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Category: music

Fracking

[ 22 ] July 11, 2011 |

NPR had a fantastic story on Friday about the relationship between fracking and the cluster of earthquakes earlier this year in Arkansas. Many local residents blamed the gas companies for the earthquakes, saying that the process of blasting millions of gallons of water into the Earth is destablizing the fault line. When the companies temporarily agreed to stop, the earthquakes almost ceased.

Of course, it’s unclear whether the earthquakes starting and stopping with fracking is a coincidence. We need testing and research to determine that. But the oil companies have no intention of allowing that independent research to happen and are preparing to restart fracking in the area.

Meanwhile, fracking continues to expand across the nation. Much of New York is divided right now after quasi-Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to open parts of the state to fracking. Driving from Poughkeepsie to Ithaca this weekend, I saw dozens of billboards and bumper stickers opposing Cuomo’s actions, and a few signs, mostly it seemed from the landholders who would likely host the drill sites, in support.

This divide gets at the complexities of resource development. As the NPR story states, local people want fracking to continue so long as its not going to lead to a giant earthquake because for the first time ever, they are making real money off their land. They are paying off debts, building houses with foundations, putting in swimming pools, buying cars–essentially they are joining the American middle class.

At the same time, there is absolutely positively no reason to ever trust the petroleum industry. When have they ever lied to us? People know this. Certainly the opponents of fracking know it, but so do many supporters and it makes them nervous, even as they want to capitalize on their land.

In a side note about the NPR story, its producers got Bonnie Prince Billy to record a song for it. I thought this was an odd choice and leads to a point I will elaborate on in greater length at a later date. I have been a fan of Will Oldham’s various projects for a long time, but it’s not like he tells a real straightforward story in his songs. And he doesn’t here either, even though the song is titled “Mother Nature Kneels.” I was listening to the story and thinking that it really needed the voice of Hazel Dickens. Her straight-forward lyrics and powerful singing gave voice to the poor of West Virginia. Today’s musicians don’t place as much value on lyrics, preferring to either let the lyrics play a very secondary role to musical exploration (and certainly today’s bands are much more sonically exploratory than earlier generations) or to set a kind of vague mood. I think this is why so many of us find much to value in the Drive-by Truckers. Not only are they awesome, but they also have a throwback style to story telling in song. But again, more on this point later.

Take That Record Labels

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

Radiohead has a new album coming out on 10/10. It’s their first non-big studio album in quite some time. They’ve produced it and are marketing it themselves. But even without the cut to the record label, it’ll be the smallest profit they’ve made from a record in years. Or maybe it won’t be.

The confusion arises because Radiohead is selling the record only through its website…and is letting people who download it pay what they want. Seriously.

The idea (brilliant, I might add) is reminiscent of Berlin’s weinerei restaurants, about which I (or guest bloggers) have written before, at which you are served delicious food (3 courses) for an indeterminate price. At the end of the meal, you pay what you want, slipping the money into a jar by the bar. Seriously.

One would think that this would be an unsustainable business model, but the weinereis are thriving in Berlin (you need a reservation). They must be doing well because people like me feel so good about the place and the food that we overpay. Wonder if the same will happen with Radiohead’s album…or if people will take the music and run. And anyway, what is the fair price for the genius of Thom Yorke et al?

(via brother of bean)

Mister Trend is Making Sense (Unless You Really Like Mariachi Music or Hate Sonic Youth)

[ 0 ] September 5, 2007 |

If you haven’t seen Mister Trend’s Random Music Observations, you really should treat yourself (the first installment is here). They’re pretty much as you would expect — pithy, one- to two-sentence dissertations on the demerits of mariachi music or the comparative worth of John Tesh vis-a-vis Yanni and Kenny G. It’s the sort of thing that would work well in fortune cookies.

A sample:

While it is very impressive that Def Leppard’s drummer drums with one arm, it does nothing to elevate their music from absolute crapitude.

