Saturday, November 3, 2012

Yui Yatyoe | Cha Rot Mai Nia

Listen to "สองแสนแหวนวง"

Get it all here.

In his 1995 book Ocean of Sound, David Toop quotes Jimi Hendrix talking to Melody Maker during the last year of his life on the possibilities of expanded musical textures:

"I don't mean three harps and fourteen violins ... I mean a big band full of competent musicians I can conduct and write for. And with the music we will paint pictures of earth and space, so that the listener can be taken somewhere." 

Toop then describes how two of Hendrix's posthumous records, Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning, were assembled after his death, basically using a cut-and-paste sort of method to pull together unfinished tracks, speeding up or slowing down things to match keys and adding new parts where, say, a guitar track abruptly ended with no clue as to where it might have gone.

Reading this passage, one comes away with a sense of the real power of the studio, one that almost seems to contradict how the studio is so often used today, especially by the southeast Asian music industry. 

What we have here tonight is an example of what music blogger and Thai pop music cataloger Peter Doolan calls "guitar & keyboard workstation-driven luk thung." Listening to the sample above, it's difficult to tell what's "live" and what's "canned": the drums, for instance, clearly falling into the latter category; the guitar, voice and possibly the horns falling into the former. "Workstation-driven" seems like the perfect descriptor: these albums are cranked out, one after the other--this is, in fact, CD number 16 (Peter posted number 3 from what I believe is this same series on his great Monrakplengthai blog, here). God only knows how many total CDs there are.

But does this factory-output approach to pop music make it any less fabulous than something more "authentic"? Does it, in fact, make this music any less "authentic"? 

I would say no. The studio is a factory, no matter who's in it or how it's being used; I was blown away watching David Byrne and St. Vincent perform live on the Colbert Report the other night, so much so that I immediately went and downloaded the album, Love This Giant, that they were promoting. And it just didn't have the same oomph as their live performance. It sounded canned. And, in that case, it wasn't because they were substituting a drum machine for drums, or a synthesizer for horns. It just felt "cold" in comparison to the live performance.

I've always argued that there is nothing "authentic" about popular music. That authenticity is not a quality or attribute in any way relevant to the art form. But there is one way in which popular music can be said to be authentic, for, in order to become truly popular, it must offer an "authentic" reflection, simultaneously, of the dreams and real lives of those who consume it--the soundscape version of its listeners' life- and dreamscape. 

Thanks to the aforementioned Peter Doolan for transliterating this album and identifying the singer. The title, by the way, translates as "I Will Survive," at least according to Google's translation feature ...

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