Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Album as an Art Form

This post is fully inspired by Steven Wilson’s movie – INSURGENTES. Yes. The movie. Not just his solo album. I bought it this week for $19. You read that right. I actually spent $19 on ‘buying’ a DVD. I dont even remember buying any DVD till date. Come to think of it, I dont think I have ever bought a DVD at all. And yet I have watched so much. (All Hail DC++). But thats another story for another day.

This movie is more of a documentary directed by Lasse Hoilie and starring Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson with Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt & Blackfield’s Israeli Star Aviv Geffen also making appearances. This is NOT about how Wilson came about to form PTree or the rise of PTree or anything do much with PTree at all. Instead, this movie is a focus on the state of music, the music industry and how music as an art is listened to by the people and it is done so from the point of view of Steven Wilson. “The film looks into the issues of creating, packaging and marketing music in an era when iPods, mp3′s and download culture are changing and eroding perceptions of exactly what an album is supposed to sound and look like.”  [Link] And it is THIS issue which I am going to elaborate on now.

When I was a kid, music essentially meant searching through the dozens of recorded Meltrack Tapes of my dad’s collection and playing it on the Philips Stereo cassette player. I used to spend considerable time in keeping the cassettes in order, numbering them and meticulously cataloguing them. There used to be some pride involved in the act of just choosing a tape out of my collection and playing it. Even though it was my dad’s collection, I always thought of it as my own too. And then when I went to high school, I began to listen to a lot more English music. Though my dad had a significant collection of English music, it wasnt much. So it was only in high school that I started to buy albums.

Of course, my music taste at that time was still in the nascent stage, feasting on the BackStreet Boys, Boyzone and the like. And so I bought a bunch of those tapes, or got the entire albums recorded from someone’s original. I still remember that excitement and enthusiasm when I got to know that I would be getting a new tape. Going to the record store, searching through dozens of cassettes to make that one big decision as to what I will be listening to for the coming weeks, and that duration of time when I couldn’t wait to get back home to listen to my latest addition to the collection- there used to be some pure and unadulterated joy in the whole process.

And after I bought it, I used to listen to the album, repeatedly, over and over again until I knew every single note and sound in it. Like Steven Wilson puts it, I “used to devour” the album extracting every bit of thing it has to offer. This specially included the artwork, and more importantly for me, the pages of lyrics that would be folded and inserted as part of the cassette cover. The joy of finding a big slab of pages folded perfectly to fit into the cassette cover was unparalleled. And on those occassions when there was nothing in the cover sheet except the front cover, the credits and the track listing, I used to grow particularly disappointed. I believe I even bought a few albums just because I could see through the cassette case that it had a bundle of folded pages inside.

Perhaps the most memorable experience in this aspect for me was buying Pink Floyd’s ECHOES, opening it to find a whole bunch of sheets in both the tapes in the collection. And of course, listening to TIME with the profound lyrics in my hands. THAT was some experience.

The same experience was carried on to the time when I started buying CDs after my dad bought us a good SONY 5.1 home theater system. Sure the song skipping was easy, but I used to still listen to it inside out with the same excitement.

And then came the MP3.

This is where Steven Wilson has a few strong things to say. And this is where I believe, the way I (and the whole world) began to listen to music changed drastically. The very ‘worth’ of an album was reduced to nothingness because I never really owned anything in the first place. Shifting through the songs became a lot easier AND a lot more common. So instead of listening to a whole album, I ended up listening to a few select songs because I made a connection to them a lot faster. And I never really went about listening to the remaining songs for a long long time. The album as an entity had ceased to exist. It was just a few songs that I kept playing repeatedly.

And then came the MP3 player. Which took the degradation to a whole new level. Now it was not just listening to a few select songs of one album. It became listening to a few select songs of one ‘artist’ or ‘band’ as such. Forget the whole idea of an album. Even the identity of the artist was reduced to nothingness. The concept of the ‘playlist’ totally killed whatever image and identity the band had begun to build in your mind as soon as some other band’s song started playing. I may have heard to a whole bunch of bands in a short time through a playlist. But I wouldn’t know anything about any of those bands.

It is really unfortunate what I have become in terms of listening to music. Listening to MP3s, perceiving them as the way music should be listened to. Yes the MP3 and my Mp3 player are both inseparable parts of me. And I realize that I would WANT to listen to music whenever I want and at my convenience. But I guess the least I can do is to make sure that I listen to an album right through instead of repeatedly skipping through random tracks until I arrive at a song that I am familiar with and listen to it again. Online radio stations like Pandora, on the other hand,  should considered just to be a source of coming across new bands and NOT as your primary source of music. I have also made  myself a promise to purchase a Vinyl Player with my first salary (whenever that is). And hopefully build a big enviable collection of old Vinyl records as time goes on.

