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Advertising series 01: Music

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — trying to gauge the appropriateness of music in TV advertising, and getting the sense that music has a — frankly — higher purpose. And then? ]
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I’ve been trying to figure out, from the poetry plane, just what it is that music does or is, or where, and as I’m watching TV commercials, I’m struck each time classical music is used, and forced to consider the role that music plays — in the ads, in my life, and in our lives. Commercials, like haiku, are highly concentrated affairs, and I’ve been learning a lot.

In brief —

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I don’t terribly mind that you can jazz the greatest of composers IMO, in what feels more like a virtuoso exercise than music as such..

Flying Bach:Red Bull

And when the music is jazzy to begin with, no problem — fun, even ..

Rhapsody in Blue: United

Unh — and ditto, speeded up:

High speed Orchestra: Porsche

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But Ave Maria?

Ave Maria: Planters

I guess that’s arguably a Hail Mary overpass, and the Ave Maria only slips in very briefly while the peanut’s in flight, so I’ll let it slide by..

But then I must admit I do get a bit uneasy about the semi-sacred last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth being repeatedly associated with a somewhat silly sad for a line of sports-car, lovely though they are:

Ode to Joy: Alfa Romeo

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The Hallelujah Chorus comes from a sacred oratorio, Handel’s Messiah, to be sure, but Messiah has been drifting from the sacred towards the social for decades, maybe even a century… Boots, though?

Hallelujah: Boots and Shoes

That seems a bit off-kilter: ads are repetitive things, and the idea that millions of concert-goers may have a less than stellar shoe ad pop into their heads in the middle of Handel’s iconic work — not a great taste to leave in the metaphorical mouth, methinks.

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Compare this commercial using the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem

Mozart Requiem: DirecTV

— with this paragraph from the philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis:

Remember that philosophers almost always start by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is a table. What does this table show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever started by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is my memory of my dream of last night. What does this show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever starts by saying “Let Mozart’s Requiem be a paradigm of being, let us start from that.” Why could we not start by positing a dream, a poem, a symphony as paradigmatic of the fullness of being and by seeing in the physical world a deficient mode of being, instead of looking at things the other way round, instead of seeing in the imaginary — that is, human — mode of existence, a deficient or secondary mode of being?

DirecTV? You can count me out.

Kurt Vonnegut quite wonderfully explains:

I am enchanted by the Sermon on the Mount. Being merciful, it seems to me, is the only good idea we have received so far. Perhaps we will get another idea that good by and by-and then we will have two good ideas. What might that second good idea be? I don’t know. How could I know? I will make a wild guess that it will come from music somehow. I have often wondered what music is and why we love it so. It may be that music is that second good idea being born.

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Frankly, I don’t think commercials are up to the Castoriadis / Vonnegut standard.

But let me leave you with a puzzzlement, a koan — assuming you haven’t diverged too far from my perspective thus far. If the Mozart Requiem should be spared participation in TV advertising, what do you think of Bach — remember Bach? — being embedded in a grisly scene from Silence of the Lambs?

Hannibal Lecter plays Bach:

Masterpiece within a masterpiece? Okay?

Hugh Masekela, RIP

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — I’m not particularly a jazz buff — this is mostly about my mentor Trevor Huddleston, who was also Maasekela’s mentor ]
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Hugh Masekela, jazz trumpeter extraordinaire, is no longer with us. May he rest in peace.

I was happy to read the story of Masekela’s connection with the mentor we were both ignited by, Fr Trevor Huddleston CR, in this obit for Masekela in the Guardian:

Hugh was given his own instrument when he was 14. He was then a pupil at St Peter’s, a remarkable secondary school for black children that became a centre for opponents of apartheid before being closed by the authorities. The staff included Oliver Tambo, later leader of the ANC, and Trevor Huddleston, later Archbishop Huddleston, president of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement. The young Masekela was always in trouble. “I was one of the worst delinquents”, he once told me, “always fighting with the teachers or going into town stealing.” He was sent to see Huddleston because “you’d be sent to him when everything else had failed”.

