For a full list of articles and commentary that have appeared on this web site, please see the Archive section. This page contains only those articles and commentary still considered to have current relevance.
Letter to Editor
Grammy Magazine, April 1990
This response to an opinion column by Wynton Marsalis on defining jazz opposes the traditionalist viewpoint, arguing for a wider, more flexible concept of it and other idioms. Genres are "clouds" with "centers of tradition" that can smoothly blend into mixtures with other genres, as a continuum.
Resuscitating Art Music
NARAS Journal, Summer 1993
(note: this file is 96KB of text, but worth every kilobyte)
This article is an amazingly lucid, dead-on description of the trials
and tribulations of art music in America. Even though it is already several
years old, it remains a persistently relevant treatise on what's wrong, and some
ideas on how to fix it, mainly through better ways to present music and
music education (and the overlap of the two).
See also Steinmetz's pamphlet for audiences not accustomed to classical concerts:
How To Enjoy a Live Concert
Richard M. Sudhalter,
"A Racial Divide That Needn't Be"
New York Times, Arts & Leisure, January 3, 1999
The deck for this refreshingly unexpected article reads: A new orthodoxy says
that blacks were the only jazz innovators, but it ignores the efforts of
whites. Well-known jazz trumpeter Dick Sudhalter publishes a new book in
February called "Lost Chords: The Contributions of White Musicians to Jazz,
1915-45." A brave man indeed.
Ten years after the creation of the jazz program at Lincoln Center, replete
with inauguration essay by curator Wynton Marsalis, somehow someone has finally
found the nerve to stand up to that neo-traditionalist "orthodoxy" with a new
review of the evidence that suggests a less monolithic interpretation of jazz's
origins and influences. "New" is a relative term, if after well over a decade the
orthodoxy hasn't already become so entrenched to become the object of revolution
This article and the new book should whip up quite a frenzy in the world of jazz
traditionalism, after it had seemingly attained a state of self-congratulatory
repose. Clear, direct, detailed, with insight, compassion, respect, and a real
plea for unity in the jazz world. Never say never. Bravo.
"A Chance to Break the Pop Stranglehold"
New York Times, Arts & Leisure, May 9, 1999
We're on the cusp of something revolutionary ... or not. Strauss
reviews the recent developments in the online music arena, evaluating
possible futures in the delivery (and thus the creation) of music. A
must read for those wishing a comprehensive overview of this decision
See also the excerpt from Jaron Lanier's manifesto "Piracy is Your
Friend" reprinted in this issue of the Times,
Making An Ally Of Piracy.
Lanier, guru of virtual reality and sometime musician in his own right,
is of the John Perry Barlow cloth, an extremist regarding
the obsolescence of copyrights. Nevertheless, all ideas are
contributions to the discussion, 'cause this thing ain't over yet.
"Crossing Music's Borders In Search of Identity"
New York Times, Arts & Leisure, October 3, 1999
This is a two-fer: A double-barreled exploration of multi-ethnic hybrids in music. First we have David Byrne taking aim at the "none-of-the-above" anti-categorization inherent in the term "world" music in
'I Hate World Music' -- not a judgment on the content but rather the classification. As he puts it: "... there is more music, in sheer quantity, currently defined as world music, than any other kind. Not just kinds of music, but volume of recordings as well. When we talk about world music we find ourselves talking about 99 percent of the music on this planet." But of course, not on high-rotation radio. Just savor the subsection entitled 'The Myth of the Authentic' and dive into some of the clearest thinking about genre we've seen in a long time.
Then, follow that with a spotlight on John Zorn and Arto Lindsay by Adam Shatz in
Downtown, a Reach For Ethnicity, an examination of a resurgence in the exploration of "roots" in musical trends, especially Zorn's focus on traditional Jewish music, and Lindsay's ongoing foraging in Brazilian music of his own youth. Important in both undertakings is the extent to which traditions are embraced versus extended/blended. Roots, in these cases, are about finding some sort of ethnic center to the music, without necessarily being bound by constraints of form. Practitioners of these traditions would likely not consider the results of these musicians to be traditional at all, yet from a "Western" ear the ethnic inspirations are quite clear, and intentional in the minds of the composers. (Compare the music of John McLaughlin's 'Shakti' group from the late 70s / early 80s -- it sounded "Indian" to westerners, but "Western" to genuine products of India.)
