liberation music

I know this is about writing but as I write songs sometimes as well this can stretch a bit.

I like most types of music – my collection ranges from plainsong to classics, pop to prog, picking up punk, rock, metal, folk, indie, jazz (most types fro trad to free form) as well as some stuff that is just strange. One of my favourite albums is a sampler from ESP – the New York avant garde label. I bought it because the 18 tracks listed included a reading from Nova Express by William Burroughs as well as other intriguing stuff. What I didn’t realise was that that was all they could get on the album cover and in facts there are over 50 30 second tracks with an astonishing range of bizarre material. I use it as a sobriety test as if it starts all making sense I’ve drunk too much.

However a lot of my favourite genres are ones which are demotic – where you don’t need to have studied an instrument for years in order to make music. Originally all music depended on talent rather than technical ability, although I’m sure that has always helped. I first started performing in folk clubs. I the sixties and early seventies every town would have at least one folk club. In South Shields where I grew up there were two very successful ones and a range of others coming and going. If you wanted to be a star then proficiency on an instrument helped but you still had unaccompanied singers who only needed decent voice and a finger in their ear. Running alongside were blues clubs (the one I was a regular at was both). Most blues musicians play guitar but you could always pick up blues harmonica reasonably quickly.

In the States there was Doowop. Cheap recording booths were around and every group of friends who could sing would put together a five part harmony break down of a song and send it out to the local DJs. Boom box bands are not new.

Then there was punk. For a wonderful cultural analysis of punk and its place in the history or rebellion and anti art read Greil Marcus’ wonderful Lipstick Traces which links punk to the French avant garde movements I love including the Situationists, Dada and Jarry.

Nowadays the music industry has been democratised again by laptops and reasonably priced software allowing broadcast quality bedroom recording and easy ways to distribute your tracks via the internet. Talent is the king and word of mouth again allows opportunities to break through.

In an age when everything is commercialised and the charts are dominated by record bosses cloning the latest artists to have a hit we have a choice of what we listen to and an astonishing variety of stuff is available to suit most tastes. My son Phil ( see decided to do a project where he wrote and published a one minute song every week  linked to the Mayan millennium ( in  order to develop new material in a way that would show off the variety of his playing, as well as the more commercial material on he does which is on All recorded in his flat in a way reminiscent of the experiments of Joe Meek who had his record studio flat now far from where Phil lives in Holloway.

The same thing applies to writing. The internet means you can self publish and reach a potential global market. If you are only writing the sort of thing three people will like, the right metadata means they can find it. The internet definitely complies with Sturgeons Law that 90% of everything is rubbish, but if you can find that 10% – in music, writing, or any other art form, wading through the crap is worth it. If all else fails there are plenty of funny cats on there.

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