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A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...



Posts tagged "audience"

Aug 29, 2014
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People want to be wowed. And what’s the best way to wow people? Just give them the hits… After you give them the hits, then you can do whatever.
— Prince, to André 3000

Aug 15, 2014
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I don’t want input, I don’t want you to tell me if I’m doing anything wrong, heavens forbid. But I write a scene, and I think I’ve heard it as much as I can, but then when I read it to you … I hear it through your ears, and it lets me know I’m on the right track.

Aug 14, 2014
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Get someone else to read your story to you. Many say read your work out loud and this does help but I believe you still hear in your head what you wanted to write. When someone else reads it you stop hearing what you wanted to say and hear exactly what you’ve written.

Aug 05, 2014
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Don’t give people what they want. Give them what they never knew they wanted.

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Painting by Numbers: Komar and Melamid’s Scientific Guide to Art

In December 1993, the Russian emigre art collaborators Komar and Melamid began a statistical market research poll to determine America’s “most wanted” and “most unwanted” paintings. Since then, the whimsical project has spread around the world. Polls in the United States, Ukraine, France, Iceland, Turkey, Denmark, Finland, Kenya, and China revealed that people wanted portraits of their families and always “blue landscapes.” After conducting research, the pair paint made-to-order works that meet the wanted (landscape) and unwanted (abstract) criteria; they follow up with town meetings as virtual performance pieces. This intriguing and serious volume documents issues raised by the conflict between high art and popular taste.

I read this after devouring Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey To The End of Taste, which quoted several bits.

The book was published in 1997, so it’s almost 20 years old, but, in this age of Instagram likes and Tumblr reblogs, I read it mostly as a cautionary tale about artists looking to their audiences for direction as to what they should produce for them. As Diana Vreeland said, ”You’re not supposed to give people what they want, you’re supposed to give them what they don’t know they want yet.”

The best part of the book is the beginning interview with Komar and Melamid. I’ve quoted some of my own favorite bits, below.

On collaboration:

Everyone works collaboratively. That is why society exists. Even artist who imagines himself to be like God, a solitary creator, is working in collaboration with his teachers, his predecessors, craftsmen who created his canvas and paints, and so on—just as God created world with help of angels. Old romantic view of artist is a travesty of monotheism.

How modern artists have lost their way:

We have lost even our belief that we are the minority which knows. We believed ten years ago, twenty years ago, that we knew the secret. Now we have lost this belief. We are a minority with no power and no belief, no faith. I feel myself, as an artist and as a citizen, just totally obsolete. I don’t know why I am here, what I am doing. What is so good about me doing this, or any other artist?

The difference between European and American culture:

I’m stunned by the differences between the European culture and the American culture. In America, the best which has been produced in culture came from the bottom of society. Like music—the greatest musicians of the twentieth century were illiterate; they couldn’t read music.

Why artists should look to hip-hop for inspiration:

People really want art, but we, the elite artists, we don’t serve them… What we need is to create a real pop art, a real art of the people, like the music… And the hip-hop, rock, that’s the greatest thing in the world. We need to make art like these people. We have to learn how they work. That’s what is an artist.

How, in Russia, “Sunday painter” was actually a good thing:

In Russia, “Sunday painter” had a very pure, simple dissident flavor, because to paint on Sunday meant to paint for yourself, not for government. I knew a few very professional artists who made a living painting socialist realism for money all week and painted abstract art.

But how that changed when they moved to America:

Now we paint differently. You know the propaganda cliche: we emigrate and become free, and now we can paint all week, without interuption, without weekends. Every day became Sunday, but you’re working every day. No free time, that’s because you’re free.

And whether their work is serious or not:

No one would ask of life, “Is it all serious or all a joke?” because tragedy and comedy coexist in one life. You cannot separate and say it is all one or all the other. It is same with this work, with all our work: it is serious and humorous at the same time.

Thanks to @mulegirl for the recommendation. Here’s a website with some more of the paintings.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Jul 29, 2014
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You see, part of me is a monk and part of me is a performing flea.

Jul 19, 2014
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Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.

