Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

In Praise of You Tube: the music

The Internet adds immeasurably to the depth and pleasure of our lives. The Internet brings what seems at times an infinity of riches with more being added, sometimes it seems daily. The building blocks of the Web came into place early in its birth. Only some of those in no sense of importance to any other that emerged its early days: Wikipedia, Google. Our lives as a result have been transformed and will continue to do so in ways not yet imagined. We are in many ways dependent on the availability of being able to go online at anywhere we go at any time. We demand  faster and faster search speeds, wider and wider bandwidth.  The dependence is now approaching the critical with no backup. For example, were internet phones access not be available the effect would be extensive, paralysing and, in some cases, catastrophic. AT&T told my wife that they are no longer a telephone company they are an Internet one. No thought appears to be given by the powers that be to what the effect would be were the Internet not be available. No emailing, for example. But this is not the subject of this post. This topic has been touched on in previous posts, and wit willing, will be expanded on in future posts.

Foremost of these Web foundational stones in You Tube. Competitors of this service, can it be referred to in that way. You Tube has become a sort of utility that water and electricity are, have come and gone and most have disappeared into the night never to appear again. The Web comprises many monoliths which hold total dominance in their field on the Internet. There is danger in this two. The hallmarks of these giants is their sheer excellence and their continual improvement of what they offer and how they offer it.

In this post only what value You Tube brings to music will be discussed. I seldom, if ever use the medium for much else.

So what is this value, values, that You Tube brings to music. There are many and I fear I shall not touch on them all. But sufficient will be said here to start you thinking.

It is difficult to give an order of priorities of these values. But one, at least, has to be sound quality. Individuals and You Tube itself have striven to improve the sound quality. The quality now exceeds that offered by the Compact Disc which while offering convenience and far more length than vinyl or cassettes or their forerunners, does not offer the quality of sound that vinyl offered which is why vinyl has reemerged as the leading recored sound medium. CDs never brought any kind of felicitousness of sound to classical music in any of its forms. What the CD did do for classical music were essential two things: length, whole operas extending over hours, which made those new to the musical form, I am sure, a wonder at how any human could sit through three, four and even five hours of sometimes excruciatingly difficult or awful music, depending on your taste. What CDs also did was bring a cornucopia of classical music to the listening public, at least to those who are fervent about it: to mention any particular recording label would be invidious, but there are companies which offer unbelievale amount of music at prices less than a paperback.  Companies making and selling CDs emerged into the market place taking the availabily of classical music into the most arcane of musical history and at its cutting edge. The range on offer is breathtaking: early music, composers who whose music would otherwise never seen the light of day after their death if it even had any kind of exposure during their lifetimes. Of course, such music is of questionable worth, some of it quite awful; derivitave to the extreme and incompetent in its composition, appealing only to the most acquisitive of classical music collects.

CDs brought to music such an extentive range of forms and styles that, in my case, leaves me with hundreds and hundreds of recordings all of which I have listened, and some repeatedly.  They offer a musical companion in driving the long distances required of me when I was a professional engineer, required as part of my work to drive into the corners of whatever country I happened to live in at the times to reach constructions sites. Cassettes, well the less said about them the better.

The availability of CDs at the very least offered music lovers and buyers access to music they may never otherwise have listened or even knew the existence of. Among these were those who discovered classical music and sometimes became devotees.

You Tube besides the sheer wonderful sound quality of the music if offers, makes available a range of music exceeding that even of CDs. Music from the extreme corners of the Earth can be found on You Tube. Individual or groups of people with no training in music nor with the remotest talent to play it, and on occasion with tin ears where music is concerned, in other words, tone deaf, can record in a few hours on a Saturday can record music, or what is offered would sounds like the equivalent of sonic garbage, liquid or otherwise, played live in a garage, or something similar overdubbed out the kazoo, over electronically manipulated with machine drums and the like, taking original musical sources, existing popular songs and rendering them utterly unrecongaizeing. These are laughably called covers, What covering a song means. I am not sure. Covering the original work with a duvet and strangling the life out it, so that we have to listen to the poor original being mangled to death. The aural result defies with  all but a millisecond of listening before one shuts of the musical post on You Tube and rushes to something well tried and trusted and true to regain our sanity, at recover our musical one.

I am being absurdly extreme about only one tiny corner of the infinity of the musical universe that You Tube offers.

To return to a sobriety of writing let’s enumerate some of the wonderful music that You Tube offers which, prior to its existence, was not remotely available to those of us who listen to music occasionally, or frequently, or even abed, asleep through the night with meditative nonsense murmuring to us throughout our sleep. I make no apology for a well developed taste in music with very particular awareness to what I like and don’t like but am always willing to expand. And enjoy. If one is a musical traveller, exploring new territories, there is much to find among the strange and exotic.

You Tube offers the opportunity to listen to bands whose original recordings were execrable. Take the Velvet Underground for example. I could detect that their music was good, excellent; a leader among their peers with inimatable songs, “I’m waiting for m’ man, with 26 dollars in my hand.”  How could one live without knowing this song. The sound quality on You Tube brings this band to life, as with many others, like an old master’s painting restored from being previously covered with centuries of layers of dust and varnish to being pristine and as bright and light as the day it was painted.  You Tube has performed this wonder to many, many bands who sounded before this sound quality to be playing from a covering of mud six feet deep. One heard a sound like a baby gurgling from a mile off. Yet, despite the efforts of recording companies to bury these bands in their inept use of the recording studios, the sheer wonder of the bands’ originality shone through despite being barely perceptible. Another band which suffer a similar treatment at the time were the Doors. Poor Jim Morrison sounded like he was singing through the wrong end of a speaking trumpet!

