three years later.
Dec. 29, 2005
Although it might appear to be
somewhat hard to believe, the plain truth is that on November 26, 2005
Clouds and Clocks turned three years old. (Wow!) And yes, three years
is a period of time that's long enough for one to want to have a look
at a simple (but in the end, maybe not so simple) question: Did I reach
my intended goals? (And, by the way: What were these goals, anyway?)
as it may sound, my main intention in starting Clouds and Clocks (and
yes, more than a few people have inquired about the name - but let's
save this topic for another time, okay?) was to provide a meeting ground
between musicians/critics/writers (on one hand) and listeners/readers
(on the other). Agreed, that's not terribly original. But one thing
I made immediately clear: "No Ads". As in: Here at Clouds
And Clocks it's really easy to see who dictates the agenda - and without
a doubt, it's us. Of course, I can be as biased - and have as many massive
blind spots - as the next guy. But that's exactly what they are - and
nothing more. And so, since at Clouds and Clocks we have a level playing
field, everybody gets a fair chance.
only real bias I'm aware of - and by this, I mean that it's editorially
deliberate - is the fact that I have decided to report for the most
part on what's happening right now. Yes, we also run reviews of re-released
CDs, or of vintage material that's now coming out on DVD-V. And yes,
our interviews always try to give readers "the full picture".
But it has always been my intention to try to give an helping hand right
now, during these fantastic times. I've always tried, though, to stress
the importance of certain listening values that nowadays can be said
to fall into the "endangered species" category.
Am I satisfied with the feedback
I get? And: Do I get any feedback, by the way? Well, the answer is "Yes"
on both counts. But it's a qualified yes, as I'm about to explain.
course, one would always like to get a bit more feedback, a few more
e-mail messages, maybe a more profound type of feedback and so on -
you get the idea. But really, all in all I can't complain. At first,
I found some facts to be quite surprising - for instance (provided these
things are to be considered as being reliable and trustworthy), for
two years in a row the number of "hits" from the USA accounted
for about 70% of the total, while response from Italy was decidedly
quite muted. Judging from my (limited) personal experience, people from
USA have shown to possess a quite distinctive attitude when it comes
to the Web. When musician are taken into consideration, this is also
true of the market, I'd say. More than once I've had the impression
that, as a general rule, people in Europe (here I'm only referring to
musicians) are so disillusioned about the whole thing that they don't
even bother trying anymore. At times I've had the feeling that some
people consider waiting for some kind of public money (funds, commissions,
and the like) as the most productive use of their time at their disposal
(but here I might be very wrong, of course). On a few occasions, musicians
from USA have also surprised me by sending comments about various stuff
that had been featured here, not at all linked to their career. To close
this chapter, I'll only add that, in general, people from the USA appear
to be more inclined than their European counterparts to do a "search"
about, say, a recently released CD; having read the review, some of
them actually bother to write (a couple of irate letters I received
were especially funny).
Have I noticed any new trends
since the days Clouds and Clocks first opened its doors? Not really.
But the prevailing trends of three years ago appear to have gathered
even more steam - which is hardly surprising, since they appear to be
global, long-term trends: a fact which doesn't make for any happy reading.
spans get shorter and shorter. People appear to consider doing many
things at once - and as many as it's humanly possible to do in a single
day - as something that's in itself worthwhile. The fallout from this
is increasingly easy to see at those concerts I attend, where most people
spend most of their time talking, making phone calls, saying hello to
friends, trying to score (as in sex), and maybe, once in a while, listening.
The main exception on a (mini)-mass level being jazz concerts of the
recent events caught my attention, in a funny way. The first was a three-day
seminar on the topic of "Progressive Music" that was held
at an Italian University. I could not attend, but I was told of many
interesting papers that mostly dealt with the internal (musical) organization
of the material. The second was the release of a special edition of
(UK) Q/Mojo magazine, about "Prog". Of course, as it's customary
these days, most of the space/attention was devoted to life stories
and the like (nice pictures, though, some of which I had never seen).
I happened to think that the latter (meaning: lots of people liking
a basically uncommercial genre) was in a way the missing dimension of
the former. Something that most commentators seem to miss completely.
And talking of magazines... well,
the less said, the better. Of course, the "specialized press"
is not (nor has it been for quite some time ) the only place where (in
theory) one can find interesting stuff. The most discouraging aspect
of the "CD war" that's currently bitterly fought (especially
in UK, I'd say) is that the actual written content increasingly appears
to take a back seat to the content of the CD (which in a way is hardly
surprising). The "big weapon" at the moment is the "prestige
cover story" - and since these stories are for the most part of
the "exclusive" kind, this means absolutely no chance of any
questions that could upset the star (and let's not kid ourselves here,
guys, the "star = increased circulation" factor being proportionate
to the magazine's size - get it?). Unfortunately, the nature of the
present times has made the old "Musician recipe" - "We'll
put a name musician on the cover, then fill the magazine with mostly
unknown, difficult, and avant-garde types" - a thing of the past.
What about the current state of
music, then? Well, it's a good question. The answer depends entirely
on who you ask, of course - and it's a topic that gets a fascinating
aura right now, when magazines are busy deciding what to put in their
"Best Of" end-of-year charts.
view from here is just the same as it has been for quite some time now:
These are times when a lot of good records are released, but very few
masterpieces. (Of course, every fifteen-year old always finds a certain
number of masterpieces that will remain dear to his/her heart, but we
can't be fifteen forever, right?) Recently I visited the CD section
of a big shop that offered an end-of-year super-sale: well, even before
the (50%) discount (which applied to both old and new stuff) I could
have bought two masterpieces (my opinion, of course) from earlier times
for the price of one mediocre new CD (ditto).
course there are recently released CDs that I find excellent, but they
are few and far between. Sometimes what I really miss is the feeling
of listening to a new musical language that's just being invented in
front of me - the live albums by Miles Davis from the early 70s are
far from perfect, but they are a lot more exciting than the clean, tidy
version I hear on new CDs and on stage. And talking about "classic
works", the "contemporary recreations" that are touring
the world - Pet Sounds, Horses, Fun House, Aqualung and so on - don't
make it, either.
Back to Clouds and Clocks: I really
appreciate the fact that after a (brief) period of adjustment, musicians,
labels and readers have all understood this is not another "review
for reading this far. See you in 2006.
© Beppe Colli 2005
| Dec. 29, 2005