Sound Affects

what is this six-stringed instrument but an adolescent loom?

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why I act

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a friend of mine, studying at drama school, was asked to write a manifesto, a defence of why he acts. He didn’t really explain all that much about it, but I just started writing.

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I act, first and foremost, because I love words. Because I love the words on the page, the words on the tongue, the words flying thick and fast through the air.

I act because I love to act. I love trying to understand another human being – and one presented to me, wholly existant, in the script.

I act because I believe in the theatre, and I believe in film. I believe in the power of these creative titans to change the way people think, the way they approach issues, and the way they relate to their fellow human beings. I believe that both theatre and film occupy crucial roles in any society, and that they provide a voice that deserves it place in the discourse of the nation.

Asking me to defend my love, my profession, my joy, is completely disingenuous. We do not ask accountants to justify their role in society. We do not ask lawyers, taxi drivers, teachers or public servants to explain why they chose the career that they chose. We do not ask because we view these professions as crucial to the running of society.

And yet there is a perception that theatre and film are somehow superfluous. That both are part of the ‘entertainment industry’, which seeks nothing more than to make obscene amounts of money and be the centre of attention. And yet any flourishing society has artistic strength commensurate with its political strength. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo Da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was the age of Shakespeare. I do not seek to compare myself to Phidias, da Vinci or Shakespeare, but there is a place for theatre and film in any sophisticated society, culture and nation.

But what makes me simultaneously angrier and sadder than anything else is this idea that ‘art’ is only made for and by some sort of chardonnay-sipping, self-congratulatory elite. This is a recent divide that has only come about since television enforced concepts of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, but we must find a way to curb this insidious, cancerous ideology. To re-claim the status that the theatre held in Shakespeare’s day, when the playhouses were always fighting claims of being dangerous to public morality.

And these are not contradictory ideas – arguing the centrality of art to a great society and defending the popular appeal of art. Nothing affects you so much as sitting in a theatre and being surrounded by the sensory experience of the theatre. Hearing the words. Seeing the costumes, and the lights, and the performers’ spit fly out of their mouths, smelling the sweat dripping down their face. Theatre is a visceral experience. It cannot be escaped by changing channels, or its impact diminished by an ad break.

In the 200,000 years that humans have existed, we have not found a single medium so confronting, engaging and powerful as theatre. Theatre has greater potential to affect, effect, confound and impact than any other institution in modern society.

And yet, at the same time, you can watch something like The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and piss yourself laughing at two straight hours of loving, affectionate iconoclasm.

THAT is why I act.

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October 6th, 2008 at 12:26 am

Apologies

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I know it’s been a long time since my last post. I don’t quite know what happened. I think I just got out of my daily habits when I finished university for the semester, and I just didn’t get around to posting anything

BUT NEVER FEAR!

there are lots of posts coming your way very, very soon, including album reviews, an obituary and some new uni work from this fantastic subject I’m doing called Popular Music (sounds like it might suck all the fun out of music, but it’s absolutely fantastic).

So stay tuned!

Written by soundaffects

August 23rd, 2008 at 11:16 am

Posted in random thoughts

flattery will get you everywhere

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it has been almost two months to the day since I started this little venture, mostly as somewhere to publish what I was writing, since it wasn’t getting picked up by any of the publications I was submitting them to. I assumed that I would just write whatever I wrote, and post it here, and it would just sit in quiet anonymity, adding their own voice to the screaming mess that is the internet.

instead, I find that people have been reading.

not in huge numbers – I’m certainly not going to make any money out of this thing just yet – but there have been over 1,500 individual views of this little blog.

and I just wanted to say thank you.

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June 11th, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Posted in random thoughts

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I miss you my boy. This long-distance thing blows. I’m in a weird, introspective mood and I would love nothing more than to drive over to Kingsford, walk to that park around the corner and sit and talk and smoke for a couple of hours

But you’re not in Kingsford.

