Miss B Cocktail Salon at FormContent
30 October 2010, 7pm
Miss B and FormContent request the pleasure of your company at a COCKTAIL SALON
Saturday 30 October 2010, 7pm
Optional Dress code: cocktail attire
With interventions by Matthew McQuillan and Ed Clive, Cally Spooner, Una Knox, Ben Roberts, Ruth Beale, Matt Clements, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Rosanna Traina, Francesco Pedraglio, Caterina Riva and Pieternel Vermoortel.
Please consider the following text and bring a contribution to the evening’s proceedings.
The frame of mind to which popular music originally appealed, on which it feeds, and which it perpetually reinforces, is simultaneously one of distraction and inattention. Listeners are distracted from the demands of reality by entertainment, which does not demand attention either.
Melrose Place is an American primetime television soap set in a small apartment courtyard complex in the West Hollywood district of Los Angeles. The soap follows the lives and loves of a collection of beautiful, thin individuals with enormous hair. The first seven seasons, aired on Fox in the USA from 1992-1999 under the production of Aaron Spelling for Spelling Television, was a spin-off from the Beverly Hills, 90210 franchise. In 1995, a group of artists consisting mainly of students and teachers from the University of Georgia and the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), known only as the GALA Committee, built a number of politically radical artworks and in collaboration with the programme producers inserted them into Melrose Place.
The whole sphere of cheap commercial entertainment reflects this dual desire. It induces relaxation because it is patterned and pre-digested. Its being patterned and pre-digested serves within the psychological household of the masses to spare them the effort of that participation (even in listening or observation) without which there can be no receptivity to art…
Kurt Weill, composer of a number of Marxist hits including the full score for Brecht’s 1928 Threepenny Opera, forged a far-reaching career that challenged the purity of preexisting musical styles. A famous German Jew, he fled Nazi Germany and fended for himself in America, where the versatility of music styles, unlike anything in Germany, interested him hugely. The result was an unusual crossover of musical composition and production, spanning German music, Broadway music, lowbrow songs and highbrow compositions with Tin Pan Alley and jazz influences, all driven by Weill’s own concerted attempts to put relevant social and political commentary into his productions. The score for Threepenny Opera (Brecht’s ‘poor man’s Giuseppe Verdi’) became wildly popular, igniting a Threepenny fever, with show-hits eventually collapsing entirely into mainstream pop courtesy of Academy Award winner and eventual Republican sympathizer Frank Sinatra, with his Rat-pack appropriation of Die Moritat von Mackie Messer (The Ballad of Mack the Knife).
People want to have fun. A fully concentrated and conscious experience of art is possible only to those whose lives do not put such a strain on them, that in their spare time they want relief from both boredom and effort simultaneously.
In 1981 The Human League released Dare. The album was a commercial success marking their rapid evolution from an experimental, avant-garde electronic band into a commercial pop group under Philip Oakey‘s creative direction. Dare opens with The Things That Dreams Are Made Of. It’s an upbeat and punchy number with lyrics that operate like a youthful checklist of aspirations and desires: “Everybody needs love and adventure, Everybody needs cash to spend, Everybody needs love and affection. Everybody needs two or three friends”. Whilst the Sheffield group had received minor acclaim before Dare’s release it was the inclusion of two young, female backing singers and rigorous synth programming that made these dreams come true. At a time when the Punk ethos of anti-establishment was becoming tired, the band shed it’s avant-garde origins and turned to the mainstream. Instead of selling out they were buying in, with humour and good hooks. The third track, The Sound of the Crowd, is set to a soviet, marching-drum beat and speaks lightly of a carbon copy, party wave. I Am the Law appears sombre and mysterious with references to the comic-book character Judge Dredd but in fact hides a bizarrely conservative approach to Law Enforcement, whilst Seconds is about witnessing the assassination of JFK as a worldwide television spectacle. The album is rife with heartbreak and romantic longing – but there’s also room for confusion and alienation. These are the things that pop is made of.
Cally Spooner & Matt McQuillan, 2010
[1 – 4] Theodor Adorno, On Popular Music, 1941