Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Workers Move to the Suburbs

Belle & Sebastian's new album is apparently out now, not that I'm going to hear it for a while yet, and they produced a video in order to promote it. The video is a slightly odd one; about half of it is promotional material for the album, with performances of a few songs, songs running over photo and video clips, fans asking the band questions and having the band answer - and then another half of it is about the future of the music business, with a parody of a marketing executive (who, as a fierce Scottish man in business attire talking about media relations, reminds me awkwardly of Malcolm Tucker from In the Loop, such that I kept on waiting for him to curse more), questions in the interview about what young aspiring musicians should do, a whole conversation between members of various different about the changes that the industry is undergoing. The parody of the marketing executive even involves the mention of making a promotional video (which is on a list of things that will completely fail to help sell the album).

Although it did strike me as an odd topic for your promotional video to cover, I suppose that Belle & Sebastian were interested in discussing because as successful recording artists it's certainly something they must think about with at least moderate frequency - and something, I suppose, that all fans of music might legitimately be interested in. It's interesting for me at least in part because I've also been reading news and commentary lately about the future of the academic humanities - musicians are worried about their future, so are humanities scholars. The rhetoric on both topics even has a certain amount of similarity between it - take a look at the similarities between Mick Jagger's comments here and the point (which I can't seem to find a citation for now, but which I promise you I have seen today) that the academic study of modern languages is in fact a relatively new phenomenon in itself.

It makes me wonder what it's like to be old - to have more experience. There are aspects of the way things are that are so new that they've arisen within my own lifetime; I know that it's only very recently that it ever would have occurred to me to have a blog. But some things, like recorded music and academic humanities, have been around since well before I was born and seem pretty standard and normal. Thus, it's weird to think of them as relatively recent and ephemeral. I wonder if this is a fallacy that one ever grows out of, or if it's something that remains, no matter how old you get - well, I suppose it probably wouldn't remain if you were magical and consequently significantly longer-lived than non-magical people, but this doesn't really seem like a salient qualification ;-). I also wonder if there was always an issue. I have my own stereotype of the very normalization of rapid change in society and technology as being a relatively recent phenomenon, especially as a global phenomenon. And I think this is a very standard stereotype. But even if quantitatively this is true, I wonder about how my own ancestors, dating back for tens of thousands of years, actually experienced their lives - whether had a core sense of stability that I really don't possess thanks to being raised with a different set of expectations, or whether even when technological change was much slower than it is today, there was still a sense of the basic instability of society, because cultural changes that would seem minuscule to us seemed far more significant to them.

One thing I love about myself is the way I am nearly always able to find an extremely apt title for a blog post. Thank you, self!

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