Sunday, May 31, 2009

Question of the Day - May 31, 2009


Minivan asks:

As exciting, new, and influential as music is today, it still lacks some sort of prestige. The focus during the times of Monterey pop and Woodstock was music, not money, fame, success, and glamour. Given the downfall of the music industry and a time where innovation is key, do you think it is finally time that artists' will focus on making music and not worry about all secondary elements that come with it?

Hartmann responds:

What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Does life imitate art, or are artists describing the world around them? Are the paintings of victorious hunters that adorn the walls of paleolithic caves prophesying things to come, or are they records depicting past accomplishments? These ancient questions have been the subject of much debate, and they have no perfect answers. Dance and music were the first and most enduring of the performing arts. It is impossible to tell when they transitioned from religious life rituals to show business but for certain it was a process that evolved over thousands of years.

The pursuit of entertainment is one of man's four basic instincts. Twenty five percent of all human endeavor is devoted to various forms of creating, observing or participating in entertainment. The cultural circumstances that create the popularity of particular songs are part of a multi-faceted process that is continuously evolving. Every time the technology changes, the entire game must be reinvented. The old systems and protocols must surrender to new mechanics and politics that defy the status-quo and impose artistic integrity on the future.

When teens, coming of age, venture into the pursuit of personal identity their primary vehicle of expression is music and dancing. Their parents musical legacy becomes associated with a past they yearn to abandon. Peer pressure and personal yearning contribute to the search for mathematical satisfaction in the moment. Humanity is gloriously addicted to music, the mathematics of the masses. Every generation selects and defines its own musical heroes.

The Internet has invaded the world of music with both a powerful destructive force and a liberating weapon of mass distribution. The digital convergence provides a vast array of creative possibilities as it simultaneously inflicts obsolescence on the prevailing methods of producing and marketing music. Technology induced evolution is not accomplished by the flip of a switch. Old ways die hard and innovation starts small and grows slowly. The decay of the postmodern record business will happen over an extended time period. The birth of the new music industry paradigm has already begun in the form of a music renaissance.

Digital recording , MP3 technology and the ubiquitous iPod have revolutionized how music is accessed and how popularity is assessed. Every musical genre is demonstrated through millions of songs and videos that dominate social networking and Internet marketing web sites. Music fans have instant access to the historical music archives and on demand, free acquisition of the extant content. They have been liberated to choose and share the music they love without the influence imposed by record company selection committees.

The freedom to choose has diluted the taste pool and divided the global fan base into communities of niche market interest. No new musical force has emerged with a dominant style to galvanize a mass audience. Without the emergence of a superstar the consolidation of appreciation and interest, that brings prestige to an art form, is not likely to occur. Music as an institution has gained enormous value in the minds of the youth, but specific interest in a particular genre has been elusive. It would defy history for this situation to prevail.

For almost three decades main stream popular music has been dominated by the Hip Hop culture. A majority of the successful product was rebellious in nature and its validity has rested on images of misogyny, drugs and the accumulation of wealth. The new generation seems to have rejected these values and is seeking a more focused message from its heroes. The well entrenched singer/songwriter community is surging forward with a renewed vigor and provides the most viable competition to the burgeoning electronica movement.

The artists who were presented at the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock were part of an underground music environment generated by the explosion of FM radio. It was further fueled by a massive resistance to the Viet Nam war and long prevailing racial injustice. Most of the performers, at these major pop festivals, were new artists on the threshold of careers that grew significantly as a result of the media explosion that followed the events.

Fame and fortune were not motivating factors for these emerging artists. Most were confident of their talent, but they were not commercially successful. Furthermore, there was a rejection of establishment values. This spawned a drug soaked counter-culture attuned to truth and enlightenment and opposed to the accumulation of wealth as a primary, motivational goal.

A generational reaction to the trying times we endure today, should create some manner of rebellion in the emerging artist pool. This new artistic community must be willing to describe their parent's failure to protect the future for their grandchildren. Songwriters, singers, musicians, bands and music entrepreneurs must imagine and communicate a vision for tomorrow that denigrates greed, war and toxicity and inspires peace, love and survival. Such a message could unify a generation and create a music movement that would empower the evolution revolution. If an army of innovative artists stood up and demonstrated the will and talent to change the world the accouterments of fame and fortune would surely follow.

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