In today's environment where the Avant Garde has hit the ceiling in terms of formal deconstruction, and is becoming old news (in fact, it may have accomplished that years ago in some circles), the only route to progress is in the process of reconstruction. Avant Gardists reconstructed according to personal rules, but that has required a substantial learning curve on the part of any potential audiences, if they hope to glean the real essence of such music. But another option is the hybridization of elements that already existed previously, in a new mix-and-match that creates something new and yet familiar in some sense. (Even the Avant Gardists must draw upon sources that existed previously, if not necessarily sources familiar to a wide audience. However personal and idiosyncratic ones influences are, they must exist as a prerequisite to creativity.) In the end of vertical evolution in musical form, there now emerges an heretofore unrecognized horizontal dimension that is increasingly important to the future of music everywhere. What this hybridization shares with the Avant Garde is an acknowledgement that rules of tradition are not etched in stone, but serve merely as an impetus to create something new. What might have been lost in the finite limits of deconstruction can be renewed by the infinite possibilities of the "in-between" in musical form and style. It's a new era.
"The Thrill of Discovering an Unheard Sound"
New York Times, Arts & Leisure, October 31, 1999
Here is a bright, sharp, first-person account of the extended experience of encountering, exploring, and finally becoming familiar with a new form. That initial rush of discovery, the enduring gathering of new experience, and the eventual epiphany when hearing the next work for the first time and realizing that one is understanding it from the inside. Far too few people in our mass-culture market get a chance to feel comfortable reaching for this experience without trepidation or ostracism. Time for a change.
"In Rock's Canon, Anyone and Everyone"
New York Times, Arts & Leisure, December 26, 1999
This is a classic case in point regarding the impossibility of defining genre (part of defining a genre is identifying quintessential examples - the Canon acts as a sort of genre skeleton). In rock, passions are so personal that nobody can ultimately agree on what matters. In fact, this is not limited to rock - all music created from the heart has the same nature. Now, if we could only give up the futile effort to create a universal Canon in the first place. Just acknowledge that it cannot exist and let's move along.
"The Web Catches and Reshapes Radio"
New York Times, Arts & Leisure, January 16, 2000
Just check it out.
And, some additional articles by Dan Krimm not published in print media:
Radio, the Culprit, 3/96
An introduction to the problems of broadcast radio: how groupwise programming thwarts individual preferences.
Traditionalism, the Obstacle, 3/96
How traditionalism (when combined with commercial incentives) excludes the exploratory impulses of new creativity.
A Real Music-Matching Database?, 3/96
This was an early proposal to create a "sounds-like" algorithm to contribute to a process for automatic playlist generation for a personalized radio system. In the years since, several companies have created products that do just this, including Auditude, Audible Magic (Musclefish), Gracenote (Cantametrix), Relatable, Mediaguide, etc. There are also several companies providing collaborative filtering tools for music, including automatic playlist generation for personalized radio-like services (LAUNCHcast, MusicMatch, Agent Arts, etc.). We're well on the way.
Response to Edward Rothstein, 12/96
In the Sunday, December 29, 1996 Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times, Edward Rothstein presents a cry of anguish for traditionalism in his cover article 'Trend-Spotting: It's All the Rage'. Needless to say, I think he's got it all wrong.
A Modest Proposal: Audio Programming From Online Catalogs, 8/97
An early proposal for a centralized subscription service along the lines of a "celestial jukebox" model. There is a lot left to be fleshed out here, but it is a coherent vision for the user experience that could make a difference.
What I Wanna Listen To, 7/98
Music Unbound's motto changes according to the increasing focus of our mission, from a general freeing of forms to a more specific focus on the individual listener as the best driving force in the marketplace.
Who Really Controls Radio, 7/98
This was a response to an article in Grammy Magazine about how radio programming is accomplished, and who is to blame. It isn't who so much as what: the very structure of the medium (broadcasting one program for many people simultaneously, the business incentive to maximize the audience) is the problem. Custom-casting is the answer.
Creating a Merit-Based Music Economy:
Compulsory or Blanket Licensing for Interactive Subscription Services, 9/01 (PDF version)
An update on the Modest Proposal, describing the obtacles obstructing the ideal system. It's time for a real artists' collective.
Response to Neil Turkewitz, 12/04
A response to Neil Turkewitz, Executive Vice President of the RIAA, "Copyright, Fair Use and the Public Interest" in Cultural Comment, Cultural Commons, December 2004.
The Illusion of Flexibility in a Controlled World (PDF), 8/05
This 5-page essay addresses growing threats to competition and choice of information in the new-media world, and the need to pro-actively oppose these developments.
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