UN’IMPORTANTE TESTIMONIANZA

Tim Bowness, cantante ed esperto di distribuzione indipendente, mi ha inviato questo prezioso contributo sullo stato attuale della musica (alla fine cliccare sul link per leggere l’intera intervista):

It’s clear the streaming companies have absolutely no interest in the livelihoods of musicians. As we’ve seen, they are willing to stoop to legal action to keep royalty rates as low as possible. Why are only a small percentage of musicians are willing to express their outrage at this reality?

That I can’t explain.
For reasons I’m happy to go into, I find streaming a little inadequate as a means of experiencing music, though I completely understand why people use and like it. More importantly, I think that if it does become the sole future for music, it would mean the fall of many independent music labels, the loss of even more music industry jobs, and the almost total disappearance of income for most musicians—especially non-mainstream artists who are already finding things tough.
What the digital companies pay for streams is pitiful and what little they pay is filtered through aggregators, collection agencies or labels. For context, to break even on one of my relatively inexpensive albums, I’d probably need to generate 5,000,000-plus streams, which is unlikely.
While musicians have sleepwalked into allowing their work to be sold for virtually nothing in the digital world, the publishing, TV and film industries have managed to protect their “talent” from being exploited. With films, despite the triumph of streaming and the collapse of DVD and Blu-ray sales, there’s been an increase in cinema attendances. For instance, 2018 was the best in 48 years in the UK. Additionally, Netflix and Amazon pay the going rate, if not more, to create their own content and also pay decent licensing fees for other programs and movies. I’m not sure why there isn’t a decently-funded Amazon or Spotify music label equivalent of a Netflix Original.
The book as an object is still attractive to readers. I don’t know what’s happening elsewhere, but physical book sales in the UK are still strong and stores such as Waterstones are one of the only success stories on the British High Street. Also bear in mind that Kindle prices aren’t that far off book prices and offer more royalties for the authors. If a Kindle sale is equal to an album download, there is no streaming equivalent for books.
The important thing is that the film, TV and publishing companies still seem to place a value on content, artists and the unsung technicians and editors that help bring these things to life.
Unfortunately, it does appear that the remaining major labels are actively trying to kill physical music media, much as they tried to do with vinyl in the early 1990s. We’re lucky in the UK with HMV still surviving and a healthy number of decent independent record stores keeping afloat, but in the US there doesn’t seem to be a major retail outlet selling CDs or LPs, and globally the death of the CD is being hastened by cars and computers no longer having disc drives and electronics stores stopping selling CD players.
For the major labels, who have decades of back catalog to offer digital platforms, no physical media will mean costs are down as they no longer need product manufactured, warehouses to store the product in, staff to run the warehouses and so on. Digital marketing, data uploaders and influential playlist placement are the growth areas.
Profits from streaming are filtering through to major labels, label shareholders, digital music companies, and mobile phone and Internet providers. Whether by accident or design, corporate control is stronger than it ever was and musicians in general earn less than they ever did. This doesn’t take into consideration engineers, producers and music studios, which also face massive pressure from home studios and reduced recording budgets. The diminishing number of audio experts are also being devalued in this environment.
Burning Shed deals with some artists, both well-known and obscure, whose business models revolve around releasing two or three albums a year, pressing a thousand or more CDs of each release, and subsequently selling them online and at concerts. It’s not a path to wealth, but it provides enough of an income for them to keep doing what they do. Vinyl is very expensive to manufacture and not guaranteed to sell, so if CDs died, an income solely derived from streams of a few thousand would necessitate these artists having to give up or just do what they do as a hobby.
I also feel that streaming is destroying good listening habits, and partly as a result of that, negatively impacting on the nature of music creation itself. The format is immediate, disposable and, above all, convenient. The appeal is obvious, but evidence suggests that the average listener has become more like an A&R person and gives a song only a few seconds to impress them.
When you invest in an album or single, you tend to give it time. I personally enjoy the immersive ritual of losing myself in music while poring over the credits and artwork on gatefold LP or digipak CD, and I find that if I don’t immediately like something, I’ll give it a few more chances due to that investment. Some of my favorite music I initially hated and even if I continued to hate something, I found I’d learned something about my tastes on the repeat listens. For some people it will be different of course, but in general I don’t think streaming encourages deep listening.
I use streaming and YouTube purely to see if I like something and want to buy it. As a packaging junkie, one of my great frustrations is that expanded artwork and detailed information, sometimes including correct release years, are pretty much non-existent via streaming platforms.
Outside of this, the number of financially equivalent streams to physical sales in the album chart is too low, by about half in relation to CD and double that again in relation to LPs. The top-100 UK singles chart is now 100% stream dominated, and the album chart is following suit with 60%-70% of entries now determined by streams. Partly as a result of this, we have the least musically diverse and most static charts in living memory. Charts are vanity, but they also dictate what gets radio and TV plays and mainstream media attention, so they remain important.
Fans don’t owe musicians a living, but I think the realities of what the digital era is doing to music should be discussed more openly. Most listeners don’t care how the music they like is made and what it costs to make it, and why would they?
The problem is that while streaming may have enhanced the visual entertainment industry, and so far bypassed the publishing industry, it’s laying waste to all but a few big companies and mainstream artists in the music world. Maybe it’s all part of a process and the sort of music I like and make are on their way out like the silent movies, but I still feel there’s a very strong public interest in all kinds of music and I think it’s something worth fighting for.
A simple question to ask is: is it right that streaming platforms and mobile phone companies do better out of music streams than the musicians themselves? It’s as if in the age of vinyl, the manufacturing plants and plastic companies were making a fortune while the musicians busked on the streets for pennies.
I’ll stop here, but needless to say I think it would be a great shame if physical music media disappeared altogether and I believe the ramifications of a streaming-only future based on the current business models will mark the end of many careers, strengthen corporate influence, and mean less interesting and less diverse music being made.

[…]

What advice do you have for artists to attempt to monetize recordings in the current environment?

Maybe it’s as it should be, but if I were to start now, I’m not sure I’d know what to do. It was difficult in the 1980s and 1990s when only around 0.1% of aspiring musicians ever made it to releasing something properly, but it’s even more difficult now.
There will always be big new mainstream artists, and some of them will be interesting. There will always be music used in film and television. And the justifiably legendary likes of Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Radiohead, Prince, and Marvin Gaye will likely thrive in perpetuity due to the cultural impact they’ve already made.
For new or lesser-known non-mainstream musicians, I’m not sure how they’d go about gaining a significant foothold in the new world order, but nothing’s impossible.
New ethical streaming companies could emerge. The existing ones could suddenly see what they’re doing isn’t fair, form labels and pay more. The public could learn to love music packaging again—much as it fell back in love with the book. The album as app—something I’ve had in mind for a decade or so—could emerge as a serious income provider. The more Internet speeds increase, device memories expand, and programming expertise spreads, the more it could become an everyday reality.
My current advice is to go against what prevails. Create the most beautiful, lavish and ambitious music and artwork you can and provide an experience that the streaming platforms can’t.

Tell me something positive about being a recording artist in 2019.

Despite all the above, it’s still a thrill being able to make music. From writing and completing songs to seeing the final release, it remains exciting and emotionally fulfilling to me.
Improved home studio technology has made creating high-quality work far easier and while sometimes feeling like a Pandora’s Box that should never have been opened, the Internet has brought fans and musicians closer together and enabled different ways for musicians to successfully work outside of the industry mainstream.
Technology moves on. Attitudes change. Nothing is ever guaranteed.

Tim Bowness – Instinctual reality by Anil Prasad
Copyright © 2019 Anil Prasad. All rights reserved.

Read the full interview at:
https://www.innerviews.org/inner/tim-bowness?fbclid=IwAR2SgBbQcwT2woTWRzj90-FaJRN1EM3QWggWdPnMfO9HxjTWNtdYO1SL6Zo

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“THE INTERNET HAS FAILED” [T BONE BURNETT]

Dopo aver inviato a selezionati indirizzi e-mail il testo della pagina AUTO-GENERATED? contenuta in questo menu, ho ricevuto varie risposte interessanti, alcune apocalittiche altre costruttive… ma tutte seriamente preoccupate per il destino artistico e dell’umanità. Nel nuovo doppio album ho trattato l’argomento Internet in un paio di testi; una mente illuminata ha recentemente ampliato l’orizzonte con un grande contributo umano e culturale. in “File Under Oblivion”avevamo parlato di “Capitalist system”, qui si parla invece di “Surveillance capitalism”, ma i 2 concetti sono in totale sintonia. Ecco l’intervento completo che T Bone Burnett ha esposto ad una recente conferenza. Per la cronaca South by Southwest (SXSW) è un festival musicale e cinematografico che ha luogo ogni primavera ad Austin, Texas.
Naturalmente il libro di cui si parla (e di cui ho inserito la copertina) é caldamente raccomandato, anche se non stampato in Italia: ordinarne una copia é semplice, ma fatelo in libreria.
Grazie al vecchio amico Alex Masi per avermi segnalato l’intervento che riporto dal sito ufficiale.

