Own Music

Here are the staging pages, our builder's yard.

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Every culture and subculture needs its OWN MUSIC. No group of people can mature into autonomy and self-organization who do not have their own music. The more borrowed a musical culture (from a national culture or commercial music), the more homogeneous it is. The more homogeneous a culture of music, the less inventive and more atomized will the people be, because creative juices have no outlet, no expression and cannot be refreshed. They stagnate. This almost secret overly-insular individuality will mean a much thinner social network and no sense of community. What social life there is will be more fragile and prone to predatory commercialization. And round it goes.


What makes for own music? Difference. The tendency of disciplined music (commerce, regulations) today, however, is to homogenize musical tastes, to oppress (usually through neglect) what stands out and is not marketable. If there is no own music, the lack of novelty means there isn’t much inventiveness, and more basically, there is no resistance to the mainstream, no DIY, no alternative life in the culture. This becomes a problem almost immediately.

Still there is a use of homogeneous music, which is really just someone else's music that has been commercialized and widely distributed: it ties one into larger social units, one feels a member of something big. And yet …

On an individual level, own music is only as distinctive as the local culture makes known and available. Individual own music has been reduced to the variety with which one buys recorded music. Given the pressures even on the internet to homogenize and for bands to catch attention only when they speak to the comfort of the familiar in people, the promise of the digital age to make the world your own (your own soundtrack, iPod, MySpace, iTunes) is failing. This is because recorded music is by definition homogeneous—recordings are mechanically reproduced and the deformations made possible by home-recording and smapling computer programs has limits.

The only hope for culturally specific music is live music and music-making. It is possible to listen to live music in Billings every week.

In Billings, a region of 100,000, new music is rare. It usually comes in from outside, to one of the college campuses (and in very small venues) or, as happened recently when a Canadian band's bus broke down and they held a quickly organized concert to raise money for repairs1, entirely by chance and never to happen again. Is this limitation on new music a function of Billings' distance from major creative centers or of it cultural focus on either outdoor recreation or on ranching and energy mining? Regardless, it's clear that the course of action open to Billings-area residents is to make their own music.

Create a network of small-scale musical centers, with one for every 2000 people. Make them places for lessons, history, performance, recording (since home-recording equipment is so affordable), and musical hostelling. Furthermore, make them cafes that play recorded regional music. Deform the instruments and ways of playing them. Invite other art forms to combine

Organize these music centers-hostels cooperatively, so that the burden does not fall on a rich benefactor who might try to control the music produced there, nor on a government with so-called community standards to uphold.

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