The Slow Death of Creativity in Sound

Without evolving creativity and changes, new music will become a lost art.

| September 2016

  • All recordings document life, arising from a specific time and place, and if that place is artificial, the results will be as well.
    Photo by Fotolia/Oksana Churakova
  • In “How Music Dies (Or Lives), Author and Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan chronicles his own journeys to find new and ancient sounds, textured voices, and nonmalleable songs, and he presents readers with an intricate look at our technological society.
    Cover courtesy Allworth Press

How Music Dies (Or Lives) (Allworth Press, 2016), by Ian Brennan, serves as a guide to those who ask themselves, “What’s wrong with our culture?” Along with possible answers are lessons in using the microphone as a telescope, hearing the earth as an echo, and appreciating the value of democratizing voices.

To find more books that pique our interest, visit the Utne Reader Bookshelf.

A pitfall of capturing music in any permanent, reproducible medium is that it can arrest the artistic growth and progress of that musical form. The archetypal field recordings that Alan Lomax did throughout America’s South in the 1940s (or the forefather of all sonic “exotica” documentation, Jesse Fewkes in 1889), more than exemplifying exact musical genres like the blues, were in fact reflections of individual aesthetics at one exact moment in time. The assumption that bluegrass music always sounded like it did in the era in which it was first so faithfully documented is to disregard the fluidity of all musical creation. Not only would bluegrass have sounded different one hundred years earlier, it probably sounded markedly different even five years before (and would have more so five years later, had it not been for the permanence of the recordings themselves which led to more precise mimicry, turning music-making from a process, instead, into a “thing” that could literally be held and examined).

More than sacred scriptures, most folk music has been constantly retooled and adapted by each successive individual performer. The greatest pieces were cross-generational works in progress (e.g., The Iliad’s being seven hundred-plus years in the making).



The first recordings essentially caught improvisations that arbitrarily became benchmarks, snapshots stolen from an epic film, that was then disrupted violently, damming up its stream, mid-narrative. And, those pictures will inevitably be, in the first place, blurry ones, for they are capturing something elusive and in motion, much like the ambiguous images offered as evidence of UFOs or Loch Ness mon­ster sightings.

Art is designed to reveal, not to show us what we already see and know. Yet, the gigantic copying machine that is the music industry, by necessity, thrives on repetition. And when a system ceases changing, it has become a cadaver.

mikalf
2/23/2018 4:06:49 PM

I agree with Thomas. There is so much music that has been reinterpreted and given new life and so much more new music that contains seeds of the past. One generally has too move away from the the main record labels and the big names. Nearly all of the best music is from little known artists who play in small venues. Even bands who mainly play covers can be innovative, I know one such band who plays rock music classics, they do it very well and make a really good show. After working with them for a few gigs I checked out the famed originals and in nearly every case they were far better having made them their own and in their own more superior form of presentation. I would always recommend checking out smaller venues and bypassing the big names, even at places like Glastonbury Festival I recommend avoiding the big acts and check out the small venues, so much talent and variety and more intimate as well ...


mikalf
2/23/2018 4:06:39 PM

I agree with Thomas. There is so much music that has been reinterpreted and given new life and so much more new music that contains seeds of the past. One generally has too move away from the the main record labels and the big names. Nearly all of the best music is from little known artists who play in small venues. Even bands who mainly play covers can be innovative, I know one such band who plays rock music classics, they do it very well and make a really good show. After working with them for a few gigs I checked out the famed originals and in nearly every case they were far better having made them their own and in their own more superior form of presentation. I would always recommend checking out smaller venues and bypassing the big names, even at places like Glastonbury Festival I recommend avoiding the big acts and check out the small venues, so much talent and variety and more intimate as well ...


mikalf
2/23/2018 4:06:37 PM

I agree with Thomas. There is so much music that has been reinterpreted and given new life and so much more new music that contains seeds of the past. One generally has too move away from the the main record labels and the big names. Nearly all of the best music is from little known artists who play in small venues. Even bands who mainly play covers can be innovative, I know one such band who plays rock music classics, they do it very well and make a really good show. After working with them for a few gigs I checked out the famed originals and in nearly every case they were far better having made them their own and in their own more superior form of presentation. I would always recommend checking out smaller venues and bypassing the big names, even at places like Glastonbury Festival I recommend avoiding the big acts and check out the small venues, so much talent and variety and more intimate as well ...




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