Love and Affection: Ode on a Sunny Day, a Song and Hope

I am not in love,
But I’m open to persuasion

With the launch of Apple’s streaming music platform there has been much talk about the value of music. Many musicians are worried at the rise of streaming culture as it will impact on their earnings and ability to fund making more music. Music is more than commerce and more than a recording. Culture is not just a thing of the present. It is a web that spans time, links people together and defines us through our tastes.

I recently found a video of Joan Armatrading performing Love and Affection at Glastonbury in 2008. The performance is on the Jazz/World Stage on a sunny day, and it has stuck with me. This captured moment from seven years ago has become my version of Keats’ grecian urn.

This four and a half minute video sends me spinning off into a web of thoughts, looking back to 1976 when it was recorded, seeing the contrast between the Joan Armatrading then and the woman performing the song 32 years later, looking at the resonance the song has on the audience in that sunny field in Somerset and seeing them as a visible indicator of the power of the song and the woman. Continue reading Love and Affection: Ode on a Sunny Day, a Song and Hope

Study Music History Backwards

Contortionist, posed in studio
Contortionist, posed in studio, by Thiele’s Photographic Rooms, ca. 1880
via, George Eastman House Collection

Music history is a vast topic. Even confining yourself to popular music post 1952 leaves large vistas to navigate. If you include classical music you have 1,500 years of territory to cover and folk music is as old as people or possibly even older.

Standard practice has been to start at the beginning and work forward from there. The problem with this is it seldom works in fostering engagement. Convincing young people that Buddy Holly and The Crickets were challenging and revolutionary is not an easy sell. Convincing them that Orlande de Lassus is something to care about is vanishingly difficult.

Geoffrey Himes, writing for Smithsonian.com, looks at studying popular music backwards. He traces a path backwards from Sam Smith to Mary J. Blige, and onwards to Aretha Franklin and, ultimately, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Working this way people are gradually acclimatised to increasingly alien music like boiling the proverbial frog. He’s right, and not just regarding popular music. Continue reading Study Music History Backwards

Which Music Industry Are You Fixing?

Even with the enormous changes in the music industry over the past fifteen years or so (pick your favourite year zero) things are not perfect. There is a sense that the music industry is malleable now and this raises questions about how it should be moulded.

Young girls finish running race
Christmas party at works, 18/12/1937 / by Sam Hood, Taken at Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia), Ashfield, N.S.W. via Flikr Commons

Voices are being raised about what the industry should be and how we can get there. There are increasing incidences of people positing ideas only for an opposing view to emerge rebutting them from within the community of musicians. Continue reading Which Music Industry Are You Fixing?