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Farin

Is music too backward-oriented?

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I just read an article about Simon Reynolds' new book 'Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past'

It seems as if nowadays musicians (same as film makers or fashion designers, but I want to focus on music for now) are more seldom thinking up new ways, but instead let themselves be heavily inspired by the past... be it 60s soul, 70s rock and punk or 80s disco and synthy pop. There are reunions after reunions with reissues of 'classic' albums, tribute albums, sampling.

So, what do you think of this? To steal the main question from the Telegraph article: "Has rock’s obsession with looking backwards stalled its creativity and evolution?" Or is it a normal development which has always and will always be going on? Maybe it will sort itself out if "the industry" overdoes it and the people will be fed up with the old styles and demand for something new? Or not?

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The late 50s were innovative, the 60s too... in the 70s there was a big mix of glam, pop, heavy, psychedelia, fusion... the 80s were creative years again. Then came grunge and a retro-vintage trend. In the last two decades, music does look back. Maybe there's nothing new under the sun? Or maybe we need some two decades or more to find new inspiration?

Pop will eat itself.

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but let's not forget

Ever since Elvis Presley picked up his guitar in 1954 to holler That’s All Right, Arthur “Big Boy†Crudup’s rhythm-and-blues hit from 1946, rock’n’roll has looked backwards to go forwards. The Hamburg-era Beatles belted out standards such as Roll Over Beethoven and Dizzy, Miss Lizzy. The young Rolling Stones looked to the Delta bluesmen of the Forties and Fifties. Musicians have always mined the past for inspiration.

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...and that too. :cool:

But I was thinking about rock and pop music. It was born in 1954 with "Rock Around The Clock". Elvis Presley came less than one year later. Since then, it's been changing (psychedelia, techno, grunge, new-wave, etc) but it picks styles from itself here and there...

Edited by Guest

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Amy Winehouse talked about how she didn't listen to any music made after 1967. Some of the best stuff today certainly has a retro sound, but is still pushing forward.

We may have hit the point where technology can no longer push the boundaries for us - we can record on unlimited tracks with unlimited storage and collaboration is about as easy as it can get. Gone are the days where Phil Collins can pull out a new drum machine and make In The Air Tonight. Musicians will get better, but it will come in waves and be a slower progression. We can't expect anything like 1955-1990 style innovation, so we'll have to settle for building on what came before. As long as we have guys like Jack White and Mark Ronson, we'll be OK, but I sure would like a new Prince to come along and blow our minds.

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Going off on the Nirvana note again, I think a lot of that is a nostalgia for some kind of "next big thing" to come along and change the entire scene. I think a lot of people are convinced that we're never going to see another Elvis, Beatles, or Nirvana that brings along a musical and cultural paradigm shift on a wide scale like they did. I think those people are probably right, but it doesn't bother me, as long as good music is still being made. Of course, it bothers me some that most of the good music being made is ignored by casual music listeners, but I don't know what can be done about that.

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I think every decade has had some kind of album or something that has changed things in music. Examples would be like Sgt. Peppers in the 60s, Pet Sounds (among others) or in the 70s take your pick of groundbreaking work. Even some in the 80s, especially with rap. And then the 90s have Nirvana. And then I think, what did the 2000s have? Perhaps it's because we became so single-oriented rather than album-oriented. But in all honesty, the only album I could think of that was huge in the 2000s was American Idiot, and I don't think that album can be spoken even in the same breath as the albums I just mentioned.

However I don't think that the being influenced by the past has really hampered music today. Sure you have your retro sounding bands like say Wolfmother or the number of AC/DC soundalikes. But if you listen to all the indie rock/pop/electronic/whatever you want to call it that's out there, I here sounds that don't remind me of the past at all. Perhaps there are hints, but I think that there is so much creativity and originality out there right now that music is moving forward. In fact now I'd say there are more genres than there have ever been.

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Amy Winehouse talked about how she didn't listen to any music made after 1967. Some of the best stuff today certainly has a retro sound, but is still pushing forward.

She was my great hope&bet on nowadays music...

The 80s came strongly due to techno, punk, new-romantic and such styles. I think the 80s were very creative. I don't see anything new in the 90s or 2000. Nirvana were great but it was not a new style...

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Nothing new in the 90s? Gangsta rap and electronica took some pretty big steps, I'd say. And like Rocky said, there haven't been any big leaps in the last 10 years or so (I think, anyway), but there are certainly still artists that separate themselves from the past, even if they still incorporate influences. I guess in the end, those big leaps like Sgt. Pepper's and Pet Sounds are more the exception than the rule. Musical evolution is a slow process, generally.

