Thursday, May 28, 2009

Vanina Marsot in Berlin

(click image to enlarge)

Polly want a mosaic

copyright © 2009 Vanina Marsot

Click here to order your copy of Vanina Marsot's new book, Foreign Tongue: A Novel of Life and Love in Paris.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Vanina Marsot in Berlin

(click image to enlarge)

old fashioned phone booth

copyright © 2009 Vanina Marsot

Click here to order your copy of Vanina Marsot's new book, Foreign Tongue: A Novel of Life and Love in Paris.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vanina Marsot in Berlin

(click image to enlarge)

view of the museum island from the bridge

copyright © 2009 Vanina Marsot

Click here to order your copy of Vanina Marsot's new book, Foreign Tongue: A Novel of Life and Love in Paris.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Profound Movie Quotes

"I married a banana. I married a fucking banana."

-The Border

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I'm Just Going To Keep On Dancing (Dancing! Dancing!)

Diamonds are of very rare occurrence on the earth's surface, and hence their discover costs, on average, a great deal of labour-time. Consequently much labour is represented in a small volume...With richer mines, the same quantity of labour would be embodied in more diamonds, and their value would fall. If man succeeded without much labour, in transforming carbon into diamonds, their value might fall below that of bricks.

Marx, Capital, p. 130, 131

Is there a relation between value and excellence?

The recorded music of Lowell Davidson is of very rare occurrence on earth's surface. Does that alone--the rarity of Lowell Davidson's congealed labor--make his one record so completely valuable? And is that "value" the same as "excellence?"

What about Ken Vandermark? Would his music be any more valuable (or "excellent") if he had a total of 3 recordings to his name?

What would music (the sound of it, the experience of producing it, the experience of consuming it) be like if musicians could only release a total of 5 recordings? They could play live all they wanted, but only 5 recordings at the most.

Is anything happening to the "value" (or excellence) of music as a whole in light of the "digital revolution"--specifically said revolution's facilitating the self-release?

What would cars be worth if everyone could make their own in the back yard?

What would the experience of driving be worth if everyone on earth had their own car that they had made themselves?

(I really really really am asking questions here, and not trying to bate or "takedown" anyone or any industry. Honest.)

+ + +

Just as commodities have a dual character, possessing both use-value and exchange-value, so labour in itself has a twofold nature. Use-value is created by 'concrete' or 'useful' labour, defined by Marx as 'productive activity of a definite kind, carried on with a definite aim', whereas exchange-value derives from 'abstract' or 'undifferentiated' labour, which is measured purely in terms of its duration--and there is an inherent tension between the two. A tailor, for instance, may strive to make the hardest-wearing coat of which he or she is capable. If it is too hard-wearing, however, the purchaser need never return to buy a replacement, so jeopardizing the tailor's business. The same applies to the weaver who created the cloth from which the coat was swen. The need to create use-value thus finds itself in conflict with the need to continue creating exchange value.

...'Within its value relation to the linen,' (Marx) writes, 'the coat signifies more than it does outside it, just as some men count for more when inside a gold-braided uniform than they do otherwise'

Wheen, Francis. Marx's Das Kapital, A biography. p.41-42

What then, under capitalism, is the impetus for doing one's best? And why, under capitalism, are "we" disciplined and punished for not doing (the boss-capitalist's perception of) one's best?

Are "prestigeous" record labels a kind of "gold-braided uniform" that makes men (and their CD's) count for more when inside them?

Would John Coltrane still have made the music of John Coltrane (as we know it) if he was on the John Coltrane record label, distributed out of a garage somewhere on Long Island? Did Impulse or (ha! Prestige) ever artistically constrain John Coltrane due to extra musical, exchange-value reasons?

Holy crap I love that web site. Y'all have been right? I really love the graps comparing Pitchfork Media and Billboard magazine.

Question: what would "music" (and by extension, life) be like if Pitchfork had Billboard's capital? Would it be exactly the same?

