Monday, November 5, 2007

Mythic Music: Stockhausen, Davis and Macero, Dub, Hip Hop, and Lévi-Strauss

It’s not particularly news to say that much contemporary music, popular or otherwise, is constructed through assemblage, put together from pre-existing pieces in what Lévi-Strauss called bricolage (and which he associated especially with mythic rather than scientific thinking) – creating something new out of assorted odds and ends of things already there. This is especially clear with hip hop and its heavy use of sampling previously existing music and sounds, though the use of sampling and re-mixing is not confined to that genre.

To say this is to neither praise nor criticize – it is simply to make a comment on a key quality of much if not most contemporary music. Such musical bricolage can be highly creative (to pick just one example I’m fond of, System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian’s “Bird of Paradise (Gone)” from Bird Up – the Charlie Parker Remix Project uses Parker’s “Bird of Paradise” and other musical odds and ends as source material for something that’s really less a remix than a truly new piece of music), tedious (with many hip hop and pop songs, the most interesting thing is trying to remember which previous bland pop song it is that’s being so obviously sampled), and/or an attempt by record labels to cash in on back catalogue material with remix projects (the Bird Up album I mention above is overall pretty good – but it’s also a crass attempt by Savoy Jazz to make more money from a catalogue that’s been marketed many times over).

Musical bricolage didn’t start with hip hop. One of the key antecedents of remixing and sampling in hip hop is Dub, which in the 1970s essentially involved reformulating the elements, i.e. early remixing, of reggae songs.

One of the earliest instances of music produced through bricolage in a popular genre was the work of Miles Davis and producer Teo Macero on albums like Bitches Brew and A Tribute to Jack Johnson. What they did on these albums in the late 1960s and very early 1970s was, of course, not completely unprecedented. Structurally, what they did was anticipated by the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen – an influence Davis explicitly acknowledged at the time.

What made their work at the time quite different from most everything else done in jazz up until that point was the way in which the final songs appearing on the albums were constructed from multiple takes of different tracks recorded in the studio (as opposed to the standard jazz practice of releasing whole takes, even if multiple takes of a song were recorded, with the best take being the one released).

Even before this, there had been much use of overdubbing in the production of pop and rock recording. Also, in classical music there had been instances of taped material being incorporated alongside conventional instruments in the performance of a musical work. What Stockhausen and Davis and Macero were doing was structurally a bit different.

Conventional overdubbing allows for a finished recording to be constructed from elements recorded in separate instances. However, this isn’t bricolage. The piece of music is pre-planned, a structure is designed and then carried out – i.e. this is an instance of “engineering” (to invoke Lévi-Strauss’ contrast between the engineer/scientific thought and the bricoleur/mythic thought). Overdubbing simply allows a designed structure to be implemented by breaking a task down into constituent parts (a classic “scientific” maneuver) before putting each in its proper place. Earlier classical pieces that incorporated taped material tended to be of the same sort of “engineered” music.

What was different with Davis recordings beginning in the late 1960s was that the tracks that were recorded were not constituent parts of a designed piece. Instead they were freely improvised works in their own right that were recorded with the sole intent of serving as raw material (something that has by no means kept Columbia records from cashing in on all these recordings by releasing them recently in a series of massive box sets – and frankly, much of the material is well worth listening to in its own right, even if it was never intended for release as is), as previously existing odds and ends out of which finished songs were constructed out of bits and pieces from here and there in a true process of bricolage. (If one wanted to qualify, this could be called engineered bricolage, insofar as the oddments for assembly were themselves intentionally designed to serve as such, unlike the found odds and ends of dub producers or more recent remixers.)

There are numerous partial examples of musical bricolage from earlier periods. That’s essentially what musical quotation is, but such wholesale bricolage, where entire works are constructed of previously existing material is fairly new in the history of Western music.

In a variety of his works, Lévi-Strauss drew parallels between the structure of myth and music. One parallel is the co-dependence of the synchronic and diachronic in both myth and music. Myth narratives and musical pieces unfold through time, and without this diachronic element, there is no narrative, whether mythic or musical, but all the while, the experience of the unfolding chain of events is filtered through synchronic structure – there is not simply a random unfolding of events, but things happening in relation to what has happened prior and expectations of what will happen now and in the future, without which there is only noise.