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This was very telling for me.

Here's how Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums Of All Time List" divides by year:

1950s and earlier – 29 albums (5.8%)

1960s – 126 (25.2%) (with 7 of the top 10 and all of the top 5)

1970s – 183 (36.6%) (with 3 of the top 10)

1980s – 88 (17.6%)

1990s – 61 (12.2%)

2000s – 13 (2.6%)

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First I love this discussion and it's timeless.

I agree with most on here and saying that pop music from 1955-1990 was very innovate. I also agree that every gen has copied the other in some way or form and all put on spin on things. I also agree that a lot of great artist and music or overshadowed by mainstream medias and that's always it will be(You can't stop the enterprise). Yes technology has made the consumerism of music a "Single song society"(That should be the name of my band), but it's also made the artist in control of his, hers or their music. This is a good thing for some and bad for others.

Okay so my point according to Farin original statement which why music hasn't evolved and moved on or will it move on? The answer is different for everyone. Some would say that the rise of Emo and Screamo is the punk/pop evolution of music. Others would disagree and say there channeling from bands of the 80's and 70's. I guess what I'm trying to says there will always be innovators and then the copies will come every gen has that and will continue to have that. Bands and musicians will always pay respect to the innovators while developing new sounds and styles from them. Music just doesn't come out of thin air it's heard all around us since we are born and we interpret those sounds and make them our own.

Will it evolve...Yes! Will we enjoy....Who's knows! Bottom line it's all interpretative!

(I feel like I might have pulled a Billy Madison on this one) :D

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To cut the 90s some slack... they had Grunge, Britpop, Trip-hop, post-rock, chillout, nu metal, progressive metal (?), or even Eurodance or Hamburger Schule ( ;) )

perhaps it's more evolution than groundbreaking, but certainly not 'nothing new' ;)

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Isn't rock music is a combination of traditional music and new technical possibilities?

Like The Rolling Stones playing acoustic blues classics in the early 60's with fuzzing guitars?

And the other way around: when technology advances, the musician sticks to his technique and concentrates on what ever inspired him.

An example of a great guitar hero from the 60's/70's that has returned to his roots whilst sticking to his technique is Jeff Beck.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-n_d63R7bnM

There are quite a few more.

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I think it's always been backwards-oriented, but things can be done faster now that a lot of the past stuff/information is readily accessible. Instances of forward-thinking artists are few and far between and even then they had their influences in their formative years :beatnik:

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I think nostalgia seems like it's really "in" right now because a lot of publications are produced by baby-boomers who actually are nostalgic. Rolling Stone does some kind of "100 best Bob Dylan tracks" or "100 greatest songs of the 60s" every few months because Jann Wenner is a senior citizen now.

I think there are a ton of forward thinking artists around today (along with a bunch of retro-thinking people of course). Could this song have existed before the 90s?

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All music is backward-oriented because, well, how can it be FORWARD-oriented? It has to emerge from something that already exists, even if that something is as basic as instrumentation.

If it seems more backward-oriented now, it may be because there's more of it being made in more ways and less of it coming into focus. In the 60s and 70s (and parts of the 50s and 80s and 90s) music probably seemed more unique because the media brought it into focus far more sharply than it did in the decades before and after. So what we now believe to be the golden age of music may only be so because we never heard all that led up to it (and I'm talking influences from skiffle and music hall and 'black' music way back in the late 19th century which didn't receive any media coverage). Then the number of media outlets, magazines and modes of transmission begins to grow, and suddenly you have all these people writing about music, playing it on the radio trying to get us to listen to it, and they do that by telling us what it sounds like and to do THAT they draw comparisons to sounds that we might be familiar with thus harking back to aforementioned Golden Age and so everything sounds derivative.

Which is not to say it isn't, and in fact it might be more so. But just that perhaps these factors could be kept in mind as well.

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Re the notion of backwards-looking music.

Moreso than ever before, musicians are swimming in a swill of shallow superfice and artifice, largely thanks to the recent trend for all-pervasive "talent-discovery" shows. You know the sort I mean? There's always been shallow, superficial and artificial pop/rock music about - not necessarily a bad thing, I have enjoyed plenty of it myself - but there really has been a veritable avalanche of vacuous, indefensible rubbish in recent years, on both pop and rock fronts. That is not to take the "modern music is rubbish" angle, which I don't agree with at all. I'll get to my point in a minute, whenI remember what it was.