The stark comparison of Pitchfork and Billboard via graphs and the like made me wish that CD's came with (and CD reviews consisted of) a graph that showed what percentage of the music was "exchange value music" and what percentage was "use value music"--because it is a zero-sum deal.

Is the Lowell Davidson recording (singular) an example of a music with a very high use value and a very low exchange value?

Can we think of any recordings with a very low use value, but a very high exchange value?

Is there a relation between a recording's use value, exchange value, value, and the number of copies printed?

+ + +

Only the products of mutually independent acts of labour, performed in isolation, can confront each other as commodities.

(Marx, Capital, p.132)

People under capitalism do not relate to each other directly as human beings, they relate to one another through the myriad products which they encounter in the market

David Harvey, video 2, ca. 57'10"

However glorious its apparent economic triumphs, capitalism remains a disaster since it turns people into commodities, exchangeable for other commodities. Until humans can assert themselves as the subjects of history rather than its objects, there is no escape from this tyranny.

Wheen, Francis, Marx's Das Kapital, a biography, p. 13

There is a phrase, one I'm about to mangle, related to the economic nature of "Jazz", and that phrase is that it, (the economic nature of jazz) is a bunch of, uh, "Jazz musicians" fighting over a chicken wing on the corner. Ever hear that one?

When creating exchange-value music--nay, when consciously incorporating the slightest concession to the exchange-value-aesthetic (and don't tell me there isn't one), are musicians commodities or are musicians human?

Bill Dixon has at times suggested the existence of two kind of music producers: Musicians and Personalities. If I had to guess, and this is only a guess, a Musician creates use-value music, where as a Personality creates exchange-value music.

+ + +

In itself, an increase in the quantity of use-values constitutes an increase in material wealth. Two coats will clothe two men, one coat will only clothe one man, etc. Nevertheless, an increase in the amount of material wealth may correspond to a simultaneous fall in the magnitude of its value. This contradictory movement arises out of the twofold character of labour. By 'productivity' of course, we always mean the productivity of concrete useful labour; in reality this determines only the degree of effectiveness of productive activity directed towards a given purpose within a given period of time. Useful labour becomes, therefore, a more or less abundant source of products in direct proportion as its productivity rises or falls. As against this, however, variations in productivity have no impact whatever on the labour itself represented in value. As productivity is an attribute of labour in its concrete useful form, it naturally ceases to have any bearing on that labour as soon as we abstract from its concrete useful form. The same labour, therefore, performed for the same length of time, always yields the same amount of value, independently of any variations in productivity. But it provides different quantities of use-values during equal periods of time; more, if productivity rises; fewer, if it falls. For this reason, the same change in productivity which increase the fruitfulness of labour, and therefore the amount of use-values produced by it, also brings about a reduction in the value of this increased total amount, if it cuts down the total amount of labour-time necessary to produce the use-values.

Marx, Capital, p. 137

Learned: One can accumulate a great deal of wealth by making things of very little value.

What if you were only allowed to release 5 albums in your life time...

I like the part that says "variations in productivity have no impact whatever on the labor itself represented in the value." Does this mean if Lowell Davidson was given a MacArthur grant and used it to produce dozens upon dozens of releases, he (Lowell Davidson/Lowell Davidson's labour) would still be great but his recordings would be of proportionately less value?

What would our culture be like if the music of Lowell Davidson was a prevalent as Justin Timberlake? What if those two were to do a capital switch-a-roo? Would Justin Timberlake suddenly assume the identity-as-exchange-value previously, uh, enjoyed by Lowell Davidson during his active years of musical labor, or would he remain be the Justin Timberlake we've always known and loved?

So many questions!

(Are you wishing me luck in the blog contest? if not, WISH ME LUCK IN THE BLOG CONTEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

copyright © 2009 Stanley J. Zappa

Profound Movie Quotes

"Thinking is the wet blanket of Romance."

-A Successful Failure

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.

+ + +

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.

+ + +

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.

+ + +

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.

+ + +

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