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  1. I want to turn now to my second main line of argument. How do the semiotics of production music help construct a normative masculine self in the business world? Remember the "effect of masculinity" that ECHO's multimedia savvy helped me to produce at the beginning of this article? The track I used, "Market Report," though labeled "orchestral corporate" by its publisher, Bruton, would be instantly recognized in the Network Music system of musical objects as "Industrial." Industrial is a broad category within production music; about all one can really count on is that if a track is labeled "industrial," it will give the effect of a symphonic orchestration with prominent brass and string lines (whether real or synthesized). But—and this is the kind of syntactic incoherence typical in a system of commodity-objects—there is a sense that the same term, "industrial," refers to a more specific musical construction of subjectivity, especially when it is linked with words like "bold," and "power." To put it more poetically than its creators perhaps might, "bold" industrial is the sound of the male corporate self looking at itself in an acoustic mirror of commodified, stereotyped musical topoi. Let’s look over his shoulder, and try to see what he sees; I’ll defer once more to the inimitable Network Music announcer and a powerful descriptive demonstration of the "industrial" sound from the company's website.

  2. Consider four absolutely characteristic Network music themes of the "bold industrial" type. I think you will agree that there is a coherent phenomenology of the "bold industrial" sound. It is based on motoric, 4/4 rhythmic ostinatos, usually given to the strings, often with an explicit rock backbeat. Over this driving background soars a very particular type of melodic line, usually carried by horns, trumpets, and/or massed strings. It features wide-ranging, mostly diatonic intervals and a particular intonational mannerism, in which a flurry of shorter notes leads to a strong downbeat accent, a dramatic leap or run up or down, and the deliberate prolongation for several beats of the agogically-accented pitch. (Call it the Indiana Jones paradigm.) The last piece of the pattern is the most distinctive: the straight 4/4 accompaniment is invariably activated by a distinctive, driving pattern of offbeat accents, often the simple hemiola 3 + 3 + 2, but also more complex patterns like (3 + 3 + 3) + (3 + 2 +2).

  3. This "range of distinguishing marks" or "brand" is quite reliably associated with a narrow range of idealized corporate attitudes and behavior. Network Music's descriptions of these "bold industrial" tracks evoke alternatively an anthropomorphized corporate self ("today’s aggressive corporation") or the way one’s own self is to be experienced within the corporation ("the quest to achieve one’s personal goals")—both associated with what is almost a parody of the instrumental rational mindset of advanced capitalism (energetic, aggressive, bold, ambitious, dynamic, persistent, determined, etc.).

  4. The musical correlation is strong: all the tracks have that distinctive combination of expansive diatonic melody, relentless motor rhythm, and (especially) stabbing offbeat accents, as in Symbols (CD 112/9, 1992). The pattern has been remarkably stable over the entire history of Network Music, from the relatively low-rent production of Industrial Revolution (CD 6/5, 1980) to the full-blown effect of Strength of Character (CD 191/3, 1998). One can even discern a transformational syntax in operation: to convert today’s aggressive corporation into tomorrow’s aggressive hi-tech corporation, simply clear out the bass register, and move the ostinato string accompaniment up high, where it can pulsate in a mildly-dissonant mimesis of cyberspace. (Information Highway, CD 129/4, 1996). But leave that bass drum hemiola in—how else can we achieve our personal goals? .




  5. It’s interesting that abstract instrumental music scored for large orchestra helps men construct and then present a normatively "masterful" masculine persona to their colleagues in the corporate world. Historical musicology might well take note as it seeks to understand the cultural function of its own canon of "powerful, impressive, dynamic" orchestral themes. But I want to dig a little deeper. What are the precise cultural antecedents and referents of this masculine persona? Can music help us get inside the corporate male ego-ideal?

  6. First we need to establish the cultural referents of the musical style. Network claims to have largely invented the industrial sound—but surely they didn’t invent it out of whole cloth. Listening to track after track of "bold industrial" (there are over 300 in the library), I found myself with a nagging sense that I had heard that loping hemiola gait before. And then—it hit me. Let me formally present my candidate for musical antecedent of industrial: The score for the 1960 Hollywood Western The Magnificent Seven has a big leaping diatonic tune and driving rhythmic accompaniment. Most importantly, Elmer Bernstein’s shameless Copland pastiche features what is perhaps the most famously galloping hemiola pattern in all film music. As the music map at the left shows, Copland’s musical vocabulary has a venerable pedigree; his thundering and virile representations of the frontier stand on the musical shoulders of such men’s men as Strauss, Wagner, and Beethoven. And John Williams, in his turn, has through even more shameless pastiche of Bernstein, Korngold, Copland, Strauss, and Wagner disseminated this particularly American take on European orchestral masculinity deep into the collective musical unconsciousness. His myriad of award-winning film scores, Olympic fanfares, and nightly news themes ring a seemingly endless series of changes that we can now recognize as the "bold industrial" sound of the American Western.

  7. The creators of industrial appear to have solved the problem of how to represent American corporate masculinity in music by using what T.S. Eliot would have called an "objective correlative": the musical image of the cowboy, as transmitted through the soundtracks of innumerable Westerns. When today’s business male looks into the musical mirror, he is, evidently, supposed to feel himself, if only subliminally, on a horse—a lineal descendent of the gunslinging heroes of the Old West.


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