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STYLE v GENRE

There has been a musical cold war happening for decades with GENRE v STYLE – and STYLE is winning. Is this the end of the Australian country music genre?

First things first; what is the difference between genre and style and should we really be worrying about it?

Well genre is an overall grouping of music that has become socially accepted over time such as Rock, Blues, Jazz and Country. Style is a subcategory of genre as in Heavy Metal is a style of the genre Rock. Trad Jazz has become a style of Jazz (even though some would argue that it was the original Jazz) and likewise Bluegrass is seen as a style of Country.

However, it is just Country that seems to have fewer styles associated with it when compiling lists for charts, placing in record stores and for that matter, helping to guide artists in their career decisions. A genre is the key to unlocking lost avenues for music industry success, so resist the urge to shrug it off as a meaningless label. It really is an important part of communicating your music to the masses.

In placing songs in the genre of Australian country music, there is little to no academia, study or educational grants taken up for research, either historically or in business.

Countless books have been written about country music, all with little or no peer review. Wikipedia is plagued by very slick country artist entries, edited by professional Wiki editors, about people who have just entered the industry with their first album but there are few entries for our historical legends.

Along with this, country music in Australia is plagued by a plethora of charts from any number of sources, also with little to no credibility. These charts are authored by anyone from community radio hosts, to print and digital media journalists, to Australian recording industry companies again with little or no peer reviewed data.

The data for these numerous charts comes from a variety of again, dubious sources such as ARIA’s country album chart (they don’t have a country ‘singles’ chart?) derived from sales from a ’club’ of music stores. Even though their website proclaims that:

…over a thousand physical and digital retailers, as well as music streaming services across Australia contribute their weekly sales/streams…

This data is from just 15 national chains (JBHIFI, Sanity etc), who all sum their national data for ARIA and a handful of state based stores plus Apple, Google Play and iTunes et al (https://www.ariacharts.com.au/stores).

So who calls the shots at these stores as to what is country and what isn’t? After ringing several head offices, I found out that none of the stores mentioned above provide staff that sort albums into genre.

Enter ‘Trade Services Australia’. Never heard of them? Neither had I till I researched this article. Do they provide academic rigour to their choices? Not by the way it’s presented on their website:

…Trade Service of Australia aggregates product information provided by the mainstream Home Entertainment distributors in Australia. The information is received in various formats and processed by enthusiastic editors, into a central database. Information from the database is used to create and publish paper-based reference catalogues, and provide a standardised and structured data format for clients to feed their software systems and websites…” (http://www.tradeservice.com.au/about/aboutus.aspx). Please note the ‘enthusiastic editors‘ bit.

The stores listed above, used by ARIA to gain their data, do not place albums in any genre. TSA supply their data to all of the above stores for cataloguing purposes.

The rest come from unreliable and undocumented sources, even down to purely subjective taste, all with no academia applied, no peer review.

Hence, all of Australian country music is now clouded with objective and subjective ‘opinion’ – the majority confusing ‘style’ over ‘genre’. Is it any wonder that our country music is in such disarray?

This situation has culminated in the unbelievably ignorant but seemingly acceptable practice, happening on a daily basis in Australia, of a bush ballad being placed on the same chart as an obvious pop/rock song.

Sure, as an artist, content is chosen on what the fans/market want. However should it be them or for that matter the industry that chooses what is ‘country’ and what is not as far as genre is concerned? I say NO!

The situation we have at present is motivated by economic concerns and so academia is our only solution.

An example is the Melinda Schneider track ‘My Voice’, clearly a pop song, but one that sits on many country charts because “it’s Melinda and we love her”.

This is my objective argument that academia has a vital role in helping to lead the future of Australian country music.

© Pixie Jenkins 2018

Bachelor of Entertainment Business Management (2016 JMC Academy)

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THE DOME – Hellish horror on our doorstep.