T Bone’s SXSW KEYNOTE ADDRESS – March 13, 2019

I am going to begin today with a quote from Marshall McLuhan from his 1962 book, The Gutenberg Galaxy:

“Instead of tending toward a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside.”

I would like to come to you today with a message of unity and love and peace, and I will try to get there by the end, but I have to begin by stating a fact that must be becoming obvious to most people by now- the fact that we are in a battle, a battle for the survival of our species, and our enemy, is within.

Three weeks ago in a landmark report on disinformation and fake news, the British parliament said that Facebook and other big tech companies “should be subject to a compulsory code of ethics to tackle … the abuse of users’ data and the bullying of smaller firms.”

The report says, “Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law.”

The Guardian wrote that this is the first “comprehensive attempt of a major legislative body to peer into the … economy of data manipulation and voter influence.”

Damian Collins, chair of the parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said, “The guiding principle of the ‘move fast and break things’ culture [is] that it is better to apologize than ask permission. We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people.”

In The New Yorker’s February 25, 2019 report titled Private Mossad for Hire, Uzi Shaya, a former senior Israeli intelligence officer, said, “Social media allows you to reach virtually anyone and to play with their minds. You can do whatever you want. You can be whoever you want. It’s a place where wars are fought, elections are won, and terror is promoted. There are no regulations. It is a no man’s land.”

Marshall McLuhan began his work as a follower of the French Catholic idealist philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard believed that the electronic universe was an extension of our nervous systems and would knit us together into a godhead, which he called “the Omega Point”. McLuhan, also a Catholic, started there, but by the end of his life, he believed that the electronic universe was a “blatant manifestation of the Antichrist”. Satan, he said, “is a very great electric engineer.”

The Internet has failed.

Here is a quote from Tim Berners-Lee, who drew the original diagram for the world wide web on a napkin, and who now has Dr. Frankenstein’s remorse.

“We demonstrated that the Web had failed instead of served humanity, as it was supposed to have done, and failed in many places. [The Web] has ended up producing—with no deliberate action of the people who designed the platform—a large-scale emergent phenomenon which is anti-human.”

As the Internet pioneer Ethan Zuckerman of MIT recently wrote, “It’s obvious now that what we did was a fiasco, so let me remind you that what we wanted to do was something brave and noble.” What they wanted to do was to create a communication system that was decentralized and cooperative. One of the early networks that Stewart Brand and Ken Kesey built was called the Whole Earth Lectronic Link. That’s how utopian their aspirations were. But today there is a growing understanding that the internet has morphed into an insidious surveillance and propaganda machine.

Berners-Lee has said he is “devastated” by what his creation has become, and he is working to “re-decentralize” the web with a new project he calls Solid. I sincerely wish him the best of luck, but from where I stand, we would do well to scrap this first internet project- we should break up these advertising platform monopolies, and we should start from scratch to build an electronic communications system founded on hard and fast ethics rather than utopian fantasies.

(Thomas More coined the word Utopia from two Greek words- eutopia, which meant a good place and outopia, which meant no place at all.)

By now, it is clear that what was begun as a mission to connect and unite mankind has mutated into a pernicious distortion machine that has disconnected mankind and put us at each other’s throats, and in doing so has destroyed and is destroying institutions and knowledge that have taken centuries to develop.

As my friend Roger McNamee says, at this point it is all the rest of us against the 130,000 or so employees of Facebook and Google, whose objective it is to hybridize us with machines. Ray Kurzweil, Google’s Director of Engineering, predicts that humans will be hybrids by the year 2030. Their goal is to automate us.

In the beginning of the last century, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, realized that he could use his uncle’s concepts- such as the understanding that we are driven to act by unconscious impulses- to control and manipulate mass culture.

At the beginning of the first world war, Bernays was the press agent for Enrico Caruso, plying the trade that was then called propaganda. He had run many successful campaigns, and as the United States entered the war, he worked for Woodrow Wilson to promote the idea the we were fighting not to restore the old empires of Europe, but rather to “Make the world safe for democracy.” By positioning Wilson as the “Liberator of the people, who would create a new world were the individual would be free”, he was able to make Wilson a hero of the masses.

The throngs that greeted Wilson upon his arrival at the Paris Peace talks gave Bernays the insight that if this sort of mass manipulation could be used during war, it could be used during peace.

After the war, with the Germans giving propaganda a bad name, Bernays rebranded his practice, opening the Council on Public Relations- a phrase he coined- and began working for various corporations including the American Tobacco Corporation. At the time there was a taboo against women smoking and Bernays was asked to break that taboo so that the company could sell more cigarettes.

During the 1929 Easter parade around Central Park in New York, Bernays arranged for a group of debutantes to hide cigarettes under their clothes and, at an arranged corner, pull out and light what he called “Torches of Freedom”. Having notified the international press of the event, there were scores of photographers- including ones hired by Bernays- at that corner, and the pictures went out all over the world. In that one symbolic act, he was able to link a woman’s right to smoke with a woman’s right to vote- with the Women’s Liberation Movement. He linked a woman smoking a cigarette with the Statue of Liberty. Those pictures snapped the world.

This devious process has now been mechanized and automated.

Until England recently joined the fray, Germany had been leading the world on the extreme dangers of the Facebook and Google monopolies, because Germany in the 1920’s, was the first country to fall into a propaganda created mass hypnosis. The Germans have felt it.

Historian Robert Ensor wrote at the time that “Hitler puts no limit on what can be done by propaganda; people will believe anything, provided they are told it often enough and emphatically enough, and that contradicters are either silenced or smothered in calumny.”

This, of course, is all too familiar.

To stay human, to survive as a species, we have to wrest our communications out of the control of the lust for power, the avarice, larceny, hubris, deceit and self-delusion of the heads of Google and Facebook.

I am confident that we can do this. Six years ago my friend Jon Taplin, and I spoke at a conference at MIT. We caused a lot of trouble because of our assertion that musicians have the right to determine how and where their music is distributed. The Free Culture sect was in ascendance on campuses then, but things have changed.

The chronicle of reform movements demonstrates that history is made by abrupt transitions. The 1890’s are remembered as the Gilded Age, where plutocrats like J. P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller asserted control over the U.S. economy and politics. By 1906, both Rockefeller and Morgan were being forced by antitrust regulators to break up their vast holdings. When I gave the keynote address at the Americana Music Festival addressing the problem of the tech monopolies in the fall of 2016, I thought we were in 1896, not 1906.

But today, just three years later, we are, in fact, at the beginning of a profound change in how we view tech monopolies. Since that time, the German led European Union has fined Google 7.7 billion dollars- American- the largest anti-trust fines in history- for abusing its search monopoly, the British parliament has picked up the torch, and there is increasing evidence that American politicians and regulators are open to new regulation of these tech monopolies. Within the next six months the FCC will probably fine Facebook billions of dollars for the Cambridge Analytica breach. This is in part because the mounting evidence of the destructive role that both Facebook and Google played in the American election of 2016 proved to be one of the primary causes of Individual One’s so called victory.

But the crisis Facebook and Google have created goes way beyond the election. We have come to the realization that we have entrusted them with our most intimate data, and that they are not worthy of that trust. They have betrayed our trust by engineering their platforms to be addictive, and by making enormous fortunes selling- monetizing “in the parlance of our times”, to quote Maude Lebowski- surreptitiously selling those data that we have unknowingly handed over to them for free, for nothing.

Stewart Brand is often quoted as saying. “Information wants to be free.” The other half of the quotation, always omitted by the Free Culture sect is, “Information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place changes your life.”

I have come here today to this right place to bring you a right piece of information.

Your information is extremely valuable.

