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High Culture vs. Low Culture
July 8, 2007 11:01 AM   Subscribe

High Culture vs. Low Culture. Oh, so you guys make techno? via
posted by fleetmouse (33 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Watch the first bit of the first link for clarification.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:06 AM on July 8, 2007


Wow, those guys are a couple of smug twats.
posted by sharksandwich at 11:18 AM on July 8, 2007


So these guys play Warcraft III all day (in Ventrilo, whatever that is google says a VoIP program), and then party with models all night long while sipping champaign?

The Europeans really are different...
posted by delmoi at 11:27 AM on July 8, 2007


No, this is low culture.

And that is all I have to say abou that.
posted by oddman at 11:28 AM on July 8, 2007


There's no high or low about it. Matmos do the same thing as Stomp, which is they make conceptual music. The difference is only that Stomp have a performative element.

I don't understand the relevance of your last link.
posted by dydecker at 11:34 AM on July 8, 2007


Didn't Stomp grow out of Test Dept? ( who were much like Matmos in the 80s?)
posted by bendybendy at 11:35 AM on July 8, 2007


techno

So that song and video (Basshunter- Vi sitter i Ventrilo och spelar DotA) got me to trying to figure it out. Wikipedia to the rescue.
posted by ericb at 11:35 AM on July 8, 2007


oddman, that makes Fergie come across like Laurie Anderson in comparison!
posted by bendybendy at 11:42 AM on July 8, 2007


dydecker - the Bruce McCullough looking one says at one point that he sometimes describes Matmos as noisy techno. And I'll take any opportunity to link to Basshunter.

I like how the one who looks like Ed Harris in Apollo 13 pronounces "juggling" like he can still taste that cow uterus.

oddman - that Lene song isn't a pisstake? I hereby declare it to be found art and will begin constructing a radical feminist art context for it forthwith.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:43 AM on July 8, 2007


What's there not to like about a group that has composed the soundtracks to such classics as Fistful Thinking, Screw Gang, The Punch Hole, Hot to Trot and Powerfist?
posted by afu at 11:50 AM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I sure don't like the Blue Man Group.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 11:53 AM on July 8, 2007


Interesting post, I enjoy the music of all the groups, don't think any are examples of either high or low culture but Postmodernist Culture.

Man, those Matmos cats need to get some sun on their skin and it's sad they resent being compared with Stomp and Blue Man group, when they've seen neither.

A little about Matmos.

The Pretty People Disco Droids vid in your techno link is such a good example of mindless Euro trash summer sex music.
posted by nickyskye at 12:00 PM on July 8, 2007


the Bruce McCullough looking one says at one point that he sometimes describes Matmos as noisy techno. And I'll take any opportunity to link to Basshunter.

So pardon me if I'm not getting it, but you're saying that when someone mentions techno, you immediately think of a particular video game? How strange.
posted by dydecker at 12:18 PM on July 8, 2007


HAHAHAHA DYDECKER DOESN'T ASSOCIATE MUSICAL GENRES WITH VIDEOGAMES!!!!!! ROFL
posted by fleetmouse at 12:25 PM on July 8, 2007


well, we obv. live in different worlds. I'm in the part that's outside your mom's basement.
posted by dydecker at 12:32 PM on July 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Dude! Burn.
posted by oddman at 12:49 PM on July 8, 2007


The Baba O'Reilly vid is fantastic, the rest of this post is just confusing me.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:52 PM on July 8, 2007


I didn't look at all the links, but Matmos worked with Bjork on a concert tour. I saw the footage from one and I gotta say it was really excellent.

That definitely has more to do with Bjork than these guys I'm sure.
posted by strontiumdog at 1:03 PM on July 8, 2007


I actually like Matmos's music. There's a fantastic piece on their "a chance to cut is a chance to cure" album that was made by bowing and plucking the bars of a rat cage. It's unsettling.
posted by fleetmouse at 2:54 PM on July 8, 2007


I got totally lost on the "high" vs. "low" thang.

Matmos' stuff is state-of-the-art, if you're into the genre enuf to get it ... "The Rose Has Teeth" IS a masterpiece ... but "high culture"??? Errrrrm

We were all kids once. Not everyone has well-developed musical tastes ... I always chuckle when adults complain about movies made for kids ... check the video of Steve Allen mocking "Be-bop-a-lula".

Finally: rock *was* "dance music" before it got "prog". Today's kazoo is tomorrow's sax. We all gotta start somewhere.

posted by Twang at 3:17 PM on July 8, 2007


Steve Allen e.g.

