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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Rhythm and Process

posted by on March 6 at 13:32 PM

Berry Gordy:

My own dream for a hit factory was shaped by principles I learned on the Lincoln-Mercury assembly line. At the plant, cars started out as just a frame, pulled along on conveyor belts until they emerged at the end of the line - brand spanking new cars rolling off the line.

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Juan Atkins:

Berry Gordy built the Motown sound on the same principles as the conveyor belt system at Ford’s. Today their plants don’t work that way — they use robots and computers to make the cars. I’m probably more interested in Ford’s robots than in Berry Gordy’s music.

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The end of Motown and the arrival of techno reflects as it were a larger social and economic passage, from Fordist forms of commodity production to a Post-Fordist ones. At its peak, between 1959 to 1972, Motown was a “hit factory,” with songwriting teams, sound engineers, studio musicians, recording artists, “cranking out hit after hit.” Techno, which emerged in the early 80s and has been exported to Berlin (particularly in the form of Basic Channel) or mutated into weaker products (ghetto tech), does not manufacture hits, nor does the production of it require a large work force. Instead, DJs/designers/beat programmers, who often operate their own, produce techno with computer processors and samplers.

Marxist culture critics will never get enough of the passage from Motown to techno city. It says everything we want to say about economics (the base) and culture (the superstructure).

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