Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Is Music Sacrosanct? Apparently, not.

Recently, I've been looking at reacquiring music I once had before, mostly in the distant past. I have heard about remastering of albums over the years, thought, oh how cool. Because a lot of old music could have sounded better. I'm all for more texture, clarity, resonance where appropriate, etc.

So, I have picked up some of this music. In listening however, I was surprised and a little weird-ed out. Something, didn't sound right. Here is what I discovered.

The original albums I was looking to re-EXPERIENCE, in some cases, where not the same old albums. I wanted to hear and therefore click into those memories I had way back when, but when the album is not the same, then what? Now, maybe its just me, and maybe its because I used to be an audiophile (and videophile, so I'll use some video examples also here) but I used to know where every single pop, hiss and scratch on an album existed. So that when I hear a clean version now, I'm pleased (and slightly saddened, weird, huh?) that these are missing. Saddened, that its not the same recording I once owned, and happy, because it doesn't have those same defects.

We didn't love these defects, but after years of listening to them repeatedly, they become part of the soundscape. But, that notwithstanding....

It really annoys me when I acquire an album I used to have, that its no longer the SAME album I knew from back when. Finding that in some way, its now been changed, for whatever reason, good or otherwise.

Case in point, the David Byrne, Brian Eno collaboration, "My life in the Bush of Ghosts." I've had this tape since it came out, or round about that time period. So I get a new version. I find, something isn't the same. I research it. And I found out what was wrong. You can no longer get the original song on side two, track one, Quar'an.

Why? Because a single Muslim group in England, back when that came out, complained about their putting "Holy words" on the album, as it was singing a part of the Koran. As they didn't want to offend anyone, they pulled it.

You now can not find that song...anywhere.

Give me a break.

I have had a belief, strong, purist though it may be, that when an Artist produces a work of Art, it should be insoluble. Untainted, by commercial interests, or even by the Artists themselves. IF an artist wants to change an original work, they would need to update another product. Which has its own issues. If you can no longer find an original copy, the Artist has changed history. Bastardized their own works. Sometimes, this is brilliant, sometimes, its not.

I would argue for instance, the so called Director's cut of Amadeus, actually detracted from the original film. I hated it. Now, I have relaxed a bit and see it as two different films. I won't bore you with the incidentals.

Some albums, when remastered are excellent. Some, albums, however, they not only re-release, but they add songs, in some cases, replace songs. Now they Artist may have hated a song on there, but for the Fans, they may have loved it exactly as it was and subverting that original set up, is an ugly thing to those Fans, who loved and re listened over the years to that same work. Now, no longer their same loved piece of music.

Another example in the video world, is what George Lucas has done in his Star Wars franchise. I say, franchise and not film series as he has turned it into a commercial entity over that of an artistic entity.

What he has done, is both brilliant, and horrific, depending on the Fan you question on this. But this is fine. IF, both versions continue to be available.

Its like the God Father trilogy. Francis Ford Copolla recut it, to a chronological version. Now there are two versions (at least), one in the original form of the three movies, and another singular long version as one film, cut to have the entire story in order without flashbacks. Both, are gratifying to watch, but now, I wouldn't want to lose, either version.

We are left with a question. Is it OK for an Artist, or the works owner (a studio, corporation, individual, etc.) to be allowed to change a work of art, cinema or music?

I have argued for years, that when a movie is played on TV, that should not, by law, be allowed to be altered. It should by law, be required to show in its entirety, without cuts, alterations, voiceovers (to replace restricted language, etc.). Otherwise, it simply couldn't be shown on TV.

I also think it should be harder for an Artist, once they put their works into the public, that they cannot so easily change it. Again, it elevates it, makes it more than it is now. And we would all have to have more respect. We might have fewer artists (lower case A) who turn out crap. Because, once its out there its there. I thought that the Internet never let things die; but if they came about before the Internet, then its possible.

I've seen movies in the US that were butchered by networks in order to show at a lowered audience level so kids could see it, or to who more commercials. I also noticed that in many cases, these same films, showed in Great Britain, without any of those cuts.

Why the discrepancy? Did the British children get damaged? Are we just whimps?

So my argument for TV is, if you have to change it, you don't get to play it. I have not heard one good argument for showing a movie on TV (or music on the radio), that is a good reason for cutting or altering it. So, put it on, you show it as it is, or not at all. That, would elevate our Artist's works above mere product, above commercial only interest. Perhaps that explains our feelings about cutting Arts programs in the schools so quickly. We don't respect it.

IF Art doesn't make a buck, it sucks. Or, is it us who suck?

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