The real underground is offline...

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ubertar
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The real underground is offline...

Post by ubertar » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:24 am

I can imagine an offline revolution of sorts, where people produce music, film, art, books, etc. in only analog forms, that you would have to find in real, live, actual space to enjoy. This would include people making records (or cassettes-- they're cheaper, and easier to dupe in small numbers) with no digital files included, and no digital files or CDs for sale. Only analog. Of course it would be impossible to stop people from digitizing stuff, but it would definitely help slow it down, and in an offline-underground culture, digitizing something that was intended to stay analog would be socially taboo. It might even be considered uncool to talk about it online. People would have to find out about it through actual word of mouth. To be in on something that's not easily found by anyone with an internet connection restores the sense of coolness and mystery to artistic creation that's been lost in this digital age.

This goes 180 degrees against the dominant culture right now, which is why, IMO, it could really happen.

Of course the mainstream world would continue on its digital way, and of course the more successful stuff would mostly end up "selling out" and going digital, but I could imagine a healthy underground of artists keeping off the digital radar deliberately, and fans who would cultivate an offline culture.

Just a thought...
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Post by ubertar » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:27 am

This doesn't mean that the way the work is produced is necessarily analog-- only that the final form is.
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Post by RoyMatthews » Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:04 am

Well to be honest, I'm not sure I really get what you're saying but I think if you really extrapolated from that idea then the most "offline" and "underground" art would be just performed and not recorded in any form. It would exist only when played live or read out loud or danced or acted etc. That's the only way it'll have any ephemeral quality.

I'm not sure that if there's a huge difference if it's recorded on cassettes or digital files. Once it's disseminated it's out there. Not that I see a problem with that. I am a fan of having the medium be a part of the art form and have it be a integral part of its creation.

But maybe I'm missing the point. I often do.
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Post by chris harris » Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:22 am

Most of the artistically relevant underground musical movements today use vinyl and/or cassette as the primary physical distribution method. But, the idea of being completely "offline" is an old guy idea that doesn't really resonate at all with the youth who have spearheaded nearly every artistically valid underground movement that's ever existed. Most of them seem to find resistance to mp3s as silly as resistance to the concept that the sun always rises.

You'll find plenty of allies among the older folks who wrongly believe that mp3 compression or instant online access are somehow "ruining music".

There have been plenty of recent releases that have been exclusive to analog physical delivery. As you mentioned, they all end up online one way or another. I just don't ever see resisting the future as becoming a significant cultural or artistic movement. Young people are more likely to find more creative and more interesting ways to exploit the "online" experience than they are to eschew it.

I, being almost 40, certainly understand the desire to resist the new digital landscape. But, it's a losing battle.

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Post by ubertar » Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:37 am

I expected you'd chime in, Chris, and I expected you'd miss the point, too. It's not about resisting the future-- it's about reacting against the present, which is how any kind of movement gets started. Today's youth are not tomorrow's youth... it may be a generation before this idea takes hold, if it does at all. Not that youth are the deciding factor, anyway. Young people didn't like Twitter at first... it was dominated by older folks until recently, yet it became huge. If you make music for children, that's fine, and some childrens' music is worth listening to, but I'd rather do stuff for adults that some children will appreciate than the other way around. But that's another subject.

Sure, there are some people releasing music as analog-only, but it's not a movement, at this point, underground or otherwise. But I think it's undeniable that online is not underground, by definition. Any real underground has to be offline. I suppose there could be private networks, password protected sites and so on as an online alternative.

Roy, I think you're right that "live only" would be the logical extension of this idea, and would probably be an offshoot of this if it were to happen.
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Post by vvv » Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:51 am

I want to distribute my music limited to those cellophane 45 RPM magazine inserts that can only be played a cuppla times before they wear out.

All y'all probably want me to, also.

:twisted:

(I might also consider piano-rolls.)
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Post by RoyMatthews » Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:52 am

I guess what I'm missing is the end benefits to it. I understand how analog can have an affect on how one records but what is the plus side for the listener?

I remember and have a fondness for cassettes. I liked and miss the anonymity that they provided. I'd have a cassette that someone copied for me of bands and I'd know nothing about them. In the days before the internet you could go years before knowing even the names of the players or songs. Especially punk bands. I was shocked when I saw what the Dead Kennedys looked like after listening to them for years. But I'm not sure what the bonus that cassettes have over digital medium these days at least that couldn't be recreated in the digital world.

How does the "consumer" (for lack of a better term) benefit? It seems like it could come across as elitist in a way by limiting who can hear the end result.

I like the thought of an "art movement" based on a certain criteria or technology but I'm not sure how being on cassette or vinyl plays into it. I get that it's underground and a rare format these days but beyond the sound qualities the format has what's the point? Does it make the listener a part of the process? Is that it?

EDIT: man I ramble a lot and make very little sense
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Post by RoyMatthews » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:22 am

After thinking about it for a bit I think I understand it as wanting to keep the music "underground" and I'm not sure if you can force an underground. I think music may have been more underground in the past because of the inability to distribute it but I don't know if that was really by choice. I mean the music itself may have been harder to digest and less mainstream but I'm not sure if the bands wouldn't have been open to digital distribution if given the chance. There's plenty of stories of underground acts who were open to selling their music but couldn't find a major company to support it and bring it to a bigger market. They made cassettes and 45's themselves to get it out there and still control their product. They would have loved to have an internet and mp3s to get their music out there without selling out.

