Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The March of Progress II: "The Word"

A magazine I read occasionally has folded: Mark Ellen edited music periodical The Word. I did not buy it too often, but I had a certain admiration for it. What was particularly impressive about it was its managing to break out of the Reviews and Interviews straitjacket that dominates such publications. As illustrations, consider the great on the squatting scene and its contribution to Britain's musical world in the last issue. Or a previous issue's insightful piece on the world of the session musician (a world that, like most interesting things, is now vanishing as the rise of cheapskate downloaders and their non-payment for music combined with the emergence of dirt-cheap synthesisers means that there is no longer the need nor the money for top-notch session musicians). There was also a bizarre article in an earlier issue on the feud that has split the world of air guitar competitions in two. And another one talked about the rise and possible future fall of merchandise as a money-spinner for musicians who can no longer earn a crust selling records.

I also liked the pieces they did on pop culture counterfactuals, where they imagined how things might have turned out if something had gone the other way, as it easily might have done. One of these was imagining the results of the mechanical shark in Jaws working properly. Because it did not work, Spielberg had to avoid showing the shark and so had to make the film a triumph of tension as people were stalked and killed by a hidden monster. But if the mechanical shark could be shown throughout the film then it would have been. The picture becomes just another run-of-the-mill monster flick and not an epoch-defining blockbuster. Possibly stretching it a bit, they see this as leading to the non-emergence of the summer blockbuster as a genre, with the likes of Star Wars being moderately successful but spawning no sequels. I think this then means that 70s cinema goes on forever, which counts as a result.

Another of their counterfactuals was to imagine the consequences of the record companies failing to agree a CD standard, resulting in the format failing to establish itself. Things then plod along, with the main result being that "Home Taping Is Killing Music" labels continue to appear on records.

There were lots of other good things. So farewell Word, you will be missed. At least by me.

image source

An inuit panda production

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