To realize that, all you have to do is look at the valuations of the companies that have been confiscating your information and making vast fortunes without compensation to you, the owners of that information, companies that have instead manipulated you and your friends and families by that information.

If we search the internet we find that Facebook is worth somewhere around 475 billion dollars. Google is worth about 785 billion, give or take a few billion- together, about a trillion and a quarter dollars.

This- and much, much more- is what your collective information is worth. In fact, there is no way to put a monetary value on something such as privacy for which the intrinsic value is immeasurable.

Mark Zuckerberg tells us the age of privacy is over. At Harvard, he started what was then called Facemash as a place to rate girls by their pictures- which had been stolen from student housing directories- girls who were, I am certain, thrilled to be rated by the Ivy League incel community. Here is part of a text conversation between him and one of his friends outlining how he was planning to deal with his competition, the website Harvard Connect:

FRIEND: so have you decided what you are going to do about the websites?
ZUCK: yea i’m going to fuck them
ZUCK: probably in the year
ZUCK: *ear

ZUCK: yea so if you ever need info about anyone at harvard
ZUCK: just ask
ZUCK: i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns
FRIEND: what!? how’d you manage that one?
ZUCK: people just submitted it
ZUCK: i don’t know why
ZUCK: they “trust me”
ZUCK: dumb fucks

Having been exposed, he now claims to have grown and changed, but by now we have profound evidence that he has not, and in fact, his lust for power has made him worse, has made him into a James Bond villain.

He may be Zuckerberg, but make no mistake- you are the mark.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States asserts that the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated. Well, unreasonable searches and seizures are Google and Facebook’s business models.

There are laws against phone tapping, yet on the internet, all communications are tapped, at all times, with impunity.

This has been an epic invasion of privacy.

While he buys up all the houses around his house to protect his privacy, neither he nor any of the other one dimensional Randian intellectual lightweights in Silicon Valley get to declare that the age of privacy is over.

It is time for him and them to get out of our lives, out of our private lives, out of our common life.

Theirs is a fundamental miscalculation. They don’t know the difference between connection and disconnection. They don’t know the difference between information and disinformation. They don’t know the difference between creation and destruction.

Information does not want anything. We want information.

But as the tech companies have made vast fortunes selling our information, they have hidden from us the crucial information we need to survive as a species.

These technologists lack humanity.

This era- an era marked by a new field of economics called Surveillance Capitalism – has been a global revenge of the nerds.

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For those to whom surveillance capitalism is a new term, here is Shoshana Zuboff’s definition of that term from her mighty book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism:

1 A new economic order that claims human experience as free material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales;

2 A parasitic economic logic in which the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new global architecture of behavioral modification;

3 A rogue mutation of capitalism marked by concentrations of wealth, knowledge, and power unprecedented in human history;

8 An extrapolation of critical human rights that is best understood as a coup from above: an overthrow of the people’s sovereignty.

The goal of technology is to create efficiency.

The goal of art is to create conscience.

Art is not efficient.

Efficiency is not an attribute of the good.

Efficiency can be efficient for good or evil, but as it has worked out in practice, efficiency would seem to be a prime attribute of evil.

Without conscience, efficiency has the potential for apocalyptic evil.

These surveillance capitalists do not have the ethical foundation to be able to order society as they have presumed to do.

They lack conscience.

I will stay with the artists. Artists contain the accumulated knowledge of generations. Artists create conscience. The artists are our only hope.

The sciences have failed us. The churches have failed us. The politicians have failed us.

I am here today to strongly encourage all of you artists to not give in to the extreme intimidation of a sad group of very rich, emotionally and intellectually stunted people who threaten to destroy centuries of human experience and hard won knowledge, who threaten to destroy our race- the only race we have, the human race- but instead to stand up for yourselves, to stand up for humanity.

Abraham Lincoln said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Dr Martin Luther King, Jr said, “And one of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.” We must ask ourselves, are we sleeping through the Surveillance Capitalism Revolution?

Our understanding of the Internet as a propaganda machine rather than simply a benign, ever-flowing source of information changed in 2016. Jacques Ellul defined propaganda this way, “an inner control over the individual by a social force, which means that it deprives him of himself”.

Please think of this talk as a prayer that we become reunited with our selves.

At about the same time as Bernays was fusing his uncle’s innovations with propaganda, the Russian psychologist, Ivan Pavlov, began researching the responses of dogs to being fed that led to our understanding of conditioned responses.

If the dog would be fed accompanied by the ringing of a bell, soon the dog would begin to salivate merely at the ringing of a bell, if no food was present.

We are also susceptible to this sort of manipulation.

On social media, the like is the bell ringing.

In 1938, Orson Welles produced a radio play of the HG Wells novel, War of the Worlds, which led to a national panic that we were being invaded by aliens (from outer space), demonstrating the power of media to manipulate the mass unconscious, or to put it more clearly, to manipulate masses of people without their being conscious they were being manipulated. With the mechanized, automated electronic programming capabilities of today, we can see how easy it has become to fabricate- for millions of credulous people- an alien (not from outer space) invasion.

Rush Limbaugh’s rise paralleled that of Ronald Reagan. Fox News was launched in 1996 and was in enough markets by 2000 to help elect our boy, George Bush. But the hijacking of social media as a propaganda organ is distinctly different from partisan radio and television.

Our smartphones are with us every waking hour, whereas television and radio are not regularly ingested in our workplaces. We check our phones 150 times per day and facebook alone gets fifty-four minutes of our time per day.

But big changes will happen if we approach the problem of monopolization of the Internet with honesty, a sense of history, and a determination to protect what we all agree is important: our cultural inheritance. We all need the access to information the Internet provides, but we need to be able to share information about ourselves with our friends without unwittingly supporting a corporation’s profits.

Facebook and Google must be willing to alter their business models to protect our privacy and help thousands of artists create a sustainable culture for the centuries, not just make a few software designers billionaires.

In the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA §512), the telecom giants, AT&T, Verizon, et al, negotiated a liability shield for copyright infringement called the Safe Harbor Provision, which stipulated that the digital platforms were not responsible for the material posted on their platforms. This was an unwise decision.

Among other serious problems, it allowed YouTube to become a massive infringement machine that made tens of billions of dollars for its owners while returning between nothing and a small fraction of that money, to the owners of the material posted on their platform.

It also led to the posting of tens of thousands of Isis and Ku Klux Klan recruitment videos, as well as thriving pedophilia communities with untold thousands of photographs and videos of schoolchildren, among other horrors.

The Safe Harbor provision needs to be amended. Now.

Without the Safe Harbor provision, these Surveillance Capitalists would have to protect and defend their platforms, and in doing so, protect and defend us.

If artists do not want their work on YouTube or Facebook for free, they should be able to file a takedown notice, and then it would become the responsibility of the platform to block that content from ever being uploaded. All the tools needed to make this happen already exist.

Second, we need to reform our privacy regulations. The EU is taking the lead on this with their General Data Privacy Regulation act (GDPR) which went into effect in early 2018. The U.S. should follow the European leadership on this front.

But we also must understand that the people who run Google, Facebook, et cetera, are just at the beginning of a long project to change our world, so this battle has only just begun. Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens, calls their project Dataism:

“Dataists further believe that given enough biometric data and computing power, this all-encompassing system could understand humans much better than we understand ourselves. Once that happens, humans will lose their authority, and humanist practices such as democratic elections will become as obsolete as rain dances and flint knives.”

We need to confront this techno-determinism with real solutions, before it is too late. An autonomous technology has taken over the traditional values of all our cultures and rendered the differences among them superficial. This has led to disruptions and schisms in crucial parts of our lives- the arts, education, journalism, politics, and others, but most alarmingly, in our selves. Marshall McLuhan said that a medium surrounds a previous medium and turns the previous medium into an art form, as film did with novels, as television did with film, and as the internet has now done with television.

Through the technological advances of the last century, from radio to film to television and now to the world wide web, we have become deft at the treacherous processes of programming and conditioning.

As you know, programmers make programs, and what they do is called programming. Today, we have programs and programmers everywhere. Where we once had radio programmers and television programs, billions of people now are turning themselves into programmers, and- more significantly- into programs.

As one result of this programming pandemic, we are losing the ability to discern fact from fiction.

Another result is that large segments of our societies are subjects of mass hypnosis.

I undertake the pursuit of the solutions to these problems with optimism, because I believe in the power of music, paintings, theater, books, and movies- the power of art- to change the world. As the writer Toni Morrison observed, “The history of art, whether it’s in music or written or what have you, has always been bloody, because dictators and people in office and people who want to control and deceive know exactly the people who will disturb their plans. And those people are artists. They’re the ones that sing the truth. And that is something that society has got to protect.” I know that brave and passionate art is worth protecting and is more than just click bait for global advertising monopolies. Art is not information. Art is above information. Art changes everything.

The last ten years have seen the wholesale destruction of the creative economy—journalists, musicians, authors, and filmmakers—wrought by parasitic tech monopolies. The monopolies’ dominance in Artificial Intelligence will extend this creative destruction to much of the service economy, including transportation, medicine, and retail.

There is not a single politician in America talking about this and, when the flood of unemployment brought about by the Artificial Intelligence revolution is upon us, we will not be ready. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was recently quoted as saying that the robotics and AI revolution would not arrive for 100 years. He said, “I think that is so far in the future—in terms of Artificial Intelligence taking over American jobs—I think we’re, like, so far away from that that it is not even on my radar screen.”

His radar screen is blank. In actual fact, he has no radar screen. That is an imbecilic statement.

Mnuchin’s former employer, Goldman Sachs, recently reported that self-driving cars could eliminate 300,000 jobs per year starting in 2022. Both sides of this argument cannot be true, but we are forging ahead with a vision of an AI universe with almost no political debate. We know this is true because of the deafening silence from the politicians in the last ten years, as 50 percent of the jobs in journalism were eliminated and revenues at both music companies and newspapers fell by 70 percent. Who was there to speak for the creative workers of the world?

The companies that will win the AI race will be the companies that are already in the forefront: Google, Facebook, and Amazon. As AI venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee recently wrote, “AI is an industry in which strength begets strength: The more data you have, the better your product; the better your product, the more data you can collect; the more data you can collect, the more talent you can attract; the more talent you can attract, the better your product.”

These companies are already pushing out of tech into other sectors of the economy, as Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods demonstrates. Google’s life sciences division, Verily, is producing glucose-monitoring contact lenses for diabetics, wrist computers that read diagnostic nanoparticles injected into the blood stream, implantable devices that modify electrical signals that pass along nerves, medication robots, human augmentation and human brain simulation devices. Google’s autonomous car division is already working with Avis to manage their forthcoming self-driving car fleet. As for Facebook’s brand extension plans into video, they recently bid $800 million for the worldwide rights to broadcast Indian Cricket on their platform, only to be outbid by Rupert Murdoch’s Star India. These are just the start of many initiatives to extend the tech giants’ technologies into many parts of the American economy.

We need a communications system that is not dependent on surveillance marketing and that allows creative artists to take advantage of the zero-marginal-cost economics of the Web. I have no illusion that the existing business structures of cultural marketing will change and/or go away, but we can build a parallel structure that will benefit all creators. The only way this will happen is if, in Peter Thiel’s “deadly race between politics and technology,” the people’s voice (politics) wins. The leaders of Google and Facebook may seem to some like benevolent plutocrats, but, in fact, they are malevolent and without ethics. On top of that, the time for plutocracy is over.

Neil Postman wrote, “Those who cultivate competence in the use of a new technology become an elite group that are granted undeserved authority and prestige by those who have no such competence.”

Orwell feared that the truth would be hidden from us.

Huxley feared that the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

They were both right.

We cannot and will not allow the tyranny of the programs and programmers of these electronic philistines to destroy us.

So, understanding the lesson of the propagandists that people are driven to act not by information, but rather by emotion, I pray that this talk has touched your emotions.

To that end, I will leave you with two short poems by Czeslaw Milosz, the first is “You Who Wronged”.

You who wronged a simple man

Bursting into laughter at the crime,

And kept a pack of fools around you

To mix good and evil, to blur the line,

Though everyone bowed down before you,

Saying virtue and wisdom lit your way,

Striking gold medals in your honor,

Glad to have survived another day,

Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.

You can kill one, but another is born.

The words are written down, the deed, the date.

And you’d have done better with a winter dawn,

A rope, and a branch bowed beneath your weight.

Now, I’m going to reprogram you. Here is Milosz in a better mood in his poem, Gift.

A day so happy.

Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.

Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.

There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.

I knew no one worth envying him.

Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.

To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.

In my body I felt no pain.

When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

Poetry rings to the high heavens.

We cannot and will not trade art, privacy, and our souls for the banal trivialities that the surveillance capitalists offer us.

In 2012, when we first raised these issues at MIT, no one was listening. Now, people are paying attention. We are advancing to higher ground. But the journey is not finished. As Dr. King said, “I may not get there with you, but I believe in the promised land.”
The goal of art is to create conscience.
You are equal to the task.

Thank you, love to you, and may God bless and keep you always.

[© 2019 The Official Website of T Bone Burnett]

Da notare che l’intervento completo AUDIO di T Bone é stato prontamente rimosso dal web ed oggi esiste solo un file su Soundcloud che contiene domande e risposte sull’argomento:

T Bone Burnett parla in modo esemplare anche nella seguente intervista:

Thank you, T BONE.

A.M.

BLOW UP. [prima recensione cartacea]

THIS IS NOT A CONCEPT!
Unfolk
File Under Oblivion – 2cd MP& REcords [11 + 8t]

Fa un certo effetto sapere che “File Under Oblivion” viene annunciato come ultimo capitolo di un collettivo aperto che attorno a una figura leader come Alessandro Monti vede ruotare una serie considerevole di musicisti, alcuni come Bebo Baldan e Andrea Marutti già noti ai miei orecchi, ma tra gli altri anche ospiti di rilievo come Tim Bowness, Mauro Martello degli Opus Avantra e mister Visnadi maestro della house music negli anni 90. Perchè a dispetto di ogni atto finale, questo corposo doppio cd é talmente ricco di input, da richiedere tempo e più ascolti per essere pienamente metabolizzato e valorizzato per quel che merita. Potremmo dire di un mix di prog, pop, elettroniche, ambient, house ma rischieremmo di essere fuorvianti se non cogliessimo quel sottile velo di ambiguità sospeso tra utopia (sogno, oblio) e distopia (disagio, critica, inquietudine, buco nero) che permea il passaggio da un primo disco più solare, ottimista dove testi e canzoni hanno un ruolo significativo di raccordo tra pezzi strumentali, ed un secondo dove pare alzarsi sempre più concitata la temperatura del groove, mentre la voce si fa sempre più robotica e sintetica ed anche la dance in tre parti di Dance In Opposition non appare tanto rassicurante, per quanto ci provi l’ipnotco Visnadi remix in Doorways. Stupisce invece nel primo cd il depistaggio apparentemente pop di canzoni come Guides To Oblivion e Every Note Of Us, che poi evolvono su lidi più accidentati e sperimentali, per non dire di Time Capsule 2008: Mr. Vuh Returns che sembra evocare i Popol Vuh più solari di “Einsjager & Siebenjager”. E che dire di Q: Are We Not Humans? Una domanda di rimbalzo ai Devo? E dei trasognati minimalismi in salsa Canterbury di Time Capsule 1999: Skybus To Oblivion? Qui si un oblio a cui lasciarsi andare perdutamente. Ma cari Unfolk siete davvero così sicuri che questo sarà il capitolo finale?

