“The spider Love, which transubstantiates all,
And can convert manna to gall” – from the poem “Twickenham Garden,” by John Donne
When I was 14, I really “saw” my first spider web. I was on a morning nature hike at summer camp, and the counselor leading the hike came upon a most intricate octagonal spider web, which clearly had taken months to construct. Trapped in it were a few insects, meals as my counselor stated, and as well, the 12 foot by 18 foot web was wet with dew, as the counselor explained, the silk that spiders spun to construct their webs contained a collagen like substance that causes the insect to stick to the web, waiting for its inevitable fate. Being the 14 year old wisecracking idiot I was, I hung behind, noted the web’s beauty, and decided that the web was strong enough to withstand my attempt to pull an insect from it’s grasp. I did so, and in a second, what was a dew covered revealed mystery to me minutes ago, was an utterly destroyed case of idiot versus nature. Amazingly enough, as our hike continued, mere minutes away, we saw yet another web, just as beautiful, serving the same purpose, and it struck me, even then at 14 as amazing that I had the ability, by on some levels being stronger than this art, to destroy yet again, as, well, only a few more feet away, another web would exist, yet again, JUST as beautiful. There would always be spiders, there would always be webs, and my destruction in the grand scheme of spiders and webs was ultimately nothing. Extrapolate that example, and thus and so is the nature of underground music in 2009. We cannibalize through accidental appreciation, and in some cases through sheer idiotic behavior destroy something already beautiful.
One of the unfortunate cases that has arisen due to the simplicity of deejaying and beat production through Serato and other computer applications is the influx of deejays and producers in the music industry. As the influence of record labels, deejays using only vinyl, and A & R reps dissipates, everyone is someone doing something. The sad issue with this is that a song is released, and immediately is remixed 74 ways by 74 DJs, all attempting to gain importance, all wanting to be a celebrity, all wanting a moment to shine. In the Washington Metropolitan area alone, five DJs have remixed Rye Rye and M.I.A’s new single “Bang.” Five. Five different ways, all amazing, taking a song and giving it five different impressions, likely before the single itself has even gained any significant club or radio play, there are likely people that will never truly be able to appreciate the unfettered single. Songs used to attain a hit status before the remixes were even released. Now with the internet, a song just has to be seen as good by those who know good music, and not the consumer themselves to warrant instantaneous inundation with variations on the theme. I understand the necessity of the hustle and the grind, especially now in a needed to hear it yesterday, what’s hot and rising today sort of atmosphere, but, we’re risking musical burnout and the desecration of artists as producers of art, instead of robotic servants of a destructively hungry public.
This is not to say that a remix has not made a song popular and led to making a song a worldwide smash long before or immediately after the initial track was released. One of my favorite examples of this is Jane Child’s 1990 hit “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love.” The original, a pop rocker with a bare tinge of New Jack Swing became a radio favorite on the pop and urban sides when the remixes by Teddy Riley and Shep Pettibone accentuated deep funk grooves over the lyrics, and made the song a necessity to play in any format, as it was just an unavoidable hit. For those needing a more recent example, take the fact that Kid Cudi has seemingly ridden not just the bonafide smash original version of paranoid stoner instant classic “Day N Nite,” but the manic Italo/Bmore remix by the magnificent Crookers to a contract with Universal Records, and mainstream acceptance. The song, much like “Don’t Wanna Fall In Love” has crossed boundaries, become incapable of being avoided as amazing, and is strong enough lyrically to warrant such masterful production in any format. The only fear is that one can end up like Jane Child, a one hit wonder, whose smash hit and inability to come up with something so catchy, incredible and amazing overshadowed the rest of her career. Kid Cudi really has yet to release anything that anyone on the musical underground values to the same degree as “the lonely stoner” seeming “free his mind at night,” and as far as Rye Rye, we’ll see if she breaks out of M.I.A.’s shadow, or if she will be a Bmore club queen or international dance high priestess. But, the inability to let something ride and create a buzz by itself seems to be a lost art swallowed, as with the non invasiveness of media, book reading, and face to face interpersonal discussion, by the internet. We see so many spider webs now, but, simply because we can, we tear them, in some cases because a better web will be created, but, hopefully not absentmindedly destroying so many webs that spiders themselves just will lose the ability and desire to spin.
Our “spider love” of music is more entertaining and wonderful than it’s ever been. There’s more sounds, unique, different, reverential, refreshing, disturbing and introspective than ever. But, it’s a “spider love” remember, one that, let’s not forget, can absolutely turn our overabundance of manna, sadly into gall, digested, expunged, forgotten, and ultimately, gone.
ed. note: The author, Marcus Dowling’s other work can be found at his site, TGRIOnline.com, True Genius Requires Insanity. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter(dot)com/marcuskdowling.