Faking it: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music by Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor. Interesting book examining the notion of authenticity in popular music. It basically attacks the concept, which from the reviews seems to have satisfactorily annoyed various groups of music critic.
The book is at its best discussing blues, jazz and old-time music in the US in the early Twentieth century. Contrary to stereotype, the New York music scene was racially segregated, but the American South was much more integrated. There were mixed-race bands, black bands who played a mixture of black and white events, and a thriving industry of black professional musicians, mostly playing live commercially. Into this world in the late Twenties, the record industry sent scouts who rigidly divided up the music into "hillbilly" or "old-time" white music, and "blues" black music, although the actual music was sometimes barely distinguishable.
Enthusiasts and promoters then tried hard to seek out the most "authentic" examples of this black and white music. Names were changed: "Dr Bate and his Augmented Orchestra" were renamed "The Possum Hunters" for that hillbilly feel. White promoters coaxed black musicians out of the sharp suits and sophisticated melodies they used for black audiences, in favour of overalls and "authentic" old blues. Eventually the familiar stereotypes of country and blues music emerged.
The book moves on through rock, folk,punk, grunge and world music. It talks about various kinds of authenticity. "Personal authenticity" where a someone sings bout his life and experiences. "Representational authenticity", where crude, lo-fi techniques and arrangments are assumed to be more honest. "Cultural authenticity" where music is seen as a representative of a particular authentic culture.
The book makes a good overall case that "authenticity" is often a product of critics, scouts and enthusiasts seeking out and creating what they'd like to see. Generally musicians themselves prefer to make money and play for large audiences rather than mumble to themselves on a porch. They tend to seek out and integrate new influences, rather than sticking rigidly within their tradition.
Overall, interesting book, worth reading if you're interested in musical history or want to annoy self-righteous blues or punk fans.
What I'm Reading 2
Equoid by Charles Stross. Novella set in his "Laundry" series about a secret British government department dealing with Lovecraftian magic. In this one the hero Bob Howard is sent to investigate a suspected unicorn infestation: of course the unicorns are rather more horrible than their usual depiction.
This is one of a wave of novella-length works released online for much less than the cost of a full novel. One of the advantages of digital publishing is that they can be more flexible about length and price than paper publishers.
Liked it a lot. The novella format works well for this sort of thing: gives enough time to show off and develop a new monster without you getting bored with the gimmick. It plays to Stross' strengths: great world-building and decently paced plotting, not his weaknesses (believable human relationships).
Feel he missed a trick by not having the toy-sized horses play a bigger role though. Hopefully there'll be a spin-off explaining what happened at the boarding school.
Well worth reading if you like the Laundry series or would just like to give it a try.
What I'm Reading 3
The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuscinski. Classic short non-fiction book by a Polish journalist, about the later years and fall of Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie The book is based on interviews from anonymous servants and insiders within the enclosed world of court politics. Written in a conversational style, it draws a vivid picture of a Byzantine world of preferences and position. It's all the more devastating because of the sympathy the courtiers have for their former ruler.
Reminded me a bit of Wolf Hall, not sure if she was inspired by this book or if its just a general resemblance of the court favouritism around an absolute ruler.
Great book, well worth reading.
Dropped in at the Hayward Gallery while passing a while back, where they had a couple of artists. Ana Mendieta is a Cuban-born artist, working in the Seventies onwards. Lots of conceptual-ish work, often based around her own body. There are photos of her covered in stones as a tomb, covered in feathers and having them washed off, etc. Not terrible but didn't seem particularly striking.
Dayanita Singh is an Indian photographer, with a mixture of portraits and street scenes. Some quite interesting photos, but again nothing really stood out. Overall, seemed decently done but not particularly worth seeking out. Seemed a bit pricey at £11 for mostly photos and not particularly big names.
What I'm Watching
Watched Time Bandits for the first time since I was a kid. A boy joins a group of dwarfs as they travel through time and space on a mission to get stinking rich by robbing historical figures.