Runit Island - 4800k from my front door
Runit Island – 4800k from my front door
Runit Island - 1 of 40 that are part of the Enewetak Atoll - the ring of an ancient volcano in Micronesia.
Runit Island – 1 of 40 that are part of the Enewetak Atoll – the ring of an ancient volcano in Micronesia.
The Dome - HORROR INCARNATE.  18" thick cement covering raw plutonium waste.
The Dome – HORROR INCARNATE. 18″ thick cement covering raw plutonium waste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runit Island in the Enewetak Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands is only 4800 klms from my front door and is barely containing an unimaginable horror that is about to change the world.

At first glance, a tropical paradise but as climate change accelerates these islands are already drowning at a frightening rate. This would be enough of a problem alone for the people of Micronesia.

However, do you remember the name Bikini Atoll and the US bomb tests of the 1940s and 50s? Just 350 kms from the Enewetak group?

Apart from the forced removal of the natives to what was thought ‘safer’ areas only 30 kms away…

Apart from the 100s of dead and dying US personnel because of what the natives called ‘snow’ (Read: Nuclear Fallout) causing skin and internal cancers…

Apart from the 1000s of islander inhabitants affected by this fallout…

Apart from the nuclear horror and damage to the world’s ozone layer from the 23 gigantic bombs triggered at these islands (100s of times more powerful than Hiroshima)…

ONE OF THEM FAILED!

…..and the result is terrifying and horrifying and a danger to the entire globe.

When this huge weapon was triggered it failed to trigger the nuclear fission necessary and simply blew up the outer casing spreading large bits of fissionable plutonium over the island.  I’m not going into a treatise here on plutonium suffice to say it is the deadliest thing on the planet.

So the USA in their almighty wisdom, sent in a cleanup crew to gather up these chunks of highly radioactive matter, place them in plastic bags and throw them into the pit of a previous detonation and seal it with a thin skin of cement which of course is now breaking down and already releasing its toxic waste into the surrounding waters.  It is more often than not, now battered by waves breaking up this cement dome covering the horror underneath.  Nearly all of the cleanup crew are dead or dying and they weren’t told about the danger until they arrived at the site.

With the rise of sea water globally it has been estimated that this and many other Micronesian islands will be inundated by the end of the next decade; in less than 12 years.

The US has repeatedly reneged on its reparations in this matter with islanders suffering horrific cancers and the loss of their homes and livelihoods.

But what about the rest of us?  What will happen when ‘The Dome’ (already exuding waste) finally cracks and releases all of the deadly waste and radiation trapped inside?  This is one of the largest deposits of pure plutonium in existence.

Help needs to come now.  If we wait for the inevitable, the outcomes for humanity will be catastrophic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_testing_at_Bikini_Atoll

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The rise of anti-intellectualism

Armchair SJW PC warriors and their safe space pronoun pushing personal agendas are part of the biggest problem mankind faces and it’s an even greater danger than global warming.

It’s the rise of anti-intellectualism.

Smarter phones and dumber people are propelling us towards a world that would have been inconceivable decades ago when Heinlein and Asimov wrote about dystopian futures but here we are.

Social media has become anti-social media and Google, Facebook and Wikipedia et al are now the universities of uniform idiocy as people ‘like’ agreeable posts and pages instead of doing the one thing that research requires – alternative argument and opposite points of view.

The dumbing down of education and the spread of this anarchy of misinformation has led to massive worldwide increases in gene splicing clubs, flat earth conventions, and believers in the crazy notion of “they didn’t land on the moon” (even though I can see a lunar lander on the moon as I write through a $240 telescope from fucking ALDI).

So now imagine a future where the leaders of the world make their decisions driven by the will of the people through 24/7 exposure to anti-social media and fake news and ……..

OH SHIT!!!

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The Rise of Popular Culture – Depression to Delirium (Country music’s influence on music history)

Introduction

The momentous changes in popular culture from 1945 can’t be written about until a little history of the previous 15 years is discussed. There were enormous political, social, economic and geographical upheavals in the world during the first decades of the 20th century. As a result, popular culture in post-war America simply exploded and it was breakthroughs in technology and music that lit the wick (Erenberg, 1999).

