Reply To: Music

  • Encyclios

    April 24, 2023 at 9:31 AM

    The 20th century: the last revolution

    As had happened in the most banal and hasty way at the time of disco music, with hip hop dozens of famous songs returned to conquer the top of the charts thanks to reinterpretations in a rap key (such as Killing Me Softly or Bohemian Rapsody). Rap is, however, one of the last real revolutions that the music industry has experienced: a revolution that has been felt in the production of musicians from very different backgrounds and latitudes, even in terms of organization and production.

    The key figure of rap is the disk-jockey and this is not a novelty for black music, as well as for reggae, because the whole development of this musical universe is linked to the work of the disk-jockey both in discos (modern version of dance floors) and in radios. The new element is that with hip hop the dj becomes a real musician: the record, the material already recorded by others, is “played” on a par with other instruments, both to propose quotes from other songs and to produce sounds (the scratch) that are an integral part of this musical code. Every rap artist or group has both in the studio and live his disk-jockey. The inevitable next step in the evolution of a role that at first glance may seem to be a simple selection of trendy tracks, is that of the producer. In recent years some of the most important records have been made with the contribution of disk-jockeys.

    The key to understanding contemporary music is still the contamination between genres and roles. In this case, the leading role assumed by the DJs has transformed into updated sounds some solutions previously considered the exclusive heritage of the most commercial music. It is for example through this process that electronic music has returned to be heard by large audiences. On this ground has grown the jungle strand, disco music, which, duly reworked, has ended up becoming an additional code for groups and artists more attentive to the musical future. Observers of the phenomena of youth culture have rightly indicated in this way of making music the fruit of a technological craftsmanship that allows you to produce and create songs without necessarily being a musician, a sort of revolution: in the clubs of Rotterdam and London, young DJs linked to the environment of jungle and its most “angry” version, called drum and bass for the great importance given to the rhythm section, are animating a scene that for its subversive charge against the traditional circuit and for its social push from below is compared to the nihilistic fury of punk.

    The sphere in which the reflections on reworking and contamination become essential is that of the music of contamination linked to jazz, what from the seventies was called fusion. It was Miles Davis who indicated which was the way to go with his music rooted in jazz but open to the contribution of rock, black music and, in recent times, even rap. Treasuring the teachings of Gil Evans, the great arranger and conductor who was Davis’ advisor throughout his career and who had a fervent admirer in Sting (with whom he created splendid examples of contamination), Davis gave life to the most luminous examples of jazz musical syncretism.

    A lesson that has found many followers in the new generations of jazz scholars who, thanks to an encyclopedic musical culture and a technical background often bordering on virtuosity, have brought this kind of music to a great popularity. Among the symbolic characters of this type of artist there is Pat Metheny, virtuoso guitarist who became a star by following the path of the most uninhibited syncretism. Fundamental to understanding Metheny’s music is, among other things, his passion for Brazilian music that, in the Nineties, experienced a season of renewed splendor thanks above all to two exceptional personalities, Milton Nascimento, the artist who better than anyone else knew how to blend the tradition of Brazilian Nordeste with the structures of jazz, and Caetano Veloso, the authentic heir of João Gilberto and the greats of bossa nova.

    Metheny’s example is also useful to explain the attitude of the new generation of improvisers: artists who have studied the history of jazz in depth but have grown up in the age of rock, love cinema and hate labels. People like Marcus Miller, former enfant prodige of the electric bass discovered by Miles Davis, who, after having contributed to the realization of Davis’ last albums, has become a sort of deus ex machina of contemporary music, covering the multiple roles of bass virtuoso, producer, organizer. A role, on a side more open to the market, also occupied by Roger Nelson, once known as Prince, who after being called Tafkap (The Artist Formerly Known As Prince) decided to be called simply The Artist. The nineties have recorded important pages for rock

    The first signs of the new came from America and in particular from Seattle. It is from this city on the border with Canada, considered among the most livable in the world despite a cold and rainy climate, that the adventure of grunge started, a phenomenon that had an impact on the rock universe similar to that of punk. Grunge means a music without concessions to the market and catchiness, based on the sound of guitars and an exasperated rhythm. In short, very close to punk. To act as a humus for this movement, whose vital impulse is in a generalized reaction antiestablishement, is the multitude of record labels and clubs frequented by a very young audience. The forerunners are considered groups such as Soundgarden, a cult band that broke up in April 1996, but it was Nirvana, led by Kurt Cobain, who brought grunge to the top of the charts and made it an international phenomenon. Nirvana’s music is the true manifesto of a difficult era, maybe without open conflicts, but that has left deep wounds in the soul of the so-called Generation X.

    From a musical point of view, Nirvana’s lesson has been fundamental, above all for their ability to exalt essentiality as a fundamental value. Pearl Jam, another of the symbolic names of rock from Seattle, took the lesson further in the name of absolute rigor. Led by lead singer Eddy Vedder, Pearl Jam waged a personal battle against the record industry, the concert ticketing system and the media universe that ended up becoming the symbol of a new consciousness among rock stars. Pearl Jam also went down the road of rediscovering international folkloric heritage, studying the Sufi tradition in Turkey and collaborating with Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn.