Better than Tristan and Isolde, better than the union of European Nations, the marriage of Form and Content is the zenith of harmonious blending, the devoutly wished for goal of writers and artists and anyone else in the business of making something from nothing — creating, that is — who strive to match message with medium, all in the hope of somehow communicating the ineffable to observers (listeners, readers, innocent passers-by) who almost never have time for cogitating or interest in unraveling, folks who are more concerned with the obvious and reasonable question “what’s in it for me?” or, more precisely, what utility does it have for someone whose chief concern, like all of us on some level, is if it can it be eaten or worn or driven to the mall, where the collected baubles of our culture hang in window displays like so many pieces . . . → Read More: A Cheap Trick that Might Be Something More
Originally posted March 11th, 2012
By Michael Konik
If you’re an artist, or have an artistic impulse, or care deeply about art, you probably experience the kind of quiet despair that I find in many of my jazz musician friends, my poet friends, my painter friends, and frequently from myself. Yes, it’s heartbreaking to be part of a culture that finds the work that we do increasingly irrelevant and of little worth (at least in the marketplace sense). It’s depressing to be so astonishingly good at something and yet so relatively uncelebrated and unappreciated. But you must never stop. We — all of us who care in varying degrees about stuff other than acquiring and consuming — are out there. We’re reading, and listening, and looking, and cogitating, and arguing, and questioning, and loving. We can’t be co-opted. We’re too smart and too aware. We’re not going anywhere. And we need you, you specifically, with . . . → Read More: Encouraging Words for Despairing Artists
Los Angeles is lousy with talent. Just as the plethora of beautiful men and women on the streets (and in the stores, and everywhere else) start to blend into the palm-lined boulevards, it’s easy to become immune to the charms of so many funny, clever, quick-witted people. When you see theater or hear music or comedy in this city you expect excellence — or at least what passes for it in a society whose cultural norms make folks like Adam Sandler and Chris Rock the emperors of entertainment. LA is home to a thriving live-performance scene; there’s not a day of the week when an intrepid ticket buyer can’t find stellar talent doing their thing on small stages in every precinct of town.
Originally posted February 28th, 2010
By Michael Konik
1. Culture always builds on the past. Whether it was composer and piano virtuoso Franz Liszt using Gypsy melodies in his compositions, Metallica borrowing song structures from Diamond Head or The Rolling Stones recording Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain” as a “traditional, arranged by Keith Richards,” composers have always used previous works as inspiration for their own pieces. Even Walt Disney – whose company is now among the most aggressive of copyright holders – was an inveterate remixer.
2. The past always tries to control the future. Since the Internet was developed, the entertainment lobby of the USA has pushed the government towards tougher laws leading to lawsuits being filed against more than 24,000 American citizens. Corporations have limited the free exchange of ideas in order to increase their profits. Whether it’s patenting forms of life or intellectual concepts, these attempts to gain control and . . . → Read More: Remix Manifesto
Originally posted January 31st, 2010
By Michael Konik
The most irksome problem with the Blogosphere is that everybody is a critic, which is cool for everybody but troubling for everybody else. Without institutional authority — a newspaper, a university, a trade group — to certify who should be listened to and respected and who should be dismissed and neglected, discerning the wheat from the chaff has become increasingly difficult.
This is why now, more than ever, we desperately need award shows.
When a consumer must decide which record he needs to own — or, more likely, steal — he can either trust his own critical faculties, sift through thousands of nattering nabobs postulatiing into the ether, or he can take the word of Sony/Warners/Universal. Who knows more about music than those guys?
Buzzkillers who dismiss industry-sponsored awards shows as cynical marketing ploys meant to consolidate advertising power among the most influential of the cartels . . . → Read More: An Opinion You Can Trust
Originally posted January 2nd, 2010
By Michael Konik
Those of us who suffer from Horizon Sickness — always looking ahead to the next thing instead of being fully engaged with the present — tend to be excellent planners. We maintain detailed lists; we’re fantastically organized; our desks are neat. We foresee everything.
Sadly, after several decades of insisting otherwise, we must admit that no amount of color Excel spreadsheets and Post-It notes on the refrigerator can bring order to a chaotic universe. So much, alas, is beyond our well-meaning control.
