Posts Tagged 'culture'

Lithium

“Sunday morning is everyday for all I care.
And I’m not scared.  Light my candles. In a daze cause I’ve found God.

Yeah yeah yeah yeah…..”

From “Lithium” by Nirvana.

Pop culture and rock music seems to be measured by high water tides, be it the Beat Poet movement, the Summer of Love, the Spirit of ’76 or a whole host of other things.  The recessionary environment and bleakness of the late 70’s and early 80’s produced some great music too.  I wonder how the present global economic situation will inspire new expressions of what it truly is to be human?  It is often cited that this recession has brought a new moral awakening as we are more informed of the impact of our consumption on other world regions.

Throughout generations, music has defined movements, has soundtracked events and captured emotions and memories.  Can we imagine a musical history without icons like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley or the Sex Pistols?  And whilst the influence of such artists is all around us, they aren’t the ones that defined my generation.  Do we make idols of musicians or do we somehow find a sense of something bigger than us through their art?  Something spiritual?  Something of God? And yet a previous generation often frowned and claimed it was all of the devil – even Cliff Richard!!!  Well maybe there’s some truth in that…

This week I discovered a couple of clips that appeared on one of the few TV programmes that covered the indie music scene of the early ’90’s.  They all came from a single episode of Rapido which I had videoed at the time and had watched umpteen times.  On watching it this week I was amazed at how I could virtually recite the journalistic commentary that accompanied the clips together with much of the band’s own conversations.

The first clip is extraordinary.  Nirvana in the UK literally weeks after the release of “Nevermind” – an album which was scrappy, messy, full of contradictions and which was yet deperately urgent and vital upon it’s release.  I listened to it last night for the first time in years and it sounded like a great commercial rock album.  So much subsequent music has been influenced by it.  How the landscape has changed forever even though Kurt claimed he was just ripping off The Pixies. 

This clip shows a band unaware of just how they were going to rewrite rock and it’s a rare insight into a moment in time when NME and others were getting excited about something that was literally destroying the banality of the early ’90’s music scene.  Nirvana were playing to modest sized crowds many of whom were curious.  I still can’t believe I turned down tickets to see them at Calton Road Studios in Edinburgh in November 1991…

The second clip is from a very young looking Teenage Fanclub discussing the success of “Bandwagonesque”, another album that I still listen to all these years later.  Teenage Fanclub’s music has grown over the years and is still hugely treasured by me.

Last but not least, My Bloody Valentine discuss the seminal “Loveless”.  I just couldn’t get my head around this record in 1991.  Was it genius or did you have to be out of your head on some sort of substance to “get it”?  Eighteen years later I still listen to it regularly and whilst I’ve found many of the songs lurking in the strange soundscape, it still doesn’t sound dated to me.  Despite many pale imitations, nothing sounds quite like it.  Oh and it made me nostalgic and happy to see the late John Peel give his tuppence worth too.  

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Ich Bin Ein Auslander

“If they come to ethnically cleanse me,

 Will you speak out?

Will you defend me?

Freedom of expression doesn’t make it alright .

Trampled underfoot by the rise of the right”

From “Ich Bin Ein Auslander” by Pop Will Eat Itself.

IMG00226

Maybe I’m becoming middle aged and middle classed, but I was genuinely shocked when the flyer photographed above was lying in our porch when I came home tonight.

The European elections are on the 4th of June.  Surely there should be no room for fascist propaganda such as this.  I’m alarmed that someone has taken the time to shove such nonsense through our letterboxes and I want to rid our postcode and politics of such twisted logic.

I never really thought of our area of town as particularly diverse racially.  Yet any city is cosmopolitan by nature as people are attracted to fill the labour market. 

Can I imagine my neighbourhood without the spread of cultures it has?  I enjoy the banter I have with my neighbours in the Indian takeaway.  I always chat to the guy who runs our newsagent.  The girls who work in the coffee shops are often foreign and there is something nice about their accents.  The vacant church opposite us is about to become a Mosque. 

I might not share the same belief systems as many of my neighbours, but I would stand up for them rather than see the venom of racism infest the place I and so many others call home. 

White Chalk

chalk-horse

“White chalk hills are all I’ve known
White chalk hills will rot my bones
White chalk sticking to my shoes
White chalk playing as a child with you

White chalk sat against time
White chalk cutting down the sea line
I know Mary’s by the surf
On a path cut 1500 years ago

And I know these chalk hills will rot my bones

Dorset’s cliffs meet at the sea
Where I walked
(Our unborn child in me)
White chalk
(Poor scattered land)

Scratch my palms
There’s blood on my hands”

From “White Chalk” by PJ Harvey

Someone whom I respect and admire enormously sent me an email link this week.  I think it speaks a lot of truth of how we engage with culture and art (in whatever medium).  I think it maybe captures a little bit of what we are trying to facilitate and achieve as a small group (albeit our attempt will be to a much more meagre extent) with our idea for creating a gallery space next month for which you can find more details here.