And I’ve quit smoking (10 days and counting).

And the story I have to tell would take too long. There are too many characters, too many explanations, too many qualifications. And you would rush to conclusions the way you always do, and I’d have to walk you back from taking someone’s kneecaps, and you still wouldn’t be convinced.

(And my iTunes just started playing Steely Dan. Who I realise now I really don’t like. Yet I would go to that gig 3 times over just to see you and your dad sitting side by side, tapping your feet and hitting your thigh with your hand in a wonderful, appreciative, jolly-good-show Hercu-les-Hercu-les kind of way).

(And three Fleetwood Mac songs have come up when I’ve been skipping through tracks, looking for a song I can’t identify. And I immediately think of you, and of a Double Bay cafe, and tears in a pair of eyes and “i wanna be with you everywhere” on the radio).

(And I finally settle on Augie March, and I remember going to see them at The Metro with you last year. And you hadn’t seen them before, and were terribly impressed).

And now I’ve lost the train of thought that I was running with before the music-related brackets. Which seems oddly suitable, since you’d always stop me and ask if I’d heard this band, and I would have, because we’d have both read the same Rolling Stone article about them and instantly downloaded their album.

(And now my – and, apparently, my mother’s – favourite piece of classical music has come on. Beethoven’s 132nd Opus, from his String Quartet no.15 in A Minor. And I want to play it to you, because I think you’d get it. And you wouldn’t like the middle part quite as much, and we’d both agree it was the start and the end where it was at. That it was the cello (we think) that really makes the piece. And then I’d follow that by mentioning that Byron plays cello, and then we’d be back on the loop that we left half an hour ago, as if it was the most natural thing in the world).

And you’d laugh at Byron, now that we’re back there, and say that you wanted to kill yourself after seeing his Horatio. And then we’d launch into how cool our Hamlet was, and talk about theatre, and high school, and SUDS, and VCA (would you have gone to VCA in this daydream? I think so).

And I would drag the conversation back to what I really want to talk about, which is why I feel so great a lot of the time, but as though there’s a deep ocean of melancholy just beneath the surface. Which you’d recognise, but wouldn’t remember from where (and then in ten minutes would realise). And we’d talk about why I felt like I did, and I’d spill everything, and make it sound much worse than it is. At least, I’d make it sound much worse than I think it is. Maybe it is bad and I’m just being stoic. There’s that Brutus again.

And I’d have to go, or you’d have to go, and so we’d rapidly tie up all the loose ends, but not with enough conviction to really think it’s all solved, but we’d both know that I’d call you in a couple of days to report on progress.

And I doubt that anything profound would change, although I’d feel better for talking about it with you.

But you’re not in Kingsford.

Written by soundaffects

June 9th, 2008 at 11:14 am

University election day

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Notes
Manning is the student bar at Sydney University
Surry Hills is a “trendy”, “edgy” area of Sydney, where many students live

___________________________________________

I had just finished my mid-morning latte, the act of drinking it a habitual cleansing of the palate, removing the bitter, sexist taste of a boorish HIStory lecture from my mouth. I was walking towards Manning, planning for an afternoon of Barthes and Foucault, sharing Fedora-maintenance and chardonnay-sipping with my coterie of elegant, en-scarfed intelligentsia, when your voice wafted to my ears on the crisp Autumn breeze.

“Are you thinking of voting today?”, you asked.

Truth be told, I hadn’t been. I was occupied with deconstructing the Marxist dialectics used in the recent outer Mongolian provincial elections, but your calm, confident expression lured me back to the here and now, like an electoral Siren in Ray Bans.

“I beg your pardon?”, I replied, genuinely distracted by the resplendent fluoro sticker on your breast, proudly proclaiming your participation in the present polling.

