Music and meaning

In how much, do you feel, are creative decisions shaped by cultural differences – and in how much, vice versa, is the perception of sound influenced by cultural differences?

I think that music transcends such things, hopefully, but it's hard to say since I have never gotten to play for audiences that are culturally different from me. I see differences by city and different countries, but rock n' roll has become a well known paradigm pretty much everywhere by now. 

The relationship between music and other forms of art – painting, video art and cinema most importantly - has become increasingly important. How do you see this relationship yourself and in how far, do you feel, does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?

I think that music is still treated differently. You can make a movie or write a book from a character who has a different point of view than your own, but if you right a song doing that same thing, everyone assumes that it is 'from your heart/soul' and thinks it is your point of view or agenda. Especially if from a reprehensible or politically suspect point of view.

There seem to be two fundamental tendencies in music today: on the one hand, a move towards complete virtualisation, where tracks and albums are merely released as digital files. And, on the other, an even closer union between music, artwork, packaging and physical presentation. Where do you stand between these poles? 

Well, I obviously grew up in a world where albums were complete packages, and I still try to do that. I think that one can use both models effectively, however. Like the odd future releasing stuff digitally for free, but also making objects in a limited way. I think that you have to make the 'object' worthwhile to people, and be able to back it up in a live setting. The death of the recording industry paradigm is not the same as the death of music. It calls for different strategies and makes stuff possible. The only downside to the digital thing is people thinking they are entitled to music for free all the time, anytime. It will not effect the huge musicians like the Metallica’s of this world, they have already been paid up front with large contracts and massive merchandising, it is the middle and lower rungs, rock n' roll working class that is affected.  

The role of an artist is always subject to change. What's your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?

Politically motivated music in a specific sense always runs the risk of sounding dated in a short time. Obviously, unless you live in a bubble or are a sociopath, the world affects what you do, and is incorporated into what you do. It is hard to be truly politically active if you are touring and crossing borders, etc. Also you are fully integrated in the economy touring, using fossil fuels, staying in hotels, exchanging currency, etc. so it is not exactly being a revolutionary.

The only really effective form of dealing with politics is armed conflict, if you aren't doing that it is just so much griping. Loot, burn, bomb, kill politicians if you really want to be active in changing things. Buying 'green', protesting, singing protest songs, is just so much not doing anything. Until things are so bad that dying doesn't scare you (a la Syria) nothing is going to stop the juggernaut of Milton-Friedman's-Chicago-School-of-Economics-loot-the-world-wealth-and-hide-in-Dubai plan that has engulfed the world. 

Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases in general are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What's your view on the value of music today? In what way does the abundance of music change our perception of it?

I think music has become pervasive and undervalued. It is mostly an adjunct to lifestyle choices, an accessory.

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences?

They won't. Niche marketing is the business model on which it's success is built. Also it would no longer be something different if it achieved mainstream acceptance. 

Usually, it is considered that it is the job of the artist to win over an audience. But listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?

They have an equal role in the process of making meaning in the music. 

Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What's your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies  change the way music is perceived by the public?

Well if companies are paying for their clients to be on covers of magazines, then it is obvious who will always be on the covers. It is as old as the hills, like prostitution and motherhood (first and second oldest professions, as the saying goes). Unless magazines take a stance on it, which means being able to weather sales slumps when an unpopular band fails to sell a cover, then it will continue. There are some magazines that don't do it of course, and those ones are generally more respected, but also probably don't sell as many copies. 

Please recommend two artists to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.

Wow only 2. I guess the Smoke Fairies and Undersmile, cuz they're fresh in my mind right now and I really like them both.

Read and hear more Dylan Carlson at www.thronesanddominions.com

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