"Mr. Allen was no fan of Rock and Roll and for years continued to make fun of Rock and Roll singers and their songs. I believe it was Little Richard's "Tutti Fruitti" that Mr. Allen once read on his show, as if it were a poem and not song lyrics, [not ... it was Gene Vincent] much to his and his audiences humorous delight. Years late in the sixties Allen was still doing the same thing with the lyrics of The Beatles. While not certain I believe the song was "Hello, Goodbye". Anyone familiar with this song knows that the lyrics are simple, however, most people know that lyrics are meant to be sung and not read as poetry. Mr. Allen, a songwriter himself, should know better."
posted by Twang at 3:37 PM on July 8, 2007


Is this meant to be an attack on Matmos for being a wee bit wanky? Whatever, they make cracking music, and clearly have a sense of humour about their avant-posturings. How do the Blue Man Group position themselves? For all I know, they're just as wanky, but happen to be a lot more popular/ist.

As for Stomp, I've seen them twice and can safely say that whether they think they're making high art or banging stuff to make cool noises, it's totally fucking boring after about five minutes (both times for work, in case anyone was wondering why I went back for another dose).

Using the word 'techno' to link to that distinctly non-techno Euro trance-pop ditty is puzzling too. Hey ho, gnomic posts always get me clicking.

Didn't Stomp grow out of Test Dept? ( who were much like Matmos in the 80s?)

No - it would be hilarious if that were true, though!

That definitely has more to do with Bjork than these guys I'm sure.

I'm not. As undeniably super-mega-wondrous as Bjork is, the success of her albums is sometimes the result of selecting good, fashionable at the time of recording collaborators to work with and absorbing their sound, to the extent that the results sometimes might as well be billed as [Collaborating Artist] feat. Bjork ( true of Vespertine more than most of her records, admittedly, but since we're talking about Matmos...) In this sense, she's pretty much the high culture to Madonna's low. *ducks*
posted by jack_mo at 4:07 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, and you should check out Drew Daniel's "low culture" side-project. Challenged by Mathew Herbert to make something to bop to, he came up with a totally brilliant Missy Eliot bootleg (all sounds produced by throwing gold coins at gold bars, ho ho!) that makes you dance your ass off b/w a similarly groovy track that lifts a Smog vocal, of all things, under the name Soft Pink Truth (which then morphed into a project that does dumb-as-you-like house-ish covers of punk and hardcore bands).

ie, for serious, smug academics, they do seem to spend a lot of time doing daft things for shits and giggles, to the extent that the serious, smug stuff seems like a send up, at least in part.
posted by jack_mo at 4:16 PM on July 8, 2007


At least Matmos seems to have a bit of a sense of humor about himself. Still think this sort of thing is more codified and "theoretically" good than I tend to like.

I think theres a point where your inspiration becomes too calculated and the distance creates a vacuum that sucks the vitality out of art, but thats just my opinion.

(Unless Matmos was the dude in the suit, in which case hes a douche)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:35 PM on July 8, 2007


all sounds produced by throwing gold coins at gold bars, ho ho!

*rolleyes*

Oh, that's one for the intelligentsia to titter over. Because we know how those people like gold, don't we?

See, the problem with this kind of process music is the music is secondary to the process most of the time. You have to read the manifesto or the libretto to appreciate it, and even then half the time it's still crushingly dull. Would you have recognized the sound of gold hitting gold? Similarly with Herbert's food album - does it really matter whether he's using the rattle of coffee beans instead of the rattle of maracas? And how much information or depth or thought is there in any of this? Some of it is superficially clever, I'll grant you that, but where's... anything else?

It reminds me of Tom Wolfe's book The Painted Word where he talks about how modern art is 90% theory and 10% execution. And some artists since then have taken it all the way, like Jenny Holzer, where the work is nothing but sloganeering manifesto.
posted by fleetmouse at 4:45 PM on July 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


fleetmouse = truth.

And to illustrate his truth, I will play this next piece entirely with a paper kazoo I made from printed copies of his post. ;)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:52 PM on July 8, 2007


Um, they're definitely taking the piss of themselves, right? So how is that being smug? Totally ok.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:59 PM on July 8, 2007


they're definitely taking the piss of themselves

You'd think so, wouldn't you?
posted by fleetmouse at 5:00 PM on July 8, 2007


God, those two are grating.

I bought a Matmos album once on the recommendation of a guy I know who liked Slint, too. "Oh, you gotta get some Matmos, dude! They're totally challenging!" I think 'tedious' might have been a better classification.

I was subsequently unable to recover the money I had spent on the CD from the music store, so I donated the disk to the local library. This event solidified my opinion that pirating music off of teh 'nets is OK.
posted by Pecinpah at 8:50 PM on July 8, 2007


Um, they're definitely taking the piss of themselves, right? So how is that being smug? Totally ok.

