When reading How Music Got Free one of the things that struck me was just how easy it actually was to pirate songs, and how far we’ve come from the late nineties to now. The fact that the ipod itself, something that I would pay $1.29 per song for (or .99 if the song wasn’t popular at the time) could hold illegally downloaded music is something I never knew. The fact that the music industry was actively partnering with and selling a device that easily hold songs that were stolen from them, that they were basically giving people who illegally downloaded something that they made a lot of money off of is just really funny to me. Morris basically gave up, said “whatever” and decided to just sue kids instead of going after the leak, which again, is really funny, but also extremely unfortunate for the people who were prosecutes for it. Between this and the backlash from the Hubcap lawsuit, it’s no wonder to me that itunes and similar sites are simply dying out. Streaming services have risen up in their place as the source of most of my and my friends’ music listening, as well as audio off of youtube. I personally use Spotify, which I don’t have to pay a cent for as long as I have wifi and listen to ads every now and then, which I’m perfectly okay with as opposed to paying $1.29 per song I buy. If I don’t want to listen to ads or want to listen without wifi I can just pay for premium, which is $5 a month. I don’t think the file sharers of the nineties would have thought at the time this would be an actual service one day, but I’m glad it’s here and I hope they are too.
There wasn’t class today, but the articles posted for us to read were all about passwords, cybersecurity, and how easy it is for us to get hacked. The first article really did hit home for me because I use pretty much the same few passwords for every one of my accounts, so if I forget what it is for a specific account I can just rotate through the list and try them all, knowing it’s going to be one of them. The fact that there are sites and services that you can buy other people’s account information from for as little as $4 is absolutely terrifying to me. I’ve been “minorly” hacked a few times before, I fell victim to a facebook scam when I was in middle school where someone on my friends list messaged me a video asking if I was in it, and when I clicked on it I started sending out the same message to all of the people on my own friends list. I also got a call from my grandmother recently saying that she had received a fake email from me with a similar virused link attached, but she was smart enough not to open it. In both cases I simply changed my password and moved on, but the fact that it’s so easy for someone to get into your entire life, hack multiple “secure” accounts just because you clicked on a sketchy link is really scary. How often this has been happening on a national level with big banking corporations and government agencies is also rather terrifying and especially frustrating. How are we supposed to trust the government with our safety and protection when they can’t even keep our data safe? They’re supposed to have the best systems in the world guarding our information and yet there have been an increasing number of data breaches, as shown by the wiki article and recent events, that put us at major risk. It’s not right.
The term that I chose to search was “screamo” music, which to be honest I know nothing about but I thought it would be interesting to see where it was first mentioned, because as far as I know it’s a fairly recent genre. I found the first use of the word in 1969, which I really wasn’t expecting, I thought I’d find the first mention at least a decade later, it then dips back down to 0% after 1976, has a resurgence from 1980 to 1994 with a peak in 1986, and then reemerges again in 1999, and shoots up until 2008, where it’s projected to keep rising. Although upon further investigation I found that the word itself wasn’t used to describe the actual music genre until around the late nineties, and previous uses of it meant anything from cigar brands, porcelain, and even a name of a pet in a novel. The quotes I found about the actual music were in articles without ebooks, so it was kind of hard to get better quotes, and they didn’t really give me much besides listing some band names with a brief description of the style of music, and the importance of fashion to the genre: (Although I did get a great description of traveler’s diarrhea from an infectious disease handbook referring to it as “the hot galloping screamos”)
“So last week the New York Times ran an article called “Summer of Screamo.” It was a poorly researched article that was mostly about bands that have had some mild level of mainstream success such as The Used and Thursday.”
“The angry planets have aligned so that three of screamo’s primo torchbearers have dropped major-label platters just in time to save the day from the nii-metal backlash.”
“Posters, banners, table tents and the ScreamO-Meter backbar piece encourage customers to compete in the most blood-curdling scream contest to win T-shirts, bandannas, eye patches, tattoos, pirate earrings, and mustaches and beards.”
This class we talked a lot about crowdsourcing, freedom of information, and started on the topic of copyrighting. Wikipedia was cited as one of the best, if not the best example we have today on the accuracy of information due to crowdsourcing, the pages are just out there and pretty much anyone can add to these pages, with more people looking at and checking it for accuracy whenever they please, editing it, and then adding their own information. There are so many people who know at least a little bit on so many different topics, that you can get highly accurate and detailed information on anything you want just from putting it out to a random group of people. That’s insane to me. We talked a little bit about encyclopedias, how they were created during the time of the French Revolution, which must have been hectic for the authors, and how it created a need for a new organizational structure which tried to list every known thing in the world under a few different categories. The “owning” of information has always been used as a mark of the upper class, historically, even really unintelligent members of the ruling classes had extensive libraries to show their rivals that they were “learned men”; and so up until fairly recently having a set of encyclopedias was something that you tried to discreetly display in your home as a status symbol. One of the figures we talked about was Richard Stalman and his four freedoms of software: Freedom to run it for any purpose, To study how the program works, Freedom to redistribute copies, and Freedom to improve the program and release improvements to the public. He believes that all information should be free and open to anyone who wishes to access it, and while I agree, I also don’t really think it’s entirely realistic in our current society. While a lot of our information is free, there are definitely many pieces of information that are not, and whoever has them either will not give them up, or will not give them up without a price.
The point of this class was to make us more informed consumers of technology, and this class we discussed how people both change and restore history, and whether they or anyone else has the right to do one or the other. One of the points made was that textbooks are seen as the ultimate authority on a subject that many of us don’t know much about, or don’t think we know very much about. Honestly I know many people who have become experts in certain subjects, history, math, and even carpentry and blacksmithing just from watching videos on the internet or researching online documents and articles. Textbooks make it seem like history or other academic subjects are in the hands of people we know nothing about, but trust simply because they’ve been chosen to write about the subject, which is weird. here’s a similar structure going on with museums, how they take pieces of history and lock it away where everyone can see but no one can touch or interact with it, which makes sense given people’s tendency to mess up artifacts, but then how much are we really getting out of seeing it? There question of whether or not we actually have the right to alter history in order to get a point across also came up, an example is when the smithsonian tried to put in a lunch counter sit-in exhibit to bring up the history of civil rights. People were just reminiscing about their own personal history with lunch counters when it was on ground level with them, with barely any mention of their significance in the fight for civil rights, and to combat this they moved the counter a few feet off the ground on a platform. This caused people to see it as more “significant” even though lunch counters weren’t actually that high, when the point of the exhibit in the first place was to make it realistic and have people be able to interact with it as people in the 50’s and 60’s could have. I think it’s sad that sometimes people don’t really get the message a symbol or an exhibit is trying to get across by just having it there in its natural state, and that sometimes alterations that don’t make it entirely accurate but get the point across are necessary
During last class we focused on the Great Migration and how that affected music preferences in America, and so this class we focused on white migration, namely during the early 1900’s and with a boom during the Great Depression. They moved into cities for better economic opportunities, and like with the Great Migration, brought with them a nostalgia for the positive elements of country life they had left behind. There were multiple levels of displacement with the style of Country music that evolved from this situation; first of all in the theme of some of our earlier discussions, records themselves were a displacement of time and space as pictures and railways were. When a record was recorded, it was a moment in time and space that would never happen again being preserved forever. Country music was understood at the time as Country people looking forward to the advantages of their new city lives, combined with a nostalgia for their old way of life, something that artists such as Hank Williams tapped into. Most of his songs were about people coming from a slower, country way of life dealing with situations they find themselves in while living in the city. Another slightly earlier artist named Jimmy Rogers, considered to be the first country music star, capitalized on this trend in a more obvious way; in his recorded performances he dressed up in rough country clothes with a country backdrop behind him. For country music stars of both that era and today, and really in any sort of music, there is a pressure to fit a certain image or idea that certain artists should dress a certain way, and if they don’t then they are not “authentic” enough for audiences.