7/8 Gino Dal Soler [BLOW UP, lug-ago 2019]

COMMENTO:
Ringrazio Gino Dal Soler anche a nome della label MP& Records e del Collettivo Unfolk (inclusi i musicisti non citati nel suo pezzo). Con le sue parole ben ponderate sembra aver penetrato l’essenza del lavoro, impresa decisamente ardua. Capisco quanto, un disco così denso di generi alternati, possa essere di non facile collocazione e comprensione, ma questo é stato voluto sin dall’inizio per creare un ponte tra le epoche grazie soprattutto alle nuove tecnologie, che hanno fatto nascere (é bene ricordarlo) molte delle idee contenute nel nuovo lavoro. Le parole di Gino mettono in evidenza i diversi livelli di lettura, riuscendo così ad incoraggiare il lettore nel lungo viaggio musicale: a questo serve una recensione non certo alla critica o all’autocompiacimento linguistico.
Nel corso degli anni ho fatto di tutto per non apparire come leader del Collettivo Unfolk, arrivando persino ad eliminare il mio nome dalla copertina… ma era inevitabile che mi fosse dato un simile appellativo! Mi reputo più un “responsabile” del progetto; ma se per leader si intende la capacità di creare armonia e concordia attraverso la libertà di ciascun collaboratore, allora direi che ci siamo. Troppe volte ho assistito a mezze cartucce che si credono leaders ma che creano solo discordia e malumore tra i membri di un gruppo.
Personalmente non sono mai stato interessato ai voti (li ho abbandonati ai tempi della scuola), ma dal momento che gli esami non finiscono mai e questa sarà l’ultima pagella, li accetto e così sia.
E per rispondere alla domanda con cui si conclude la review: “si, siamo davvero così sicuri che questo sarà il capitolo finale…”, é stata troppa la fatica di organizzare un progetto simile per 13 anni, e soprattutto di questi tempi appare quasi una “insostenibile inutilità del creare”. Ora é giusto muoversi in altre direzioni; sono davvero felice di quello che abbiamo raggiunto, le soddisfazioni sono state tante ma non accorre continuare all’infinito. Sarà però un lungo addio con sorprese e promo nel corso dei mesi! Stay tuned.

Senza dubbio meritava dedicare un piccolo spazio ad una review cartacea, non solo perchè la prima in ordine di tempo, ma anche per aver dato qualche utile consiglio d’ascolto.
Per il momento non mi resta che citare il commento graditissimo e spontaneo dell’amico Tony Pagliuca:
un suono che si connette direttamente al cervello“.

A.M.

Distribution Links: G.T. Music & Burning Shed!

https://www.gtmusic.it/it/compact-disc/3883-unfolk-file-under-oblivion-2-cd-8001902100876.html

FILE UNDER OBLIVION – press kit

UNFOLK :: FILE UNDER OBLIVION
available on DOUBLE COMPACT DISC & DIGITAL DOWNLOAD

English description:

“File Under Oblivion” is the final Unfolk album: from positive artistic oblivion (CD1) to negative Internet oblivion (CD2), the topic changes and so does the music; a PROGression through different genres, decontextualized and even merging into each other. Not exactly a “concept album”, but all tracks are thematically linked. Featuring the Unfolk Collective plus Tim Bowness as a special guest on one track, Mauro Martello (OpusAvantra) and a rare remix by house music legend Visnadi (who scored huge hits as Alex Party & Livin’ Joy in the 90’s). Exclusive artwork by Jarrod Gosling, Mastered by Jon Astley at Close To The Edge, London”.

THE UNFOLK COLLECTIVE IS:
Roberto Noè, Claudio Valente, Daniele Principato, Alex Masi, Elisabetta Montino, Riccardo De Zorzi, Franco Moruzzi, David Mora, Matteo Lucchesi, Tullio Tombolani, Bebo Baldan, Andrea Marutti, Alessandro Monti.

 

BREVI NOTE IN ITALIANO (per comunicati stampa/radio)

“File Under Oblivion” é il capitolo finale Unfolk: una PROGressione tra i vari generi musicali, decontestualizzati e talvolta uniti tra loro. Non é esattamente un “concept album” ma tutti i brani sono legati da uno stesso tema: l’Oblìo. Nel primo disco é di tipo esistenziale e artistico (con una valenza positiva), mentre nel secondo attraverso una critica ad Internet, diventa negativo facendo lentamente sprofondare il suono in un buco nero; riusciremo ad uscirne?
Durante la lunga lavorazione la musica ed i testi hanno subito mutazioni genetiche che hanno superato la barriera dei generi per approdare al disco definitivo del progetto Unfolk. Canzoni si alternano a brani strumentali, ma le voci da umane si trasformano talvolta in robot ponendo seri interrogativi.

Il Collettivo Unfolk ospita Tim Bowness (No-Man, Henry Fool ecc.) in un brano, Mauro Martello (OpusAvantra) e Visnadi (Livin’ Joy, Alex Party), maestro della house music negli anni 90. La grafica é stata creata dal grafico e musicista inglese Jarrod Gosling.

Sin dalla copertina si evince non solo che é un lavoro di un gruppo, ma che nel corso della produzione ho voluto che il disco mantenesse una sua ambiguità estetica e musicale: si potrebbe pensare ad un disco Prog quando invece gli stili sono i più diversi, o che ascoltandolo si possa pensare ad un disco Pop quando in effetti lo sviluppo musicale é puramente artistico; tutto nel lavoro appare fuorviante e si presta ad esser visto da differenti angolazioni. Ho scritto una lunga nota sulle motivazioni che mi hanno spinto a dare un certo taglio al lavoro e come il contenuto si sia trasformato nell’arco dei 2 anni impiegati a realizzarlo; credo però non servano tante parole per descriverne il contenuto: i dischi a mio parere vanno ascoltati più volte e metabolizzati più che teorizzati o descritti. I testi sono sintetici, immediati ma anche profondi e stimolanti per un dibattito sul mondo artistico attuale. Mi piace pensare che, riguardo alla conclusione del progetto Unfolk, tutti possano dare una loro interpretazione… amarne il contenuto o detestarlo. Una cosa é certa: questa musica non dà sicurezza o semplice intrattenimento; la vera identità della musica sta altrove o forse in nessun posto.

ITALIAN RELEASE DATE: 29/05/2019
PRE-ORDERS & DISTRIBUTION:
https://www.gtmusic.it/it/compact-disc/3883-unfolk-file-under-oblivion-2-cd-8001902100876.html?search_query=unfolk&results=6

https://burningshed.com/unfolk_file-under-oblivion_cd?filter_tag=unfolk

also available on digital download.

Album Teasers:
CD1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bmu_vWvBUY
CD2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP9YEcW6gcQ

Approfondimenti.

Iniziato nel segno del folk progressivo e della world music più varia, il progetto Unfolk é approdato ad una sorta di fusione di tutti i possibili stili: prima attraverso l’improvvisazione ed ora con la canzone trattata nelle varie sfumature, dal Prog alla Techno: per me la musica é UNA e non dovrebbe esistere una distinzione troppo netta tra i generi; non solo questo é salutare da un punto di vista culturale e filosofico, ma anche dal punto di vista creativo perchè non ammette restrizioni o barriere e incoraggia quindi la totale libertà espressiva. Da entusiasta quale sono di tutti i possibili linguaggi, da quello di ricerca al pop, ho trovato naturale costruire grazie al prezioso contributo dell’intero Collettivo, un lavoro conclusivo che potesse creare un ponte sonoro tra le epoche, impresa non facile. Sentivo la mancanza del “pop” di qualità e nel disco, la cui lavorazione è durata vari anni, non solo sono presenti canzoni ma anche generi in apparenza antitetici, che riescono a convivere nell’arco di uno stesso brano.

Dal punto di vista musicale “File Under Oblivion” sbriciola la nostalgia e guarda al futuro; l’ho definito una PROGressione di stili musicali che convivono come fossero parte di un enorme calderone, simile a quello che troviamo nel web: in effetti, nonostante il progetto Unfolk sia stato spesso inserito nel Prog, credo che quel termine non descriva esattamente il sound, ma sia solo uno dei tanti stilemi che appaiono nei dischi, interpretati (spero) con originalità. A mio parere l’attuale musica Prog é un’operazione puramente nostalgica per tornare al mondo della nostra adolescenza, qualcosa che ci dia sicurezza… ma quell’era é finita da tempo e questi sono tempi bui, occorre guardare avanti. Ho voluto porre interrogativi per una presa di coscienza nei confronti della realtà e della società, soprattutto per un’esigenza drammatica di cultura; il messaggio nei testi e nelle musiche (a tratti volutamente accessibili e provocatorie) é “senza rete”, in caduta libera… un volo che potrebbe essere accompagnato dall’ultimo urlo nei confronti di una realtà troppo oscura per essere vera. Ma “File Under Oblivion” é soprattutto un intrattenimento serio: la musica é un percorso musicale durato una vita e i testi possono essere anche letti separatamente. Nel primo disco si parla di un Oblìo esistenziale ed artistico, una conclusione di un discorso ma anche l’inizio di qualcosa di nuovo: si intravvede una possibilità positiva per il futuro. Nel secondo disco, dopo un brano introduttivo (ispirato dalla grafica di copertina), si entra in un mondo oscuro e sinistro: quello di Internet. Attraverso una critica del free download e una breve digressione sull’uso della rete, si approda al buco nero finale. Nel primo cd ai brani recenti composti negli ultimi 2 anni, si affiancano episodi strumentali (“Time Capsules”) provenienti da varie stagioni passate, pezzi rimasti inediti che risplendono di una luce nuova essendo stati risuonati, completati o remixati appositamente per l’album; anche se attraversano tutti i periodi della storia Unfolk, stranamente sono uniti da una loro coerenza ed erano perfetti per consegnare il progetto all’oblìo! Ho lavorato alla produzione con la consapevolezza che era davvero l’ultima uscita: intorno a me il mondo è decisamente cambiato da quando ho iniziato a lavorare seriamente nella musica e l’ultimo brano “Alpha/black hole/omega”, lascia in sospeso il discorso in modo inquietante.

