Not on the playlist
The relationship between music and other forms of art – painting, video art and cinema most importantly - has become increasingly important. How do you see this relationship yourself and in how far, do you feel, does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?
I guess some of that comes from listening habits moving beyond LPs and perhaps speaks to the over presence of everything. Music is helped if it comes bundled somehow because perhaps it's impossible to navigate the ocean of music available and being released. The lack of a credible culture of music journalism also might play a part. Writing about music seems very poor currently, it seems to largely abdicate the notion of helping a listener find something that might fit for them. Discovering some music in a film seems random, but there's anything but random.
There seem to be two fundamental tendencies in music today: On the one hand, a move towards complete virtualisation, where tracks and albums are merely released as digital files. And, on the other, an even closer union between music, artwork, packaging and physical presentation. Where do you stand between these poles?
I used to worry that my music had no role to play in a largely playlist-oriented listening culture. But I'm sure it can work if the organizer is sensitive. So I conceive it as a whole, but understand and try not stress on the reality that that's not likely to be the way it'll be consumed. It's probably not that different than it ever was really.
The role of an artist is always subject to change. What's your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
The goal is to reach outside yourself and make someone's life better. Again, a bit of a cliché maybe, but that's my approach.
Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases in general are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What's your view on the value of music today? In what way does the abundance of music change our perception of it?
The biggest impact is on the economics of music and a listener shouldn't really have to be concerned about that if they're not interested. Beyond that there's the constant presence of everything. I think we're already learning how to navigate that and it's not just music. Human emotion is unchanged, so the intimacy is still out there.
How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences?
People keep saying live performance is booming. I'm not sure it's true but it's probably a good idea.
Usually, it is considered that it is the job of the artist to win over an audience. But listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
It's a conversation.
Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What's your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?
At least PR companies understand what their job is. I don't really have the confidence that music journalism does a very good job of understanding its part in the process. Given the constant presence of everything, journalism should be thriving, we need it, but usually it feels less like writing about music and more like writing about writing about music.
Please recommend two artists to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.
To read more about Mark Nelson and his work, visit his Kranky Bio at www.kranky.net