At the same time, Lévi-Strauss strongly associated mythic thought with bricolage. Mythic thinking involves understanding the world through taking the already there and reassembling it. (He was also rightly aware that even at our most “scientific,” we never impose structure on the world without constraint or without precedent.) But here (until recently, at least) a full parallel with music breaks down. For several centuries, western music, especially western art music, worked in an engineering mode. For example, think about the sometimes mechanistically imposed structure of canon or sonata form, or later serialism.

In Myth and Meaning, Lévi-Strauss made an interesting conjecture. He noted that western art music rose to prominence at roughly the same time that mythic thinking was more and more giving way to scientific thinking in scholarship and western discourse generally. He conjectured that some of the organization of experience typical of mythic thinking was transposed onto thinking through music with its new prominence.

Regardless of the value of that conjecture (I’m not sure how to go about proving it one way or another), I think it’s important to note that music and myth are structurally similar in some ways (e.g. the organization of the experience of time), but until recently, the quality of bricolage so typical of myth has not been characteristic of music. What’s new about Stockhausen, Davis’ and Macero’s experiments in the late 1960s and 1970s, dub, and hip hop is the creation of music in a fully mythic mode.


Anonymous said...

I love the hip hop and the rap, I have a sang, its said something like this:: am on the rock and then I check a stock
I have to run like a fugitive to buy cheap viagra and save the life I live
I’m gonna be Iron like a Lion in Zion !!!1 bob Marley is the best one!!!!

SteveBrad said...

Great info! I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Unknown said...

That was an interesting piece of information on handwriting analysis. Please post more about graphology. Thank you!

Unknown said...

That was an interesting piece of information on handwriting analysis. Please post more about graphology. Thank you!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I like the Hip Hop and the RAP, some songs were a real inspiration for me like gangster paradis
J'adore le rap, dans les clip de Hip hop, les femmes ont toutes subi des interventions de chirurgie esthétique comme le lifting visage et la rhinoplastie et le lifting des cuisses pour avoir un beau visage et une silhouette harmonieuse

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Les stars d'aujourd'hui ont eu recours aux opérations de chirurgie esthétique comme <a href="> le lifting du visage </a>

Ujan sharma said...

A good blog always comes-up with new and exciting information and while reading I have feel that this blog is really have all those quality that qualify a blog to be a one.

আলোতে আলোতে ঢাকা
সবাই চুপ লিরিক্স
নিটোল পায়ে লিরিক্স
এই মন লিরিক্স

pest control 24x7 said...

I hope this article is very useful to us. Thanks for sharing.

Tamilnadu Pest Control said...

Thinks you have shared is really useful. Thanks for sharing.

pestrid said...

That’s a very great post. The Article is Awesome to read. I have been reading your articles and they are really very helpful for me. Thanks for sharing with us your Post. Very good information.

Anonymous said...

Nice information. Mental health is a level of psychological well-being. Here you have discussed how music will help to overcome the mental health problems. Really this is a very useful blog. I like this blog.

Kiruthy ��️ said...

Very Good Blog

We are the Leading Best Pest Control Services In Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Trichy and Bangalore.
(Best Price With Warranty)
Termite control (Pre Construction & Post Construction)
Rat control Services
Cockroach control Services
Bed Bugs control Services
Call Now: 9941916916

inamulhaq1122 said...

How to dead person in artifical intelligence use of rebotics and its laws.

Kiruthy ��️ said...

Nice Blog !
We are the leading Best Pest Control Services in Chennai,Madurai,Coimbatore,Tenkasi,Trichy and Bangalore For Hotels ,Restaurants, Offices ,Factories and Home Extra...
Call Now : 9941916916
Termite control service in Chennai
Pest Control services in Chennai
Pest control service in Chennai
Rodent control service in Chennai
Mosquito control service in Chennai
Housefly control service in Chennai
Bedbug control service in Chennai
General control service in Chennai
Spider control service in Chennai
Cockroach control service in Chennai
Snake control service in Chennai
Bird control service in Chennai
Residential control service in Chennai
commercial control service in Chennai
Home Pest control service in Chennai

Ganesh said...

