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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Genius is in the details. Mass media has no time for details. Could be why it's losing.


I met a bloke about five years ago who was a TV producer with an interest in music. He said something which made an impression. "All the macro stuff's done. The future is micro, if only you could find a way to pay for it."

There were a couple of moments in last night's Quiet Word evening, which we put on at the Slaughtered Lamb with Daniel Tashian (right, above) of the Silver Seas and author/magazine editor Dylan Jones, when I saw what he meant.

When I was interviewing Daniel he said that the big change he went through between his first solo album in 1996 and the first Silver Seas album was his discovery of the major seventh. He played a few chords with a major seventh to demonstrate. That, he said, is in all my songs. Once the major seventh is there it doesn't matter what you're singing about, the world ain't so bad.

This is the kind of tiny but hugely telling detail 99% of so-called music journalism passes over because it's difficult to communicate it on the page. Music broadcasting doesn't even notice it. This refusal to deal with the micro story is an issue way beyond the tiny world of music magazines.

Editors and producers want a big story that's already been told which they can put their own spin on. They don't have much patience with things that don't hit you over the head. Yet Daniel talking about the major seventh and playing it in front of an audience of dedicated fans in a cellar in Clerkenwell does more to communicate what makes the Silver Seas's new album Alaska so great than any amount of overheated prose in the papers or intemperate ravings on the airwaves. It's the tiny detail which suffuses everything they do.

Genius is in the details. I was talking to Dylan about his book The Eighties: One Day, One Decade, which is centred on Live Aid. The centre of Live Aid was Queen's performance. The centre of that was the crowd's choreographed hand clapping during "Radio Gaga". Those handclaps weren't on the original recording. They were put there at the behest of video director David Mallet because they fitted with the image in the promo clip. How about that? Live Aid became a great TV show because the audience spontaneously imitated an action which had been put on the record to reflect a video image.

I'm fascinated by things like that. The problem is mass media doesn't have time for small stories, which is one of the reasons it's losing out to the internet and the personal appearance. I told the audience last night that what we're trying to do with these Word In Your Ear evenings is provide something which combines performance with some of the things music journalism used to provide. In fact they're the kind of things music journalism didn't provide because it had trained itself to believe they were boring.