Back to 1930s

The economic misery caused by the ‘Great Depression’ of the 1930’s would be felt particularly hard in the USA. The stock market crash of 1929 had coincided with crippling drought and rural dust storms, blowing precious topsoil away and decimating arable land (Reinhardt & Ganzel, 2003). Agriculture came to a stand still. Now people living in the farming communities as well as the cities were jobless, starving and penniless. John Steinbeck in his novel ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, even though a fiction, is cited as accurately painting a bleak picture of rural America at this time (Unknown, 2003) (Steinbeck, 2006). It was particularly hard for the African-American due to the scourge of racism and segregation (Giordano, 2014). Music was an important part of life especially in rural areas and dancing was important to the social cohesiveness of depressed rural communities (Reinhardt & Ganzel, 2003) (Hornbeck, 2012).

American cities in the late 1930s saw the rise of jazz and blues artists. Young groundbreaking musicians like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie filled the clubs and dance halls in Harlem. The popularity of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and the touring dance orchestras kept growing (Erenberg, 1999) (Smith, 2003). In rural areas however, a new form of music, influenced by jazz but with its roots in country music, was hitting the country dance halls.

They called it Western Swing and it seems to have had its origins in Texas and was fathered by the likes of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys (Tribe, 2006). This upbeat, crazy, free-form music was heard every night in every town across the ‘Dust Bowl’, as the depressed rural areas of America had become known (Worster, 2004) (Gregory, 2014). Then came the Second World War, and at its end, advances in technology would shape musical history for decades to come (Jordan, 2010).

1945 – Let the good times roll

World War 2 finally came to an end on the 8th of May 1945, when Adolf Hitler committed suicide (Mawdsley, 2009). This end was the start of the great post war boom times. Peace had brought a renewed vigor to American industry. The automobile industry successfully converted from producing war machines back to producing cars. New industries such as aviation and electronics grew quickly (Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, 2013). Along with a housing and ‘baby’ boom (76.5 million babies were born between 1945 and 1964) the US standard of living was on the rise (US Department of Commerce, 2014). Personal incomes increased by 293% (Altschuler, 2003). All of a sudden young people had a ‘disposable’ income. Born into a nation that had been suffering from a terrible economic depression and drought then torn apart by war, they naturally wanted a release. They wanted ‘good-times’ and could afford it. They wanted cars, relationships and music. (Aquila, 1989)

In Manhattan, as in other cities around the US, music became a focal point for social change. Venues up and down the infamous 52nd Street closed and reopened as dance halls, once a ‘hot-bed’ of traditional African-American blues and jazz suddenly became a ‘cool’ place to ‘hang-out’ (Burke, 2008). With the influx of these new young fans that wanted to dance, not sit and listen, jazz had mixed with dance orchestras and spawned the Big Swing Band era and then the ‘jitter-bug’ craze (Young & Young, 2010). In the rural areas however, they were gathering on the weekends in barns and halls, still dancing to their beloved country music and Western Swing (Tribe, 2006).

Musicians everywhere would soon start to use two things that would change music forever. Incredibly, both invented by a single man working out of his garage.

1948 – The Birth of Multitracking

Popular jazz guitarist Les Paul began tinkering with the idea of an amplified guitar in the mid 1930s but it wasn’t until 1942 that he succeeded in designing and creating the worlds first truly electric guitar; the eponymously named ‘Les Paul’ guitar that’s still made and played all over the world today. However, he was soon about to change musical history again. After years of experimentation Paul created the first multi-tracked recordings. First using wire and acetate and later on magnetic tape, Les Paul would revolutionise the music industry and help create the entertainment mass market of the future (Shaughnessy, 1993).

