Monday, July 12, 2010

The American Wolf and Music History

Eric Wolfson is a force to be reckoned with meaning I would not dare without a lot of prep work criticize conclusions of the type set forth in this posting and yet the irony is that it is Wolfson's own music that led me to investigate and question certain critical aspects of how we judge music. I was speaking with someone at the Sidewalk Cafe and asked if they were going to stay and listen to Wolfson, and they replied something to the effect well if I want to hear that type of music I'll just go home and put on Bringing It All Back Home. State Street Rambler was if I recall an interview by Wolfson quite self consciously produced with a Bringing It All Back Home feel but suddenly it occurred to me, that we wouldn't even be having this conversation unless there were recording technology with massive distribution. That led to my article OMFUG

I think Wolfson should be read and listened to. My problem is this: Talking about music in the historical terms that Wolfson does may be akin to talking about kings and queens and countries and empires of the past. As it all gets fragmented will the history of music post say 2000 be possible to write at all? Will CD's that may be so good that they would end up on an essential listening list if they were heard by enough people be lost? Wolfson has been pulling out of the dustbin of history (for most people) some gems like the Carter Family and the like. That is essential work, for the Carter Family's influence is deep and wide. But that's a historical fact very closely connected with the twentieth century's centralized model of recording.

When I came on to this scene a few years ago I learned that one album that seemed to have influenced many people is one that I had never heard of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea I mentioned this to my daughter who informed me that this album was one she realized from first hearing was going to be a keeper. Indeed King of Carrot Flowers was played by a guitar violin duet as the prelude to the procession at her wedding this year.

Upon listening to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea I too was convinced. This album is so powerful I have to limit my listening.

The fact that In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is such a powerful album, that it influenced a number of people musically whose own music and songwriting I consider estremely important, leads me to believe that it should be one of the essential rock and roll albums. Chronologically it falls a little late to make it on Wolfson's list, but my point is not to disagree with Wolfson which would be foolhardy on my part, but to raise the question of what rock and roll historians do, or will be doing. We can discuss up to a certain point in time (maybe Kurt Cobain's death) history on a larger scale, sort of like the relations between nation states or the acts of humans in powerful and influential positions who have changed history on a massive scale. But lately it seems that history will have to start be writ smaller. Rock may no longer be a massive cultural and economic force, but it is a more spread out force. It's like we will be chronicling various small tribes descended from once great empires. But can those of us brought up on the massive wall of sound that was the Rock and Roll Music Industry live with writing small journal pieces about outlying cultures.

But see where this leads. Wolfson has me thinking about these questions. Questions which will take me years to sort through.

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