April 16, 2009

music review: Boards of Canada, DJ Shadow and Beethoven?

  • electronic music in working class culture
    or six degrees of separation in
    electronic music and Lenin; it's closer than you think

    Part 1

    On the cultural left-wing, folk, hip hop and hardcore punk are the usual genres that convey working class sentiment about life under capitalism. Rebelling against the status quo through music usually produces powerful lyrics that can stand on their own merits as poetry.

    One genre that often doesn't come to mind is electronic music.
    Electronic music has branched into many different types itself....

    What if music has no words? How does it relate to working class culture? It can. The story of Lenin's love for Beethoven's music is telling of its power. In Georg Luk√°cs Lenin – Theoretician of Practice:

    '...Gorky recorded Lenin’s very characteristic words spoken after he listened to Beethoven’s Appassionata sonata*: “I know the Appassionata inside out and yet I am willing to listen to it every day. It is wonderful, ethereal music. On hearing it I proudly, maybe somewhat naively, think: See! people are able to produce such marvels!” He then winked, laughed and added sadly: “I’m often unable to listen to music, it gets on my nerves, I would like to stroke my fellow beings and whisper sweet nothings in their ears for being able to produce such beautiful things in spite of the abominable hell they are living in....”'

    Lenin was refering to his being distracted by music so much that he would rather not listen to it. Being lost in music can be a good thing too. It may help to concentrate. So called "study music" used by students is an example of using music to meditate, think or study.

    *(Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, opus 57)

    Lenin was also interested in an electronic musical instrument called a theremin, the grandfather of electronic musical instruments, invented in the former Soviet Union. Lenin even requested to have a lesson on the theremin from its inventor.

    So how does instrumental music fit in? With no words, music invokes images to the listener. We are often told about a composer's life and times to give context to classical pieces. To a worker in a feudal, capitalist, or socialist society, a piece of music may invoke different images but maybe a common meaning.

    Music can of course be used together with images. Movie scores are testament to that concept. So even a piece of music without words can be given a real deliberate leftist message when used together with a progressive film. The film “Dark Days” is an example, scored by DJ Shadow.

    above: the music process described

    music specific to the film


    Boards of Canada (BOC) are not from Canada but hail from Scotland. How are they related to Canada? The duo get inspiration for their music from movies from the National Film Board of Canada, in particular documentaries. I wonder at the far reaching effects of government budget cuts of the NFB to arts and culture down the road. The question arises: If the NFB was cut years ago like is has been recently, would the group Boards of Canada even exist?

    Speaking of the NFB, it should be noted that the Film Board's first commissioner, John Grierson was also a Scotsman and was dismissed in 1945 according to wikipedia after "allegations of communist sympathy regarding several of the films the Board had produced during the war."

    links: (note this post was edited 5/25/09 to include the links below)

The three clips above have not much in terms of conveying leftist ideas, but combined with the silent movie in the post below, you can be the judge.
(if you do we suggest letting the players load up first to help with streaming problems for those with low bandwidth)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular stories