By Beppe Colli
Nov. 26, 2013
Today Clouds and Clocks is eleven years old! (Massive applause erupts.)
on this day I try to think aloud about the current "state of the
world". However, reading again what I wrote last year, I now see that I
don't have much to add that's new. So, quite aware of the fact that saying the
same stuff all over again, and again, can only turn into a massive snoozefest - but if we were all perfectly conscious of
what's going on there'd be no need to speak in the first place, right? - I
invite newcomers to read the piece titled Ten Years.
That sales are down, this much we know. But what does it all mean,
the press wrote about some figures that were quite remarkable indeed: sitting
at the #1 spot of the US album chart, Katy Perry's new one had sold 300.000
copies - if a little, or a lot, it's something that everybody will have to
decide for themselves; the real news being that the total amount sold by those
albums ranking from #2 to #8 was less than that; which means that all titles
charting in the Top 8 combined had sold less than 600.000 copies total. Now
that's what I call news.
it happens that a single sentence sums up perfectly a very complex issue, this
being the case of what Pete Paphides wrote in The
Guardian music blog on 17 October 2013 in a piece titled "Want to get Daft
Punk's Get Lucky? Give the vinyl a few more spins on the turntable." I
quote: "Spotify merely formalises on a global scale the decline in how much people are prepared to pay for
I think there's still one more piece of the puzzle that's missing: the crisis
in the state of the economy in a large part of the Western World. Readers are
invited to consider - well, not those generic formulations like "there's
no money", but the weight that a crisis where no end is in sight has put
on the shoulders of those - the "boomers" and their cultural
successors - who regard "paying for something" as being an
inseparable part of their "cultural consumption".
And this is
what, in my opinion, has made things even worse when it comes to the financial
well-being of those "difficult" - hence, "adult" - kind of
music I root for.
Weak sales, and declining ads, can only add more strain to the already
precarious health of music mags. A quick look at the
carnage will suffice.
Web is a parade of horrors, but the state of the printed press is no healthier,
given the lack of (adequate) retribution for contributors of both.
massive use of under-qualified young people can only produce the expected
results - which could be of some comical value, especially when it comes to
their use of terms and labels that have absolutely no meaning for them - I also
seem to detect a massive lack of motivation on the part of the elders.
magazine like Mojo still looks like a viable proposition to me, I don't seem to
get the reason why so many mags still fill their
pages with collections of facts that can be easily found on, say, Wikipedia.
criticism is what we really need. But criticism doesn't come cheap, given the
time it takes to formulate a point of view, something which requires an
intimate familiarity with the subject.
I recently happened to read on the
Web a very competent discussion about the mono and stereo versions of the
Beatles song titled She's Leaving Home, featured in their highly-celebrated
album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. A thread that I read with much
interest, given the fact that I'm only familiar with the stereo editions of the
put it in a nutshell, the crucial point is that the mono version runs faster
than the stereo (to be even more clear: there's only one performance, it's the
tape in the mono version that runs faster). This was nothing special, of
course, in those days: there are a thousand instances on the same album - for instance,
in When I'm Sixty-Four, where Paul McCartney's sped-up vocals give an air of
"youthful exuberance" to his performance, something which adds
credibility to his "question". The consensus being that the mono
version runs faster, while the stereo version runs slower (when compared to a
"natural" tonality of voices and instruments, a "zero
degree" of the performance).
I find especially interesting here is not the technical side, the point being
the very different perceptions that those two versions offer to the listener.
As per the discussion, the slower stereo version sounds more
"melancholy", and so more "pessimistic" about the end of
the story: maybe the girl will find nobody there; while the faster mono version
sounds more "optimistic": everything will be alright, he will come to
I intend to underline here is the fact that attentive listeners
"derive" meaning from sound.
Is it something common nowadays?
Readers are invited to draw their own conclusions.
happened to think about this stuff while I was checking the balance of the tonearm of my turntable, trying to optimize the performance
of my new cartridge. Taking for granted the more "technical" side of
this kind of operation, which is of no interest here, the main point is to
compare the sound of the same track at different points in time - can I still
perceive that vibrato effect that I expect to hear when the two channels are
read properly by the stylus?
While I was having a look at Steve Hoffman's Forum, just a few
days ago, I noticed a thread about something that I had thought about upon
reading of a new release of the Jethro Tull album Benefit, remixed by Steven Wilson. Which made my
mind flow back to those times when music was something we often listened to
collectively. (Something which was once quite common, which nowadays many don't
even believe it existed.)
question being: "Do you still have friends come over to listen to
generational side to this, of course, hence a panorama of quite diverse
that I found the most interesting was the one concerning people's attention
spans: "Not for quite awhile, most people I know can't spend 2 minutes
without staring at some sort of screen (Phone, TV, iPad).
I'll put music on but to everyone else besides me it's definitely just
background.". "I don't know anyone who can sit still and pay
attention to one thing for five minutes.".
© Beppe Colli 2013
Nov. 26, 2013