In his garage Paul would record his incredible guitar playing. He experimented with a number of different recording techniques and coined phrases that are still in use today such as ‘sound on sound’, ‘over dubbing’ and the ubiquitous ‘echo effect’. His breakthrough came in 1948 with a recording of the song “Lover”. It featured his amazing guitar work repeated and harmonized over a number of individual recordings or ‘tracks’. This method of layering a recording, while being able to hear the previous tracks so as to keep in time, became known as overdubbing and had never been done before. All music up until this day was recorded live as a single performance and nearly all monophonic. It wasn’t long before Paul was creating 24-track recordings and producing huge hits like “How High the Moon” with the amazing vocals of Mary Ford (Shaughnessy, 1993).

Although Les Paul invented the process of multi-tracking, it was Ross Snyder who invented the Multi-Track Tape Recorder. Snyder was a special projects manager working at Ampex in the 1950’s (Milner, 2011). He was interested in how the new sound-on-sound recordings were created using the current technology in single-track tape machines. He noted the fact that Les Paul used several machines to affect his unique recordings, over-dubbing one to another to build up his tracks. This technique caused a loss in quality as the original track was lost to its copy.

It was from this thought that the Ampex ‘Sel-Track’ 8 Track tape recorder was developed and by 1955 studios everywhere where using it. 7ft high and running 1” tape it was a monster of a machine. Now you could record 8 tracks and play them back simultaneously with no loss of quality (Bartlett & Bartlett, 1999).

1952 – Rock Around the Clock

Soon musicians and artists were recording thousands of new albums each month and new industries formed around them. High Fidelity Stereo Recording studios and record stores sprang up everywhere. New radio stations all across America were playing records of African-American jazz and blues artists while others played country singers and western swing bands. Music was fast becoming a new boom industry. Entertainment management companies and artist agencies began opening their doors. New venues were opening by the hundreds (Hull et al., 2011).

Recording Artists were touring the land, selling out venues across America and their recordings sold in thousands. Teenagers were dancing to both black and white artists who were gaining in popularity. There was a mix of musical styles and extraordinary changes in social behaviors and culture. Then suddenly from this milieu came a middle aged country yodeler and western swing artist who took the back beat out of western swing, mixed it with the African-American jazz jitter-bug and created Rock and Roll.

His name was Bill Haley and together with a jazz guitar picker and a western swing drummer and a country bass player formed The Comets. With their very first recording for Decca in April 1954 they produced ‘Rock Around The Clock’, still cited as one of the biggest selling ‘rock’ singles of all time (Fuchs, 2011). Bill Haley and The Comets set the scene for the coming momentous changes in youth culture and paved the way for the early African-American rock and roll artists such as Little Richard and Bo Diddley but also created a path for Elvis Presley and the vast tapestry of music throughout the decades to follow.

Conclusion

In America the 15 years of national hardship from 1930 to 1945 were caused by many factors from economic to environmental, political to social. In 1945, with the ‘Great Depression’, the horror of the ‘dust bowl’, and WW2 over, life returned to normal. Then came vast technological improvements and the meeting of African-American blues and jazz with country music. The standard of living rose dramatically, old regimes were falling. Racism and segregation were being fought and questioned. There was a growing social need for release, for joy.

Rock and Roll gave them that release and from 1955 onwards forged its way into popular culture.

End Notes

#1
Milner says in his book that, ‘Although Les Paul designed the ‘solid body’ electric guitar in 1941 and produced a working version by 1942, by the time it was ready for mass production by Gibson in 1952, Leo Fender had already mass produced the Fender Broadcaster four years earlier in 1948, thus beating Paul to popular credit for the invention’. Les Paul bought an Ampex ‘Sel-Track’ for $10,000 in 1952 and continued to record some incredible guitar work. He died in 2009 aged 94 still playing his beloved ‘Les Paul’ signature ‘solid body’ electric guitar (Milner, 2011).

#2
Arguably, the worlds first rock and roll song was the 1948 recording of ‘Move it on over’ by Hank Williams.  While Bill Haley was still singing yodelling ballads, Hank has ‘cool’ band of electric instrumentation and using a drummer who played ‘the back beat’ for the first time on record.

