Tuesday, January 24, 2012

in retrospect

In preparation of moving forward with my blog and bringing you, my dear readers, the crème de la crème of my wits, I decided to conduct some research for a sample of blogs similar to mine, which I can refer to for insight and inspiration if I ever find myself running low on either. 

Amongst the blur of blogs tagged with keywords like “retro,” “nostalgia industry,” and “vinyl comeback”, the cleverly titled Retro Active Critiques caught my attention. Laden with photographs and video clips of old school acts and classic films, it looked promising. I quickly dived into the first post, “Invigorating Effect of a Relentless Beat” (again, quite favorably named for my purposes), which speaks articulately about the author’s connection to music with repetitive guitar riffs or Motorik sounds common in 80’s productions. She illustrates the magnetism of driving pulse-like rhythms by linking us to video clips of New Order’s “Temptation” and Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” to name a few. But she takes the blog from mere fansite to a study in the meta-context by also considering the reasoning behind her affection for this sound. She tags Oliver Sack’s Musicophilia, bringing focus to the “neurological elements at play in the very personalized ways we hear and respond to music.”

I didn’t have to read any further than this post to conclude that the blog belongs to an introspective (retrospective?) aficionado of retro culture. And indeed, Klara Tavakoli is both an admirer and regenerator of past cultural phenomenon. Klara is an amateur blogger who is in it simply for the fun, as I gathered from the low popularity of the blog (an Alexa rank in the twenty-seven-millions) and frequency of her posts (she averaged around one post per week in the past year, topping out at three times a week in her most ambitious month in 2009). But she sparked my interest because she proves to be more perceptive than the everyday blogger. She understands the deeper meaning behind retro presence in contemporary culture as evidenced by her blog’s description: “Because current is obsolete – And modern is yesterday, or tomorrow.” Retro Active Critiques is by no means a scholarly or professional source, but merely a nostalgic eye toward the past that exists to share what it sees with an audience that boasts the same passion. While she does incorporate some academic sources, she maintains a conversational tone, bringing her closer to her audience. I aim for a similar relationship with my audience. For example, in one of my favorite posts of hers titled “Retrospective: How Technology Tore the Roof of My Cozy 1960’s Fort,” she carefully describes the circumstance under which she became acquainted with the 1960’s as an escape from her own reality. She effectively appeals to pathos when she writes,

“The time I dedicated to individuals found through movies, books and films could have been spent instead on cultivating actual friendships…Fortunately, I had a like-minded boyfriend for a good part of my early 20's and didn't have to be completely alone in my odd and potentially lonely fantasy.”

Although I highlighted two of her stronger posts, some of the other ones are somewhat lacking and really only skim the surface of the topic. I strive to be as thorough as possible, examining each facet of my posts with adequate detail. Also, whereas Klara doesn’t favor any particular medium, focusing on all things vintage, I will narrow my concentration to music. I will discuss music’s play on nostalgia and the prevailing retro industry in a credible manner while still retaining interest and readership by using an anecdotal and easy to follow style similar to Klara’s. 

“Retro Active Critiques” is an antiquarian shrine to cultural memory, and it has definitely won a new follower.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

here we go...

I’m coasting down PCH with my head resting against the window and my eyes focused on everything, but nothing in particular. Though I lost my concept of time somewhere in the four months I spent abroad in London, I know it’s around 5:30 p.m. because the sun has just about melted into the sea, probably stirring Japanese schoolchildren to wake on the other side of the Pacific. I’m nearly submerged in a daydream in which I’m discussing the elusive white truffle with Anthony Bourdain when the faintly familiar tune pouring from the speakers pulls me out of my daze. Predictably (if you know me well), I’m now on edge, but I quickly jot down the thoughts that have flooded my mind. No need to be alarmed, I don’t condone drafting and driving; I just forgot to mention that my best friend’s at the wheel. That’s the beauty of best friendships, innit? That you can sit in total silence for long stretches of time on a short drive to nowhere without the pressing need to fill the void with routine conversation. Anyway, the point is that this song caused a cascade of memories to rush back to me, and while neither the song nor the memory that it triggered is relevant today, the connection between music and memory is. Cue the blog.

If there were one thing I could change about myself it would be my proclivity toward short-lived, dramatic sentimentality. I hold on to things of the past with deranged insistence, but only for a short while – a month or so – and then they disperse into the hiding places of my mind. But music has been a remedy of sorts to this. It’s been an outlet to relieve the initial onset of nostalgia, and a capsule that keeps the memories safe until it’s time to revisit them again. Maybe this is relevant to you, maybe not. In either case we might not have much common. I’m a bright eyed and bushy tailed twenty-one-year-old college student, a self-proclaimed music snob, and a hardcore movie buff. In a month I’ll embark on an endless journey to make my mark in advertising, but for now, I’m enjoying my final days in college by making as many interminable memories and impressions that hopefully won’t be interminable to my psyche and/or face. If we are anything alike, it’s probably that we both find joy, solace, and melancholy in memories. And if there’s any reason for you to continue reading, even if it means enduring a few rants about songs I never want to hear again, it’s that you’re lost in the mystery of sound and musing, too, and want to measure your sanity against mine.

While the link between music and memory isn't a new concept and has been discussed in a variety of contexts, my promise is to shed light on this phenomenon through a different lens: a collection of my stories and my friends'.

Although I am an active participant in our manufactured culture (yes, contrary to what you Lana Del Rey haters may think, ALL of it is contrived), I consciously distance myself in order to analyze what’s going on and write about it. My self-awareness defines me. I’m fascinated by our generation, which seemingly has no identity, but borrows that of every past generation since the 20’s. I will ruminate on this through a discussion about the quickly burgeoning nostalgia industry, which is based on the capitalization of  nostalgia-inducing goods, selling memories of idealized times. On second thought, this may be considered another ode to the niche of blogs that have arisen in the category of observation, a craft that I admire. However you'd like it, there is much to look forward to in the upcoming weeks. For now, I'll leave you with this: