Monday, April 20, 2009

Critical Review #8: Wald

In "Polka Contrabandista," Wald discusses the rise of Mexican corridos both in the north of Mexico and south of the United States, and explains how and why thy are important to both of these societies. Los Tigres del Norte, a band that rose up by singing about the lives of "narcotraficantes" or drug dealers, sing a type of Mexican folk song, the narcocorrido. According to Wald, these songs serve both as a voice and a newspaper for the proletariat, as it talks about issues that happen in their lives while also creating tales and myths about this culture. The rise of this type of music also calls upon a newer appreciation to Mexican culture, which combines both European and American influences

Why do you think corridos, although almost specific to mexican culture, have become popular in other Latin American cultures that don't share the same culture? Or do you think that there are other aspects of Latin American culture in these songs that allow for the adoption of this music everywhere?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Field Notes #2

I had been in an ongoing MySpace messages coversation with Brendan Glasson from Vio/Mire, but unfortunatly he hasn't been available lately. I sent him some questions over for him to answer that i formulated after my interview with Evan, but unfortunately he hasn't been able to respond yet. I figured then to use my interview with Evan and some internet resources to formulate my second field notes. I usually looked at older conversations with him that were in a freer form. Hopefully I'll be able to get an answer back from Vio/Mire to have at least one band's point of view about the scene before writing the final ethnography

It would be best to start out by defining what I mean by indie folk. I do not mean "indie" in the market sense, I think it is easy to recognize the indie rock sound as apparently it has become a sound aesthetic. When I say indie I do not mean the new "alternative." I mean indie as independent, either on a small label or self released, that values a DIY culture or an art culture. These bands are strictly local, and their more "national" audience comes from small tours usually organized by the band members themselves, not from advertisement or commercial back up. By folk I mean the traditional more acoustic music that finds its roots in both traditional music and the American folk revival exemplified by artists such as Bob Dylan.
As I found out from by interview with Evan, the Providence folk scene, more specifically the one related to musicians such as Annikki Dawn, find their music more related to the New Weird America genre, which is basically a more psychodelic/experimental folk movement. Others find influence in country, like Deer Tick (although I am having more problems defining them as strictly independent or experimental), and even the Providence Noise scene with its strictly experimental music. Indie or Experimental folk, as said by Evan in a way I found both funny and true from my observations, is "country music played by people with tattoos", and by extension, facial hair. By indie then I do not only mean independent in the commercial sense, but also in the creative sense, as it allows for more experimentation.

It is interesting to note from the interview that the scene is not strictly musical. Although music plays a big part in the scene, it seems to be more about a place for social gathering and self-expression. Yet as Evan noted many times, different people in the scene with different backgrounds experience it differently. I am interested in hearing from Vio/Mire on how he contributes to the scene and how he sees his music as a part of it. Hopefully I'll find out if he does it for love of music, love of art, or simply self expression, or who knows, all of the above. As he once in our conversations mentioned his and his friend's music as "art", I'm assuming that it extends towards an overall appreciation of art.

As I had expected, the scene is pretty small. To be a part of the scene you need to know people, or have connections with people. The scene then is more of a small circle of friends, and as said by Evan, that share similar thoughts, ideas, and maybe even backgrounds. These backgrounds though can also be varied. In general terms though, the people in the scene are mostly white, middle class, from Providence East Side. The educational backgrounds vary, and those who come from a less academic background seem to have a blatant resentment towards it. I will go on in much more detail later, as I feel this is the most complex part of the scene.

Aparently what me and Allyssa saw at the Deer Tick concert we went to was misleading on the size of those who are actually in the scene, as first Deer Tick is a more national band and attracts younger people, and also the concert had many High School bands play before which also attracted many college students. According to Evan, the ones really in the scene were those up front with their shirts off.

The best internet resource I found that had infomation on Vio/Mire was a little section in Leisure Class Records. It describes the music as spanning from pop/folk to ambient sound art. It mentions the fact that Chris Ryan the bassist in Deer Tick, as I said on my last field notes, plays the upright bass often. I didn't find much information I didn't already know from the internet sources, as Brendan had previously told me Leisure Class Records is no longer functioning (at least not as his label). He is now back to producing his own music, making very limited copies and selling them mostly at shows.

As I heard from Evan, Kayla from Annikki Dawn, is actually not only a musician but an artist. I'll try to get in touch with her and ask her about her work, and if not possible, I have found some archives at BSR's live block where she performed, and I'm sure I can get some useful information about her from there.

I have kind of decided that Deer Tick, although related to the scene as everyone knows them and have some musical and social connections with other bands, could not really considered a part of this branch that I am looking at, since they have a more national following, have played with bigger bands, and at bigger venues, like Lupo's next week. Also, according to Evan, their initial goal was not to experiment with sound as other bands I am looking into have, but to bring back a kind of nostalgic country sound. Taking this into consideration, Deer Tick hasn't compromised their music for popularity as their reason for making music is still the same. Yet, they cannot be pulled into this branch of experimental/indie folk I am looking into.

Evan mentioned a little about the "style" of participants in the scene which I found interesting. Although there isn't a strict code of what to wear or not to wear, there still seems to appear a fairly homogeneous ideology behind what they wear. Bringing back this whole nostalgia for the country and a different reality than the city they have grown up in, they wear an ironic "white trash" look, from their ironic mullets to their mustaches, ironic bad tattoos with american flags and eagles, flannel shirts, old fashioned glasses, cut off jeans, among other things. Yet at the same time there is a legitimate yearning for these "ideals" to go back into american society. I feel like this epitomizes the scene, a sort of contrast and tension between things they ironically wear and display yet at the same time genuinely want.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Critical Review #7: Marshall

In this blog description and analysis of reggaeton, Marshall spends a lot of time discussing and analyzing what makes the reggaeton sound distinct. According to him, reggaeton is digital music, and it can be distinguished by the sound of the snare and the "pluck" instrument, recognizable from Fruity Loops. He questions if the fact that this music is produced in a "toylike" program like FL makes the music more or less legitimate. He also explains about the history of reggeaton, and how although it kind of originated from spanish reggae and rap, it is not just a spanish version of those two genres. This is proven by the new english versions of reggaeton, that even though they are in english, it is still recognizable as reggaeton. This means that this genre has developed it own sound.

Do you think that the fact that there is a very distinct reggaeton rythm that is repeated in basically every song in the genre makes the genre less acceptable or good? Can you think of any other genres that use the exact same rhythm (or some sort of musical element) patter in their music?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Critical Review #6: Duany

In this historical account and then analysis of Puerto Rican Salsa, Duany argues that Puerto Rico's history was highly inluential int eh creation of the musical style. He argues that the interactions between Whites (originally from Spain), Amerindians and Africans and then the interactions between the mixes of these three original ethnic groups, plus then the interaction between Puerto Ricans living in the island with those living in the United States, led to the creation of Salsa. This can be seen by its influences from African folk Bomba, the Cuban Son, the Spanish Seis, the Mulatto Plena and the American Jazz. Duany argues that Salsa, although made to dance to, is also a tale of Puerto Rican everyday life and reality, a type of folk poetry. The Cocolos, the Puerto Rican youth who is most associated with Salsa, juxtaposed with the Rockeros, show the conflict between Puerto Ricans trying to keep in touch with their roots and yearning to assimilate a new culture.

Why do you think that some Puerto Rican youth decided to create a very obvious identity, that of the Cocolos, in order to keep in touch with their roots? Do you think this same goal could be achieved without adopting a way of looking? Where do you think this aesthetic (outmoded flowered shirts, polyester pants, tennis shoes, afro picks, huge radios) is inspired from? How do you think this shows their Puerto Rican or Salsa identities?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Critical Review #5: Back (Part 1)

In "'Inglan, nice up!': black music, autonomy and the cultural intermezzo", Back talks about how and why a black english music scene developed in Britain. He mentions how it was developed as "black bans" let working class blacks to look for other types of leisure. Because of this, black run venues emerged. This allowed caribbean blacks to create their music through a mix of reggae, eventually adding rap and creating their own mixes. He mentions how this music although it first talked about th realities in Jamaica, it then talked about the realities of blacks in England, who felt englishness and blackness was separate. These two identities he argues, are brought together by dance.

Why do you think rap music, which started in America, was so easily adopted by blacks in London? Do you think it has to do with similarities in their realities or backgrounds? Or simply because they could relate to it as "black" music?