Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Shock Of The 'New'?

Every so often, something comes along which is truly new and innovative - and what happens? Everyone copies it. This is a recurring nightmare in just about every branch of the arts. After Dan Brown's success with 'The Da Vinci Code' in 2003, similar titles - with similar cover art - started popping up on the bookshelves. All of a sudden authors were working on plots which detailed how their heroes had found some sinister significance in the works of Charlotte Bronte, which led to a showdown on the Yorkshire moors with an arch villain who would have been played by Sir Ian McKellen in the movie.

It happens in music, too - especially pop, but I think that is probably stating the obvious. Just listen to the radio for half an hour... soul divas, rap masters, boy band power pop; it's not just that I've reached 'that certain age' it does all sound the bloody same!

As a journalist who witnessed the 'instrumental rock guitar revolution' at first hand you would not believe how many CDs turned up on my desk at Guitarist magazine that had been sent in by artists who all wanted to be another Joe Satriani or Steve Vai. Honestly - you wouldn't believe it. After Stevie Ray Vaughan died we received bundles of blues guitar CDs accompanied by press releases all claiming that their artist was 'the new SRV'. And in case you're interested, they were generally really, really bad. Imitation following innovation, but all lacking that essential spark.

OK, so why does this happen? One reason is the pressure that agents, managers and record companies exert on new artists to make their work easier to categorise. Which pigeonhole would you like, sir? You're much easier to sell if we can align you with some sort of dynasty of musical style, after all. This doesn't offer a lot of hope for anyone who thinks that they have genuinely discovered something 'different' - and yet the paradox here is that all areas of the arts desperately need the 'shock of the new' in order to progress.

No wonder they say that art is pain.

I guess that musicians who have found something new to say all have MySpace, YouTube and iTalk Guitar as 'viral' outlets for their work - and we've already seen a few new talents plucked from obscurity thanks to the internet. So I guess my message to guitarists in particular is to try and turn off the chatter that surrounds you, begging you to somehow conform to current standards, and listen to the music inside your head. Your music needs you.

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