moments before the wind.

April 23, 2007

EMP Pop Conference #16 – End Bits

One thing that I continually find entertaning is the feedback loop at the conference, presenters quoting writers to help support their point, and those writers are literally sitting in the audience listening to their own words spoken back to them. This kind of validation (or cancellation?) is a kind of black hole, a weird moment in time when the reasoning behind an argument starts to sound circular. For some reason the fact that the original writer is in the room listening sort of serves to render the intellectual capacity of the argument null and void. Like anything that is circular, you have to wonder whether it’s useful to end up where you started. Of course it can be. And of course it can’t be.


There seemed to be an exceptional amount of political commentaries built into the arguments I saw. The theme of the conference, “Waking Up From History,” propelled many writers to arrive at the concusion that we should actually wake up TO history, to learn from history, and to draw conclusions between the cultural sphere that our work covers and the political sphere of which we are citizens.

Some examples:

-Robert Bennett on the Jazz Diplomacy program and the things we should learn from it.
-Scott Nelson’s timely mention of “abortive gun policies” in the paper about John Henry’s exhumation – I’m not sure how he managed to reference the VA. Tech shootings in that conversation but at the time it made perfect sense.
-Brendan Greaves’ talk of Terry Allen’s border politics and the ways in which the Texas/Mexico border is treated by the government versus the inhabitants. 
-There was also an entire panel about New Orleans, as well as a smattering of other related papers throughout the weekend, all of which contained a fervent expression of the power of music and solidarity and the essential character of the city.

In general, as there seems to be in more and more things these days, there was a real sense of urgency that was more palpable than in previous conferences. It may have been the effect of the theme, but in general people’s research was very much rooted in the grim realities of life and music’s ability to help maintain and even create hope where all seems quite hopeless.


EMP Pop Conference #13 – What You See Is What You Get

Filed under: authenticity, country, distribution, folk, live shows, music, radio, recording, writing — alimarcus @ 1:32 pm

Michael Bertrand spoke of the radio barndance on WLS in the 20’s and specifically on the minstrelsy aspect of the shows.

Without getting into the details, I just want to post this quote from his presentation. It’s a wonderful thought and is applicable to most everything in today’s world as well:

“When listeners heard dialect through their radio transmitters, what exactly did they see?”

I mention this because I think we all conjure up visual images in the absence of being provided one. Especially when we read books, there’s an imaginary space in our minds that we situate stories within. On the radio, especially the kind of radio that is pre-television, serial soap operas and variety shows, it’s just the same. And of course every listener conjures a different image. What an idea, that every perspective is completely relative. Maybe it’s the same even when we are provided with visuals.

Another barndance based out of Nashville in the 20’s is still running today; it’s called the Grand Ole Opry.

April 20, 2007

i heard there was a major chord – introduction

Ahhhhhhh. So nice to be back. The continual decline of the EMP’s institutional gravitas only makes this conference all the more sweeter. Oh, how imminent demise doth make the heart grow!

But in the lovely Seattle springtime, everything feels like a rebirth, and so this weekend we embark on the eternal journey of speculation and debate, insight and confusion. Does this stuff matter to anyone else? If it doesn’t, does that matter? And if it does, then what are we doing here?

We are analysts, we are critics, we are artists: I cannot think of a more potent combination of inspired and cynical people who must against all odds maintain faith in this crazy work we do. For me, the conference feels like a yearly pep rally. So lets get to it. Thanks for reading!

November 16, 2006

it was a black cadillac that drove you away

Filed under: authenticity, business, distribution, marketing, music, news, radio — alimarcus @ 11:42 am

Clear Channel has been bought for 18.5 billion. Did you know that you can comment on articles on I just found out. And read this one comment on the situation:

As someone who has worked within the music business the past 30+ years, and watched how Clear Channel has greatly helped to systematically kill artistic diversity in my business, I’m not sure how this takeover could make much difference in the sorry state of broadcas[t]ing here in the USA. How can what we hear when we turn on our radios be anymore homogenized than it aleady is? Therefore I say, silence is a beautiful thing. Lets all just turn the damn things off.

— Posted by I. M. Sarcasticus

August 29, 2006

you’re everybody’s satellite

Filed under: authenticity, business, indie, music, radio — alimarcus @ 6:37 pm

Something interesting happened on KEXP today. It was playing in the office, and I was only half listening in that way that you do when you are focusing on something else, and all of a sudden I realized I was listening to Kevin Cole talk about John Cage. I missed the introduction, so I have no clue why he brought it up, but he was talking about that eponymous piece, 4:33, which is four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. The details of Cage’s performance give it depth: he sits down at the piano, in silence, for the duration of the piece, opening and closing the top to designate movements. Why was Kevin Cole talking about this? I’m thinking to myself that there is no way he is actually going to play the piece on the air. And then he did.

Only, it was just the first movement, which is about four seconds long, and so I was immediately disappointed. The thought was there, Kevin, but you shoulda played the whole thing.

I was also thinking – and this was during Kevin’s set as well, I think – that I wish they played more mainstream music recorded after, say, 1992. Not that there should be an overwhelming amount, but it’d be OK to stick on some tunes that nevertheless fit into the scheme of things over there. What about Counting Crows, or Blues Traveler, or 10,000 Maniacs? What about some 90’s Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple, even some of Jagged Little Pill? John Richards rocks the R.E.M. pretty much every day, which makes me very, very happy – but there is still much work to do. Shoulda played the whole thing.