Thanks for sharing....Rodent Control Service in Chennai
Pest Control Service in Chennai

Callie Edorra said...

This is a cool blog post shared here.
Thanks for Sharing..

Men Leather Shirt

LeatherExotica said...

I am a music lover. Really lovely post shared here. Thanks for sharing..
Women Leather Blazers

Unknown said...

Idowaz is a Transport, Food and Courier delivery service company. Idowaz moving the world and making life easier for everyone.

best taxi service provider
professional courier services provider

PuntoSeguro said...

Si te gusta viajar sabrás que el viaje no se inicia el día que sale de casa, si no que comienza en el momento en que empiezas a buscar información de tu destino, tal y cómo donde alojarte, como vas a llegar al lugar, cuales son las actividades recomendadas o que vas a comer o visitar.

Qué cubre un seguro de viaje y por qué contratarlo

crazy girl said...

My name is Mamata independent jaipur escort service, and i give my independent escorts in jaipur. i am one of the best high profile jaipur escorts service. you can contact me for jaipur escort service. you can meet me in any great star inn in jaipur, for my high-class call girls in jaipur. i am the best female escorts in jaipur. i am absolutely a jaipur call girls, there is no go-between or any jaipur escorts agency is included. i can likewise make a trip abroad to give my model escort services jaipur, jaipur any nation of your decision jaipur vip escorts

Escort Service in Gurgaon said...

Escort Service in Gurgaon are independent tours Gurgaon Escort have been placed in the categories of you can contact on our website to spend time with them.Escort Service in Gurgaon

Unique Cleaning Services said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pest control 24x7 said...

Thank you so much for sharing all this wonderful info with the how-top’s! It is so appreciated!” “You always have good humour in your posts/blogs. So much fun and easy to read!
Pest Control Services in Chennai | Pest Control 24x7
Pest Control Service in Chennai
Cockroach Control Services in Chennai
Termite Control Services in Chennai
BedBugs Control Services inChennai
Mosquito Control Services in Chennai

fazil said...

Thank you so much for sharing all this wonderful info

Denise Edorra said...

This is a great post shared here. Thanks for sharing this amazing post.
Men leather Jumpsuit

Seofaiz said...

Nice blog...
Hepa Filter Manufacturers in Chennai, Tamilnadu | Microflow
Hepa Filter Manufacturers in Chennai
Hepa Filter Manufacturers in Kerala
Hepa Filter Manufacturers in Maharashtra

Seofaiz said...

“Nice info!”
Biosafety Cabinet Manufacturers in Chennai | Microflow
Biosafety Cabinet Manufacturers in Tamilnadu
Biosafety Cabinet Manufacturers in Maharashtra
Hepa Filter Manufacturers in Kerala

ZoopGo Home services said...

Thank You for sharing this amazing Blog!! i Would Love to share in Pest Control Mumbai near me

Simran said...

Gracias por brindar la mejor y excelente información sobre los tours y viajes Viaje a la India. Realmente me gusta el recorrido de los paquetes Triangulo de oro India con lugares turísticos increíbles en Delhi, Agra y Jaipur. Amo este viaje. Gracias de nuevo por compartir esta publicación de blog: Triangulo de oro India.

ZoopGo Home services said...

Thank You for sharing such an amazing article!! If yOu really want to Know the Charges of Pest Control in Mumbai Kindly check Out this Blog!!

Billy Lewis said...

This is a good article posted here... Thanks for sharing...
Women Leather Jacket

Billy said...

A best post shared here.. Really very much informative...

Men Distressed Leather Jacket

Unknown said...

Thinks you have shared are really useful. Thanks for sharing.

Bio-Safety Cabinet Manufacturers In India Chennai

CoreIot said...

Excellent information, I like your post. Keep Posting

Laminar Air Flow Manufacture in Chennai

Jacket Hunt said...

Thanks for sharing this amazing and informative post. keep sharing with us.
motorcycle genuine fashion leather vest mens said...

SoftCrackExia - Latest Crack & Patch direct Download links

Digital Covet said...


We’re techie minds involved in creative & automotive marketing. If you're looking to create your own marketing team or need any services related to it, please feel free to get in touch with us to know about our strategy & tactics.

Connect for free strategy -