Se la cultura passa ormai attraverso internet, e sono sempre meno le librerie e i negozi di dischi, abbiamo bisogno di “controcultura” oggi più che mai, più degli anni 60, 70 e 80… questo é davvero un momento storico cruciale. E allora perchè non iniziare dal problema musicale: specchio chiarissimo della situazione sottoculturale in cui siamo caduti. L’aver accettato passivamente gli interessi imposti dalle multinazionali e dalle compagnie telefoniche non é stata solo un’evoluzione tecnologica inevitable, ma un’involuzione umana, sociale ed artistica. Creazioni come i “file sharing” che regalano la musica in free download, o tutti quei siti con parvenza legale che rendono ridicolo il lavoro dei musicisti svalutando la musica, vanno cambiate dall’interno. Il fatto che un musicista guadagni 1 centesimo ad ascolto su Spotify, e nulla su YouTube é una grande mancanza di rispetto nei confronti del lavoro. Perchè ad esempio i siti che dovrebbero procurare il download “legale” distribuiscono interi albums su You Tube facilmente scaricabili con programmi disponibili su google? Quante volte abbiamo letto “Auto-generated by YouTube”… non è stata certamente una scelta degli artisti! E così le musiche appaiono immediatamente su altri siti gratuitamente. Tutto ciò che senso ha? Questa non é promozione (che sarebbe tale se apparissero solo estratti e non interi dischi), questo significa regalare la musica a gente che non ha più il senso del lavoro e che dà ormai tutto per scontato; ciò ha portato in breve al disinteresse per i compact disc (tuttora a mio parere il mezzo migliore per riprodurre la musica) e ad una strana rinascita del vinile, visto più come oggetto da collezione che supporto di qualità, un prodotto ibrido in cui il digitale riprocessa l’analogico e soprattutto un fenomeno di nicchia (vedi Record Store Day) che non ha NULLA a che vedere con quello che succedeva in passato! Tutto ormai é disponibile con un click e gli artisti si domandano quanti sono gli ascoltatori che oggi apprezzano veramente il supporto fisico; l’unica possibiltà per vendere i propri prodotti sembra rimasto il “live”, ma che fare quando i concerti sono difficili da ottenere, le occasioni rarissime ed i locali solo interessati all’ennesimo tributo?

Periodicamente sembra sempre ci siano venti di cambiamento in materia di copyright ma il digitale é, per sua stessa natura, impossibile da controllare e gli interessi dietro di esso sono immensi, sembra una partita persa in partenza: le stesse majors che dovrebbero promuovere la musica preferiscono investire sulla tecnologia informatica o avallare la politica delle compagnie telefoniche e non hanno tempo per questi problemi. Dopo aver decretato la fine della grandi case discografiche, tutto ciò si sta riversando di conseguenza anche sulle piccole etichette indipendenti. Vediamo inoltre Società di copyright che dovrebbero tutelare gli artisti ma che pensano solo a succhiare loro i pochi guadagni, veri e propri Robin Hood al contrario che non risolvono in profondità i problemi ma che lo fanno solo in apparenza.
Insomma la situazione attuale è un vero disastro: è probabile che se la vediamo come una transizione culturale, ci porterà senz’altro ad un nuovo cambiamento epocale; ma come per il ben più grave problema ambientale il momento di agire è ORA per evidenziarne gli aspetti negativi: siamo ancora in tempo per farlo.

So benissimo quanto radicale e impopolare possa sembrare questa mia presa di posizione: per la massa le scelte comode sono sempre le più facili da abbracciare e le più difficili da lasciare, ma non portano assolutamente a nulla. Il coraggio di abbandonare la strada facile per quella difficile ci porterà a riappropriarci della vera cultura, del linguaggio e della comunicazione, tutti aspetti in totale decadenza. Sta a tutti noi decidere se è un’utopia o se continuare a combattere questa battaglia. A proposito di questo discorso mi è stato chiesto: “…ma ti conviene?” La mia risposta è stata: SI perchè come artisti non abbiamo nulla da perdere… ormai abbiamo già perso tutto o quasi; il nostro dovere è porre in evidenza i problemi e non accettare passivamente ciò che viene imposto dall’alto. Stiamo diventando vecchi? A giudicare dalla voglia di reagire e protestare direi propro di no. E allora a chi si rivolge questa musica? I ragazzi oggi sono altrove sia come interessi che come mentalità, intossicati dallo smartphone sembrano non porsi alcun quesito… forse si rivolge proprio alla mia pigra generazione, colpevole di aver permesso il dilagare di una tale sottocultura senza porsi alcun problema, attraverso l’accettazione incondizionata di una tecnologia apparentemente utile e comoda ma anche ricca di insidie; avevamo oro nelle mani ma molti di noi lo hanno ridotto in polvere.

Questa mia digressione era necessaria per spiegare alcuni aspetti nascosti del nuovo disco, una sorta di manifesto definitivo del progetto unfolk: è bene sottolineare che questo non è un lavoro CONTRO Internet, ma costituisce una critica dall’interno per un uso intelligente del nuovo mezzo.

Un ringraziamento speciale a tutto il Collettivo e alla Label MP& Records per il prezioso contributo.

 
 

APPENDICE: SUI GENERI MUSICALI

Nel mare dispersivo della rete e nella sottocultura che ci circonda, sorge spontanea una domanda: cos’é rimasto oggi della musica che abbiamo ascoltato nel corso degli ultimi 40 anni? Ben poco si direbbe, soprattutto se guardiamo alle poche novità in giro… ma ho analizzato alcuni degli stili più popolari tra gli ascoltatori della mia generazione cercando di essere sincero. Eccone una sintesi:

ROCK: dopo una lenta ma inarrestabile agonia é divenuto una parodia di sè stesso. Senza più il contesto culturale che lo spingeva a creare nuove sfumature e nuove motivazioni, é divenuto una sorta di museo della banalità in cui l’immancabile look (un tempo simbolo alternativo e di ribellione) offre oggi un’immagine forzata di quello che era uno stile vitale e creativo, riducendolo a semplice cliché. Prog rock? Pura nostalgia antiprogressiva. L’unica forma viva recente sembra esser stata il metal estremo, urlo che esorcizza ogni forma di ingiustizia e atrocità, in una sorta di ciclone sonoro dove le voci sono ormai ridotte a rantolo, a puro rumore di fondo: un’idea sinistra ma anche la perfetta colonna sonora del caos che ci circonda. Purtroppo a parte qualche caso illuminato, anche questa tendenza sembra essere in agonia.

JAZZ: finito da decenni, vive nel ricordo dei grandi autori con innumerevoli tributi e ripetizioni stanche e inconcludenti. Assistiamo ad estetismi tecnici e inutili esibizioni che sembrano decretare la morte di questo stile in modo ancor più doloroso. Per noi che siamo cresciuti con Miles Davis elettrico, Sun Ra, Art Ensemble Of Chicago, AACM, Jazz Composers Orchestra, M-Base ecc. quello di oggi é un manierismo insopportabile e fine a sè stesso.

ELETTRONICA: dopo l’incredibile periodo storico colto degli inizi (anni 50-60) e il pop (anni 70-80), ha avuto numerose occasioni di espandersi nei vari stili, tornado ad essere protagonista negli anni 90 ma riducendosi in breve ad una serie di scontati programmini digitali che hanno imprigionato la creatività del singolo e, fatte rare eccezioni, é oggi piuttosto noiosa. Personalmente credo che, dopo l’entusiasmo nell’innovazione dei vari strumenti, si sia arenata in un’involuzione che fa rimpiangere l’epoca analogica, quando erano i musicisti-artigiani a creare nuovi spunti e idee.

