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Millard 308-312, ch 15 and 17, Dyer, and Lawrence

This weeks readings discuss punk, disco, and rap, as well as the move into the digital age.

Millard does not give a great impression of disco. According to him, most people considered it mainstream garbage that relied on technology to produce, and was therefore inauthentic. The use of the synthesizer and other equipment made it an emotionless musical experience. At the same time, rock and other forms were becoming increasingly mainstream and losing their edge. As an alternative, punk music was introduced to go against everything that was mainstream; no technology was used to create it and the lyrics often contained antiestablishment or protest messages. Punk was raw music and an emotional experience when watched live. The contrast between punk and “professional” rock or disco falls into the debate between fidelity and authenticity we discussed earlier in the semester. While the technology produced music with a higher fidelity, rock was accused of becoming too professional and thus less authentic. On the other hand, punk used no technology and had low fidelity, but it was real and unique, and therefore authentic.

Dyer offers a compelling defense for disco as well as a mini lesson on Marxist theory of capitalism. Disco has been criticized as something that was just churned out by capital to profit off of, but as Dyer correctly notes, “capital constructs the disco experience, but it does not necessarily know what it is doing, apart from making money.” While some people may have bought the preferred reading of disco, others, like gay people, saw an alternative meaning in it. Gay people read disco as physical and erotic. It can be argued that to take something capital produced, twist it, and use it in a way not intended by capital is just as much subversive as punk music’s rejection of technology. On the same note, rap music’s origins with sampling and DJs used cassette tapes and turntables in ways the producers of the products never intended them to be used. While punk is overtly antiestablishment, these alternative readings subtly screw with the system.

Lawrence gives quite a detailed account of the evolution of gay discotheques. I still had Marx in my head while I read this so it particularly struck me how the mix of people in these nightclubs constantly changed. It began with Pines, an elitist club only for affluent gays, then Baths where everyone got in and you didn’t know who you were dancing with so class distinctions totally dissolved, and finally there was Loft which had the most mixed crowd of all. According to Marxist theory, capital’s success depends on class distinction and class conflict so we see again a subversive reading of disco that challenges it’s own capitalistic roots.

Finally, Millard brings us into the digital age. It’s funny to see how history repeats itself. Decades ago, companies tried to compete with each other by using different types of discs so one’s phonograph would only play the discs made by the same company; there was no standardized form. As we moved into the digital age, a similar thing happened with CDs, MDs, and other formats. As we all know, the CD came out on top, but it wouldn’t be too long before mp3’s came around and changed the game once again. Furthermore, we see again a consumer preference for convenience and portability, which would drive companies to create devices that were increasingly smaller and user-friendly.

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November 6th, 2010 at 9:19 am

10 Responses to “Millard 308-312, ch 15 and 17, Dyer, and Lawrence”

  1.   robert shemanski Says:

    The key here is technological changes in different era. As sound quality gets better the music gets better. The problem is how do we determine different genre of music that came around during the years. The answer is simple here. People want change in there music. They want it to be simplified so there is no work involved. The era of music has changed through the years. At the time the author argues the punk music was more authentic. Why would the author say that? It was a change in music with new rhythms, beats of music that were not heard before. Many people became big fans of that type of music. As an artist the key is to be original. A good example of change in music was the pop music lasted for almost a decade from the early 1980’s to the early 1990’s. A band named Nirvana came out with a song “Like A Teen Spirit.” This type of music was never heard before but a new generation of music was created and the result was phenomenal. Everybody wanted to hear more of that type of music now. Kurt Kuban changed the industry to hard rock alternative. Bret Michaels of Poison said it best at the time Our type of music is dead now hopefully not for to long.” It’s amazing how pop music was so popular for so long and then because of one song the ride stahls until the early 2000 when pop/rock came back to the mainstream. To me this article proves people like to hear new fresh music. One day we will hear music that was never produced before and some new genre of music will take the stage. It’s just a matter of time before this happens.

  2.   sm09 Says:

    Music has a way of relating to various groups of people in strange ways. I didn’t realize before this reading that disco originally had a very large impact on the gay community. I always pictured studio 54, bell bottoms, big hair, and John Travolta when I thought of the disco era. I agree with your comment about the Marxist theory and how music can challenge the social structure because one genre cannot truly be pinpointed to one social class.

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  4.   Robert Says:

    The music quality gets better each year. Have you tried listening to 70s disco and comparing it to 80s sound?

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