I just got done with an interesting journey this morning and yesterday, fueled by commenters on the post below. I’ll go through the links one by one, and urge you to follow my path for your own entertainment. Otherwise, I will summarize.
440 vs 435: Tyrone took us to this link. His comment was in part
“Separating emotion from critical function is the mandate of all pop culture, corporate division. “
That’s an important insight. I have long avoided advertising in all forms for that very reason, that the object of advertising is to distract us with one message while subtly inserting another. Of course, most often that “other” message is simply “buy this product.” The larger point is, however, that advertising is never straightforward. As one young ad executive told me once in a candid moment, the purpose of advertising is to get us to change our behavior. TV has long been the best medium for dispensing this message and altering our behaviors, as we are in a mild hypnotic state while watching.
Music has the same ability as advertising to bypass our censors and insert messages. While we are busy with the musical notes, words are slipping by to infect us in our semi-hypnotic state. Even when I was in my teens, our parents were being warned about “songs of subversion,” this during the time of the Beatles and later the Laurel Canyon scene. Indeed, music was the force that changed our hair and dress styles, and most importantly, built a wall between parents and children. Parents hated the music, and the kids, knowing this, would turn up the volume. That is still going on. I am amazed at the low quality of music that is turning kids on these days, and at the same time remember how much my parents hated the Beatles. It was an effective wall that separated the generations, in effect stealing kids from their families.
Back to 440/435: That is what is referred to as a “pitch standard.” All symphonic orchestras tune their instruments beforehand to the same standard. I am told they use the oboe as the instrument that most clearly emanates a 440 A pitch. I have listened to the same piece of music played in 440 and then 435, and cannot tell the difference. That could be because I don’t have high quality equipment. I also had the feeling that the webcast I was listening to was merely suggesting a difference to me that did not exist. But I do not know, for sure. (Also note, 440 is an expression of 8.)
Interesting, however, in that when listening to classical music, the oboe always grabs and holds me, its tone hauntingly beautiful. There was a TV series on Amazon Prime called Mozart in the Jungle. I watched it with great anticipation, only to be disappointed in the casting and characters, all of them boring and self-involved. There was not a whole lot of music, just a lot of drama. But most interesting, two of the prime characters were Hailey Rutledge, an oboist who would magically transform into a conductor (in a too-brief period), and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, played as a vision seen only by Rodrigo De Souza, the supposed real-life conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Mozart in this production turns out to be a really nice guy.
I digress. I always do that.
B. Müller took us to this link, a Rocknerd offering claiming that Theodor Adorno wrote all of the Beatles music. Adorno, who was news to me, was supposedly a gifted artist and cultural Marxist who despised not only the Beatles, but also the rock genre in total. He is said to have supplied all the Beatles music with enough left over to fuel the rock groups of the era through 1975, at which time bad music took over and has held on since. Since Adorna died in 1969, it is asserted that this is why the Beatles had to break up that year.
What’s right with this picture? The Beatles were assembled and trained in Hamburg, where tryouts for the various parts were held, it appears. Stu Sutcliff and Pete Best were eventually jettisoned. The training was simply onstage performing, the ability to play their instruments in front of a noisy drunk crowd via muscle memory. They were also trained in voice projection, learning to sing in key in the same setting. It could be that Adorno was part of the Hamburg experiment and was tagged to supply the “Lennon-McCartney” tunes that would later take the world by storm. Remember, none of the Beatles could read or write music, that is, from or on a piece of paper.
What’s wrong with this picture? Plenty. This whole idea that one or a few people are supplying all of the music performed by popular artists is hard to swallow. In our own era, this video claims that almost all of the music is written by two men, a Swede named Max Martin, and American Lukasz Gottwald, or Dr. Luke. (Anyone but me note the “MM” there, perhaps a signal that a committee is at work?) There is also the idea that modern music is formulaic, as our own writer, Maarten Roessaert, asserts in parts of his Otohelminthiasis series (beginning at that link and which can be found by clicking on his link at the very top of this page). If it is formulaic, it is not genius. It is merely repetition of a pattern, so that anyone knowing the formula can do it. Dare I say … a computer could write our popular music?
The Adorno piece took me to another Rocknerd piece, this having to do with Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique. This is the formula. There are twelve notes in the western musical scale, and the pattern of song writing is to use all twelve notes, but only in a certain fashion that I could not explain even under hypnosis. But that piece introduced me to Vi Hart, who does explain it, or rather demonstrates it in this video. Vi Hart is a serious delight, funny, bright, witty, engaging, and having some serious musical training. She has done a number of videos. I intend to watch every one.
Finally, S.Volpetti led us to this link, a Nuke Lies discussion thread titled “Do Famous Bands Really Write Their Own Songs?” Commenter Rerevisionist tears apart the Adorno theory in this very long, very interesting comment.
The thread devolves thereafter, though not to the Hitler level. It does, however, sink down to Dave McGowan and Laurel Canyon, and left me screaming “Get a clue!” The thread ends with Cowan Bellarmino re-posting what appears to be the entirety of McGowan’s Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon. Bellarmino doesn’t get it. McGowan, wherever he is, is laughing at us. I mean, look at that photo! Is that a shit eating grin, or what?
Here’s the inside joke: McGowan treated every Laurel Canyon death as real in his book, only slightly questioning that of Jim Morrison. Then he left the building, faking his own death! Cowan Bellarmino not only buys into the McGowan premise that all of the Canyon deaths were real, but also that McGowan’s was too! I generally avoid exclamation points, but the Nuke Lies thread screamed out for them.
What to make of all of this? I think that the Theodor Adorno suggestion, that one man wrote all the Beatles music, is misdirection, getting us to ask the wrong question. So too is the idea that Max Martin and Dr. Luke are doing it now.
The correct question is the title of the Nuke Lies thread, do famous bands really write their own songs? The answer is, obviously, no. Expand on that – do famous authors write their own books? No. Are are movie stars really skilled actors? No. (Shut up, Meryl. Just shut up.) No. Do famous politicians, all the way up to president, really make public policy? No. Do famous news organizations really report news? No. Is the alternative media really an alternative? No.
Is the so-called “conspiracy” community really composed of people in search of truth? Well, yes, but only partly. Only partly.