Friday, May 1, 2009

Send Sebadoh's "Give Up" Ringtone to Your Cell

We have seen how the growing accumulation of capital involves its growing concentration. Thus the power of capital grows, in other words the autonomy of the social conditions of production, as personified by the capitalist, is asserted more and more as against the actual producers. Capital shows itself more and more to be a social power, with the capitalist as its functionary--a power that no longer stands in any possible kind of relationship to what the work of one particular individual can create, but an alienated social power which has gained an autonomous position and confronts society as a thing, and as the power that the capitalist has through this thing. The contradiction between the general social power into which capital has developed and the private power of the individual capitalist over these social conditions of production develops ever more blatantly, while this development also contains the solution to this situation, in that it simultaneously raises the conditions of production into general, communal, social conditions. This transformation is brought about by the development of the productive forces under capitalist production and by the manner and form in which this development is accomplished.

Marx, Capital III, p. 373

Hey did you hear The Bad Plus Inc. are having a blog writing competition? They, The Bad Plus want "to encourage younger musicians to give blogging a go." If you are a "new blogger" (which is to say, the walls of your cyber cell aren't totally smeared with your own virtual feces) you now have a chance make "$100 cash and, naturally, promotion on DTM. "

Further on, the point is made:

This is not a professional competition. $100 is not much - hopefully it’s just enough to encourage the participants. But blogging is not really professional to begin with; it is done by just those that want to do it.

Is that to say a profession is something you don't want to do? Regardless of the answer, the (above) made me think of this:

(One of three) cardinal fact(s) about capitalist production:

(1) The concentration of the means of production in a few hands, which means that they cease to appear as the property of the immediate workers and are transformed on the contrary into social powers of production. Even if this is at first as the private property of capitalists. The latter are trustees of bourgeois society, though they pocket all the fruits of this trusteeship.

Marx, Capital III, p. 375

This makes me think of a hee-larious apocryphal story about Frank-Zappa-as-capitalist:

Once upon a time there was a young and very talented musician who also was also very talented computer operator. This talented young person was so good with computers he eventually found himself in the employ of such global super capitalists as U2 and Frank Zappa. After working on some MIDI/computerized aspect Frank Zappa's fixed capital (i.e., getting all that computer crap running so the valorization process could continue unhindered) this young talented person enquired if there was any way he could get into the show (so as to see [and hear] the thing he fixed in action--the thing that without his labor, wouldn't otherwise be able to operate.) Frank Zappa's response? "What, do I look like the ticket counter?"

Instant alienation.

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A bit further down in the "a few more suggestions" section:

(2) Takedowns are not what I’m looking for, but I can’t deny that it is important to have dislikes as well as likes. If you do insist on a heavily critical piece I will allow it but expect the wrath of the internet (a phenomenon rather heart-stopping the first time it happens to the unprepared). But the point of this contest - like DTM in general - is the exploration and celebration of excellence.

The first phrase in section (2)--Takedowns are not what I'm looking for--though perhaps not anti-dialectical in its intent, none the less caught my attention as Capital thus far seems to be three volumes of "takedown"--and that seems to be quite close to, if not the essence of dialectics.

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quick pause: hands up, who remembers the ultra great super group Mule and the lyrics to I'm Hell?

You tell me what you think you need,
And I'll give you what I think you lack.

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Forgetting about things like "truth" for a moment, is the towering, awe inspiring, brain bending dialectical takedownedness of Capital incidental or is it central to the power of Capital as narration--as story--as thing to read?

Does Capital's stature of the greatest "takedown" ever written (a "takedown" of, arguably, the greatest blight humanity has yet to create) impinge upon its "knowledge" of subject or its "material" relevance? I guess that depends upon your tax returns. You did file your taxes, didn't you?

The last phrase: But the point of this contest - like DTM in general - is the exploration and celebration of excellence--especially when juxtaposed against section (3) But I will be looking for knowledge of music, not great writing brings about the kind of contradiction that dialecticians have loved for decades.

Contradiction: what happens when a knowledge of music can really only be assessed during the "take down?" Because really, any jackass can shake a pom-pom (Just pick up a copy of Down Beat, Signal to Noise or [gasp!] The Wire and see for yourself,) and really, said jack-assery most fully reveals itself in the failed 'take down'; back at a certain all girl drama academy, Bill Dixon used to tell the story of how he (and his peers) would get Down Beat, find the recordings the critics hated the most and then go look for those records--the logic being if the totally "alienated social power" that are the critics from Down Beat hated it, then there must be a pretty good recording, one worth checking out anyway.

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Certainly by now you've all made your way through the first instalment of David Harvey's most excellent video lecture series on Marx' Capital. In so doing, you most certainly had moment to pause and replay about 80 minutes into the thing wherein Mr. Harvey makes these point about value (which, after all, is a close cousin to "excellence"):

Who and how is value established?

There is a value being determined by a process we do not understand and it is not our choice, it is something that is happening to us, and how it is happening has to be 'unpacked.'

If you want to understand who you are and where you stand in this maelstrom of churning values...what you've got to do is to understand how value gets created, how it gets produced, and with what consequences--socially, environmentally and all the rest of it.

Value is not fixed--value is extremely sensitive to revolutions in technology, revolutions in productivity.

David Harvey lecture on Capital, video 1, introduction.

Is music a commodity?

Is "excellence" an adjective, adverb or noun? Is "excellence" in music an objective value or is it something created by external forces other than the music itself? If it is an objective reality, is this objective excellence something that can be accurately gauged equally by all peoples? Can (musical) excellence be gauged by someone whose own music is not excellent? Can it be gagued by someone who doesn't play music at all?

This theoretically objective "excellence"--is it theoretically permanent, or is this theoretical excellence like all that is solid melt(ing) into the air?

How about these revolutions in technology? Here's a real New Media 101 question: How has the technical revolution that is the web (and the blog) influenced the creation of "excellence" in music? Is the internet responsible for making something "excellent" that without the internet would not be "excellent" or typify "excellence" (or, using Marx's words, "represent value?")

Harvey goes on to ask the question "How is value represented?" (and I go on to ask "How is excellence represented?")

Well, let's see, there's price--like $21 for a download (at that price it must be good...)

Then there is the critic--lord knows they're an unbiased bunch.

Then there is self created propaganda--lord also knows how suited the web is for that, and how well 'self regulated'--and by extension meaningful--that aspect of the internet has become.

Lastly there is 'log rolling' by other (related/combined/concentrated) interests.

Did I miss any?

So all in all, it would appear that the representation of excellence (as well as value) in the aesthetic (particularly musical) sphere is, well, uh, reason enough to listen to the second lecture in David Harvey's excellent series.

Meanwhile, speaking of log-rolling by others, and to qualify this as a "jazz" blog, please do bring your virtual pint glass to the Brewery Tap to enjoy some real "jazz excellence." I call this the best, most excellent "Jazz" release of 2009 with a bit of reservation, as I haven't had adequate time and focus to really dig into the excellence that is Matt Weston's not to be taken away.


copyright © 2009 Stanley J. Zappa