Steven Wilson talks about a whole lot of other issues in the movie and most of them have got to do with what music has become today. He goes on to talk about his early childhood, him growing up, his constant references to trains and about some of the bands which are still releasing albums the way they are supposed to be released. I only wish the movie would have been longer, providing Wilson with more time to talk about these very issues. But the DVD comes with an extra featuring a Q&A session with Steven himself which dwells further into the topics.

And after watching this, if anything at all, my respect and admiration for Steven Wilson has increased multifold. And if you are somebody who doesn’t know who he is, feel totally free to consider your life incomplete.

Comment on the ‘Comments’- 1: The Vulgar Shows

I have decided to write a series of posts based on the idea of searching through some of the Indian popular news and gossip portals and summarizing some retarded headline. But this is already done in many damn places. So what I have decided is to include the even the best of the more awesome “comment section” featuring the most intellectually gifted that India has to offer! And of course add some “comments” to these “comments” myself! So here is my first in what I hope to be a long series of posts:

THIS just friggin’ made my day! All the stress of the past one week just seemed so damn distant after reading it! Mind-f***in-blowing!! Here is the headline:

“Govt banishes ‘vulgar’ shows to after-11 slot”

Apart from the total ambiguity, pointlessness and moral-policing involved, the interesting part is WHAT shows qualified as ‘Vulgar’. Get a load of this. So far, 2 shows have been categorized as ‘Vulgar’: Raakhi ka Insaaf & Big Boss. Make no mistake. I have never seen these shows. But I am fully aware of what they are.

I am not going to pass judgment on the quality of these shows as I would prefer puking after getting drunk to watching these shows when I am sober. (Oh wait! I just passed some judgment there! Ah f*** that!)

Anyways, lets cut all the crap and look at some of the ‘details’ the news item.

The ministry’s order points out that show hostess Rakhi Sawant uses abusive language and participants in both shows “are shown quarrelling and hurling abuse at each other”.

So if quarrelling and hurling abuse at each other qualify as ‘vulgar’, whatever happened to MTV Roadies and the whole bunch of other shows? Ah well! Thats different isn’t it?? It is a civilized world this MTV and all. So lets not point fingers at them. Also whatever happened to all those “Debates” and “We the People”? There is definitely lot of quarrelling involved there. And surely more anger as well.

But nevermind all that! Lets just roll with some of the awesome comments that I found in that website on this article.

1. “There is no clearcut definition of VULGARE. . .jokes against handicapts? not respectful to elders? cheap erotic?. . .everything which is uncommon is vulgare.” —– Raj Kumar Daruwala

>> Dude I totally agree with you. There is no clear cut definition of VULGARE. In fact, that word just doesnt exist!!

2.” Both Channels are part of NDTV…which is run by an islamist terrorist and communist PRANAB ROY…………” —– Neohorizons

>>>  Umm…Can I invite you to be the next Quizmaster when I want to hold a quiz?

3. “Ashmit the blue movie king is desperate to cast Pamela in his next blue movie along with her sister . Pamela aunty should send her secsy sister into Asmhit movie as Indians deserve to see better .” — Nautanki

>>> F*** me! Pamela is an Aunty?? Can I star as the nephew in one of ‘those’ movies then?

4.”K serials are and will be always better than these reality shows. At least they are made for family audiences.” — Amrapali Mondal

>>> Yes yes. K serials are so damn good that people should even emulate what happens in those serials. Then we will surely have a fully moral society. And perhaps make Ekta Kapoor as GOD. Oh wait! There is one more comment before I agree with you completely.

5. “I thought k serials were worse… People got married 20 times in it.. sometimme to brother of current husband and all that.. so much for incest” —– Ag

In response: “Do you know the definition of incest? In christianity incest is not allowed.” –Peter

>>>> Peter dude, you just opened my eyes! You are the epitome of all that is logical and right in this world. @ Ag: You win for the only worthwhile comment in the article.

How to Build your own Religious Scriptures

This is a fairly simple job. The time involved will essentially depend upon the level of detail you want to put in. Rest of it is quite straightforward. Here I am going to present to you a template upon which you can build your own Religious Scriptures- and authentic ones at that. The primary idea is to generate a religion which can be believed to be authentic. You can create your scriptures based on the template below and compare it with all the other established scriptures and feel smug about how similar yours is.

