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October 29, 1981 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1981-10-29

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Thursday, October 29, 1981

Page 5

Exhibit reveals

media powers

.9e

By RJ Smith
A . J. LIEBLING'S remark that freedom of the,
press belongs to the man who owns one is an
aphorism that needs no dusting off for reuse. It's.a
line that's never really left us. An exhibition in
Detroit of graphic arts from the German Renaissan-
ce inclines one to dwell again upon Liebling's words.
When power is consolidated, the exhibition reveals,
there is an increased ability to prompt action among
the populace. Liebling posited that the ability to
speak freely to many people means the ability to
sway opinion. The theory is nicely illustrated by the
exhibition in Detroit.
Since Gutenberg pulled page one from his presses,
the ability to mass-circulate information has had
something to do with the ability to influence opinion.
What links the control of media to the control of
thought is still unclear. We fumble around in the
dark; we know the connection is there somewhere,
but it is never quite revealed.
The exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts
through Nov. 22 permits us to make more concrete
statements about the powers of mass media. "From
a Mighty Fortress," an exhibition of German prints,
drawings, and books from the age of Martin Luther,
shows museum-goers what recent media critics have
been calling the "consciousness industry" in infant
form.
This age, 1483-1546, came only a few decades after
Gutenberg's invention of moveable type. The
exhibition makes no specific statement about how
those with generous access to this new medium gave
birth to the Protestant Revolution. Rather, it shows

the smashing success the media can have when they
seek to cajole already-existing sentiment.
Luther's was an era in which both the printing
press and the intaglio process were beginning to be
implemented. From the start, these technological in-
novations were used to meet the demands of the
rising artisan and merchant classes. Many of the
works in the exhibition functioned like a freeze-frame
from a newsreel, telling members of the burgeoning
towns what was happening in surrounding areas.
There is, for instance, a 1508 Hans Burgkmair
woodcut, "The King of Cochin," which gave Germans
of the artist's time information about a national trade
expedition to India. A frieze-like woodcut by Erhard
Schon relates the siege of Munster by a group of
residents ousted by a number of Munster Anabap-
tists.
'From a Mighty Fortress'' indicates that
dominating the circulation of all reproduced
materials of the period were the figure and ideas of
Luther. One of the highlights of the exhibition is a
portrait of him by the great painter and printmaker
Lucas Cranach the Elder. As a piece of propaganda for
Luther and as a work of art, it is a stunning triumph:
a side view, monumental and placid in unforgettable
repose.
Cranach, a fervent believer in the Lutheran doc-
trine and a printer of many of Luther's writings, spoke
of his desire to present Luther as a great unifying for-
ce, a leader whose intensity and splendid gravity
would be admired by many. Cranach. succeeds
magnificently, and reveals how the spread of printed
materials was important to the establishment of
Protestantism.

There are other images of Luther and many,
illustrations of the devious Catholic practices Luther
opposed. There are also several references to
Frederick III, an important defender of Luther.
In all of these images the way is paved for
Lutheranism, and sometimes Luther and his greatest
supporter are lionized. Certainly the work is good,
and in many cases great, art. This is a top-notch
exhibition of simply exquisite quality, but it should
not be forgotten that there is also a message being
transmitted, an attempt being made to jog sentiment.
Luther dominated the production of books as well
as prints in his lifetime. On view in Detroit are the
Bible he translated into German, and a volume that
was originally a Catholic book of devotion and
prayer, transforned during his life into a collection
of Lutheran writings. Also on display are a number of
the pamphlets and books Luther produced, perhaps
the product of mechanical production which most af-
fected those of his time.
"From a Mighty Fortress" gives us information
about the uses of reproduction that we can verify.
There was a Martin Luther before there was Lucas
Cranach to communicate his image to the people of
his region; there was a corrupt Catholic church
before it was lampooned and lambasted by such ar-
tists as Schon and Burgkmair.
We see in this exhibition how, with at least a
modicum of public sentiment on one's side, and with
at least one patron of wealth and standing, one could
use books and prints to fan the fires of social discon-
tent. Mechanical reproduction did not create the
Protestant Reformation. Yet it was a crucial tool in
that movement. This is the point "From a Mighty
Fortress" drives home again and again.

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'Martin Luther in Profile with Doctoral Cap' (1521)

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BB&Q
Band:, A
saucy,
sound

By Mark Dighton
T HEY CALL themselves The Brooklyn, Bronx,
and Queens Band, but you can call them The
BB&Q Band, especially if it's to facilitate conver-
sation like, "I'm going to see BB&Q at Second
Chance tonight. Wanna come?" And you'd best
get ready to answer in the affirmative to that
query, as BB&Q are actually playing at Second
Chance this evening.
Their first album, The Brooklyn, Bronx, and
Queens Band, proves them to be real contenders.
You could say that the ease with which they can be
likened to popular soul heavyweights like Cameo,
The Jacksons, Prince, and Quincy Jones is an in-
dication of their dogged refusal to strike out on
their own for a completely unique sound. But you
can't deny that to be worthy of comparison to such

pop-funk legends as the above is quite a com-
pliment in and of itself, especially for a new band.
To simply call them "pop-funk" might be
misleading, though, because that term can en-
compass such diverse trendsetters as Sly and the
Family Stone, Ohio Players, and Kool and the
Gang-bands with whom BB&Q have little in
common.,
No, they fall very solidly and pretty exclusively
into the vein of pop-funk that takes the "pop" part
of that hybrid just as seriously as the "funk" part.
Just to make a point, BB&Q would bear as much
similarity to Abba as Rick James, although
neither would be a very flattering reflection on
BB&Q. ,
The best comparison of all, though, would
probably be to Linx, soul-mates to BB&Q in that
they both seem to be updating soulful pop and
coming up with a sound similar to The Jacksons.