Masekela had wanted a trumpet, he said, after seeing the 1950 film Young Man With a Horn, and recalled that he told the priest: “If I can get a trumpet I won’t bother anyone one any more.” Huddleston managed to raise £15 (“a lot of money in those days”) to buy the instrument, found a black Salvation Army trumpeter to teach Masekela, “and then he sat outside the school making hideous noises”. Other pupils naturally wanted instruments as well, and the Huddleston Jazz Band was born. They wore black trousers and grey silk shirts, and played American rather than African music. Along with Masekela, the band featured the trombonist Jonas Gwangwa, who would also become a star.

Huddleston continued to help Masekela even after the priest had left the school and South Africa. In 1956, when he was in the US publicising his book Naught for Your Comfort, he told Masekela’s story to a journalist, who suggested that it might interest Louis Armstrong, the best known trumpeter of the day. Armstrong was fascinated and handed Huddleston one of his horns to give to Masekela. “I sent it straight to South Africa, and I have a wonderful picture of Hugh jumping for joy,” said Huddleston.

It is good to see Fr Trevor so honored.

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I talked about Fr Trevor, Masekela, the Huddleston Jazz Band, and Satchmo‘s trumpet in Between the warrior and the monk (ii): Fr Trevor Huddleston, and while the photos there may be of interest —
especially the one where Satchmo is presenting Fr Trevor with the trumpet for Masekela — the video of Maasekela’s first record, Ndenzeni Na with the Huddleston Jazz Band has expired.

Happily, there’s another copy on Youtube for us to hear:

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Maselela goes to meet old and beloved friends, Trevor Huddleston among them.

I’m trying to figure it out

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — oh, i mean, the whole ball of wax, kit & kaboodle ]
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I’m trying to figure it out by catching glimpses in other people’s work, finding somethat are part of their pretty obvious ideas that are assumptions for tuthem and indicative of the state of affairs for me. I suppose I’m always on the lookout for such things, but today I’m going to shoot for the big picture.

Item #1 comes from David Ronfeldt, friend of this blog, who posted at TIMN:

It is no longer possible to think of corruption as just the iniquitous doings of individuals, be they street-level bribe payers, government officials, or business executives. In the five dozen or so countries of which Honduras is emblematic, corruption is the operating system of sophisticated networks that link together public and private sectors and out-and-out criminals — including killers — and whose main objective is maximizing returns for network members.

Boom! The main objective is to maximize returns, returns. Nobody says what retiurns are, everybody knows: returns are cash, money, moolah is what everyone is after, “follow the money” is equalled in popularity only by “cherchez la femme” — although “follow the dead Russians” has a temporary place in the sun if you follow John Schindler. Money, sex, that’s about it.

Sex. I’ll need an item for sex, eh?

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Item #2 is prestige. I ound it at Tom Whipple‘s post, Starman, whichb describes a Norwegian jazz player’s rooftop searches for items of stardust.

So began the journey that would end with an autodidact gypsy-jazz musician publishing a scientific paper in a prestigious American geology journal,

The item here is prestige, yes, in the words “prestigious journal” — and the thing here is that anm autodidact made it into some prestigious pages, a jazz musician, imagine that!

Oh, and BTW, we are stardust:

I suppose you could call Joni Mitchell a jazz musician too, but she’s not — as far as I know — Norwegian,

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Money, prestige, stardust.

Those are my findings so far, that’s what it’s all about. And I’m guessing, sex too, once I find an appopriate reference — oh, totally inappropriate, I’m afraid, not suited to office viewing. .

Sorry about that, I should have used a title-srolling clip from Sex and the City. I mean, good-looking means do it, plain and simple. Those guys who make films know what they’re doing.

I know, I know, I wemt from fishing phrases out of articles into fishing songs out of YouTube — but I’m still after “it” — and now we have money, prestige, stardust, sex..

I am beginning to see a glimmer of the human condition, la condition humaine. I mean, wars — civil and uncivil, compromise, film makers knowing who to film in filmy nightgowns, tight short skirts, and so on, and frankly, Trump, who epitomizes Sex and the City, has moola and no tax returns, and is made of greater stardust than the rest of us, I mean, he Trumps!

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What else? I ask you, what else are we?

Frankly, there’s transcendence. We are golden. We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. This one’s from my memory trove — it’s from Thomas Traherne‘s little book, Centuries of Meditations:

You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars: and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you. Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world.


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