FOLK: nata come etichetta per descrivere una musica tramandata oralmente ed eseguita in modo non convenzionale, ha avuto numerose applicazioni nei diversi stili fino a rappresentare probabilmente la forma più duttile e comunicativa di sempre. Attraverso la “world music”, etichetta creata per descrivere le varie forme nel mondo, ha cementato la sua forza umana e culturale influenzando il meglio della musica contemporanea con la sua spontaneità e senza alcuna zavorra intellettuale. Personalmente ritengo il folk, l’etnica e la moderna “musica del mondo” le più vive ed illuminanti per la presuntuosa idea occidentale: non si finisce mai di imparare.

POP: la “forma canzone” da 2-3 minuti é a mio parere la più bella invenzone musicale, ma nessuno stile é in crisi come questo. L’assenza di autori di rilievo e la semplificazione armonica degli ultimi anni ha portato ad una crisi allarmante. Nuovi autori creativi cercasi.

DANCE/HOUSE/TECHNO: forse l’unica forma in grado di resistere alle mode e alle epoche, non ha mai perso la sua forza d’intrattenimento adattandosi agli stili, alle tecnologie e ai tempi. Nei casi più interessanti é un buon modo per comunicare qualcosa rendendo il tutto accessibile e divertente.

HIP HOP/ELECTRO/RAP: genere nato in economia dalla strada per esigenze espressive e pratiche, é stato originariamente inventato da DJs non-musicisti ed ha costituito qualcosa di veramente straordinario, riportando influenze di musique concrete e sound-collage influenzando addirittura musicisti di altri pianeti come Miles Davis. Dopo un primo periodo a sfondo sociale, politico e razziale dove i riferimenti erano l’arte afroamericana dei Last Poets o Gil Scott-Heron, tutto si é incanalato in una ricerca di successo che lo ha svuotato dai significati originari per abbassarlo al ruolo di trend puramente consumistico, cioè l’antitesi di quello che doveva essere. Personalmente credo possa essere ancora interpretato e sfruttato in tanti modi diversi attraverso la convivenza con altre forme musicali, del resto nei “samplings” dei vari dischi hip hop trovano spazio citazioni da ogni possibile fonte! Ecco un caso esemplare di decontestualizzazione della musica: nulla è sacro. Purtroppo il recente fenomeno italiano é penoso: non solo la lingua non si adatta minimamente alla metrica, ma i messaggi sono pressochè inesistenti e rappresentano perfettamente il vuoto culturale e il qualunquismo in cui sono nati: parole, parole e parole senza senso…

SPERIMENTALE: stile per sua stessa natura indescrivibile e libero ha attraversato numerosi periodi di gloria, ma é oggi schiavo di una tecnologia rumoristica che sembra ripetere schemi già collaudati nelle epoche precedenti, ben più innovative di quella attuale. A mio parere cercando nel sottobosco si riescono ancora a trovare cose interessanti, soprattutto nell’Europa dell’Est dove l’esigenza espressiva é molto motivata e la cultura fiorente.

CLASSICA: per il momento non pervenuta. Questo genere d’élite resta in mano ai conservatori e ai grandi teatri con programmi raramente innovativi, ma le iniziative coraggiose dei singoli insegnanti, educatori o esecutori danno ancora speranza a chi vuole avvicinarsi a questo genere sconfinato tutto da scoprire (soprattutto a ritroso).

Come dimostrato da vari progetti (vedi la scena nordica o l’approccio multietnico) esiste oggi solo una possibolità di rinascita per la musica: il crossover più totale, unito però ad un rinnovato fermento artistico e culturale, senza il quale vedremo affondare anche le ultime possibilità residue. Per il resto abbiamo i dischi cui possiamo tornare sempre come fonte di ispirazione… ma basteranno? Forse non dovremmo più agire “in rete” ma “senza rete” fuggendo dall’apparente sicurezza e accettando ogni rischio.

A.M.

MAGNUM OPUS

La presenza di ben 2 voci riferite al nostro lavoro nel corposo volume “Rock Progressivo Italiano” di Massimo Salari (Arcana) pone un sigillo a più di vent’anni di incessante attività musicale… ma se la presenza dei Quanah Parker nel libro é stilisticamente motivata, mi é difficile vedere il progetto Unfolk sotto la sibillina etichetta progressive-rock… Se per musica “progressiva” intendiamo però impegno sociale, autoproduzione professionale, continua ricerca in direzioni diverse, disinteresse cronico per il mercato e soprattutto una seria e salutare sperimentazione, allora certamente ci siamo e sono convinto che l’Autore ha valutato la cosa in tutti gli aspetti.

Mi sembra doveroso ricordare are che in più occasioni Massimo ha elogiato il nostro art-rock e posso solo ringraziarlo perchè per la prima volta il progetto Unfolk é stato incluso in un libro… e che libro! Va sottolineato che il volume é molto dettagliato e si aggiunge ad una piccola ma interessante letteratura in materia, uno strumento di consultazione utilissimo non solo per gli appassionati del genere.

“Progressive music, progressive politics…” diceva Chris Cutler nella raccolta “File Under Popular”, a mio parere quella definizione è ancora valida ed attuale per gli artisti, e può rappresentare un punto di partenza per approdare a nuovi e sorprendenti scenari, incuranti dell’apatìa culturale che ci circonda.
Per maggiori informazioni questo é il blog di Massimo Salari:
https://nonsoloprogrock.blogspot.it/2018/02/rock-progressivo-italiano-1980-2013-il.html?showComment=1522936307166#c3878040798615874045

GHETTORAGA: LUCA FERRARI INTERVISTA UNFOLK (INTERVIEW EXCERPTS)

Una lunga ed esauriente intervista di Luca Ferrari é disponibile sul sito ufficiale della THIRD EAR BAND, gruppo esoterico tra i miei preferiti del passato… Una sorpresa di fine anno! Potete leggere qui alcuni estratti:

LCF: Your first solo album, this wonderful “spiritDzoe” published in 2014, is a syncretic fusion of lot of folkloric and WM elements… and it seems to me to detect in it bits of Terry Riley, Richard Youngs, Cuffern (that wonderful album “Wyrdstone”), Michael Cashmore, ‘our’ Third Ear Band… all in a very personal, unique style that it’s just yours, of course – this “Unfolk”music you’re playing for at least one decade… How is born your “unfolk” and this marvellous solo record?
AM: Well, last year we celebrated 10 years of Unfolk with a collective album and “spiritDzoe” was my previous effort, my only “solo” album so far: I must confess I’m still very fond of its silent and humble perspective. It was a sort of musical therapy for me at the time in a difficult moment (separation from my wife, health problems, issues in my daily job), and something which took shape directly in the studio, with few pre-conceived ideas playing virtually everything at hand, deliberately leaving noises and imperfections on tape as a sort of human document, for me intensity was more important than perfection, expression more vital than showing off. So after listening back to all the pieces of the puzzle it seemed like a ritual, I was searching for the primitive rhythm, the purest essence of sound… passing through all the elements and instruments, finally reaching it in the all-percussive ending. Frankly I never heard some names you quote, but of course I’ve grown up listening to Terry Riley and John Cale (who indeed followed the most unique and extraordinary path in music), the Incredible String Band, Art Bears, Stockhausen and “our” Third Ear Band: listening to “Macbeth” as a teenager was a life-changing experience. I actually saw Richard Youngs in Venice years ago and I liked the records, but I think we have a different approach, he seems to enjoy singing a lot, while I mostly love the instrumental side… even if I’m working on an album of “songs” right now! Perhaps we both share this idea of Unfolk (“non folk” in Italian), traditional elements to be transformed by the times we’re living, through new technologies and other cultures. My “Un-folk” is “Un-orthodox” folk music, “Un-known” tradition, an organic update of that timeless musical language… it’s also a vital transformation, a never ending work-in-progress… Listening to the recording after all these years, on that final section I was influenced by the style of The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and the master Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamash’ta.