Jun 26, 2014
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I don’t really do anything for the audience ever. I do it for me, and most of the time the audience joins me.

Jun 24, 2014
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Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove

I actually picked this up after I read his Soul Train coffee table book. Good read. Like with the Soul Train book, you’re going to want to keep Rdio or Spotify handy, so you can make a playlist of all the tracks you’ve never heard.

Here’s Dwight Garner (damn, he’s a great reviewer):


  Whenever I read a book by a musician, groupie, rock critic, producer, record mogul or roadie, on the end pages I keep a running tally of the songs I’m aching to download when the reading is done. Most times, the longer the list, the better the book… The end pages on my copy [of Mo’ Meta Blues] are crammed with song titles; they resemble the back of a popular girl’s senior yearbook…. I suspect I’m going to be listening to more Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Prince, the Isley Brothers, Rufus, Public Enemy and D’Angelo than I have for a long time.


The title of the book is a nod to the Spike Lee movie Mo’ Better Blues, and this scene in particular, which The Roots used for the opening of Things Fall Apart, a debate between Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes on staying true to your artistic vision and giving the audience what they want:




  "If we had to depend upon black people to eat, we would starve to death," says Bleek. "I mean, you’ve been out there, you’re on the bandstand, you look out into the audience, what do you see? You see Japanese, you see, you see West Germans, you see, you know, Slabobic, anything except our people—it makes no sense. It incenses me that our own people don’t realize our own heritage, our own culture, this is our music, man." Shadow disagrees. "That’s bullshit…the people don’t come because you grandiose motherfuckers don’t play shit that they like. If you played the shit that they like, then people would come, simple as that." Deciding who is right is part of what makes for a compelling intro.


As Questlove explains:


  That problem—how to stay true to our idea of our music and also be appropriately inviting to audiences, how to court audiences without compromising the music we were making—was something that had plagued us since the beginning.”


He talks about finding a “Stupid Human Trick,” or a gimmick, to hook folks:


  a band needs something to elevate it above other the fray. The secret weapon was often something we called a Stupid Human Trick, borrowing the idea from David Letterman… what was the wildcard for the rest of the people, the ones who were afflicted with cultural ADD? The Stupid Human Trick was something that would draw them in, an indisputably entertaining novelty.


And at one point Questlove talks about putting out a new record and says, “I wasn’t worried about our audience. They would follow us or they wouldn’t—I was used to losing about half our audience each time and picking up new fans.” That sort of knocked me out, the idea you’d lose 1/2 your fans with each album. “It’s a cliché, maybe, but one that turns out to be true: when you start making stuff for other people, that’s when you lose yourself.”

And finally, comes to some kind of synthesis:


  Acrobats love to talk about working without a net like it’s the bravest thing in the world. But the thing about working without a net is that if you fall, you die. It’s better to work with a net, and to know that you can attempt the tricky maneuver without permanent consequences. It’s an answer to the dialogue between Bleek and Shadow in Mo’ Better Blues, or maybe just a third voice in the conversation.


I cut and pasted some more favorite sections below.

On memory:


  Sometimes I only remember things through records. They’re a trigger for me, they’re Pavlov’s bell. Without thinking about the music, I can’t remember the experience. But if I think long enough about a specific album, something else always bubbles up…. I had two kinds of experiences that I mapped to memories: records that were played in the house or on the radio, and Soul Train. Every memory of mine is paired with one of those two things.


On reviews:


  I write the reviews for my own records. Almost no one knows this, but when I am making a Roots record, I write the review I think the album will receive and lay out the page just like it’s a Rolling Stone page from when I was ten or eleven. I draw the cover image in miniature and chicken-scratch in a fake byline. It’s the only way I really know how to imagine what I think the record is. And as it turns out, most of the time the record ends up pretty close to what I say it is in the review.


On sampling and Roland Barthes:


  I had a friend who tried to explain Roland Barthes to me; not all of it, of course, but that one little principle about how a text is not a unified thing, but a fragmentary or divisible thing, and that the reader is the one who divides it up, arbitrarily. Reading is the act that creates the pieces. I wasn’t totally sure I understood it—I’m still not sure—but it sounded like what was happening with the SK-1. You, as the listener, pick a piece of sound, a snippet of speech, or a drumbeat, and you separate that from everything around it. That’s now a brick that you have in your hand, and you use it to build a new wall.


