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Performing artists bear the brunt of austerity under neo-liberalism

A regular reader (thanks Sam) sent me some information about the cancellation of performing arts festivals in France as a result of austerity. This accelerating trend, which is worldwide, brings into focus the two pronged attack on workers by neo-liberalism. First, governments have been pressured or acceded to cutting public spending which has created higher unemployment, higher underemployment, casualisation and suppressed wages. Then, second, there has been a massive attack on income support systems with claims that they have become nonviable because of the increased demand for state support arising from the rising unemployment. The worker cannot win – which, of course, is the object of the exercise. Performing artists are among the most disadvantaged workers in the labour market and face particular problems – precarious, multi-employer jobs with variable pay interspersed with long periods of non-pay (although they are still working – rehearsal etc). The French developed a unique scheme to cope with this precarious existence, recognising the massive cultural and economic benefits that the arts industry generates. But even that scheme of income support is under attack as job opportunities decline even further in the face of public spending cuts. A Job Guarantee would go a long way to redressing these problems for musicians and other artists. It is a superior way to achieve progressive social change about the meaning of work and productivity.

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Happy something …

I am travelling for a fair part of today and also taking a day off writing (well blogs at least). I have been pushing forward on the final manuscript for our next version of the Modern Monetary Theory textbook, which will come out in 2017 sometime. Anyway, until tomorrow I will leave you with some music that I have been listening to this morning before taking off for the day. Back on to the hard stuff tomorrow.

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Austerity hacks into our cultural heritage

As I noted last Friday, the Australian government has announced it will be cutting a massive part of the budgets of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), both publicly-owned national media organisations as part of its mindless fiscal austerity push. The Minister claims there is plenty of fat in these organisations but the ABC news report (November 24, 2014) – ABC cuts: Managing director Mark Scott announces more than 400 jobs to go – tells us that nearly 1 in 10 staff will be sacked and programs scrapped to meet the funding cuts. The ABC and SBS are jewels in Australian cultural life. They support local filmmakers, musicians, artists, and advance a more sophisticated understanding of what is going on around us. I am very critical of the way they have succumbed to neo-liberal economics, but in general, the alternative is a mind-numbing Fox-type flow of game and reality shows and sensationalist news. The only thing that is worth watching on commercial TV is the coverage of AFL football and even then one has to turn the sound off and have the ABC radio commentary accompanying the TV coverage to ensure a quality experience.

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LP gone but plays on all over the place

Les Paul died yesterday at the age of 94. He was one of the biggest innovators in modern music having invented one of the two great guitar designs in the 1950s that have not been bettered since. So many people still want to play the LP custom that the invention will live on into the future.

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Peter Green playing again

Peter Green was the best electric guitar player of all time (that’s my view anyway) and I loved his sound and phrasing. His Gibson Les Paul (1959 model) was accidentally modified (he put the magnets back in upside down) and he discovered in the middle position he got an out-of-phase tone that honked so strongly that the mod remained. Unfortunately he took too much acid and had a disposition to mental illness and spent most of time since the 1970s in various states of ill health occasionally re-appearing to play again. Never regaining the dominance of the 1960s though. But once again he is playing again and this time he is sounding better.

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Two masters in one week …

On Monday I saw Jeff Beck at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne.  Here is what I thought. Last night (Saturday, January 31) I saw Leonard Cohen at an open air concert in a Hunter Valley vineyard. It is not often that you get to see two masters in one week. I gave last night’s concert a score of 8.5/10.

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Guitar mastery

On Monday I was doing some work in Melbourne and took advantage of the location to see Jeff Beck at the old Palais Theatre in St Kilda on Monday night. I love the Palais and have seen some great things there. This was the first time I had seen Jeff Beck live and only the second time he has been to Australia. He is a masterful player of the instrument that has defined our generation of music. He played a white (could be cream) stratocaster through what looked liked a 50w single stack Marshall and another Fender blackface twin  amp (I wasn’t close enough to see which type). He use an octave divider and some overdrive (pedals were obscured behind foldback) but not much else.

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