Wednesday, October 20, 2010

We can be heroes - from the sublime to the ridiculous

Releases from three of my musical heroes bring to my comments on the commodification of music.

For someone born in 1955 in the UK, the Beatles were a formative musical force. I preferred them to the Stones, my first single was Love me do/ps I love you; early albums were christmas presents. I remember other music from the time (yeah yeah) but they were indeed the titans. I didn't have a favourite but John was just there in the seventies and I can remember where I was when I heard he was dead. I didn't have all the albums - a tape of sometime in NYC was as much of that as I wanted! Ono's strategy of birthday remasters/rereleases seem somewhat mercenary to me, but meet the fans needs I suppose (though the citroen episode was out of order to my mind). Anyway, I was trolling bigpond music and found the box set of 11 disks for $16. Snapped it up: a week later it was properly priced at $180. I love the music (even NYC) but would never pay that much. Power to the people!

Then I heard that Brian Eno has a new album coming out (previews all over the web, such as here). A true musical hero, who together with Fripp and Bowie re/shaped my adult musical landscape. And tempting me is a $100 box which has the album (plus 4 additional tracks) on cd and vinyl plus a print in a lovely box (there is a 250 super-collectors edition). And what surprises and disturbs me is that I am thinking about it.

It's not that I am against music-objects: on my wall are the prints that came with Before and After Science (free with the LP) and some posters for Fripp-soundscapes signed. Among my prized possesions are a Talking Heads Speaking in Tongues original edition (once again, many thanks Terry). But I think even more special are the truly limited editions - my collection of Taming Power cassettes and vinyl; Steve Roden limited edition cds sent to me by him; disks that people have burned for me (IDX1274 for example); everything from Dorobo because I knew Darrin; my copies of The Humument (OK, books - include my complete set of Scripsi here too, or some art catalogues); and yes, those Eno prints. Then there are the albums that have personal connections - where i got them, who gave them to me (including free through reviewing such as eM, Soundician, Kucharz, Accretions etc), others 'cause I like the look of them (box sets, or special releases). And then, heavens to betsy, ones where I like the music!

And when it comes down to the line, the music is the thing.

So it is where I have some personal investment that the value is there - rather than buying something which has been produced primarily to create an objet which is a draw for investors. I'd get the print framed, but would never play the vinyl, and OK 4 extra tracks - no I don't think so. I understand the $$ imperative as the download culture grows, but it disturbs me. And if I did have money, actual objet d'art would be my desire: I would love to own a Roden or a page of the Humument or something by an artist I love.

I think this has been my way of talking myself out of thinking of buying it! Confused and confusing - my mind processes, writing out loud.

To end, Bowie has released the anniversary Station to Station - remastered and with a double live album from the time that has apparently been widely bootlegged. Only a small price premium, but an addition which is good for the music lover and collector.
(UPDATE: found out the price is about twice normal, plus there is a deluxe version with vinyl, surround sound mix, badges etc etc for $166..ah well
update 2: from the Pitchfork review my first thought was whether the relentless fetishization of the physical product does the content within any favors. )

(ps - if there is anyone from Warp reading this, I can send you my address for a review copy....

1 comment:

Terry Bennett said...

This piece definitely struck a chord with me. I have lost a lot of faith/interest in Mr. Eno over the last few efforts but guess who's already plunked the cash down on the big one? I've lost almost all interest in Mr. Fripp since his "I'll release every recorded event in my life" period and Bowie is only thought of occasionally. I do have to admit the great effect these three artists had on one of the directions my musical taste went. They definitely deserve their due from myself.

A 25th anniversary "Station To Station"??? I used to own the colour cover print for this and as one of my favourites I just might have to pick it up as well.

Thanks for the great piece Jeremy.