“Help me make a perfect Union”, you gently implored, seducing my suffrage. The connotations of your request did not escape me, a Gender Studies major, but I must admit it threw me momentarily.
In a daze, I accepted your tenderly proffered pamphlet, but reading your chosen candidate’s proposed programs focussed my mind. I knew, in that instant, above all else, I had to deconstruct you.

“I’d love to discuss this some more. Are you free now? I know a quiet place, somewhere we won’t be disturbed.” My calm reply belied my nervous interior, but you eagerly acquiesced to my request, and before I knew it we were reclining on the futon in my Surry Hills living room, discussing the pros and cons of social welfare in a free-market economy, and your candidate’s plan to lobby for an increase in student payments.

As our eyes met, I saw the reformist zeal in your eyes.

“But enough about my candidate”, you whispered, “show me your platform.”

As I revealed my firm, hardline stance, your eyes lit up, the corner of your mouth pulling back into a small smirk.

“You really are left-leaning.”

What followed was an in-depth examination of the issue at hand, and I was amazed by your grasp of policy. So much more than mere lip-service to the ideals, you displayed your natural ability as a mouth-piece for public policy.

It was a vigorous exchange, the heat of the debate building inexorably to consensus, you warmly accepting me into the party folds.

And as I cast my ballot deep inside your polling place I knew that, no matter what, our Union would be sustainable.

Written by soundaffects

May 17th, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Thoughts Upon First Hearing Usher’s ‘Love In This Club’

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(with apologies to Passion of the Weiss, who is much better than me at this sort of thing.

1. Dude can sing. I mean, really, he is good.
2. Dude can dance.
3. I heard it 20 minutes ago, and it’s still stuck in my head. This I hate Usher for because…
4. The lyrics suck.
5. If Usher did, in fact, fulfill his desire, he’d probably get arrested for it.
6. Referring, as the song does, to the successful sexual conquest of a woman as bagging groceries (as Young Jeezy does in his terrible, insipid 16 bars), is probably not the best way to get into anyone’s pants.
7. A thought. Usher is married. Usher has a son, also called Usher. What does Mrs. Usher think of this making love in clubs? Is the song directed at a woman other than Mrs. Usher? If so, this is a problem. If not, can’t he just wait until he gets home and save himself the legal rigamarole?
8. Young Jeezy is possibly the least talented rapper alive. As opposed to Weezy Baby, Lil’ Wayne, who is terrific.

UPDATE

Have just heard Part II of this opus. Thoughts?

  1. It’s not Part II of anything. It’s a completely different song with the same chorus. Come on O’ World of Rap/Hip-Hop/whatever – let’s not be too lazy about this sort of thing, hmm?
  2. Beyonce can really sing.
  3. Lil’ Wayne sounds like he is suffering from advanced emphysema.
  4. Even so, he if much more interesting than Young Jeezy, who just sounds like a dick.
  5. Lyrics like “come a little closer, let daddy put it on ya” really don’t do Usher any favours, especially when Justin Timberlake has spent the last couple of years redefining this sound, and this genre, and taking it to ridiculously sophisticated heights. LoveStoned it ain’t.

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May 7th, 2008 at 5:58 pm

The death of record labels?

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Coldplay have released their new single.

It’s called Violet Hill, which is a much better title than their album, Viva La Vida.

I know.

I know.

The album art is pretty cool though.

Anyway, Coldplay are offering the single for free download at their website, leading many commentators to compare it to Radiohead’s In Rainbows strategy.

The general pattern of writing seems to go something like this…

Blah blah blah free music blah blah blah. Death of record labels blah blah blah put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye blah blah blah it’s the end of the world as we know it.”

But no one seems to be thinking much about the next step.

If this truly is the end of record labels, then what happens next?

What the hell else is there?

Will music just be left at the mercy of the internet?

There is no doubting that the internet has changed the way we get our music.

It has allowed for a democratisation of music, where anyone with access to a computer can choose what music they want to listen to, whether it’s the biggest bands in the world or someone sitting in their bedroom fiddling around with GarageBand.