LCF: And what about “spiritDzoe”, your first solo effort?
AM:”spiritDzoe” starts with a mandolin feedback (parte 1), I think the only one recorded so far… but I could be wrong [laughs]. After I used all the possibilities of that instrument (both acoustic & electric) on the previous cds (“Unfolk” & “The Venetian Book Of The Dead”), I felt the need to go beyond the strings, because nothing’s sacred in my opinion; plus I love feedback and I tried to obtain the right notes while moving the neck in front of a small Orange amp at maximum volume… I practiced for approx 30′ until I found the right notes; it was truly inspiring and it slowly became a “composed” piece, using a synthesizer drone like a tamboura… in early music is called “bordone”, nothing’s changed and both East and West share the same elements. Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” and Derek Bailey’s guitar improvisations were other influences at the time, and of course Syd Barrett’s use of controlled feedback on early Pink Floyd recordings. And yes: World Music has a special place in my heart: I started studying indian music in the early 80’s, then Greek, Balkan and African styles; we’re in the middle of a crisis in our Western world and arts reflect all this, so I’m learning from other cultures… there’s always something new to enjoy out there! Anyway in the making of “spiritDzoe” I was listening to the so-called post-rock scene… bands like Rachel’s, Labradford, Tortoise and the most popular of them all: Talk Talk, their last recordings “Spirit Of Eden”, “Laughing Stock” and the acoustic Mark Hollis’ solo cd are crucial records to understand the evolution of alternative music, still important and influential… perhaps the last great records produced by a rock band. I’m so happy you love “spiritDzoe” because it comes directly from my heart, it’s sincere and true and definitely the difficult and esoteric side of my work. I’m not a full-time professional musician, I’m also a healthcare worker and parts of “spiritDzoe” were inspired by my job with disabled people; I realized I wasn’t paying much attention to rhythm, but I was amazed at how important it can be… I mean spiritually, physically and psychologically.

LCF: So you are inspired by a lot of references and different music genres… what do you think about the present condition of Western popular music?
AM: What can we say? Something radically changed after the 90’s and during the last few years it seems that all quality pop songs disappeared from airplay, leaving only the same old melodies, the same chord changes and the same electronic tricks with no ideas, but I think that it reflects society’s decadence… I’m not sure if we’re living through an era of transition but you can experience this in politics, arts, media and culture in general. Talking about music: we don’t have talented artists like we used to, they were creating art-songs with lots of ideas. Technology nowadays is often used with boring effects, take the Autotune for example: you can hear it everywhere, but few people can obtain original effects from it; it could be really interesting for vocal transformations (like Vocoder in the past), but I only heard John Cale & Todd Rundgren using it in a creative way so far… but the fact is they’re both 70, this means a lot to me: different generations, different understanding of music and social awareness… this is truly a “generation gap” in a negative sense. After the 70’s many people of my generation hated the 80’s, but I remember I was listening to a lot of great songs back then, post-punk bands, new wave and synth-pop… recently I transcribed many 80’s classics on my guitar for a live unplugged project and I decided to choose mostly electronic dance pieces because they were a sort of challenge: all results were great, I had fun with the chords and structures… really good stuff. Now it’s over, I hear only bad copies of old styles. By the way I always loved pop songs and I really miss a good song coming from the radio; I used to buy pop records once in a while, but now I can only feel a deep void, we’re quickly going into a black hole where everything is filtered through social networks and cell phones taking control of the lives of millions: it’s very dangerous… I ran out of facebook years ago when they blocked my account for no reason: I was only promoting my music but they didn’t like it! Young kids now listen to music in cell phones, with awful audio setups, playlists made of short fragments downloaded for free from the Internet.They just don’t know how to hear music anymore, they can’t imagine what a full album is, and they don’t care about the work behind a record… they take their files for granted. I think it’s our responsability: we created a lot of culture in the past but we destroyed it with apathy and laziness. It’s a complicated matter and there are many levels of reading this, but the truth is: today showing a new tattoo is much more important than sharing a record, sad but true. So I could answer that the condition of Western popular culture is the result of a dramatic change in Western society. From time to time we still hear some great music… at 57 I’m still producing new records with the same enthusiasm though: you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one (thanks, John!).

LCF: Yes, I agree with you, we’re living in very strange times: it’s so easy to produce music now, but at the same time we have a huge amount of rubbish around… What kind of music you’re listening to in these very difficult momentum for popular music?
AM: Firstly I don’t rely on the web too much… I only try to get infos about some rare material or specialist distributions, but I still support the local shops a lot: they’re the most important source for culture and they must live! Inside the booklet of the new “Intuitive Maps” cd I wrote very “alternative” notes: I thanked all friends working in record shops, they helped Unfolk so much through the years. Plus I think that walking inside a shop and hearing something new is still a fascinating experience to me. I must admit I never listen to music on YouTube or Bandcamp, I don’t really like the sound on tiny computer speakers and I enjoy cds very much: I think they’re the best solution for sound today; I don’t believe in vinyl reissues, except for original copies or old analogue pressings. All new editions on vinyl transferred from digital masters are pointless to me, the sound is flat and the dynamics almost non-existent… we have the best support, why don’t we choose it? Having said that, the strangest thing is: I never saw so many new releases as in these difficult times… I mean reissues, remasters, unreleased stuff and live broadcasts: they’re financially impossible to follow. So, sometimes I prefer buying something old than new, I only bought one or two new releases this year, but I got lots of amazing stuff from the past… perhaps I’m getting old [laughs]. I like Contemporary Classical, electronic and concrete music, many rare and deleted recordings are available now, so it’s the right time to get them. I also love unusual Library music and jazz reissues (classic Sun Ra and Don Cherry recordings always seems to be inspiring), and I always love to hear the occasional african vibe. About rock music: it seems to me that the best of the last few years came from Eastern Europe, bands like Plastic People Of The Universe, Pulnoc, Reportaz, ZGA, Roz Vitalis… all very original and inventive. My favourite labels are ReR Megacorp and LTM (their 20th Century Avant-garde series is priceless), and I think Burning Shed has the best prog distribution… so I always discover stunning works I missed with unusual material and beautiful artworks. But I always ask my local shop first!

LCF: You’re from Venice, or at least I think so, one of the most famous historical town in the World. Is this fate inspiring in some way your own creativity?
AM: Good question. I was born in Venice but I live in Mestre (only 10′ by bus)… when I was a kid I spent every weekend in Venice because my grandmother lived there; I loved the City and the unique atmosphere, it was quiet and much different back then, less tourists and caos. Perhaps some traces can be found on my use of mandolin, it was a popular instrument in Venice during the past centuries (Vivaldi concerts are wonderful examples); funnily enough the instrument I used on the early Unfolk cds isn’t Italian but Irish! Another hidden influence could be my interest in world music because Venice was an important crossing of different cultures in the past. So I surely love that City but Mestre had a deeper and darker influence on my work: “The Venetian Book Of The Dead” is an album inspired by the industrial disasters in Marghera where many workers died by cancer in the PVC/vinyl factories (I wrote long notes about this album on my blog: unfolkam.wordpress.com): environmental issues are still alarming here for many reasons.
(…)
AM: I’m very proud that some of my cds have been linked to TEB by critics and listeners. I was a teenager when I first heard “Music from Macbeth” in a Venice record shop… I can still remember the feeling I had in my headphones, standing petrified and listening to a whole side without interruption, it was an epiphany of new sounds: those dissonant string arrangements by Paul Buckmaster & Simon House, the non-classical use of oboe by Paul Minns, Denim Bridges’ distorted guitar totally out of a rock context and Glen’s basic 4/4 rhythm patterns were a total revelation to me. The music was so simple and rich at the same time, leaving a lot for imagination. I actually watched the film many years later but I already made my own personal images with the music. Sometimes I think that soundtracks shouldn’t be made for a film! If music works you can close your eyes and live through a parallel dimension creating your own story… imagination is the key: that’s why I prefer records to films, and radio to TV. I’m working on a new project of songs right now with a deep subject: the musician’s oblivion… I think that music exists before and after its actual creation, so the composer’s ego is totally useless, he’s only a decoder of cosmic waves, nothing more. Fame, success and stardom are the other (wrong) side of the coin. When I listen to Third Ear Band’s records I always forget who’s playing and concentrate only on sound: the notes are living their own life both individually and collectively… that is a rare achievement in my opinion and all the best music should have this quality.
(…)

You can read the full interview by Luca Ferrari at:

https://ghettoraga.blogspot.it/2017/12/the-unfolk-music-of-alessandro-monti.html

Ringrazio Luca per il lavoro svolto in tutti questi anni e per aver pensato al nostro progetto: é stato per me un vero onore!
A.M.