Roger, may I ask you how you felt about hip hop when it was new? Did it seem
like it could be an important development for music? It was for the
business, but for music? I could barely relate to it as music then, but I'm
more open to it today.
If we are in a musical lull, not just a business lull, then it probably
happened before in history. Wasn't the Rococo Period, in music, once
considered a lame interlude between cerebral Baroque and disciplined
Classical? Classical itself was temporarily overshadowed by those wacky
Romantics that the new middle-classes were all gone for. Heaven save our
high art from such cynical racket!
I love how Slonimsky's Invective reminds us that we see the future in our
rear-view mirrors, especially when it comes to art. 50 years from now, Cage,
Riley, and Glass may be seen as decorative neo-Rococo amusements that gave a
pause before what was really going to happen. Or we may look back on them,
and other once obscure contemporaries, and then see that they all
contributed. That's what I hope for, anyway.
Like the multinational business world, the big music business is in a
Rococo-style period of confusion, spinning ever more grandiose filigree ever
more irrelevant to the changing reality around it. That makes it look like
music itself is also confused. That might be true, where music is so tied to
that business model. It will eventually break free and then give us what we
feared wasn't possible - great new important tunes that inspire the culture
and renew the art-form's importance. Isn't that happening somewhere in the
world, where there isn't yet a business that can contain it? Say in Cairo or
So then a new business will arise to support this flowering, wherever it is.
The whole planet will dance to it. And eventually the business will come to
dominant, strangle the music, alienate its customers, turn malignant, and
then music will have another uncomfortable Rococo Period.*
"I don't think music reached a dead end as much as Madison Avenue had become
deaf to anything new."
From Roger Kulp: "...The fact that,by the 1980s,music pretty much reached a
dead end,with no place left to go,is pretty much a recurring theme on this
list.I think the emergence of hip hop at the end of the 70s,was probably the
last really important new development we will ever see..."
What happened in the '80s is that advertisers began demanding narrow-casting
and focus-group programmed radio and most stations jumped at the chance to
get big national advertisers. At that point nothing new and unique could
gain much radio traction. Touring has also become prohibitively expensive
I don't think music reached a dead end as much as Madison Avenue had become
deaf to anything new.
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