Sunday, November 20, 2005

November 19, 2005: Feedback


okay back to blogging...

I've been getting a lot more phone calls and emails than usual, which is nice. Although, of course, the feedback hasn't been ALL positive. In among the kudos are the occasional, 'hey, I love the tape cut-ups but hate the turntablism,' or 'love the turntablism but hate the mashups,' or 'love the mashups, but hate the...'. You get the idea.

The show is pretty broad in its focus, after you jump the initial hurdle anyway. While the main rule can be a pretty challenging limitation to have for a radio show (that it has to be a primarily sample-based composition, to be aired on Some Assembly Required), the fact is that’s pretty much the only rule. It’s difficult to program a show with such a limiting precept, but the fact is there aren’t too many further limitations, beyond that - meaning I can play anything from any genre (as long as it follows that first rule).

Anyway, most of the criticism has been pretty constructive. Even if I disagree with what the caller/emailer is saying, I can at least listen to and understand where they're coming from; and it’s often educational. Except for the phone call I got today: My first "F" you phone call (I'll keep this clean, for the kids...). Someone called, in direct response to "Bandscan of Terror" by Department of Corrections (nice job guys!), which was, I'll admit, a pretty inflamatory anti-GWBush cut-up, and shouted, from what I can remember (but this was it in a nutshell), "I don't have a microphone (and a radio show) to express my opinion, so I'm just calling to say "F-YOU!"


I was going to go on a rant about how the caller should have realized that his response wasn't going to change my opinion on anything - and how in fact, if anything, such a hateful response would more than likely reinforce it, but then I realized the irony -- as pieces like the one I played today are probably (one would assume) created with the hope of changing opinions as well, and yet fail (largely) for the same reason. Furiously anti-Bush sound collages are not going to make a dent when it comes to convincing those who voted for him that they should have done otherwise - all they accomplish, in regards to that demographic, is the same thing this irate caller did for me: re-establish the "fact" that those on the "other side" are completely out of touch.

So what's being accomplished, exactly? Nothing but good old fashioned preaching to the choir, I guess. And the occasional extremely pissed off conservative - which isn't going to do anybody any good. Now, you can argue that preaching to the choir is a grand gesture, on the basis of uniting the community, which is essential and important, of course, but I can’t help but wonder how much more powerful that community might be, if more thought were given to how it were viewed by the (voting) public at large...

I first started thinking about this back in November, during the last presidential election. I had just played a fairly anti-bush collage - and gotten a call. The individual was respectful and straightforward in his response, which was simply to express his fear that this type of thing just makes liberals look bad. I politely argued the right of the piece as a work of art, and swallowed the fact that I could understand where he was coming from...

(I created this image as a logo for my sound collage label, Recombinations, but it makes sense here for its references to sound collage and power struggle...)

It's fun to make fun of Bush. Let's face it - it's easy. Like shooting fish in a barrel. But even a large percentage of those who voted for him will laugh at the jokes. So, beyond preaching to the choir (which is, obviously, extremely gratifying), what's the objective? The fact is - that caller had an interesting point. The far right isn't listening to the 5 1/2 minute collage about what an idiot Bush is, anymore than they're listening to anyone else not speaking their language. And in the long run, are we hurting the cause more than helping, when we repeatedly bash the establishment on that level?

It's just a thought. I know, a lot of listeners to the show are going to be irritated by how serious I'm being about this. And when you look at it from the artistic perspective - so what? Its amusing. Its creative. It makes a point. So, just play it and quit your philosophizing, right? Well, no. I believe we should live thoughtfully (and deliberately), so I'm forced to think about things like this. Actually, this reminds me a lot of the kinds of questions I started to ask myself toward the end of my short lived 'punk phase' - and you can bet I was a particularly self-righteous punk - alienating way more people than I ever positively influenced (which was one of the goals, at least by my interpretation, of being punk). What I really started to wonder then, was how in the world is any of this nonsense actually changing the world in any positive way? Because beyond the creative side, which is often brilliant, sometimes obvious (and occasionally hilarious) - what real difference are we making?

I don't know the answers. I'm just asking questions. Like everyone else. Well, not everyone else, unfortunately - but you get the idea. I'm going to continue to play the political collage, and I'll probably get a hothead phone call every once in awhile. I'm wondering more now, though - what IS a better (more productive) way to make positive change in the world? Hopefully we'll all be thinking about it...

...I started writing this last week, but never posted it. It bothered me how seriously I was taking the whole subject (yes, even after I defended myself for doing just that). So, I let it sit awhile. I was wondering if I really could play any more of the political sound collage, based on my own, oh-so-sober conclusions. What I’ve decided since then, is to put the focus on the show, rather than the politics, and to hope that we’re all (liberal and conservative) rational enough to just take it all with a grain of salt - and of course I’m going to keep playing it. The whole point is to play creative examples of appropriation across all genres - including policital cut-ups.

Besides - this is an art show. It’s entertainment. If I worry too much about the far reaching impact of every single sample, then I’ll be limiting the show even further than it was to begin with. I couldn’t play anything, if I really thought about all the people who might potentially be offended. The piece was witty, and creatively assembled. So, I’m going to argue that, in addition to being a political statement, it was also a fine bit of comedy. And we need to laugh even more than ever these days. It’s true we need to be aware of the impact we’re having on our culture, but its also true that we need to step away from it every once in awhile, and laugh. And with that, I’m choosing to move on… (cue: sound of soapbox flying).

A big thanks to the caller who rang, literally five seconds after the angry phone call, to say how much they liked that week’s show! Talk about really needing some encouragement and getting it at just the right moment. You may not realize it, but your calls and emails really make a big difference to me – Thanks, caller!

And thanks for listening,
Jon Nelson


Blogger speaker freaker said...


great show once again (01/07). and frankly, a nice portrait of balance shown when Mr. Forrest explained his "dis-attachment" to anything BUT the artists music, when Sampling. Although it's much different than my own reasons, i like that his approach is so simple and innocent, and ONLY for the sake of the attraction to the Artist he samples.

.dave anton. .speaker freaker.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Jon Nelson said...

thanks for the comment!
for the record, if anyone else is reading this: the episode he's referring to is one which aired recently in Minneapolis. It has yet to air in syndication (at this writing) and won't be podcast for an even longer time. Just to try and clear up any potential confusion...
jon nelson

5:42 PM  

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