June 29, 2006

it’s too far gone, too far gone

Filed under: indie, live shows, music, radio, reviews — alimarcus @ 7:52 am

Yesterday afternoon I was so exhausted, just totally wiped, when I got home from work. I knew I had to do a million errands (upcoming  vacation) and there was just one thing I knew would keep me going: Mariah Carey.

Now, for those of you that up until this point thought I was a guy (and i know more of you are out there), it’s not true. I came of age in Mariah’s golden age – “Emotions,” “Always Be My Baby,” “Dreamlover,” “Hero.” How much time would I spend over at my neighbor’s house just waiting for a Mariah video to come on MTV? It never took too long. I never was into the other stuff, like the butterflies and whatnot, and not even really her music after, say, 1995 (Kurt Cobain eventually won that battle), but those songs – really. Yesterday it somehow made cleaning up my apartment and making all those phone calls doable, at a time when I really did not want to do anything.

This is just another reason why music is triple cool. It motivates, and it really influences your mood. On the flipside of things, if I am in a store or a restaurant and the music that is playing makes me cringe (imagine!) then it ruins my mood. I mean not for the entire day, but for those 3 or 4 minutes, I can’t really focus on anything else b/c the disbelief, or pain, of having to be in the same room is just too much.

And then there’s this thing that happened at work yesterday. We, like many Seattle-ites and beyond, frequently have KEXP on during the day. THis band called West Indian Girl (I think that’s it) had an in-studio yesterday and wow, were they awful. This wasn’t even the usual case of KEXP’s tendency towards the weird, or the super indie, or just something I didn’t like. This was a band with two singers who for some reason wrote in a lot of harmonies without addressing the fact that neither one of them can stay on tune. It was fingernail-scraping to listen to. Flat fifths, flat melodies, and a general yell-iness that did not help the shrill factor. OW. Maybe I needed Mariah to balance that out, like the jagged soundwaves had been reverberating in my head the entire afternoon and they needed a good swift kick in the pants to expunge them from my subconscious.

As I mentioned vacation starts today and there will be no blogging, either from the rainforest or the beach or the lavender mocha stand.  Have a lovely weekend; I know I will. Do you live in Seattle? Holy moly, it’s nice here, isn’t it?

June 12, 2006

this is a movie of a screenplay of a book about a girl

Filed under: authenticity, business, digital, indie, music, news, radio, rock — alimarcus @ 8:23 pm

Woke up at 6AM to John Richards and Cheryl Waters opening the seasonal pledge drive for KEXP. Always an exciting week.  They are going to raise 425k in a week.  That's amazing. Everyone knows that towards the end of the week it gets tiring – the heartwarming stories, the cheesy commercials and the overhyped CD compilation. But at the very beginning, I have to admit, it was strangely exciting to hear those first pledges come in. I got an Empire Records feeling, which is about a thrice weekly event in my world, but nevertheless comes with a certain kind of goosebumps. You know the scene, where Mark jumps on the local news and spontaneously announces the party-to-end-all-parties, the throwdown that saves the soul and the lives of the souls that haunt. The spirally guitar riff brings in that Sponge song over the montage of skater dudes and poster-making and all that exciting preparation which precedes legendary events. So this morning, hazy as I was, I heard the lines "Will I wake up? Is it a dream I made up? Or is it just reality?" underneath the happy banter of John and Cheryl. I skipped down the stairs, hopped on my bike, and cruised down 12th Avenue singing "Say a prayer for me, for me…"

June 11, 2006

the windows open and the ac on

Filed under: authenticity, business, digital, live shows, music, news, radio, recording, vinyl — alimarcus @ 10:45 pm

The New York Times has a few random columns that pop up from time to time, probably on a regular schedule that I just don't pick up on, and today it's worth talking about. Verlyn Klinkenborg has a column called "The Rural Life" that often paints beautiful still lives of his farm and the animals that he observes, the structure determined by Nature that the farm abides by, and some other romanticized farmy stuff. Its great to read, certainly a break from the global disaster that the world seems to be stuck in, if not meant to serve as something more. He wrote a book recently about a sea turtle, to mixed reviews.

Anyways, there is also sometimes a column called "The City Life," which never really interests me. It's a similarly romanticized take on all things New York, and I often just dont connect with the stuff. Today though, Lawrence Downes writes about recording to wax cylinder, and it's enrapturing. Is that a word? He notes: "It's staggering to think that lungs and plucked strings could vibrate the air, wiggle a stylus and capture a song for 100 years on a fragile thing that looks like a toilet paper roll."

Downes makes the point that this is not a case of luddite reactionary anti-technology denial; rather, an aesthetic and consequently visceral experience arises out of the specific technology of wax recording. The absence of electricity and wires and digital intimidation changed the entire experience for him. I wonder: is Progress such an imposing force that it refuses to acknowledge the value of what's become outdated? Is dated-ness itself a result of an insatiable appetite for novelty? Why is it that anyone who prefers the "warmess" of "inferior" technology is accused of pigheaded closeminded ignorance? I don't mean to say that this column is ignorant; in fact, I believe it is quite the opposite, though I am not confident that's the way it appears to many readers.

Why is it, though, that advanced technology is endowed with automatic approval, merely by manifesting a desire for innovation? And why are those who speak out against innovation ultimately sequestered to a cariacatured old fart? Is it a result of the obvious fact that new technology is more lucrative? Or is new technology more lucrative because it's a more inborn cultural instinct?

Anyways, wax cylinders, man. It sounds like fun to me.

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