Word The Cat

Word the Cat

time flies up here

Posted by Chris on November 18, 2008 at 11:43 am  


one of the biggest group (self-)deceptions carried out by people who write and think about music is that there is something called progress that goes hand in hand with something else called innovation. this deception persuades people that a piece of music has some sort of objective value – the same trick is often used to persuade people to go into debt so they can own a plasma screen/blu-ray player/nuclear deterrant.

what this way of thinking conceals is that the only value a musical thing holds that can hope to be objective (by achieving some sort of effect external to the creator’s psychology) is its use value. this value does not lie in the thing itself, but in the use that is made of it.

the only use made of a lot of music is to keep journalists and other industry people in a job.

the imitation of this model by unwaged music writers (like me and possibly you) only serves to uphold it by giving it some sort of naturalised legitimacy.

this model also frequently ignores the idea that music which wasn’t made in the last 5 minutes can also do things to the listener (and be useful in other ways) that new releases reach for and fall short of.

anything you do has probably been done before, but this only matters if you put undue stress on having to do something new.

of course signifiers such as ‘ahead of their time’ and ‘lost genius’ can come into play here, but this only holds up if you think time is a) moving along a graph of increasing novelty b) something you can be lost from.

here is some new music and some old music (not in that order).

M:I:5 – untitled 8 (from ‘Maßstab 1:5′ released in 1997 and found via this useful place)

micoland – deeper than skin (from 2008. full free release here. _space)


  • Comment by JoeRuckus on November 19, 2008 at 5:48 pm

Thanks for making the link to friendsound – that looks like an interesting ‘resource’. Yeah, a resource, like as if I’m doing some ‘research’ when I listen to mp3s…

You’re right in what you say – each time I get tempted (in)to write/ing something like a music review I take so long that the opportunity invariably passes. I get held up because I spend ages wondering what a music review is supposed to achieve (what would be the marks that indicate that it’s successful qua review?). The fact that I delay usually means the deadline slips by, but I take it that the deadline is either going to be the only important bit about the review (being-firstness is what counts) or it’s totally irrelevant.

  • Comment by Dan on November 20, 2008 at 2:37 pm

anecdotally speaking, i think it’s probably fair to say that most people listen to music that isn’t new, definitely not brand new – and i don’t just mean italian school-kids in pink floyd t-shirts. the music industry and its journalists live in a very hermetically sealed world – but it’s only the music industry itself that cares about the problematic notions of novelty and innovation you refer to, so in a sense, i don’t think it matters.

the most dreadful thing about music (and all arts) journalism in re novelty is the fact that words must always always always be tied to release dates (the PRs would have a fit otherwise – perish the thought!). the idea that you might write about something merely because you believe it to be interesting baffles editors. i find this deeply upsetting.

i don’t often write or read reviews (of anything), but i think most people are sufficiently aware of the value of their own opinions to take reviews with a pinch of salt.

by the by, this is the best review i’ve ever read: http://www.momlogic.com/2008/11/review_lilys_cafe_resturant.php

  • Comment by jace on November 21, 2008 at 12:00 am

use value, this post, hermeneutical bubbles floating across hermeneutical mirrors: a meta-narrative is still a narrative.

rubbing Sontag’s lamp “Against Interpretation”

rubbing my own lamp: “for Interpenetration”

& a question: is viral culture (music, maybe everything?) intrinsically anti-narrative? fork, fork fork. mutate mutate mutate. the usefulness of hierarchy from narrative’s standpoint.

but then some of the highest paid music writers are the shittiest, the ones who regurgitate/flatten/re-heat topics whose public attention is the result of viral conversation.

the use-value of NAMING NAMES and OUTRIGHT FLAMES. the usefulness of beef.

  • Comment by Chris on November 21, 2008 at 1:58 pm

jace – “the usefulness of beef.” – yes. i agree. this is extremely useful for they who kill the cow, chop it up, call it a hamburger, flame grill it and then sell it on.

viral culture as cow.

in my humble, viral culture is anti-linear, this doesn’t necessarily make it anti-narrative. people can clearly narrative-ize segments of it, something like building enclosures on the commons.

my hope (in these hopeful times) is that the teeming pool of life that is viral culture can be swift, malleable and crafty enough to both discredit these enclosures and provide a fluid, collectively-constructed alternative.

dan – yes – most people are sane enough to trust their own feeling of what they like. however, stories about how they should like x if they like y often trickle down from labels, thru journalists to friends of friends of friends. I.P.C. sub-editors dictate our youth. distribution is also important here.

joe – deadlines and procrastination go together like narrative and anti-narrative. you may have noticed a lack of wordthecat autumn mix as we enter winter. i like your radio show btw.

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