I don’t know why, but that one’s been cracking me up just a little bit for the past 20 minutes.

Just Put the Piece Away

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

So, I’ve decided that Jason Isbell’s Sirens of the Ditch sort of rocks. Adjust your buying habits accordingly.

Whatever Happened To Us?

[ 0 ] July 9, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I really enjoyed this Vanity Fair article about the Wainwright/McGarrigle clan (HT: new well-deserved TAP hire Dana Goldstein.) Plus both male Waingwrights — each, like the McGarrigles, an outstanding live act (and Martha held her own when I saw her on a bill with Joanna Newsom and Neko Case in Brooklyn last year) — have new albums out. Both are good, although with Loudon I prefer his terrific 2005 Bill Frisell collaboration. (Alas, Roy Edroso’s essay on LW III is no longer available for free online.)

Art and Commerce

[ 2 ] May 20, 2007 |

Like many commenters, I have to offer a dissent from my colleague’s arguments here. I don’t really care about artists selling their music to advertisers, for a couple of reasons. First of all is my general agreement with the late Christopher Moltisanti’s dictum that unless they’re paying your nut nobody has the right to tell anyone how to earn a living. Professional musicians are, er, professionals, and I don’t see how this particular way of making money is worse than any other. I don’t think most Shins fans will associate them with McDonald’s, and those that do would otherwise not know their music at all. (And if Modest Mouse used the money to hire that mercenary old fart Johnny Marr, great–the artistic results were terrific.) The second is my well-known belief that “authenticity”–and I think most arguments about selling out are about this at bottom–is useless as a criterion of value. Art is what it is; the motives behind producing it are essentially beside the point. As I’ve said before, plenty of terrific music has been produced highly interested in using music to get rich, get famous, and get laid (not necessarily in any order) and lots of dreary music has been made by artists with pure motives for little money on tiny indie labels. Great songs used in ads are still great songs (you might get sick of hearing them, but that overexposure can happen in a lot of ways.) Lenny Kravitz songs suck on your IPod, the suck on the radio, and they suck as car commercials. Fugazi are a very fine band, but I don’t care about their concept of “artistic purity” any more than I care about the other parts of their unappealing “straight-edge” asceticism, except insofar as it lead motivated good music. Which would remain no better and no worse if MacKaye sells “Give Me The Cure” to Viagra.

The middle position staked out in comments seems to be that it might be OK for struggling bands who otherwise wouldn’t be able to earn a living, but bad for artists who don’t really “need” the money. My take is that Bob Dylan has accomplished more and certainly given me much more pleasure than most really rich people; if he wants to get paid in a capitalist society fine with me. (I note that his decision to start selling his music happened to coincide with a shocking artistic revival.) If this encourages people to focus on his music rather than on ultimately irrelevant “voice of a generation” bullshit, all the better.

…As part of the great conversation that Media Czech generated, Ina Iansiti says that “I bought into the whole ‘don’t sell out’ dogma as a kid. But the boundaries between high and low art, which have been blurring at least since the 19th century, are now indistinguishable.” I think a lot of this is about drawing lines between “good” non-commercial art and “bad” commercial art. This both a distinction that should be seen as odd within a discussion of popular music most of us think will live as art and also I think attributes a purity of motive to “high” artists that was never there, even among great artists that weren’t commercially successful. It’s not as if Melville didn’t want to be read or didn’t want to earn a living from his writing.

…of course, had I checked Pandagon first I pretty much could have skipped writing this.

Matt makes a good point here. I can see the argument that, all things being equal, a high level of artistic autonomy is better than a lower level. Let’s stipulate that this is true. Nonetheless, I think it’s true that 1)there are too many exceptions for this to be reliable (Matt may be appalled, but I think that not only In Utero and Nevermind but the gimmicky MTV unplugged thing are better records than Bleach, say) and 2)what matters in the end is the music, not the motivation. I see little reason to judge the a priori motivation when one can judge the finished work.

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