The Music Of JC Harris

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet


Cloud Atlas Shrugged

We review the opening weekend of the tour. The end of ownership as content moves into the cloud.

Roger CortonThree gigs in one weekend. How are ya feeling, champ?

JCHPretty good. I got a chance to see Will Allen.

RCThe urban farming guy? So -that- was why you wanted to start in Wisconsin! Thinking. Always thinking.

I care about arcane sites that go dark because that leaves half a dozen media companies as the sole arbiters of information reality

JCHYeah. We should put a link to his stuff.

RCSo I noticed you conducting a bit during the opening to Solid State Siren and then in the quiet middle section of Home.

JCHThe arm flapping? Well, there’s no other way to do it. In the case of SSS, although it sounds ‘free’ that whole deal is notated. If someone doesn’t conduct, it’s a train wreck. And in the case of Home, that bit has two time sigs fighting against one another. So again, without someone flapping their arms. Without a little help, the players will tend to drift into one single time sig. That’s just what humans do. Why did it look totally stupid?

RCWell…. No. (laughs). I just wondered if it was…

JCHSome grand prog theatrical gesture? No man. If you’ve learned anything after all this time, you know I don’t play that shit. As we’ve discussed before, there are bits which sound simple, but are kinda hard to pull off and you hit on two of them. You either need someone to ‘conduct’ or you have everyone play to a special click headphone mix which a) I can’t afford and b) players hate and c) isn’t necessary if the guys can follow my arm flapping. I feel self-conscious every time I do it.


JCHEmotional scars (laughs). I was so terrible in college. But I tried taking a conducting class with this seriously Germanically imposing neckbeard, steel-rimmed glasses kinda tyrant guy. I still remember the first time I had to get up in front of the class and pretend to conduct. And get this: The opening to Beethoven’s Fifth.

RCThe ultimate.

JCHExactly. So I do my arm flapping. DUH DUH DUH DUUUUUUUUUUHHHH! Pause. DUM DUM DUM DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH! And so on. And he just watches. And then it’s over and I’m still on this little podium waiting. And he matter of factly says something like, “You literally did everything that it is possible to do wrong during those sixty four bars.” And then just stared at me. Didn’t say, ‘Next!’ or ‘Sit down’. Just stared. If it were today my guess is that he woulda made a video of it to show future classes, “Class: here is what NOT to do!”

RCWow. What did you do?

JCHNothing. Finally, I guess I couldn’t take it and I just went back to my chair. I don’t remember anything after that. I mean, that was like my first two years in music school. One long hazy dream of humiliation and embarrassment (laughs). But let’s just leave this topic at this: I don’t do conduct unless I absolutely have to.

RCWell, I don’t know exactly how to transition from this. It’s obviously a Dr. Phil moment. But… ummm…. I thought the show was really good!

JCH(laughs) Cool. Last time I railed against the evils of ‘streaming’ and I wanted to hit the flipside of that which is ‘ownership’. Since I’m running out of CDs and all.

RCNice bridge. OK. You would argue that ownership is good, I assume?

JCHYes, but first I want to say that many, if not most of the arguments in favor of the way the world is heading are self-serving arguments. They are arguments put forward by people that want it to happen. But they are made in a way that makes it sound as though those trends are inevitable. These are what I call the ‘progress’ arguments. Progress is inevitable. Either get on board or get run down.


JCHThe idea put forth is that people don’t want to own music. They don’t care about music enough to own it. Streaming is giving people what they want. The argument goes something like: Tastes change constantly and most albums have one good track. So don’t make people pay for stuff they don’t want. Just serve an all-you-can-eat buffet of what people do want, available 24/7/365.

RCSounds pretty good to me.

JCHIt does on the surface. And until now, musicians have fought back by talking about ‘fairness’. We’re not getting paid enough, etc. That argument doesn’t fly because… people do not care about ‘fair’. They want what they want. And that realization has been so disheartening to most musicians they haven’t had a good response other than to hit the road and try to make money pre-recording era. Playing shows and selling t-shirts. Basically giving up on the recording era as a source of revenue.

RCIs there another argument to be made?

JCHNot really an ‘argument’. I’m not trying to convince Joe-Music-Lover. That’s about as likely to work as those ‘This is your brain on drugs’ commercials. Remember those?