I think that perceived "authenticity" has become an essential tool for musical artists wishing to avoid the lack of credibility afforded by involvement in vacuous modern "celebrity" culture and the commercial music world. They want to be taken "seriously"; in order to do so they need to claim and demonstrate credible influences (artists and producers of a certain pedigree with the cognoscenti) However, "authenticity" is merely a construct in itself. An analysis of most of the reputable rock and pop artists of the last decade would see their claims of authenticity reduced to dust. In the UK, breakthrough artists of recent years seem to be disproportionately represented by graduates of stage school or the private school system. Such artists, if they wish to be "taken seriously" have to go to the extra mile to persuade the discerning music-buyer of their credibility / authenticity, which they do by referencing and replicating credible artists of the past in sound and style.

I'm Ok with that; I like loads of artists whose music appears (at first glance, at least) to be somewhat backward-looking. However, I am also rather sceptical about artists who go out of their way to over-emphasise their obsessive insistence on vintage sounds and styles. "Why are they so insecure and just who are they trying to impress?" I can't help wondering.

The great thing is that - get this, I don't know if you've noticed - the charts don't really matter any more; they're always full of complete tosh, all the time. For pity's sake, the people that buy the stuff that gets in the charts don't even like music. We know that now, so it's time to move on.

The great music around - and there really is lots of it, whether it's determinedly retro or innovative and forward-looking - exists mainly outside of the commercially-driven star-system. But moreso than ever before, these alternatives are accessible to everyone, rather than the hipster elite, as used to be the case.*

(This muddies the water somewhat, as exclusivity was sometimes a salient factor in the measurement of an artists credibility; not sure if this is the case any more, unless anybody knows otherwise. I mean, I know there are still niche genresof interest to specific minorities, but they don't necessarily infer any "cool/hip" quotient, and are relatively accessible to those that want.)

Edited by Guest

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I think that the popular 80s group, Devo, explained the reversal and backwards-oriented side of music's de-evolution & society as a whole.

"De-evolutionized" despite their unfortunate business savvy and (debatable) improper choices. IMO, they got a raw deal in the long run. :(

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Re the notion of backwards-looking music.

Moreso than ever before, musicians are swimming in a swill of shallow superfice and artifice, largely thanks to the recent trend for all-pervasive "talent-discovery" shows. You know the sort I mean? There's always been shallow, superficial and artificial pop/rock music about - not necessarily a bad thing, I have enjoyed plenty of it myself - but there really has been a veritable avalanche of vacuous, indefensible rubbish in recent years, on both pop and rock fronts. That is not to take the "modern music is rubbish" angle, which I don't agree with at all. I'll get to my point in a minute, whenI remember what it was.

I think that perceived "authenticity" has become an essential tool for musical artists wishing to avoid the lack of credibility afforded by involvement in vacuous modern "celebrity" culture and the commercial music world. They want to be taken "seriously"; in order to do so they need to claim and demonstrate credible influences (artists and producers of a certain pedigree with the cognoscenti) However, "authenticity" is merely a construct in itself. An analysis of most of the reputable rock and pop artists of the last decade would see their claims of authenticity reduced to dust. In the UK, breakthrough artists of recent years seem to be disproportionately represented by graduates of stage school or the private school system. Such artists, if they wish to be "taken seriously" have to go to the extra mile to persuade the discerning music-buyer of their credibility / authenticity, which they do by referencing and replicating credible artists of the past in sound and style.

I'm Ok with that; I like loads of artists whose music appears (at first glance, at least) to be somewhat backward-looking. However, I am also rather sceptical about artists who go out of their way to over-emphasise their obsessive insistence on vintage sounds and styles. "Why are they so insecure and just who are they trying to impress?" I can't help wondering.

The great thing is that - get this, I don't know if you've noticed - the charts don't really matter any more; they're always full of complete tosh, all the time. For pity's sake, the people that buy the stuff that gets in the charts don't even like music. We know that now, so it's time to move on.

The great music around - and there really is lots of it, whether it's determinedly retro or innovative and forward-looking - exists mainly outside of the commercially-driven star-system. But moreso than ever before, these alternatives are accessible to everyone, rather than the hipster elite, as used to be the case.*

(This muddies the water somewhat, as exclusivity was sometimes a salient factor in the measurement of an artists credibility; not sure if this is the case any more, unless anybody knows otherwise. I mean, I know there are still niche genresof interest to specific minorities, but they don't necessarily infer any "cool/hip" quotient, and are relatively accessible to those that want.)

I have about 3 topics to discuss separately here but I am too lazy to do it right now especially after that word spew over in Book Read. However, I have an entire thesis chapter dedicated to one of those topics so it's BOUND to be exciting right? :) :)

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