Friday, 6 May 2011

Artist Unknown – Anal Males & Truth-Seeking With Diderot

One of the problems with transferring tracks from one medium to another can be a loss of the artist’s name, as I was reminded the other day when checking my MP3 player to see who I was listening to, only to read ‘Unknown’. Annoying, of course, but then, I was freed from all knowledge and it felt strangely liberating. So what?
   LJ’s not too hot at naming artists, but then, she a woman – ha! She has other priorities, like being able to name a flower, in Latin. Being ‘anal’ (how did that word come to signify obsession?) about music is, on the whole, a male prerogative. It starts early. I know that girls weren’t sitting around two doors along discussing and salivating over new soul 45s like we were as young teenagers. Typically, from this pool of testosterone and tune-fuelled boys DJs are born – a bird behind the decks in the 70s? No way.
   Characteristically, growing into men they do battle over the biggest/best/rarest music collections, of course. Those, that is, who persist with music. In all the record shops I’ve visited over the years, boys and men were the market – Soul Boys, Funk Fiends, Electronica Heads (that should end with a ‘z’, probably), Jungle Junkies and so on. Knowing who had made what seemed to matter. Knowing labels, bands, singers, dates, genres etc.
   Nowadays I find that with the music overload situation I frequently listen to tracks without knowing the artist. But then, I’ve no-one to question me so it matters little. This can lead to problems, of course, such as getting something I already have and not necessarily going on to track down more great work by a certain artist, which is the main reason for all this knowing, I suppose. To research, find alternate monikers, perhaps. But just as too many sounds overwhelm us, so too does all that information. Yes, you can Wiki anything, anybody, and that is good, but ultimately my brain melts.
   In the 18th century, Diderot said of books: "As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes." And so he predicted information overload. What he said of books can equally apply to music. I sometimes think it would be better to search for ‘truth’ in one brilliant piece of music rather than keep on scouring the sonic universe for it. But this talk of ‘truth’ in art is too profound for me. I’ll start with just making sure I know the name of the creator.

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