Reference List

Altschuler, G.C., 2003. All Shook Up: How Rock ‘n’ Roll Changed America. Oxford University Press. standards of living in the 40’s – ersonal income stats.

Aquila, R., 1989. That Old-Time Rock & Roll: A Chronicle of an era 1954-63. Urbana: University of Illionois Press.

Bartlett, B. & Bartlett, J., 1999. On-location Recording Techniques. Taylor & Francis.

Burke, P.L., 2008. Come In and Hear the Truth – Jazz and Race on 52nd Street. Chicago, Illinois, USA: University of Chicago Press.

Erenberg, L.A., 1999. Swingin’ the Dream: Big Band Jazz and the Rebirth of American Culture. University of Chicago Press.

Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, 2013. The Postwar Economy: 1945-1960. [Online] Available at: http://countrystudies.us/united-states/history-114.htm [Accessed 15 July 2014].

Fuchs, O., 2011. Bill Haley – Father of Rock and Roll. GeInhausen, Germany: Wagner Verlag GmbH.

Giordano, R.G., 2014. Social Dancing in America. [Online] Available at: http://testaae.greenwood.com/doc_print.aspx?fileID=GR3352&chapterID=GR3352-481&path=books/greenwood [Accessed 15 July 2014].

Gregory, J.N., 2014. “The Dust Bowl Migration”  Poverty Stories, Race Stories. [Online] Available at: http://faculty.washington.edu/gregoryj/dust%20bowl%20migration.htm [Accessed 16 July 2014].

Hornbeck, R., 2012. The Enduring Impact of the American Dust Bowl: Short- and Long-Run Adjustments to Environmental Catastrophe. [Online] Available at: http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/hornbeck/files/hornbeck_dustbowl.pdf [Accessed 12 July 2014].

Hull, G.P., Hutchison, T., Strasser, R. & Hull, G., 2011. The Music Business and Recording Industry (Google eBook). Routledge.

Jordan, , 2010. Family, Farming, and Military Service at Darvills, Viginia, 1965-1967: An Application of Methodology in Community Studies. [Online] Available at: http://scholarscompass.vcu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3304&context=etd [Accessed 12 July 2014].

Mawdsley, E., 2009. World War II: A New History. Cambridge University Press.

Milner, G., 2011. Perfecting Sound Forever: The Story of Recorded Music (Google eBook). Granta Books.

Reinhardt, C. & Ganzel, B., 2003. Farming in the 1930s. [Online] Available at: http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/life_01.html [Accessed 12 July 2014]. 1930’s rural socoal landscape in America.

Reinhardt, C. & Ganzel, B., 2003. Farming in the 1940s. [Online] Available at: http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe40s/life_01.html [Accessed 12 July 2014]. Rural social landscape in america in the 1940’s.

Shaughnessy, M.A., 1993. Les Paul: an American original. W. Morrow.

Smith, K.E.R., 2003. God Bless America: Tin Pan Alley Goes to War. University Press of Kentucky.

Steinbeck, J., 2006. The Grapes of Wrath. USA: Penguin Group. First published in 1939.

Tribe, I.M., 2006. Country: A Regional Exploration (Google eBook). Greenwood Publishing Group.

Unknown, 2003. Farm Labor in the 1930s. [Online] Available at: https://migration.ucdavis.edu/rmn/more.php?id=788_0_6_0 [Accessed 16 July 2014]. Volume 9 Number 4.

US Department of Commerce, 2014. United States Census Bureau. [Online] Available at: http://www.census.gov [Accessed 12 July 2014]. Facts and figures used in writing this essay.

Worster, D., 2004. Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s. Oxford, London, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Young, W.H. & Young, N.K., 2010. World War II and the Postwar Years in America: A Historical and Cultural Encyclopedia, Volume 1 (Google eBook). ABC-CLIO.