I agree- and they're not saying they're horrified about being compared to Stomp or BMG, it's just that they're something very different. You don't need to have seen a show to know what Stomp or BMG are about- they're on Conan O'Brian (etc), commercials, all over the place; these guys in Matmos aren't living in caves.

I found the interview interesting and the interviewees engaging, self-aware, and self-effacing.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:00 PM on July 8, 2007


This is the Ralph Wiggum viking controversy all over again, isn't it?
posted by fleetmouse at 10:37 PM on July 8, 2007


This is the Ralph Wiggum viking controversy all over again, isn't it?

Heh, I guess so. In the sense that I find it simply impossible to believe that anyone could watch the Matmos interview and not see that they're having a laugh at points.

Oh, that's one for the intelligentsia to titter over. Because we know how those people like gold, don't we?

I thought that was part of the joke, hence the 'ho ho!' - Daniels 'stooping to the level' of hip hop in the most clunkingly obvious way possible.

See, the problem with this kind of process music is the music is secondary to the process most of the time.

Well, I've had crowds of people dancing like crazy to songs off A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure and The Civil War (and not just at wanky bars full of bespectacled chin-strokers). But I just don't get your problem with music that is enhanced by or requires context, awareness of the process behind it, &c.. This is true of all visual art (not just modern - try enjoying, eg., a traditionally beautiful and beautifully crafted Renaissance painting without recourse to mythology, religous symbolism, contemporary politics and so on), and only the most reactionary Daily Mail types even bother to say 'it's just a pile of bricks' anymore - why should "conceptual music", for want of a better term, be dismissed out of hand just because it seeks to engage its audience on a number of levels? Of course, the best stuff, as in visual art, has to work well on all those levels - I like Lawrence Weiner much more than Jenny Holzer.

Would you have recognized the sound of gold hitting gold?

Nah, but when I found out, it enhanced my enjoyment of and understanding of the piece of music. This is a good thing!

Similarly with Herbert's food album - does it really matter whether he's using the rattle of coffee beans instead of the rattle of maracas?

Of course it does. The piece is about food, the politics of food, etc., there is meaning in his use of food as a sound source.

Fair enough, if you don't like the sound of the music, and find that the theoretical underpinnings don't do anything for you either, just say so. I don't see the point of attacking artists who work with ideas as well as sound just because they do.
posted by jack_mo at 4:38 AM on July 9, 2007


Heh, I guess so. In the sense that I find it simply impossible to believe that anyone could watch the Matmos interview and not see that they're having a laugh at points.

I agree that they're having a laugh at points. But for one shining moment they are stereotypical art damaged jerks sneering at popular culture... then they backpedal furiously, then they cautiously advance again but somehow their self awareness has become a shield and they put their contempt in air quotes, which licenses them to continue to have it in an exaggerated form by virtue of mild self mockery. It's a fascinating thing all round.

I thought that was part of the joke, hence the 'ho ho!' - Daniels 'stooping to the level' of hip hop in the most clunkingly obvious way possible.

See, there it is again - the notion that self awareness creates lacunae of defensibility. Officer, I may have lynched a man, but the lynching was in air quotes. Do you know nothing of performance art, officer?

try enjoying, eg., a traditionally beautiful and beautifully crafted Renaissance painting without recourse to mythology, religous symbolism, contemporary politics and so on

I can enjoy just about any pre-modern art solely for its appearance and craftsmanship, because it's the flipside of modern art - 10% concept and 90% execution. Do I need to know what Michelangelo or Botticelli were thinking to enjoy their work?

Maybe knowing can enhance the enjoyment, but it's nothing like modern art where knowing the theory decodes the work so I have an "aha" moment where the magic eye painting reveals its hidden image, so to speak - can't you see how gimmicky and shallow that is?

Besides, most of the symbolism and allegory in premodern art is ingrained in popular culture - I knew who Zeus and Athena were from kids' cartoons long before I read Homer.

The piece is about food, the politics of food, etc., there is meaning in his use of food as a sound source.

But again, you don't get any of that from listening to the music. There isn't a damn thing you could decipher about the politics of food from the sound itself - any more than the barking dogs singing Jingle Bells says anything about the ethical treatment of animals.

Fair enough, if you don't like the sound of the music, and find that the theoretical underpinnings don't do anything for you either, just say so. I don't see the point of attacking artists who work with ideas as well as sound just because they do.

I just find it curious that the excreta of the modern art academy require defense and rationalization, and earlier forms of art do not. And I don't use the word excreta lightly - isn't it true that art is now the metabolic byproduct of the artistic process? That it's no longer the end, not even the means, but merely the spoor the artist leaves behind? Isn't art now all about selling the artist and his ideas to the audience?
posted by fleetmouse at 6:41 AM on July 9, 2007


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