For legendary Minnesota singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, technology could be the final nail in the coffin of civilization. If we talk about music and songs, streaming would stop turning new songs into classics, as radio and vinyl did. Why?
Bob Dylan took the world by storm in the 1960s as a singer-songwriter who defied convention and sold millions of records. He has won countless awards, including 10 Grammys, an Oscar, and a 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Recently, as part of the launch of his book “The Philosophy of Modern Song” (Simon & Schuster), where he mainly analyzes the history of songs from the mid-20th century, Dylan responded to an interview for The Wall Street Journalrelated to current music.
In the conversation he recalled how he learned about the topics that marked him to become a musician: «I heard most of the songs in my book for the first time: on the radio, portable record players, jukeboxes. My relationship with them was external at first, then it became personal and intense. The songs were simple, easy to understand. They would come to you directly, they would let you see the future.
On the consumption of music through digital platforms, the great poet born in Duluth (Minnesota), made sharp reflections: «Streaming has made music too soft and painless. It’s all too easy. We’re addicted to pills, bucketheads and day-trippers, hanging out, gobbling up blue demons. Everything is too easy, too democratic. You need a solar X-ray detector just to find someone’s heart, to see if they still have one.”
He also referred to his way of exploring music at 81 years old: «Currently I listen to music: on CD, satellite radio and streaming. I love the sound of vintage vinyl, especially on a tube turntable from those days. I bought three at an antique store in Oregon about 30 years ago. The tone quality is so powerful and miraculous, it has so much depth. It always takes me back to the days when life was different and unpredictable.
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Dylan described the encounter with the songs that marked him as visceral: «When you listen to a great song, it follows the logic of the heart and stays in your head. You don’t have to be a great singer to sing it. It is bell, book and candle. It touches you in secret places, it hits your most intimate being. Hoagy Carmichael wrote great songs, as did Irving Berlin and Johnny Mercer.”
Meanwhile, the relationship that young music lovers have with technology today is somewhat esoteric: «It is a magic show, it evokes spirits, it is an extension of our body, just as the wheel is an extension of our foot. But it could be the last nail in the coffin of civilization; we just don’t know. Nikola Tesla, the great inventor, said that he could bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a small vibrator. Today, we can probably do the same with a pocket computer. Sign in, sign out, upload and download; we are all connected.”
But what is most striking in the statements of the singer-songwriter of “You’re No Good” is his prognosis about future classics: “Very few songs today will become standards. Who is going to write rules today? A rap artist? A hip-hop or rock star? A raver, a sampler, a pop singer? That’s music for the establishment. It’s easy to listen to. He just parodies real life, goes through the motions, acts. A standard is on another level. It’s a role model for other songs, one in a thousand.”
Finally, Dylan put himself in the shoes of today’s musicians in both the art of songwriting and inspiration: «I write songs when: the mood hits me, not with a set routine. Technology doesn’t really help me: relax. I’m too relaxed. Most of the time I feel like a flat tire, unmotivated, positively lifeless. I have a hard time stimulating myself, and I am an excessively sensitive person, which complicates things. I can be totally at ease one minute, and then for no reason at all I get restless and restless; there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.”
Referring to his favorite music, he said that it was the combination of genres. Slow ballads, fast ballads, anything that moves. Western swing, hillbilly, jump blues, country blues, everything. Doo-wop, Ink Spots, Mills Brothers, Lowland ballads, Bill Monroe, bluegrass, boogie-woogie. “Music historians would say that when you mix it all up it’s called rock ‘n’ roll. I guess that would be my favorite genre.”
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Why wouldn’t streaming produce true classics, according to Bob Dylan? • ENTER.CO