What you are reading is a from-memory transcription of something that got inadvertantly erased twenty minutes prior. I had a couple of nice paragraphs going, but know they’re lost and I can’t remember them. But I can simulate them. They were about how things never turn out quite how you expect them.
Originally posted October 24th, 2009
By Michael Konik
After the excessive optimisim of youth, the impressive energy of young adulthood, and the confidence of being all grown up, those of us who are fortunate enough to make it to our Forties generally look forward to an incremental and inexorable decline in just about every meaningful area of life — and not just health, romance, and adventure. Your work, your career, if you’re lucky enough to still have one, changes. For some, it ends. If you are, say, a professional athlete, your days of glory will either be in steep decline or finished. If you’re a model, you had better start looking for judging jobs on third-rate televsion programs.
These are extreme examples, of course. Few of us rely solely on the magnificence of our body (or the feats we can do with it) to earn a living and leave a legacy. But all . . . → Read More: Art After 40
Originally posted July 19th, 2009
By Michael Konik
If, like me, you listen frequently to jazz radio, often you hear DJs and other concerned constituents urging folks to “keep jazz alive,” as though it were an invalid on life support. Falling sales, vanishing broadcast formats, venue closures — they all suggest that America’s greatest contribution to the planetary arts is indeed on the verge of extinction.
Many people — including embittered musicians who cannot earn a living playing the greatest music our nation has produced — will tell you with resignation that it’s already too late: jazz is dead. We’re just witnessing its slow, excruciating extermination.
This is a lie. Jazz is not dead. What’s dead is our collective ability to listen carefully and intelligently, to embrace the sublime above the superficial, to celebrate the human urge for transcendence.
Jazz is not dead. What’s dead is . . . → Read More: Jazz is Dead
There once lived a Regular Person with regular talents and regular desires, including the one that most regular people have: to be less regular and more extraordinary, to be more like an exalted Them and less like an unheralded Us.
So, despite her regular looks — some would unkindly say that she was not even regular, but below average, even homely, which somehow made her quest for recognition more heartbreaking and pathetic — she entered a televised talent competition, where she would do the one thing she did a wee bit better than most people: sing.
That no one apart from opportunistic television producers would normally pay attention to her unexceptional warbling, let alone buy a ticket to hear her perform, did not dissuade her from bravely parading her doughy figure, unkempt hair, and unfashionable clothes before the cameras. After all, she had a germ . . . → Read More: The Fable of the Fable
Originally posted April 12th, 2009
By Michael Konik
News has reached these benighted shores that Rolling Stone, a magazine that earned its former journalistic reputation for its solemn coverage of a once-relevant musical genre known variously as rock & roll, rock, adult-oriented rock, alternative rock, and dinosaur rock, hath declared that, in their view, the greatest singer in the history of popular music is Aretha Franklin.
The choice, which is included in one of those fatuous and ultimately disposable lists one normally finds in golf magazines (“The Top 100 Courses You’ll Never Play!”) and travel porn (“The World’s Most Luxuriously Decorated Islands”), should be popular among those who still read the magazine. Franklin’s late-career screaming ululations have been successfully marketed as “soul,” and the highly ornamented melisma she injects into every other syllable has become the preferred performance gimmick for countless televised singing contestants. Like Bob Dylan, a gifted writer whose commercial and critical success . . . → Read More: Badasses
Luckily for Barack Obama, news of improper shenanigans at the IRS stole attention from the week’s biggest story: that the President’s Justice Department had secretly seized call information from at least 20 phone lines belonging to Associated Press reporters, including personal cell phones and the main switchboard of the AP’s Washington bureau. While Obama thundered on about “inexcusable behavior” at the IRS, he said he would “make no apology” for his latest foray into Nixonian…
The commonly understood reason why terrorists wish to kill and maim Americans is because they hate our freedoms. That’s what’s behind all the civilian violence: they hate our freedoms. You can go ahead and enumerate all the freedoms the terrorists hate, but it doesn’t really matter which ones –freedom to…
Author James Goodale was chief counsel for the New York Times during the Nixon era. His new book, “Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles,” outlines our government’s pernicious (and ongoing) threat to media freedom. Some prescient authors get all the luck: Every morning it seems we’re greeted to [...]