Connecting with culture – It’s Just a Big White Horse?

wallinger-horse

Mark Wallinger’s proposal to erect a 50 metre-tall horse on the Kent
marshland has understandably attracted widespread media attention.

The work draws on a very English pastoral tradition in art – from the
white figures in the Chalk Downs to the lithe racehorses of Stubbs.
The sponsors hope that it will repeat the popular success of Antony
Gormley’s ‘Angel of the North’. Both share a character far from hushed
reverence in tidy drawing rooms. They are industrial-scale objects,
forged and fettled from steel plate, that the common man is allowed to
like, free of intellectual pretensions.

Yet for all its scale and technical ambition, Wallinger’s new
sculpture is disappointingly conservative. If the ‘Angel’ is about the
machine age, the ‘Horse’ is about our agricultural heritage. Its
origins lie in a romantic idea of England – a country of ‘long shadows
on cricket grounds and warm beer’, as John Major once had it. Despite
being a winner of the Turner Prize – the cutting edge of bad-boy art –
we seem to be lacking the artist’s unblinking critical eye on his
culture.

For the Christian, artistic expression offers at least two
possibilities for cultural engagement. Firstly, authentic art stems
from having a committed worldview. God makes it clear to us in the
Bible that the church is a nation set apart, with a higher king, and a
different mission. This should lead Christians to hold a distinctive
critique on their cultural surroundings.

Secondly, we have a particular insight into the nature of beauty
because of our restored relationship to God. Art and beauty could be
said to exist in order to provide a foretaste of our eternal home with
the Father. When we look out at creation, or consider the place of
craft in the biblical accounts of the tabernacle and temple, there is
little doubt that our God has an aesthetic sensibility, and a regard
for beauty, that we inherit.

‘Art’, wrote HR Rookmaaker, ‘has meaning as art because God thought it
good to give art and beauty to humanity.’ As humans, we can appreciate
beauty in art, but we need to apply our minds in unpacking the
worldview that underpins it.

And perhaps the ‘White Horse’ – whilst striking and beautiful – merely
laments a lost identity without offering a commentary on why this
might be important now. Art’s role is to speak in intangibles,
ambiguities and essences, and allow the viewer to join the dots.
Whether it will be a vision of England that resonates with the public
remains to be seen, but, as with all art, we would do well to think
through its origins.

John Lee

Imitation Of Life

“You want the greatest thing
The greatest thing since bread came sliced.
You’ve got it all, you’ve got it sized.
Like a Friday fashion show teenager
Freezing in the corner
Trying to look like you don’t try”

From “Imitation Of Life” by R.E.M.

So I found myself sat staring into thin air in one of those great British institutions, the roadside service station, a few weeks back after a coffee that can at best be described as mediocre and way too large.  You know the sort, it burns your taste buds at first slurp and is lukewarm by the time you get halfway down its supersized cup.  It was accompanied by a sandwich I didn’t even like the look of.  I had that fuggy headed sensation caused from driving for several hours combined with my retinas adjusting to the artificial lighting in the sticky food court. 

As I waited for my wife and daughter to return from the toilets I found myself playing drums on my knees in time with “Sweet Child O’ Mine” as it came over the tannoy system.  I was on auto-pilot and knew exactly how the cymbals sound in time with the bass guitar notes after Slash’s guitar intro. 

I got to thinking, how many millions of people must have learned to play this song over the past 22 years?  Hundreds of thousands of teenagers learning guitar in their bedrooms, jamming with friends or forming their first bands – tens of thousands of folks mimicking the guitar riff on “Guitar Hero” on their games consoles – thousands of kids trying out guitars they will never be able to afford in music shops the world over…

Yet, once upon a time, someone came up with the notes for that famous guitar intro.  Some friends busked along in a rehearsal space that gave birth to a classic rock song that largely catapulted Guns ‘n’ Roses into international stardom.  Even folks who don’t like metal or rock music probably recognise the song.

Why do so many people play cover versions of other people’s music?  Re-interpreting songs is one thing, but playing straight cover versions or murdering the original versions is something quite different.  

It doesn’t really hold true for other art forms, does it?  How often do film directors re-make someone else’s work story board by story board?  How often does a novelist try to commit their own favourite work to memory and then re-write it verbatim?  How often does an artist try to recreate every brushstroke and tonal variation of a classic piece on their own piece of canvas?

How do we engage with culture?  Do we shun it?  Do we embrace it?  Do we mimic it?  Do we try to influence it or create it?

Several folks from the small group who regularly meet in our house have attended something called the Q Conference in America over the past few years.  They have come back energised and stimulated by ideas.  That, in and of itself, has been fairly contagious.  The simple notion of people seeing how to use their skill base in the places they find themselves in order to change things –  whether as entrepreneurs, influencers, artists, musicians, thinkers, writers, bloggers, ordinary radicals or whatever…

One of the things I got linked to through that was the Fermi Project.  Their Society Room DVDs and the Fermi Shorts series of essays are thoroughly stimulating.  I came across a brilliantly engaging essay they produced about all these idioms of culture and our response to it which you can find out more about here.


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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