Like Linx, the key to their sound is a bass attack
that hits heavy but bounces light, stitching the
rhythm to the beat as it chases circles around the
melody. Of course the production, strings, and
horns are just so, but it's the bass that really gives
the whole thing body and bite.
The only way in which the comparison to Linx is
unfair is that Linx seem to be real contenders for
the Jacksons' throne of faultless fun funk. BB&Q
are a serious addition to the pop-funk genre, but
hardly a serious threat to anyone.
The only risk on this album is the reggaesque
"I'll Cut You Loose," which comes off well enough
to indicate that they might have more up their
sleeves than they're letting on so far. Hopefully,
they'll lay more of their cards out on the table
tonight at Second Chance, where they'll have
some room to stretch out and get down to some
serious funk.

Join
News Staff

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Joy Division--Closer'(Rough.
Trade )-Joy Division's music is about
despair; the attempt and inevitable
failure to channel sorrow into
something more kinetic and therefore
more productive, e.g., anger, hope, and
enlightenment.
While Closer is certainly a dark and
troubling work, Martin "Zero" Han-
nett's production has given it an in-
tricate and energetic sound; syn-
thesizers put murky layers between the
{ vocals and the crisp, impulsive per-
cussion. Ian Curtis' voice provides a
perfect vehicle for the lyrics.
Joy Division examines boundaries,
coming to terms with and searching for
meaning within circumscription:
"Existence, well what does it matter?/I
exist on the best terms I can. /The past
is now part of my future./The present is
well out of hand."
If Closer is gloomy and oppressive at
times, it is always forceful and
energetic. Joy Division begin with
pessimistic premises and search for a
way out. If they don't find an escape at
". least they never resort to escapism.
--Karen Green
The Birthday Party-'Prayers
on Fire' (4AD import)
Who are those people and where do
they come from? If it weren't for the ex-
tremely detailed credits on the album,
I'd think this is some kind of superstar
jam for everybody who's weird in rock
and roll.
But let's pretend for a moment that
this is that hypothetical session. My
guesses for the most obvious con-
tributors would be David Thomas of
Pere Ubu on a vocal or two with help
from Mayo Thompson on guitar; Lora
Logic as songwriter on a few selections;
The Cramps on production, vocals, and
instruments on and off throughout; John
Coltrane as intermittent inspiration; a
young Ian (Joy. Division) Curtis on
vocals; Killing Joke playing on at least

one cut; and The Residents helping out
on another.
Evenif some of The Birthday Party's
influences are rather obvious, their
choices for imitation are quite inspiring
given that they undertake these
imitations with enough conviction and
velocity that they (almost) blend itall
into a style of their own. At the very
least, you will need a flow chart and a
quick pen to keep up with all their
stylistic liftings.
-Mark Dighton
'Visage' (Polydor)
Apropos to the band that started (or
at least solidified) it all, Visage's new 5-
track EP pretty much sums up the
strengths and weaknesses of the Blitz
dance movement.
First of all, three of the cuts come
from their debut album of about a year
ago. "Fade to Grey," one of those
tunes, has been extended to a dance
version, however-meaning that
they've tacked obligatory intros and
outros on to the thing to make it twice as
long.
Oh yeah, they've also added a great
dance effect-the stereo equivalent of a
Howitzer going off in your right ear and
firing into your left ear-which they ex-
ploit to an embarrassing degree.
(These Blitz bands are always mer-
THIS FRIDAY ONLY!
AV the Michigan Theatre
FRANK ZAPPA'S
3:00, 6:00, 9:00,
12:00 Midnight

ciless when they get their hands on a
gimmick!)
The same goes for one of the new
tracks, "We Move," a perfectly min-
dless dance cut. It's not that it's so bad.
It is simply that it seems unimpressive
followed, as it is, by one of the most
challengingly danceable cuts to come
yet from the ranks of Dance-Oriented
Rock-"Frequency 7." This instrumen-
tal ditty is based on a positively nasty
synthesizer riff and absolutely essential
handclaps and it is fronted by an aerial
dogfight involving every syntheffect
known to modern science.
None of these sounds quite emerge as
the victor, though, before their auditory
tug-of-war pulls the central riff out of
kilter and the whole thing grinds to an
abrupt finish. Ah, now that's music
that's fun to dance to.
-Mark.Dighton
Edikanfo- 'The Pace Setters'
(Editions E.G.)
Edikanfo is an eight-member group
from Ghana that plays a unique blend
of African tribal rhythms and Afro-
American music. The Pace Setters,
their first album, is the latest produc-
tion work of mastermind Brian Eno, as
the cover boldly proclaims.
But if you are looking for the

"primitive sound" which inspired
Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and
the Talking Heads' Remain in Light,
this is not the album to start with.
Edikanfo's music delves more in the
realm of funk-jazz than into the early
African roots which Eno was exploring
in his two previous production efforts.
With the backing of a very tight
rhythm section, highlighted by the fluid
bass work of Gilbert Amartey, Edikan-
fo jam their way through six loosely-
constructed songs. The freedom of the
compositions allow some nice jazz im-
provisation amidst the chant-like
vocals and persistent percussion.
But the element which gives the band
the "unique" sound they so proudly lay
claim to is also their downfall: a horn
ensemble which brazenly accents each
of their numbers. These bursts tend to
take away from the smooth progression
of the tracks and this "unique" sound is
not always a pleasing one.
If you didn't like the approach which
Eno took to his vocals on Bush of Ghosts
and would like a more subdued and
pleasant interpretation of similar
African rhythms, this album is it. But if
you want to hear some of the original
tribal rhythms which have influenced
Eno's music lately, you are certain to
come away disappointed.
-Tony Corbeill

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