Had some trepidation about whether it would hold up, but after Metafilter revisited it lately I thought I'd give it a go. I loved the movie when I saw it at the cinema on its original release (1981), and became mildly obsessed with the tie-in novel (This was long before we had a Video Recorder).
This one actually stands up to time and adulthood pretty well though. Has a good mix of action, comedy and invention. Even Girl B said she liked it.
Saw Edward II at the National Theatre, Christopher Marlowe's play about the king, his relationship with courtier Gaveston, and deposition.
This production has garnered terrible reviews, but their complaints were that it was ridiculously over-the-top and incoherent, so I gave it a go. Generally that means it can be entertaining to watch, it's when even the critics think it's dull that you know there's a real problem.
Definitely a bit of a curate's egg. Good parts: some great performances. Kyle Soller was a convincing homme fatale as Gaveston: he appears nimbly parkouring down the walls and handrails of the audience section: a great contrast to the base, leaden earls. John Hefferman does well as the obsessed Edward II, and Vanessa Kirby plays his wife Isabella as a kind of Essex-girl, doing her best to compete for Edward but clearly and hopelessly outclassed by Gaveston.
Bad parts. The use of video is as bad as they say. Might have worked for just the conspiracy parts as a kind of surveillance thing, but they also have a costumed cameraman on stage pointing glaring lights in the faces of the wincing actors. Seemed like a pointless distraction, you actually see a lot less of the acting, and its embarrassing to watch Edward shuffling implausibly slowly around.
The costumes are an apparently random mix of modern, ancient and fantasy. For the set they've boldly removed all the backdrops so you see the whole space, which is interesting in the short term. You see the backs of scenery, it's presumably supposed to indicate that the court is a kind of backstage-of-the-nation, but it's not really carried through. When rebel earl Mortimer takes over and holds court on a shipping container loaded with junk, is he supposed to be in the storage room of the nation? It's not really clear.
Good and bad points. Bettrys Jones plays the child prince Edward III. When she finally starts speaking she does a wonderful job, projecting fragility and fear turning to determination. But for the first half she stomps around in a ludicrous schoolboy costume which for anyone of my generation screams Little Jimmy Crankie.
Overall, interesting to see it, entertaining but not a great success.
Socioeconomics. "Leftist critics of neoclassical economics are under-estimating the extent to which economic science can support their case". Evidence against millionaire tax migration. Wealth (note: not income) more equal in UK than France or Germany. Was human capital reason industrial revolution started in England? via.
Because English human capability is initially slightly higher than French, England can start to apply technological knowledge to production earlier, giving rise to a cumulative process of rising living standards, rising human capital, and improving production technology. A gradual rise in knowledge above a critical level causes England to experience an industrial revolution, while France for a while appears mired in age-old backwardness...Politics. Why the return of growth doesn't prove that Balls was wrong . Benefit cap. Poll questions that should be ignored. The Myth of the Better War: America's Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency. Federalist and antifederalist representation. Facts and fairness over immigration. White supremacist Pavlo Lapshyn jailed for 40 years for Birmingham murder and mosque bombs. Austerity and how to fight it. Feudal security: The Battle for Power on the Internet:
Britons were better fed than Frenchmen... the median French worker consumed about 2200 kcal per day, considerably less than a median English diet of about 2600 kcal.
The truth is that technology magnifies power in general, but rates of adoption are different. The unorganized, the distributed, the marginal, the dissidents, the powerless, the criminal: They can make use of new technologies very quickly. And when those groups discovered the Internet, suddenly they had power. But later, when the already-powerful big institutions finally figured out how to harness the Internet, they had more power to magnify.Sci/Tech. Google's grip on Android. Fukushima exaggerations. A Brief History Of The Sports Bra.
Articles. Remembering the Nord-Ost Siege. Eric Schlosser's "Command and Control" about cold war nukes. Mao and traditional Chinese medicine. Mike Tyson on his childhood. Subcultures. Remember Stanford Ovshinsky, inventor. Dale Carnegie biography. Gary Lineker on kids' football. Burke in debt. Turning first-rate universities into third-rate companies. Uncircling the Circle Line, via
Stoicism. The Stoics on the Community of Humankind.
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