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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #223
Musique Critique
David Gunn

Recently, we have been exploring the primary components of the product known in the music industry as a composition. There is, of course, the music itself, perhaps the most important ingredient. The composer sits down with Mrs. Inspiration or Mr. Algorithm and creates what he or she believes to be a valued piece of musical merchandise. Still, it would just be an assemblage of notes and acoustical events, time signatures and opportunistic key changes, quirky rallentandos and suspect MIDI data without marketing. And if you think the commercial function involved in transferring a compositional commodity from producer to consumer is not an integral part of the music-making process, then you haven't tried to retail your own CD lately, not to put too personal a spin on it. I say -- and plenty of corporate research backs me up -- without proper merchandising, the purpose of a piece of music is, at best, indeterminate. It's a symbiotic relationship, too: a piece of music can exist for many years on its own, but without a generous dose of marketing to introduce it to an unappreciative consumer, what's the point? Like the hydroelectric generator and the electric chair, one needs the other to function best. There is, though, a third constituent to complete what truly is a package deal, because a tune, no matter how well it is marketed, still needs validation. It needs to be scrutinized by an authority figure. And that's where the third element of this holy trinity, music criticism, comes in. After a tune has been formulated and packaged, marketing can only take it so far. In order for it to find its successful niche in the industry, the music needs a testimonial from a professional critic. In the final analysis, it doesnít matter if the review is good or bad, so long as it is, for in this business, notoriety equals accomplishment.

Of course, to the criticizer, thereís often more to the job than just saying of a piece of new music "yeah I like it" or "yeah I don't like it." The professional analyzer should be able to justify his or her critiques through the use of logic and metaphors. Reporting that "Andiamo Zontarini's Second Concerto for Leopards sucked" will not give the consumer any information about the tune, other than it failed to ignite sparks in the spark plug of the reviewer; however, saying "Zontarini's Concerto for Leopards turned suddenly nasty when it was sucked into an Algonquin Hole the size of Cleveland" will surely have a greater impact on the buying public as soon as they figure out which Cleveland the reviewer is talking about.

The best -- and, by extension, best paid -- music critics often have extensive backgrounds in public relations, advertising and collection agencies. Thus, it is no surprise that a popular adjunct to the analysis part of compositional merchandising is payola, wherein music critics are granted honorariums to better help them appreciate the integrity of the product. Critics of the music industry are a special breed, who often hold themselves above the fundamental laws of both composition and sentence structure. Sergeant Major Balthasar Babcock was himself a highly respected critic of Londonís Community Death Music Programme before succumbing to the preferred pension plan of the Royal Fusileers Battalion at Lorry Upon Kent. When he was criticized for forsaking his reportorial post in favor of better buffet tables at the military social engagements, he shot back "everybodyís a critic!" -- a defensive retort that is still widely employed by denounced analysists today.

And speaking of denounced analysis, who should serendipitously be scheduled to surface on today's 223rd episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar? Perhaps someone who is keenly aware of microdiatonic nuances, who knows which side of a hexachord is up, who can stand toe to toe with the fiercest contrapuntal nihilist and still feel affection for his ferret, and most importantly who will soon be trading buffet table anecdotes with Kalvos? Well?