Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Killing Art By Churning

Having just read Steve Albini's argument with Stool Pigeon (well worth checking out, even if the stylised use of paragraphing is irritatingly hip), I am pondering ways of avoiding "churnalism" on this blog. Having been unimpressed by the willingness of newspapers to allow their comment pages to be clogged up by pretend articles generated by cunning PR firms (sugardaddies dot com, anyone), I hypocritically keep slapping out the press releases, disguised by my own interjections to give them some semblance of original thought.

On the other hand, I do want the blog to be a locus for information, seducing the reader with the promise of information then delivering my own poorly considered opinions and perspective.

Let's try a case study. Here's a release...

"French metal rockers Karelia are set to release new album Golden Decadence. The album features a guest performance from the legendary Scorpions guitarist Rudolph Schenkeron the tracks Keep Watch On Me and The Way Across The Hills. The first single from the new album is entitled Vanity Label."

Now, to be honest, I don't like metal - unless it has some quality beyond being genre rock - I am thinking Rammstein's ability to make sly political points through the pyrotechnic displays of their live gigs,or their punning on homosexual subtexts.

And the presence of Scorpion's guitarist does not fill me with joy. Sure, they promise "groove-laden industrial and electronic riffs, melodic catchy anthems and extremely loud crunching" guitars. But my blog is full of articles about performance art and electronic music. 

That reads like churnalism to me. 

Albini's point is that laziness is endemic in the writing business - he was annoyed that his comments on Amanda Palmer overshadowed the point he was making about her financial arrangements. He has a very valid point. He ended up being the headline when he was championing the right of musicians to be paid for gigs.  But it is easier to mention stuff without checking, without seeing  its relevance. 

The Daily Mail Online is hugely successful mainly because it does this, when a quick look at the underlying morality of the newspaper would suggest that a website full of celebrity nonsense would be inimical to their stated agenda, which is old fashioned values or something.

Let's press the point. Next press release on the list: opera.

"Scottish Opera’s new production of The Flying Dutchman revisits Richard Wagner’s original libretto. In researching the piece, director Harry Fehr uncovered a copy of the original score which set the story in a remote Scottish coastal community."

Okay. Opera is closer to my usual beat. And I have a family story: my grandfather's hair would literally stand on end when he heard the overture to The Flying Dutchman. Wagner's preoccupation with Total Theatre, and the inspiration he provided to a young Nietzsche gets him in. I'll be ignoring his rather dubious political fans. 

In some ways, Wagner is for classical music what metal is for pop: a rougher, more aggressive version that deals with the point where angst and violence collide. The Flying Dutchman  is a dark romance - young girl meets fascinating fantasy man. I bet the score contains "groove-laden riffs, melodic catchy anthems and extremely loud crunching" cellos. 

In fact, Francesco Corti, Scottish Opera’s Director of Music and conductor, makes the point in more considered language: "Wagner was in his thirties when he wrote the piece and it shows. The music is ridden with the power and energy of a young man: the score is bursting with romantic notes which are much more incisive than his previous music, and with a rich naturalistic texture; in it you can hear the wind blowing, waves crashing on the shore and the throwing of anchors overboard."
I am churning it out and the reader can decide: Wagner or Karelia
Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Thu 4 Apr          7.15pm
Sat 6 Apr          7.15pm
Tue 9 Apr          7.15pm
Flying Dutchman Unwrapped  Fri 5 Apr 6pm

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Sat 13 Apr        7.15pm
Tue 16 Apr        7.15pm
Fri 19 Apr          7.15pm

I need a final hook. Yes. That's it: metal is like opera. in the magical world of churnalism all art is reduced to a sound-bite. I am destroying depth. I am part of the cultural phenomena that Rachel MacLean deconstructs in her video work. 

I'll be back later with a top five or something...

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