One of the main points we talked about this class was The Great Migration, and how the changing social and racial structure of America changed and affected music in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Because of the influx of African Americans who had formerly lived in the country to major cities like Chicago, the style of music heard in those places changed. Unfortunately the Great Migration was a not a happy one, but was born out of a need for African American families to flee the south for their safety, and to escape monstrous injustices. Jim Crow laws disenfranchised and discriminated against African American people, starting mostly in the 1880’s and 90’s, and escalating quickly into violent lynchings and torture. One of the things that I found especially sick about the whole process is that postcards of the lynching were sold afterwards, and people who attended would send them to their family members like it was just a fun day out with the family. It honestly horrified me. And the fact that it only stopped when the NAACP started reprinting the postcards in their magazines and the audience changed from a white audience to an outraged African American audience is also extremely troubling. Anyway, the Great Migration lead to a nostalgia for the familiar country life in cities, and so country and folk artists came into demand. Sold as “Southern” records to both white and black people living in the cities, they were a way for artists to integrate behind the scenes without being in the public eye. I thought this was interesting, that black and white artists could collaborate on a record, but the same artist couldn’t perform together in public.
One of the big topics we started to get into this class is the relation between music and race relations in the US. The first thing we looked at was the difference between the beat structures of New World music with European origins, which emphasizes the 1 and 3 count, and Afro influenced music which emphasizes the 2 and 4 count. This was something I had never realized before, but could definitely recognize when I thought about it and watched the examples in class, and I had the same reaction when it was pointed out that songs by traditional black artists tend to have a lagging beat when compared to white artists. This lagging beat gives the song a more sensual, relaxed, and laid-back feel that a lot of white artists can’t achieve with their energetic, fast-paced leading beat. There was also a weird displacement thing going on between the entertainment production companies and black and white artists, for example Louis Prima was an Italian American man who grew up in New Orleans and was influenced by the music style of the predominantly black artists who lived there. He made a name for himself as a white artist who imitated “black style” and when Disney was producing their animated film
The Jungle Book, they cast Prima as a pseudo-Louis Armstrong character, King Louis the Ape. The association with a black artist being portrayed as an Ape in a popular and respected film of the time is bad enough, but the fact that it isn’t even a black artist playing the character is just an example of so many weird levels of displacement in the industry at the time, and the lingering white fascination for what they view as black culture.
This class we moved away from our previous discussions of computers and those sorts of technologies and started to focus more on the political and social implications of music. One of the main examples of this that we discussed were minstrel shows, and how they represented both blatant racism and a fascination for “black culture”. Humans have always been fascinated by what we deem as “boundary transgressing animals”, or people/creatures that do not fit into the categories that we as a society have come up with. One of the concepts that stuck with me this class is the idea that “pop culture is weird, politics is very segregated.” Which is something that I never realized, and I thought it was weird when it was first brought up, until I thought about it more and realized that in every example I can think of, political change has been brought about because of social change, not he other war around. Action happens in the political sphere because the citizens of the nation fight for it, I can’t think of any policy enacted that did not a first have a majority of the people behind it. Except maybe prohibition but we fixed that fairly quickly. The idea that the minstrel shows of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were anything but a racist caricature of black culture used to propagate negative stereotypes of the black community had never occurred to me. I mean they still are terrible racist caricatures, but the fact that in a historical sense, they illustrate a fascination with black people and black culture that I had never realized was in society at the time. That white people could make and pass laws limiting the basic human rights of black people, lynch them, and then the next day be entertained by a show claiming to portray black culture is fascinating in its hypocrisy to me.
The industrial production boom that started during WW2 gave us our first electric computer near the tail end of the war in 1944. Where we had had analog computer based on gears for years, this was the first example of a computing technology based on electric signals, and it was created for use by the military sector to help calculate missile trajectories. This was significant as it was the first large-scale use of the technology of converting numbers into electrical signals and vice versa, forever changing the computing industry and turning the process into one people couldn’t see, unlike with gears. And while WW2 may have sparked military computing interests, we can thank the Cold War for many of the modern innovations we take advantage of today when we use our personal computers. The internet, for example, was formed out of a need for physicists and scientists to be able to communicate quickly and effectively with one another when it came to developing weapons technology. I think its very interesting and even a little sad how much military spending influences our technology, I never knew that so much our daily technologies were brought about because we were afraid of what another country might do to us, which I think says a lot about us as people, that we really aren’t willing to invest a significant amount of resources into a project unless it has some sort of potential military benefit.