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The Ascent to The Banal: How Success Breaks The Bow and Weakens The Truth

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How crudely we are set upon by the schemes of musicians, who begin in the first instance on a seeking quest, but ultimately terminate with sensory pollution driven by the mistaken need for success. They, who thought their true goal was truth, operated as charlatans until they broke through the industry door to reveal the actual face of their intent. The altered verse of Barrett Strong, “the money, you fuckers, we want your money”, rings through the echelons of Denmark Street, Sugar House Lane, and the Holborn Hexagon. And the other they duteously reply, with one caring hand for the musician and the other secretly pillaging. Turns out it's actually two for the money, one for the show.

For now, let us return to Base Camp Alpha, where visionary ideas are forged. Whether duplicitous or not, a musician's purpose is to make sense of the stimuli that invade and innervate his existence, the outpouring of which is expressed in melody, tone, etcetera. At this stage intentions are purest, maybe a little wonky, but pure nonetheless. Besides, what object does not possess a slight 'wonkiness' or wobble – atomic or cosmic.

Truth is sacrosanct, and forged by emotion is compelled to communicate to others in the mode of performance. If other truth seekers, the audience, can divine and comprehend the musician and his message, then popularity soon develops and a following is born. This can be seen in all juxta-arts, from the poet to the painter. The ascent has begun. High above, barely visible, is the vulture. He knows you are not dead yet, but this is a pernicious vulture who cannot wait, and will attempt to pick your bones while you still breathe.

He also carries a message: the message of profit. He will enable your original message, you original truth, but in return will bleed you dry. No musician ever really sold his soul to the devil; he sold it, blindly, to another of his kind, but not his type. It is not success, but the dissemination of knowledge, of truth, that drives a musician. The message of profit gradually distorts the objective and direction is altered.

The atomic/cosmic 'wonkiness' or wobble is refined/polished. The medium originally intended for communication of the truth, of emotion, becomes a vehicle for capital distribution. Music videos become pristine: recordings, virals, spaces, blogs, even interview chat becomes moronic, repetitive: its new purpose is to sell not tell. The second album, the fated second album fails to continue the journey because it no longer is a vehicle for truth. Its content is stifled, the message garbled by profit. And so continues the ascent to the banal. The audience, the following, begin to see what lies in the truth. Fanatics will cling to snippets of the original communication, trying to decipher the code, but even they will soon begin the search for a new totem, as their once new favourite band sells out. Pseudo-success may have been achieved, but it has broken the bow. Charged with profitability, a few musicians dominate the senses.

The schism between major and minor labels can be considered one of integrity. That's what musicians will tell you: minor labels are all about the artist, major labels about the moolah. Wrong. They are both about money. The top priority for anyone who owns a label is profit, they just cater to different markets. For an artist to maintain the solidity of his communication, he must refuse the advances of those who operate in the hierarchy of the music industry. This may mean you don't get in the enemy, but who gives a fuck about the enemy anyway? They are after all the enemy.

The hierarchy weakens the truth, the expression of truth. There are musicians that have been able to maintain their message. Fuelled by fire, they have withstood the message of profit by demanding control over their journey. Eventually, those with longevity also crack and let the vultures swarm the carcass. And their outpouring results in our sensory pollution, clutter on the racks, bytes on our drives, and faded memories of a truth once so clear but now utterly weakened.

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About Paul Robinson

  • http://cindalleeheart.posterous.com Cindal Lee Heart

    Paul,
    Truly amazing writing. You have me captivated.

  • Bliffle

    Fine article. Very thought-provoking.

  • http://paulrobinsonpoetry.wordpress.com/ raggedpaulthethird

    Your comments are well received. I hope to expand upon the ‘Ascent’ soon.

  • http://carolinehagood.typepad.com/ Caroline Hagood

    I like the dissonance of your beautiful language being used to explore the pull towards mediocrity.

  • http://www.americantriumphjournal.com Tommy Phame

    “How crudely we are set upon by the schemes of musicians, who begin in the first instance on a seeking quest, but ultimately terminate with sensory pollution driven by the mistaken need for success.”

    Very nicely put.