Taking A Breather
From Our Furious Schedule

By Beppe Colli
Apr. 23, 2012

Time for a long vacation: starting from now, tiny but mighty Clouds and Clocks won't be updated anymore.

When will this hiatus end? Well, it's entirely possible that it will be permanent (but the usual goes: the rent will be paid as usual, contents will remain freely accessible, and so on - which is the least we can do, by the way, to repay the kindness and the availability of those who, in many ways, have talked with us).

This I can say: If my self-examination will be positive, publication will start again with the first Autumn shades. Otherwise, it won't.

The issue, it goes without saying, is quite complex. When it comes to music I'm not at all tired, nor I have discovered, all of a sudden, that all the good stuff is in the past. However, I have to admit that, though many good albums have regularly appeared in the course of the last decade - by the way, there are four or five titles scheduled for release in the mid-May/mid-July time frame that I bet will keep my attention fully engaged - it's also true that the quantity of stuff I find to be worth my time is just a fraction of what it once was; and yes, it's enough for a "private relationship", so to speak, but far from enough to keep the triangle musicians-critics-audience fully operational - and no, for me the "message in a bottle" model that's typical of blogs won't do.

There is something I have to clarify here. As it's the norm nowadays, the role of, say, a music monthly is to offer readers a panorama of "those albums that go on sale now", highlighting "what's best" and comparing items in a quite small window. What I've always done - while at the same time making use of "critical" instruments - is to (implicitly) play a "consumer" role, asking myself not only if "the new Cosa Brava CD is better than the new Thinking Plague CD" and if "the new Cosa Brava CD is better than Legend by Henry Cow", but also if "listening to the new Cosa Brava CD is better than reading Paul Krugman's new book" (End This Depression Now!, by the way, is out next week) - which is a question that when it comes to "goods" is totally absurd but which from the (pragmatic) point of view of the different ways one can spend one's time makes total sense.

And this is the crux of the matter: In the last few years, compared to what happened in the "real world" - hence, my desire to read and study this stuff - to me music appeared to have become just a shadow of what it once was, and the fact of the audience being so small and tired did not exactly make for a strong stimulus for the musicians - provided they were still able! - to do any better.

I'm perfectly aware that by now readers will wonder how it could be that such long-standing trends could be reversed in just a few months' time. But no, it's just that I want to be exactly sure that personal reasons don't play more than a minor part in forming my judgment.

My main issue with music nowadays is that for the most part it appears to lack any ambition. A lot of it we've already heard before, a lot of it is very predictable, and most of it appears to lack any sense of real "urgency", to "ask for" our attention instead of "forcefully demand" we stand up and listen.

On a personal level, three things I find supremely disturbing: a) those who after years of silence release an album featuring music not too far from what Robert Wyatt and Henry Cow/Art Bears released, say, thirty-five years ago; b) those who get their money working inside a university framework and who, once in a while, release stuff they call "rock"; c) those who are still at it, "another day, another dollar". Opinions will vary, of course, but the problems stay the same.

People are what they are. For the most part they are not interested in complex matters, they choose on a "whim", "a heard of independent minds" ready to follow any trail that somebody will astutely make appear in the course of their Web explorations, unaware of logic, functionally illiterate. This won't change

A few words about Italy.

For a long time now I've held the opinion that for the majority of those Italian citizens who opposed Berlusconi the experience was not that far from participating in a 24h reality show on a mass scale, an experience that - due to the extreme disparity of available forces - made the situation totally still, while giving those against him the possibility of symbolically venting their anger by watching "their" TV programs as a substitute of making their understanding of the world they live in any better, also a giant alibi for those newspapers which played a belligerent role while at the same time letting the quality of their papers go down to such a point they are now not equipped to understand and narrate what the ("unexpected") world crisis has in store for us. (These are not personal "opinions", as the act of reading The Guardian and The New York Times by clicking one's mouse and compare them to the leasing Italian newspapers will easily demonstrate.)

Paradoxes abound. Individuals who travel quite often for the sheer fun of it and can easily see the differences between a modern European city and one located in Italy appear to be absolutely unable to perceive themselves as being part of the problem. Individuals whose lives are greatly improved by the fruits of other nations' patents and labour appear to be unable to understand that a country which doesn't hold any real patents and who is greatly handicapped by a giant debt can only go under. A country that's by now unable to make a great movie about complex illegal links on a European scale such as Dardenne Brothers' excellent movie Lorna's Silence, and whose citizens make this movie die a death in the theaters.

To put it simply: A country gazing at its own collective navel, which - in the age of the Net - still thinks thoughts in Italian and which by virtue of its own lack of interest in all things worldwide shows it still believes itself to be the centre of the world.

It was recently argued if the new dwarf recruited by an old monthly was any taller than those who already worked at such magazine. As one can easily see, when the crucial question asked is who's the tallest dwarf there's not much space left for hope.

Beppe Colli 2012

CloudsandClocks.net | Apr. 23, 2012