at the heart of a cultural revolution
How it got started ...
I visited Marie Cirillo, Roses Creek Road, in Clairfield, Tennessee, to discuss ideas about how a natural resource business could be created, the profits going into improved land use and restoration in that former strip-mining area. The concept was that of a natural resource conglomerate, entrepreneurial conservation. It was an idea of land as a platform of creativity and development, beyond that of it being for mining and making harvests.
She was right. "There's someone you need to see," she said.
We bumped up the road in her dusty pickup filled with weeds (for mulching a road bank somewhere). Chickens scattered. No one seemed to be present as we turned around in the dusty driveway, backing in and out among the scattered old cars to do so in front of the trailer. Part way down the road, we heard a call and backed up. Ronnie Adkins and Able Cardoza had been a few yards away working. They came to greet us with that nodern-day "...well if I have too" attitude that can turn sunny or dark. It turned sunny.
Marie told me a little about them as if they were not there. They were building a "thing." I'm not sure what it was and later I suspected that they may have doubts. They had acquired nine discarded large windows. They were making a place where they could practice their music. They had been bent over sawing and pounding on a thick waste-pieces fiberboard floor. That's why they had not heard us drive up. They were musicians and needed a place to practice away from the families and TV ... and all other places offended by immature songs and tunes, or too much of any good thing. They could not afford a place ... so they were building one at the edge of the yard near the woods next to the old truck and car hulks. They weren't sure about the roof. It would probably be a blue plastic sheet until they made a few bucks.
A glass house in which to practice! There was something at odds with convention here, birthplace of ideas.
Ronnie had returned from car work in Detroit; he needed the familiar old country. Able had come North from Florida; he loved the new country.
"Want to hear some?" embarrassed me, for Marie had just said that they loved music. Able moved some more wood. They clucked about which song to sing. I turned my back and Ronnie had gotten a guitar from some mysterious place. I still do not know where. He sat on the edge of their new practice-place, strummed, and sang a beautiful song ... and I cried! I expected tinny radio-county. Voice, words, guitar ... I experienced unimaginable beauty in the worst of conditions. Here was confident primitive talent in a person beat-up by society and life conditions. No matter what, there was good music and it was to be shared. He knew it and now I did too.
He finished, and trying to show approval and hide tears and my voice, in which I had no more confidence, asked where could I see the words.
"There are none written."
I was incredulous.
"As long as I can sing it twice, then I have it" he said, holding both hands to his head, adding more dirt to his tangled, spiky blond hair.
Able nodded, then moved his thumb as if turning on a hand-held tape recorder. "We record them now when he gets going" he said.
We were pushing to get to an appointment. I left, holding my head. I did not know what I was going to do. I had to do something. He shared his music; I had to share the experience. I knew ronnie and able worked together; I had visited too briefly and I could hardly wait to hear what they both must do ... or do together.
As we drove away, Marie told of Ronnie's performance at a local social, his tale of returning home from Detroit in a convertible with a top down that could not work ... and it rained. I knew there was humor, variety, and rich life experience here that might someday, with help, become a local resource for these people, their families, and the community.
On October 26, 2002, I went to a seminar by Dr. John Ryan, department of Sociology and Science and Technology Studies, Virginia Tech.
His lecture: The Production of Culture in the Music Industry: Same as it Ever Was?
Abstract: The music industry today is in considerable disarray. New technologies have combined with issues of law, industry structure, organizational structure, market, and occupational careers to threaten traditional ways of controlling property and making money. At the same time these changes have opened the potential for a new industry model. The "production of culture" perspective was introduced and these changes explored using the perspective.
Comparisons were drawn with similar music industry upheaval in the early part of the 20th century.
I was taken by the strife and conflicts, the vast interest in music, the millions of CD sold and the estimates of illegal action that frustrates the industry music writers, producers, and the courts and legal profession. The lecturer claimed that because of international, legal, and technological issues, there is a cultural revolution underway. No one knows how it will turn out. Changes will affect millions of people and a diverse, multi-million dollar industry.
Since access has changed, new concepts of "taste" may emerge. Rather than people with acquired taste, there may appear the "cultural omnivore." Music stores are financial losers, the "album" will disappear. Because of ready access to books, tapes, data, and information the very concept of having physical property will become less and less important. You will not feel like you have to have the property (e.g., the CD) in hand.
Major laws are very recent (e.g., MP3 case 1992; digital momentum act, 1998). Sales by the major artists have dropped by 25%. After the first week of any major record release, there is a 40% drop-off in sales. In 2002 music CD sales were 0.98 billion dollars. The spoils of legal and other wars are vast. There is rampant piracy and many efforts underway to curb it. Watermarking (as used on paper) has been used. There are technological tools to prevent copying, etc. The successes will be in quality manufacturing, marketing, and distribution. All three are in transition. The Grateful Dead model of free downloading to circumvent the industry is advocated by some. The "celestial jutebox" (Paul Golstein 1994) idea is that of open access to a vast number of items with a small monthly bill (like the water or gas utility bill) ... then everyone has an almost excessive abundance and thus no need to copy. Millions of customers, even with a small fee, and new technology,make this idea attractive.
Inspired by the challenge and using ideas suggested by the lecturer and audience, I have formulated the Fog Drip business group as part of Rural Business.
Robert H. Giles, Jr., October, 2002
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