of engineered emotions and modulated moods - a utopia that is really a dystopia.