Transformers

Between 1976 and 1986 I generated yearly Best Of lists of favorite music. I won’t be doing this now, although I hope to highlight a few startling musical encounters. The problem is that I’ve become desensitized to when a recording actually comes out. This is the result of wandering around the greatest free record store, the internet, a shop for which rigid annual temporal distinctions have become, for me, meaningless. In turn thinking about this had inspired me to think about the damn record business, a form of reflection I try not to indulge.

In December I bought a ton of music. I think most of it was fairly new, but upon closer examination it was just new to me. Some of those records evoked startling listening experiences too. Those experiences would count on a best listening experiences of 2008 list too.

As for the record business, I’ll work up at least one post on what I’m seeing now. I’ve recently read a handful of interesting articles about the current biz.

However, nothing I’ve investigated changes the basic set of principles that inform my views. It’s simple, the principles are focused on how musicians can better understand the actuality of their cultural and economic environment, and then design productive means to respond to reality. As always, the trick is in getting musicians to go beyond dim, fantasy-infused prejudices which fuel their cynicism and ignorance, and move to depth of understanding. Usually this requires substantial letting go of prejudices and surface comprehension.

Luckily for me and probably for musicians, my principles exist today outside of any practical application. I’m out of the biz for six or so years. The one thing I’ll note is that the youngest generation of entrepreneurial musicians, say those under 30, have a leg up because their own cohort is the first group largely liberated from being the subject of the old, now dying, record business. And fans in the same cohort are different too, for they’re the generation that, for the most part, doesn’t hold a solitary recording in their hands. Call them the playlist generation.

I’ll have more to write on this soon.

It would be easy to summon up the musical highlights for 2008 even if many don’t carry the ‘2008’ tag. For example, the family of Thelonious Monk approved the release of a CD, Transformer, documenting Monk working through themes in the form of sketches. It may have come out in 2008, but these recordings from 1957-1963 are obviously timeless. I reacquainted myself with the New Orleans singer, Bobby Charles after purchasing Last Train to Memphis, from 2004. And, I played catch up with one my favorites, Stan Tracey, picking up half a dozen records from the last ten years. This turned December into Stan the Man month, agreat way to end 2008.

Over the next few months I’ll visit some of the highlights. Tracey and Charles will get their moment, as will Sussan Deyhim, the Iranian-born singer and syncretist, and others.

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