On what happened to hip-hop:


  Something changed when commerce arrived. Good and bad stopped mattering; only effective and ineffective mattered. Whether a record worked on an audience became the standard, rather than whether or not it was any good…  [There was] a new era of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous charisma. In “Bad Boy for Life,” P. Diddy rapped, “Don’t worry if I write rhymes / I write checks,” and that became more than just a clever aside, it was his style of hip-hop. Virtuosity disappeared and this other kind of skill—a ringmaster skill, something closer to what you’d find in a corporate manager—emerged.


On having a day job:


  The Fallon show is a day job in the best sense. We’re in by noon and gone by seven, and in between we make a show. It’s highly structured, and as a result, the opportunities we have for creativity are really distilled: not reduced at all, but disciplined, forced into existing forms and packages.


And some good lines:

I write things because I want to get to the point where I have written things. (Ben Greenman)  
What a shitty way to go through life, hiding your love for music so that people don’t think the wrong things about you.  
Switching off perfection switched on the human quality.  
I feel like my cultural value comes from my role as a bridge. My job is to connect brilliant have-nots to the land of haves.  
How do you plan a rebirth? I’m not sure you do. You just stand in the darkness until you can’t endure it any longer, and then you move forward until you’re standing in the light.
It’s a funny word, persistence. It means not giving up, but it also means just passing on through time.
When you live your life through records, the records are a record of your life.™ (Is this really trademarked?)
I was an indoor kid with a tendency to fall inward. 
Recommended.

Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove

I actually picked this up after I read his Soul Train coffee table book. Good read. Like with the Soul Train book, you’re going to want to keep Rdio or Spotify handy, so you can make a playlist of all the tracks you’ve never heard.

Here’s Dwight Garner (damn, he’s a great reviewer):

Whenever I read a book by a musician, groupie, rock critic, producer, record mogul or roadie, on the end pages I keep a running tally of the songs I’m aching to download when the reading is done. Most times, the longer the list, the better the book… The end pages on my copy [of Mo’ Meta Blues] are crammed with song titles; they resemble the back of a popular girl’s senior yearbook…. I suspect I’m going to be listening to more Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Prince, the Isley Brothers, Rufus, Public Enemy and D’Angelo than I have for a long time.

The title of the book is a nod to the Spike Lee movie Mo’ Better Blues, and this scene in particular, which The Roots used for the opening of Things Fall Apart, a debate between Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes on staying true to your artistic vision and giving the audience what they want:

"If we had to depend upon black people to eat, we would starve to death," says Bleek. "I mean, you’ve been out there, you’re on the bandstand, you look out into the audience, what do you see? You see Japanese, you see, you see West Germans, you see, you know, Slabobic, anything except our people—it makes no sense. It incenses me that our own people don’t realize our own heritage, our own culture, this is our music, man." Shadow disagrees. "That’s bullshit…the people don’t come because you grandiose motherfuckers don’t play shit that they like. If you played the shit that they like, then people would come, simple as that." Deciding who is right is part of what makes for a compelling intro.

As Questlove explains:

That problem—how to stay true to our idea of our music and also be appropriately inviting to audiences, how to court audiences without compromising the music we were making—was something that had plagued us since the beginning.”

He talks about finding a “Stupid Human Trick,” or a gimmick, to hook folks:

a band needs something to elevate it above other the fray. The secret weapon was often something we called a Stupid Human Trick, borrowing the idea from David Letterman… what was the wildcard for the rest of the people, the ones who were afflicted with cultural ADD? The Stupid Human Trick was something that would draw them in, an indisputably entertaining novelty.

And at one point Questlove talks about putting out a new record and says, “I wasn’t worried about our audience. They would follow us or they wouldn’t—I was used to losing about half our audience each time and picking up new fans.” That sort of knocked me out, the idea you’d lose 1/2 your fans with each album. “It’s a cliché, maybe, but one that turns out to be true: when you start making stuff for other people, that’s when you lose yourself.”

And finally, comes to some kind of synthesis:

Acrobats love to talk about working without a net like it’s the bravest thing in the world. But the thing about working without a net is that if you fall, you die. It’s better to work with a net, and to know that you can attempt the tricky maneuver without permanent consequences. It’s an answer to the dialogue between Bleek and Shadow in Mo’ Better Blues, or maybe just a third voice in the conversation.

I cut and pasted some more favorite sections below.

On memory:

Sometimes I only remember things through records. They’re a trigger for me, they’re Pavlov’s bell. Without thinking about the music, I can’t remember the experience. But if I think long enough about a specific album, something else always bubbles up…. I had two kinds of experiences that I mapped to memories: records that were played in the house or on the radio, and Soul Train. Every memory of mine is paired with one of those two things.

On reviews:

I write the reviews for my own records. Almost no one knows this, but when I am making a Roots record, I write the review I think the album will receive and lay out the page just like it’s a Rolling Stone page from when I was ten or eleven. I draw the cover image in miniature and chicken-scratch in a fake byline. It’s the only way I really know how to imagine what I think the record is. And as it turns out, most of the time the record ends up pretty close to what I say it is in the review.

On sampling and Roland Barthes:

I had a friend who tried to explain Roland Barthes to me; not all of it, of course, but that one little principle about how a text is not a unified thing, but a fragmentary or divisible thing, and that the reader is the one who divides it up, arbitrarily. Reading is the act that creates the pieces. I wasn’t totally sure I understood it—I’m still not sure—but it sounded like what was happening with the SK-1. You, as the listener, pick a piece of sound, a snippet of speech, or a drumbeat, and you separate that from everything around it. That’s now a brick that you have in your hand, and you use it to build a new wall.

On what happened to hip-hop:

Something changed when commerce arrived. Good and bad stopped mattering; only effective and ineffective mattered. Whether a record worked on an audience became the standard, rather than whether or not it was any good… [There was] a new era of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous charisma. In “Bad Boy for Life,” P. Diddy rapped, “Don’t worry if I write rhymes / I write checks,” and that became more than just a clever aside, it was his style of hip-hop. Virtuosity disappeared and this other kind of skill—a ringmaster skill, something closer to what you’d find in a corporate manager—emerged.

On having a day job:

The Fallon show is a day job in the best sense. We’re in by noon and gone by seven, and in between we make a show. It’s highly structured, and as a result, the opportunities we have for creativity are really distilled: not reduced at all, but disciplined, forced into existing forms and packages.

And some good lines:

  • I write things because I want to get to the point where I have written things. (Ben Greenman)
  • What a shitty way to go through life, hiding your love for music so that people don’t think the wrong things about you.
  • Switching off perfection switched on the human quality.
  • I feel like my cultural value comes from my role as a bridge. My job is to connect brilliant have-nots to the land of haves.
  • How do you plan a rebirth? I’m not sure you do. You just stand in the darkness until you can’t endure it any longer, and then you move forward until you’re standing in the light.
  • It’s a funny word, persistence. It means not giving up, but it also means just passing on through time.
  • When you live your life through records, the records are a record of your life.™ (Is this really trademarked?)
  • I was an indoor kid with a tendency to fall inward.

Recommended.

May 24, 2014
Permalink
Beyoncé isn’t Beyoncé because she reads comments on the Internet. Beyoncé is in Ibiza, wearing a stomach necklace, walking hand in hand with her hot boyfriend. She’s going on the yacht and having a mimosa. She’s not reading shitty comments about herself on the Internet, and we shouldn’t either. I just think, Would Beyoncé be reading this? No, she would just delete it or somebody would delete it for her. What I really need to do is close the computer and then talk back to that voice and say, Fuck you. I don’t give a shit what you think. I’m Beyoncé. I’m going to Ibiza with Jay-Z now, fuck off. Being criticized is part of the job, but seeking it out isn’t. That’s our piece to let go.
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