RCYeah. They always made me want to get a plate of eggs. After smoking a joint.

JCHExactly. Now streaming is based on ‘the cloud’. The whole deal is based on the idea that the cloud will persist and is trustworthy. Do you trust the cloud?

RCI don’t think I have a choice. It’s the way the world is going. My assumption is that banks will find a way to make it secure. Apple will find a way to make it secure. There is too much at stake.

JCHIt’s interesting that you started with banks. Right, I believe the money will be secure. But what about -content-? I’ve already started noticing that a bunch of web sites I used to visit are dead.

RCBut you’re talking about arcane sites, right? Facebook, Apple aren’t going to die.

JCHReally? When I got to America, GM was the biggest company on the planet. Had been for decades. Now? Look at the stock exchange. How many companies from 50 years ago are still on the S&P 500? You have no idea who is going to be on top in 20 years.

JCHThink about a book. If a book is printed I can see what’s in it. No one can change it. There is a freaky factor in any digital content that someone can change ‘the bits’. Happens all the time. I see articles on web sites where they’ve been edited without indicating things were changed.

RCParanoia strikes deeeeep!

JCHDo you think anyone under 50 even gets that reference? (Ed. note: Buffalo Springfield “For What It’s Worth” 1967) But no it’s not paranoia. It’s Orwellian for sure, but that’s the thing people don’t get about Orwell… it sounds so outlandish that we discount that it’s even happening until it’s too late.

RCOr because the survivalist whackos spew about that all the time so we tend to assume that anyone complaining about it is a paranoid schizo.

JCHExactly. You can’t complain because that just proves you’re a crank. But the other side is that I don’t give a shit about Facebook or any Fortune 1000 company. I care about arcane sites that go dark because that leaves half a dozen media companies as the sole arbiters of information reality. Don’t you see? These big companies will curate the truth if there are no other sources of information to validate or contradict them.

RCYou make it sound like 1984, though.

JCHNo, as I’ve said before, it’ll be more like Brave New World. People will give it up, happily. But see in addition to the aluminum foil paranoia part, I like owning CDs for another reason. I like to listen to the same stuff over and over.

RCNo! Get the net!

JCHMore and more I hear even music critics talking about music the way women talk about clothes. You know, “Oh can you imagine? Listening to the same thing for more than a season? Well, I do declare!”

RCEasy there, Scarlett. But I take your point. It’s becoming sort of old-fashioned to listen to the same tunes again and again. At least, after they’ve had their run. Which is funny given all the interest in vinyl.

JCHIt is funny. But it represents a complete misunderstanding of what vinyl is about.


JCHExactamundo, Fonzie. Vinyl is about music as an object that has value. It’s different from how people think of digital music, which reminds me of how most people talk about movies. The one-shot phenomenon.

RCOne shot phenomenon?

JCHYeah, you know. “I already saw that. I don’t need to see it again. Note the word ‘need’. But I don’t ‘need’ to hear Beethoven’s Fifth again. I want to hear it again.

RCDespite being scarred for life by your conducting teacher.

JCHHe took away my dignity, but he couldn’t take away my Beethoven! But yeah. I want to own a piece of music so I can check it out any time I want. That’s a big reason why people buy things.

RCWe need to sign off, but the media companies would say you can do that in ‘the cloud’. Anytime, anywhere. So it’s actually -better- than ownership.

JCHI guess I’ll leave it this way. And maybe this shows what a dinosaur I am. I don’t believe in ‘the sharing economy’. Not long-term. In fact, I don’t believe in anything ‘virtual’ which is based on blind trust. The Cloud is based on trust or apathy. Let’s say I’m deciding whether or not to buy a tool. And Netflix is my neighbor. I can buy the tool myself or I can not buy it because I know Netflix has it and he’ll let me rent it super-cheap.

RCSome neighbor. But even so, it’s cheaper than buying and they’re always around.

JCHOK. Even assuming they will be around. What happens if they stop carrying that tool? Am I cool with that? The Cloud means that I accept the risk that they can change their mind at any time. So either I trust that they’ll always have what I want or…

RCOr, you’re OK with them not having it because you probably won’t care if they do decide to stop carrying that tool.

JCHPrecisely. And I’m not sure which vision of tomorrow is more frightening: that what I want won’t be there or that no one will care whether it is or is not.

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