Before I continue with the wonders of what You Tube brings to music, not all of what it offers is gold. Some is dross as spoken of above but little of it thank goodness. One form that this, this deplorability, if that even be a word, are Official Videos. These bring nothing to the music, and are nothing for the most part but a distraction or annoyance. This is not true of some lover of the music lover who has taken time, trouble and expertise to provide a meaningful, even interesting, visual accompaniment to the aural pleasure of listening. Watching while listening is seldom necessary or brings an added dimension to the listening. Exceptions to this are those vehicles which by their conception combine the music and the visual. But these forms must have action for them to be successful in their combination, even integration: opera, musicals. What would West Side Story be without Maria singing, “Tonight, tonight is not just any night…” In passing let’s note how immeasurable one’s life is enhanced by such an experience. Music has a dubious role to play as a soundtrack to a film. Borrowing from existing music may spoil, sully, in future listening to a one favourite piece, song or whatever. I am sure countless examples in your own life. However, what would Gone with the Wind be without that glories sound track. Countess examples can be mentioned. However, however there are dangerous territories where the sound accompaniment to a dramatic film is not simply extraneous to the film’s or whatever it portrays. What business is there for music to accompay Private Ryan coming over the hill in Victory and Triumph with shell holes and mangled and dead body parts all around. Music in this setting is incongruous, grating and downright misplaced. The judgement of those who decided to place it there are seriously  deficient in their ability to make films, if not dysfunctional as individuals. No one in their right mind would put music to the visiting of one of the Holocaust camps, (as a Tourist, of course).

“Private” Ryan? What’s private about Ryan? His private parts? Oh, I see, you mean he’s not a sergeant. What a relief he is not. Any army is better off without him in that role. All the men, the colonels and generals included, would desert. But we digress.

You Tube brings further benefits to music. The discovery of bands whom we have heard of but have never listened to. Posts of albums of a group which we never owned or even knew that band, a favourite band even recorded. Concerts that bands made in some remote part of the world which we could for various reasons never attend, even if performed in an adjacent town, never mind in Moscow, or Tokyo. Tangerine Dream’s Concert in Poland, one the finest recordings, if you are a fan, of their music ever made.

Or videos of whatever quality from the past which have survived in some basement, say or recorded by some fan at the time and never previously had an outlet for their showing for example, the Beatles in Hamburg with Tony Sheridan, with Peter Best and … before they even became the Beatles and were called … playing and singing the most unlikely of covers of songs from other artists after they broke free of Tony Sheridan, the less of whom the better. Or old rock programs made my German television companies who were world leaders in the presentation of this musical form long before others, alongside side early American television programmes in black and white, where presenters guested bands, groupsm were shown whom the presenter would never have listened to in his private life even if you strapped him to a chair in order for him to do so. Never mind, that fact that these group were given a platform in the first place is a wonder in itself.

Through You Tube you can hear bands playing music their records companies would never allow them to record, play music for which those same record companies could not record for copyright reasons. You Tube can bring to us individual musicians can be seen and heard who could not otherwise be seen and heard together at those self same concerts which we could never have gone to. To allow us to see and hear those parts of the first Woodstock concert we missed because of the rain and mud we fled from or simply had other commitments. We always have those, don’t we.

You Tube allows us to listen to music, especially that that would never otherwise be available to us. Record companies refused to record, “Not commercial, won’t sell, won’t top the charts and make us millions while you get halfpennies.” Or the bands or singers simply didn’t have record contracts to record them or were simply disinclined to have such contracts in the first place, or didn’t have agents who built their image like Colonel without Elvis Presley would never have been hear of, never heard. I am sorry the good Colonel punted him and not some better talent. But that is personal taste and may offend some who admired him, even idolised him, Heaven forfend.

You Tube allows us to discover music deep within the labyrinth of its is ever abundant, seemingly endless, joys. Posts, do they call putting up music and videos on You Tube “posts” (Oh dear, I am sometimes – often – so ignorant) where their popularity measures in the ones and twos where other videos visits measure in their countless millions, viewers from ever place in the world, even the Artic, from atop Mount Kilimanjaro?

The extent of what You Tube offers seems endless and surely our lives have been enhanced by its existence.

By way of a footnote, these articles, written by the present author will contain in them in eloquencies of speech, inadequacy of expression, obscurity of meaning, deficiency of grammar and spelling errors, others. I will attempt to spot and correct those that stand out from a cursory reading. Some will remain. I do not intend to polish them. They are not designed, nor intended to be published within the domain of some august medium, an international, and internationally respected newspaper, let us say. where such things would disgrace the paper or medium in question, have subscribers and reader flee in droves and millions of readers deluge the editors with vituperative language which would even have a nun blush.

No, they are offered, warts and all, for their possible, questionable, charm at the speed with the speed intact at which they were written and the spontaneity of their producing.

I intend with these articles to run the gamut from the highly elevated to the lower forms of writing without descending into the banal. At best I intend to place within them some humour, that great stuff of life as good as if not better that water, in its necessity of life, the life of humans.

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 7 August, 2017









Filed under: Arts, Current Events, history, Media, Memoir, Music, poetry, songs, stories

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