So here is the template:

1. Date your scriptures sometime in the BC years: This is the first step in the process. Your religious scriptures has to necessarily be old. Older the better. It gives a higher sense of authenticity and validity to the whole thing. Think of it. Look at all the new religions like Scientology and other cults. (It really is a big list!). People do not consider them to be mainstream and treat them as something that is not authentic. The primary reason for this is that their scriptures are not old enough. So date yours to something atleast 1000 years old – so that noone can verify- and you will be safe.

2. God ALWAYS speaks to a few select people: This is the next important part. Your God speaks and sends out his message to the masses through a single person or a select few. The rest of the scriptures will be WHAT your God said to those select people. Your God can never make an appearance to the masses. There are only a few select people in your storyline who can bear witness to God because they had tremendous faith in him. This is important because you can later always claim that your religion followers are not feeling or seeing God because they do not exhibit the faith and belief that those few people in the scriptures did. So this will make them feel more guilty and will compel them to be more religious. WIN!!

3. Creationism Rocks: Screw Evolution! Screw the Big Bang Theory! All Darwinists, Evolutionary scientists and Big Bang Theory propagators need to take a hike! Creationism is THE SHIT! Your God should proclaim that he himself created the entire universe in some number of milliseconds and that he created man at some other time. (Dont bother about the fact that the whole concept of measuring time , let alone the term ‘milliseconds’, was evolved a long time AFTER human civilization had started. Believers will believe whatever you write- just because you are including the statement that God himself said all these things.)  You can also improvise and add stuff like “God created the universe just by blinking”- all these things only add to the awesomeness and invincibility of your God.

4. Rules about certain activities: This is a very critical part of your religious scripture. These are the things that people will look at in times of moral crisis and try to derive comfort from. The more you keep these rules open ended and ambiguous, the more your religion is bound to become popular. People will read the scriptures and go through the process of Subjective Validation to feel good about themselves. As a minimum, you will have to include rules about food, ritualistic activities, sex, peace etc. But more importantly, you should include that people who follow these rules properly will go to heaven and those who do not follow them will burn in hell. (Give detailed descriptions about each of the consequences).

5. Create and solve the mystery of Birth and Death: These are your sureshot attempts at gaining authenticity. Hype the ideas of birth, death and rebirth. Create the mysteries about these things and give some explanation for them which necessarily include your previous lives and/or original home etc. Every religious guy fears that after their death, they might end up suffering for their sins. This is something that has to be exploited by saying that it can be prevented if you follow the above mentioned rules.

6. Miracles and Mythology: Your God is just too damn powerful and invincible. So make him do stuff that is totally impossible for us regular mortals. It can be anything- lift a mountain, bring back the dead, bring rain, create fire etc. The more impossible it appears, the more authenticity you bring to your God. Also, your scriptures must include some mythological stories about people – some who believe and are the good guys and the others who dont believe and are the bad guys- fighting each other and getting the good guys to eventually triumph over the evil ones. The level of detail is up to you but these stories will surely help to put more belief in the followers and at the same time make the scriptures look more authentic simply because the followers will believe that those events actually took place.

7. Denounce Sex: Sex is a big Boo-Boo for all parties involved. The more you restrict sex, the more people will feel that your religion is mainstream and will not brand you as a cult. Pre-marital sex has to necessarily be banned. Even post marriage sex should be looked upon as something that should take place only for getting a child. So if a follower is impotent or cannot have a baby, too bad they will die a virgin! The more you curb sexual activity, the more the men are going to get frustrated and the more they will get passionate about their religion and the more they will spread it! WIN!

8. Women are Inferior: This also serves the same purpose in that it is going to give your religion a more mainstream feel. Restrict the activities and rights of women and you will see people feeling more at home with your religion. Keep the rules for women open ended and ambiguous so that you dont lose out on women followers.

9. Include a Lineage: This is the ultimate authenticity generator. If you can somehow show a lineage stretching all the way back to your God telling that one dude the scriptures, then your religion is fully validated and authentic. You can even include some historical figures in that lineage which will make people believe it even more. The best part about this is that you can show that all the people in the lineage did exist by mentioning their names in the scriptures themselves. The ultimate self referential validation technique!

So there you have it! The perfect template to generate the perfect religious scriptures! So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and start your own “Authentic” Religion!!!

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