10 Dec 2007
Peak Proof Music: “in order to make the world dance, one must first turn off the music”…
Despite the fact that I eat, breathe and sleep music, and it is a huge part of my life, it rarely features here at Transition Culture. I assume that the reason people visit the site is to be a part of this evolving exploration of the head, heart and hands of energy descent, not to hear me waxing lyrical about various new music. Therefore, I haven’t told you about one of the greatest living bands, Radiohead, covering one of the greatest ever songs, Joy Division/New Order’s ‘Ceremony’, or about the excellent download-only SVC Records.
I always liked a quote by veteran anarchist writer Harry Harris, who wrote;
>”people must learn to bury Lennon, not to praise him. It is not a question of “Imagine no possessions”, but one of imagining and living without mass-produced music. The songs of capitalism must one day be drowned in the roar of its enemies, those who desire to live not merely to consume. In order to make the world dance one must first turn off the music”.
I must thank my friend Nora for introducing me to the very wonderful Beirut. I was particularly touched by their song “Nantes” and the way this film was made. The idea that life beyond the peak and beyond large globalised record companies will be a musical desert is, of course, nonsense, but this film, for me, gives a delightful image of music-making not being something that only happens in clubs and concert venues, but which wanders through our streets, through our buildings, weaving in and out of our daily lives.
We have become so distanced from music-making. The musical entertainment in our lives comes usually from some kind of fossil fuel expenditure, be it buying a CD, turning on the TV or driving to see a band playing somewhere. As well as experiencing more live music in our communities, we will turn, as in all aspects of our lives, from being consumers to consumer/producers. When I first moved to Ireland, at any evening get together or party, after the food, people did their turns. They’d tell a story or sing a song, and it was quite wonderful. I very rapidly had to get 3 or 4 songs under my belt for such occasions.
Of course, a lot of modern music, particularly dance music, would struggle to recreate itself in a world with less energy. Samplers, drum machines, all the digital jiggerypokery that making a record requires now would become harder to manage. However, does that mean that we will just go back to only playing acoustic guitars? Does the end of oil mean that all people will manage to come up with round the campfires of the future will be old Oasis songs (heaven forbid)?
I was rather taken with this clip below, and with the idea that the dazzlingly diverse array of modern musical forms are sufficiently deeply ingrained in our culture that they will find expression even without electricity to power them. Also, having seen an amazing samba band in Totnes last week, it is clear that we can use those kinds of instruments to turn our hands to most styles, and we can still make a loud enough racket that, as my 5 year old son said as we stood close to the samba band, “it feels as if my insides are all moving about”.
Strikes me that life after oil will be a far more musically rich place, with music as something we live with, something that we participate in and which is more part of our daily experience than it is now. The term ‘indie’, used to mean far more than it does today. In the years after punk, hundreds of small labels, such as Rough Trade, Step Forward, Crass, Postcard and Creation popped up, run by people passionate about music and releasing records not necessarily because they were going to sell many copies, but because they knew the world needed that particular record. They were amazing beacons of creativity and independent thinking. That diversity of music led to ‘indie’ being an incredibly eclectic broad church of styles and genres, whereas now it is used to describe a band with guitars.
The collapse of the large record companies is not something we need to fear, rather to anticipate. With labels such as SVC issuing their own records online, cutting out the middlemen, perhaps we can start to reclaim music and begin to look at peak proofing that too, along with the other aspects of our lives. When David Fleming was in Totnes a while ago, someone asked him, “what one thing can I do to prepare for life after the peak?” David’s reply somehow encapsulated all that I have attempted to say above; “join the choir”.