This has had a profound effect, not just on the industry but on bands themselves. And while the internet has already changed the way we consume music, it’s entirely possible that soon, the internet will begin to affect the music we are able to consume.

RECORD LABELS

Many have been forecasting the death of the record label for years, and that call reached fever pitch last year with the online release of Radiohead’s latest album, In Rainbows. And certainly, many major acts have been abandoning their labels (Radiohead) or coming into direct conflict with them (Prince) over the best way to distribute, promote and create music. And while the focus has been on the havoc this will wreak on record labels, very little thought has been given to the effect it will have on the music industry as a whole.

What could quite conceivably happen, is that record labels will be forced to stick with their major acts – the ones that bring in the money – and will have less and less available funds for the discovery, development and promotion of new up and coming bands. This might not sound like such a major issue, since sites like MySpace have stepped in to this void, but what MySpace and others cannot provide is any form of development, nor any mass marketing. Simply put, no one will be able to afford to promote their music in a way that reaches the wider community.

And while music blogs will report on the next big thing, and MySpace will create some sort of fanbase, very few of these bands will ever command a place in the zeitgeist. And so no one will go to their gigs. And no one will buy their albums. There will be a small band of dedicated followers, but even if some bands receive wider media coverage, there is no way that they can make themselves known to the sort of audience that bands need in order to make a living from their music. It may well be that an unwanted by-product of major artists leaving their labels is that the diversity, quality and quantity of a label’s smaller acts is hugely diminished.

SIZE

This prospect has hugely significant ramifications for music venues. If there are no bands that can command huge popular support, then the days of stadium tours are over. Hell, the days of arena tours are over. And while some may say that this is a good thing, and that gigs should always be smaller, more intimate affairs, to lose the experience of seeing bands as huge as U2 and Daft Punk will be tragic. Music’s power as a social force, as something that brings people together, will be completely destroyed when the international scene is dominated by acts that can only fill a 1500-capacity inner-city venue.

If this is the case, then it also has serious consequences for live music outside of the US and Britain. If there are no record labels to foot the bill, how is the lastest MySpace phenomenon going to tour places like mainland Europe, let alone Australia?

BANDS

But perhaps the greatest effect will be on bands and artists themselves.
Already we are beginning to see that blog sensations and MySpace heroes are struggling to maintain their career beyond their breakthrough album. Whether it is because the hype has moved on, or because of modern society’s apparent Attention-Deficit Disorder, more and more bands are crashing back to anonymity as fast as they rose to fame.

So what ends up happening is that bands ride the hype machine for their breakthrough release, but then the follow-up falls on deaf ears because people are off with the next big thing. Indeed, it’s entirely possible that they will never have their big breakthrough album in the first place, because unless major labels are prepared to take a gamble on internet sensations and invest heavily in them, their only audiences are going to be their Top 8 Friends. Artists like Lily Allen, The View, Artic Monkeys, Kate Nash, The Cool Kids, Klaxons, MGMT, Vampire Weekend – all these bands had huge online following, but it wasn’t until major labels invested time and money in them that they became well known outside the most keen observers of the scene. Indeed, only a couple of these bands (Lily Allen, Arctic Monkeys, Klaxons) have made any impression at all in the general public’s consciousness. All the rest have huge hype and popularity, but no one (comparatively speaking) has heard of them.

Despite what has been said, record labels are not going quietly to their death. They will adopt better, more inventive modes of advertising, of promotion, and will have to figure out someway to deal with downloading. It’s not going anywhere, so the labels will have to change. But they will.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that we are in for a profound change in the way music is advertised, created and consumed. But we had a profound change with the invention of the radio. Another with the invention of the 33 and the 45. Another with tapes. Another with CDs. Another with MTV. Another with downloads. And not only has music survived, but it has made music more interesting, more diverse, and has opened music up to larger and larger audiences.

It IS the end of the world as we know it, but I feel fine.