Friday, August 7, 2009

Mostly Meowzart, Meow (re)Mix

Greyhound now carries wireless. This is great for people like me who keep meaning to update but keep having things like life getting in the way. This lifestyle of spend all day in the archive because you only have a few days, and then spend all night playing pub trivia, or better yet contradancing and then swimming in Walden Pond with other contradancers and then having cider and cheesefries is proving quite bad for the option of writing. I'm certainly not getting any of the dissertation done, but neither am I updating here, until now. Sort of.

On the heels of cats performing Schonberg comes a cat concerto! ADORABLE!

So why post all this? I'm doing it oddly enough to seize upon Phil's idea that we ought to have something to say about the AutoTune the News. I can say that I love it, especially number 6, and that I actually went to college with Evan Gregory (and Andrew, but I knew Evan as a fellow music major and proud member of the college chorus's tenor section). And so I thought I'd take up the challenge.

It seems to me one could say a number of things. For a start, there's the obvious points about techn it's a good example of how technology has made music so much easier to create and distribute, although I stress that Evan at least has a bachelors training in all this stuff, so he's not clueless by any means. It might for some raise questions of whether autotuning or this sort of remixing really counts as talent, a relevant issue for my friend Josh Duchan who did his dissertation on collegiate a capella.

There's the second level, the notion of the sound bite has totally pervaded the culture; what I like about these is that it draws a nice link between soundbites and the musical equivalent of the hook: something that grabs your attention and is in some way the essence of the song. And that's where I think the AutoTune series is best. It's political commentary is smart, similar to the Daily Show in its seizing on the more ridiculous aspects of our 24-7 news coverage (a favorite topic of Stewart's), though certainly a bit more absurdist. But what impresses me about the evolution of the series is it goes from a clever idea and commentary to an increasingly good musical number. In the early bits, Katie Couric's highly inflected vocal delivery is perfect, but in the later bits, it's almost wall-to-wall hooks ("Biden's God Bless America in #5, Boehner's Hell No! and Freedom in number #6); and the repetition of the hook maps so sweetly onto the repetitiveness of these politicians' buzzwords. In these later episodes, they move from simply sampling to a certain artistry in the give and take between themselves and the soundbites--in short, from arranging to composing.

I guess where I'm going with this is that the technological and political aspects are interesting, but what it meant for me was just sheer enjoyment. The cleverness and humor (likewise, the cats) are something I feel are constantly in danger of being lost in analysis by musicologists, a shame since the goal for me is always to share what it is about the music I love with people who might love it similarly. Hooks are good like that, perfect for visceral, immediate pleasure. Better than, say, writing a dissertation.

Coming up soon(ish), a report on the Newport Folk Festival at 50.


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