[LAU] re Subconscious Affecting Music

Brent Busby brent at keycorner.org
Tue Aug 31 16:52:59 UTC 2010

On Sun, 29 Aug 2010, Patrick Shirkey wrote:

> On Sun, August 29, 2010 9:32 pm, Louigi Verona wrote:

>> 1. It is probably less likely to be able to effect subconscious in a
>>    "good"  way, because while "bad" seems to be very basic and same
>>    for everyone (aggressive and sexual instincts), "good" stuff
>>    differs from person to person, depending on his cultural level,
>>    context and education, as well as personal beliefs. And the person
>>    who would try to control people with "good"  stuff will end up
>>    bringing up things which he believes to be "good", according to
>>    his views.

Yes indeed, that's why I was thinking it might be best to avoid the 
whole idea of sex and aggression per se as being "bad".  I think the 
best art makes people think outside of their comfort zone, but not 
necessarily in any one particular way, or to reach any one particular 
conclusion.  It's enough to merely get people thinking.

>> 2. It is not a very good idea, all in all. The whole religious
>>    process of "becoming better" comes out of inner freedom of doing
>>    so. Any forceful effects would not be "real", they would be no
>>    more than influences which would never be able to ignite the
>>    actual flame of "betterness", "needing to change something to the
>>    better" within oneself. Do you see what I mean?

If one really does want to motivate social progress with art, I think 
one of the best examples of how to do that might come from the way Mark 
Twain treated racism.  He started out appearing to agree with his 
audience, taking their side.  Then he took the approach that if this 
attitude is something one should really agree with, then of course the 
reader won't mind more and more and more of it.  Eventually, some 
readers found themselves disgusted with their own attitudes, and didn't 
understand why.  He just showed them more of themselves than they could 
really handle.

The reason I like that approach is because at no point during the 
process does the artist directly condemn.  It's just a mirror held up 
for you to see yourself.  If it's really such a pretty thing, then 
surely you won't mind looking at a whole lot of it.

> I hear what you are saying. My counter argument is that I wonder if it 
> is better to stay apathetic to the current status quo and allow it to 
> be dominant method of communication on the airwaves and media or if we 
> should be actively working against the affects by providing an 
> alternative set of commands for people to absorb.

I think actually we're a little too late for that.  *Is* music really 
the dominant media anymore?  You know, the teen and college age groups 
mock the bands that are on the airwaves these days more than we do.  I'm 
pretty sure the dominant media these days is the Internet, mainly the 
social media sites.

When Viacom first acquired MTV and put Judy McGrath in charge, they were 
acquiring a TV network which, for teen and college age viewers, was more 
important than radio, more important than prime time shows, probably 
more important than any other media outlet at the time.  MTV's previous 
management (before Viacom) had achieved the dream every broadcaster had 
always wished for since the dawn of television:  Kids kept it on every 
hour they were home and awake.  It was like a kind of video wallpaper. 
It was on when you were watching it, it was on when your attention was 
off on something else.  It was on during the commercials and the bands 
you didn't like, and it was still on when something you wanted to see 
came on.  It motivated spending on things that had nothing to do with 
the actual programming.  In the history of television, nobody had *ever* 
succeeded in getting an audience to watch their network during all 
waking hours that they were near a TV.  Kids in communities that didn't 
have it on their cable lineup even got their parents to specially 
request it until the local cable company gave in.

In the course of just a few years, Viacom managed to make their own 
network culturally irrelevant.  They took all the genres people wanted 
to see (metal, wave/alternative, rap) and broke them out into specialty 
programs (Headbangers Ball, 120 Minutes, Yo MTV Raps, etc).  Instead of 
the free-for-all pop music used to be when these genres all competed 
together in the same airwaves for the same charts (which was probably 
very good for everyone, diversity-wise), we now had little 2-hour blocks 
for each style, leaving the mainstream pop charts open for such 
awe-inspiring head-trips as Whitney Houston, Gloria Estafan, and MC 
Hammer.  Good pop music had become "specialty" programming, which didn't 
live very long disconnected from the life support of mainstream 
broadcasting.  The mainstream charts were then left as a big crap bin.

Then of course came the game shows, the politics shows, the fashion 
shows, and eventually, the horrid reality shows.  In fact, MTV recently 
announced that they officially no longer have anything to do with music, 
and that (humorously) they themselves no longer know what the "M" in MTV 
actually stands for.  People had been saying that in jest for about 
twenty years, but this was official, and they actually said so.  They 
even downsized the "M" in their logo, as if ashamed of the fact that it 
didn't actually mean anything anymore.  The "M" just stands for "M".

The current generation is used to this, perceives it as a norm, and 
doesn't expect any different.  They're all busy with MySpace, Twitter, 
and Facebook, and enough mobile devices to fill a small house.  I don't 
think music is really the dominant media outlet anymore.  Viacom had 
that right in their pocket once, but they killed it, and it's now quite 
dead.  We probably mourn the music industry's passing more than teen and 
college age listeners do.  You don't miss what you never had.

> If the current system of complete bombardment and brainwashing is allowed
> to continue unchecked we are all complicit in the results.

I don't mean to be offensive, but that does sound an awful lot like what 
parents were saying when Elvis came out.  :)

I certainly won't argue that what's getting broadcast these days is poor 
art, if it's art at all.  I won't argue that because of any kind of 
moral basis though.  It just doesn't pass any of the usual tests for 
things people usually expect of good art:

- Does it provoke thought or novel perspective?

- Did it require mastering of a difficult technique to produce?  (E.g.,
   was anyone who knows how to play an instrument involved in this?)

- Is it a representation of the artists' inner world that lets
   you see them with some sort of enhanced intimacy?

- Are any of the traditions of previous artists of this type (musician,
   sculptor, painter, etc.) being explored or expanded upon, at least to
   any degree that these previous artists would be able to recognize?
   (In other words, is there a musician *anywhere* would would know what
   they're doing as music, upon becoming aware of how they made it?)

It's always been really hard to define art, or even judge how good it 
is, but the kind of autotuned, cut-and-pasted stuff I think we're 
talking about here probably fails most of the above tests.

Whether it's moral or not is probably not something that should be 
controlled, because as someone else effectively pointed out, "moral" 
depends on whether you're in Amsterdam or Riyadh.

> It's a delicate balance because it requires a complete commitment to 
> selling out and producing what most artists would consider total crap. 
> With the exception of having actually got into people heads directly 
> and as efficiently as possible.

New wave (and styles related to it) was always really good at stradling 
the line between too "arty" and too "vulgar".  You had the punk rockers 
who basically greeted you by vomiting, and then you had the progressives 
who were working on stuff in odd time signatures and alternate tunings 
with lyrics that may or may not have been comprehensible to anyone.  It 
was nice having that freedom to be anywhere within that spectrum you 
needed to be at the moment without actually having to switch to a 
different style family to do it.  You could even try being at both ends 
of the spectrum at the same time if you wanted to attempt it.

+ Brent A. Busby	 + "We've all heard that a million monkeys
+ UNIX Systems Admin	 +  banging on a million typewriters will
+ University of Chicago	 +  eventually reproduce the entire works of
+ Physical Sciences Div. +  Shakespeare.  Now, thanks to the Internet,
+ James Franck Institute +  we know this is not true." -Robert Wilensky

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