Aging Superstar Wants The Internet Turned Off!
Instead they sit at home and make their own records, which is sometimes OK but it doesn’t bode well for long-term artistic vision... I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span.
There’s too much technology available.
I’m sure, as far as music goes, it would be much more interesting than it is today.
I don’t have a mobile phone or an iPod or anything.
I am such a Luddite when it comes to making music. All I can do is write at the piano."
Why do these stars from the 70's seem to want to return to their so called simpler times? David Hockney was sounding just as out of touch recently. Its not like the 70's were some kind of cultural heaven. In fact the thought of flared jeans and Disco makes me think the biggest value of the decade lay in its example of just how bad culture can get.
Of course Elton John did provide some of the highlights of the time, but music had had its big creative explosion in the 50's and 60's in a marvelous moment of coincidence of musical expression and new technology including the early computers. It was a time when the vibrancy of American black traditions became an acceptable place for white music to find a new voices and to interact. At the same time technology was allowing artists to explore in ways not possible before from the electric guitar to the jet airplane that took the Beatles to India and their discovery of Indian sounds. From the introduction of stereo to multi-track recording, from the Moog Synthesizer to the first video clips the 50's and 60's were a time when technology drove creative change at a tremendous rate.
Even black music could not avoid inevitable change. Just as fast as black music was infusing white music, it too was absorbing and adapting to the new world - the exchange was never one way.
So Elton John thinks there is too much technology available, that the technology is stopping artists from communicating, yet he seems to have forgotten the role technology took in creating the conditions for his own creative burst. Does he have some arbitrary point where the amount of technology was just right?
As a self confessed Luddite, Elton John claims to not have a mobile phone or even an iPod. That tends to indicate his use of the computer is probably fairly limited too. If he were to venture out there onto the Internet a little more, and explore some of the newer creative music programs now available he might discover that communication and creativity are central to this new digital age.
Back in Elton's youth it is true that artists had to go seek each other physically, often in seedy clubs and warm pubs. His theory seems to presume that somehow this is an intrinsically more enriching and creative process than interacting via the Internet. What he seems to have forgotten is that so much of these old time interactions were superficial and meaningless, and always suffered from the problem that there was a limit to how many possible contacts could be made in any given location. Some places, like Elton's London were rich lodes of talent, but even there there was always the divide between there and other creative centers like New York. Nobody could be every where at once.
The Internet has changed all that. Now an artist in London can creatively interact with one in Sydney, or anywhere else that is online. Sure much of that which is on the Internet is superficial and meaningless, but here and there (just like in the old days) there are special places of creativity and interesting things. And the best of these places are very productive indeed.
One of the best things is how the Internet has allowed Indie artists to find an audience and sell directly to a global public that is switched on to the new ways of discovering talent. Or to discover the myriad different worlds of musical taste that the Internet allows to flourish because we are no longer restricted to only that mainstream which the record companies decide to serve up to us.
Of course much of it is unrecognizable to old timers. I wonder if Elton has ever been on an Oekaki web site where artists collaborate on new artworks in sites that are user interactive. This is something new in the visual arts, I wonder if something similar is bubbling up somewhere in music, I would be surprised if it wasn't.
Elton John is a wonderful musician, and I am grateful for the beautiful ways that he has enriched my life with his music. He is, however, in danger of sounding like an old timer who just can't understand the music from the young folk. It happens in every generation it seems, old people discovering that the world is different, and somehow not as rich and beautiful as it was when the person was young.
It is a matter of perception, and sadly, the young also exhibit a related trait when they reject older music as being boring and out of touch. I cannot agree with Elton John about experimenting with closing the Internet. While it seems that he doesn't need it to make his art, too much of what is good now exists purely due to the digital interchange of ideas. Whether it is P J Harvey's Down By The Water, or the Dreamcatcher's remix of Straight To Number One (to mention a couple of my personal favorites) there is so much in music that is living proof that music is benefiting from creative highs that are very much in evidence right around the world and being made by the very people that Elton John paradoxically says just "sit at home and make their own records".