I don't know if you can force an underground. Art is underground because it's too new or unpalatable or subversive to be in the mainstream. It's not the medium. I think there's probably a lot of underground acts who have a website and an online presence I think it just still flies under the radar.

Now again, if being underground is part of the whole movement and part of the art that's fine and could be cool but I'd think that even the music and art itself would have to conform to the philosophy. If that makes any sense. Meaning the art form is really the distribution and being "underground" and everything about the music flows from that. It kinda reminds me of graffiti and street art in a way.
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Post by ubertar » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:24 am

Roy, you're absolutely right that this would come across as elitist, and I think that would, for better or worse, be a big part of the appeal.

I think about a band like Big Star... the music they did was very much like other music that was very popular at the time, and they did it as well as other bands who were much more successful. People who knew about them at the time and liked them even though they weren't well-known are very proud of that now, and they have a cult following. If they had been as successful at the time as they might have been if circumstances were different, would they have that cult following now? Or would they be more like, say, Boston?

But also, I see the internet becoming more and more corporatized, less free, and less anonymous. If things continue in that direction and the internet starts to feel oppressive, there will be a reaction, and offline reality will become the place for important things to happen. Doing things offline will be a badge of honor.

I'm not saying any of this WILL happen, or that if it does it will be a good or bad thing, but I'm interested in exploring this idea in a science-fiction kind of way. I see it as a possible future. If the internet continues to get swallowed up by the Google/youtube, Amazon, Ebay/Paypal, Facebook/Instagram, Twitter, etc. behemoths, and online privacy becomes (if it hasn't already become) impossible, there will be an inevitable reaction, and that reaction will be offline.
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Post by ubertar » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:33 am

Roy, some good points in that last post of yours. We cross-posted there.

Everything eventually gets co-opted. Even graffiti and street art have become a pathway to fame in the Art World and have lost their original meaning and purpose. Part of this is the mainstream world recognizing value in things that are outside of it, which is to some extent a good thing... the motivation for that, though, seems to be a stagnancy from within that forces them to look outside for new ideas (I'm thinking mainly of visual (and conceptual) art-- I'm not sure if this necessarily applies to music; music is much more conservative, generally).
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Post by RoyMatthews » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:35 am

See though, what would Big Star have wanted? Not to say they wanted to be as big as Boston but they would have probably had their music on the 'net and had a bigger following. (though I know very little of Big Star. I need to check out that doc.)

I think it comes down to being anonymous. You can be underground and on the internet if you have a level of mystery. Change the band name for every release and don't label the players. No band pics. Don't release mp3s Just stream in one long file that you can only access using Tor.

I think the idea is fine being all analog to control the output but I don't think it'll really last. Beside Google and Youtube and Amazon et al. you have to realize that these days we are all a bit Google and Youtube and Amazon. Someone will digitize and upload the files. Someone will come to a show with Google Glasses and record it. People will take a pic of the guitarist and put it on Facebook and tag him.

I get it as a statement though but I don't think it'd be a movement. Actually I just remembered Beck releasing his last album sheet music only.
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Post by ubertar » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:38 am

vvv wrote:(I might also consider piano-rolls.)
Composing for music boxes (the little wind-up kind) could be cool. Hmm...
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Post by RoyMatthews » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:47 am

ubertar wrote: the motivation for that, though, seems to be a stagnancy from within that forces them to look outside for new ideas (I'm thinking mainly of visual (and conceptual) art-- I'm not sure if this necessarily applies to music; music is much more conservative, generally).
This all feels like something Andy Warhol would be into. But he 'dabbled' in a lot of forms of art. I mean that in a good way. I'm not sure I see it being a lasting movement but more as a reaction to the way things are and as I said before, a statement. I think most people will miss the point and the only ones who will get it are the ones who are already on board so you might be preaching to the choir. Maybe I'm missing the point about ownership and you wanting to 'own' the way it's distributed. I'm just not sure of the sustainability of that.
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Post by ubertar » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:47 am

RoyMatthews wrote:you have to realize that these days we are all a bit Google and Youtube and Amazon. Someone will digitize and upload the files. Someone will come to a show with Google Glasses and record it. People will take a pic of the guitarist and put it on Facebook and tag him.

I get it as a statement though but I don't think it'd be a movement. Actually I just remembered Beck releasing his last album sheet music only.
I think the key to that first statement is "these days". We've only just entered a time when online life has become obligatory, especially for young people. This will only become more so. And as the corporate influence becomes more entrenched and power continues to be more consolidated, and as the tentacles of that power reach further and further into everything that exists online, there will be a pushback. We're not there yet. Everything is still kind of new and exciting. Everyone is all excited about their pocket computers (aka "phones") and all the things that they do. Maybe things will keep going the way they're going and people will accept it and continue further in the same direction. Or maybe not. History is full of surprises-- why wouldn't the future?
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Post by RoyMatthews » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:52 am

I think it comes back to just playing live. Unless you control the means of playback (which is theoretically possible and interesting if not expensive and not very feasible) it will get out on the net and beyond your control. To be really underground would be to never have a recording of the music. Play it live and vary it each time so it's a fairly new experience each performance.
Last edited by RoyMatthews on Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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