Pop-arts

Pop-arts and Quotidian culture
as aspects of everyday life
in the 19th and 20th centuries

SAC LOOP on "pop-art"
SAC LOOP on 19th-20th century "everyday life"
Unexpected reading on tobacco

 

<>1860s:1870s; Europe-wide popular organization of leisure time grew in significance, in clubs and other sodalities
*1880:LND|>Escott,Thomas Hay Sweet|>England: Her People, Polity, and Pursuits [TXT with index at end | F/Popular Amusements/]

 

<>1884my:Paris | Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923 [ID]) thrilled audiences with her popular portrayal of Lady Macbeth in a stunning French translation of the Shakespeare tragedy [pix]

<>1886:Russian musician Vasilii Andreev began to appear in public with his popular balalaika orchestra. The balalaika was largely created by Andreev, based on an instrument occasionally found in the Russian village over the previous century or so. The balalaika is a stringed instrument somewhat similar to the mandolin (in its current form only about a century older than the balalaika). It is sounded by the right hand strumming or plucking three metal strings (two of them tuned to the same note!). Melodies are produced by the left hand working the strings against the fretted neck that extends from the triangular shaped sounding body [EG#1 | EG#2 | EG#3 | EG#4]
*1890s:1910s; Music Hall Songs about love and sex [BRW:140-43]
*--We are often surprised to learn that many characteristic national cultural expressions and cherished "timeless" traditions, in Russia and elsewhere, are of relatively recent origin, and have often been the product of modern "pop-arts"
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*--Entertaining tsarist Russia: Tales, Songs, Plays, Movies, Jokes, Ads, and Images from Russian Urban Life, 1779-1917 with an illustrative Compact Disk

<>1911:Russia experienced a wave of cultural nostalgia for the old ways of the village. A fine folk choir, the Piatnitskii Ensemble, was created in these years and evolved toward the sort of pop-art ensemble that more recent times have witnessed in foot stomping Irish or "Celtic nostalgia" ensembles
*--Similarly in USA, the Norman Luboff choir sang negro slave spirituals [EG] and nurtured an unexpected nostalgia for the slave-owning rural south, "Dixie", which was refurbished in a recent YouTube video which tried to dissolve the irony by running short messages of Christian egalitarianism over the top of scenes of neo-classical slave-owner manses [EG]
*--The Lawrence Welk orchestra "covered" (imitated) New Orleans jazz and "Old Man River" [EG]
*--An early 21st-century amateur contest fully meshed Russian village song with hip-hop when a jiving group of babushkas took the stage [EG]
*--The Piatnitskii ensemble prospered into the massively transformational years of Soviet collectivization [ID]. It was kept alive in successor groups through WW2 and into the late Soviet period [YouTube | Video]. Its memory has been revived with a huge wave of cultural nostalgia for the old Soviet days and even older days when real Russians were rural folk, peasants living in villages
*1911:USA, NYC| Young Belarus Jewish émigré Irving Berlin had his first great success as a song writer

"Folk art" and "pop-art" flourished together, but were not the same thing
*--RETURN TO SAC LOOP on "pop-art"

<>1920s+:The first great epoch of electronic media in the popular commercial arts [EG]
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*--Tim Wu on the media, radio compared to internet [TXT]

<>1934au:USSR Union of Soviet Writers held its first Congress and "Socialist Realism" became state doctrine

 

 

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The dubious weed
ROY PORTER a TLS rvw (no date) =

Jordan Goodman, TOBACCO IN HISTORY: The cultures of dependence (1993)

Tobacco, argues Jordan Goodman, has produced dependence among its consumers, but equally it has created dependence among its producers. This shrewd insight provides the unifying theme for his ambitious and accomplished survey. Tobacco in History, which ranges confidently from pre-Columbian Amerindians to Marlboro Man.

Consumers dominate the earlier sections of the book. Goodman opens by establishing the prominent role of tobacco within the cosmologies and sacred ceremonials of Amerindian tribes. Widely used as a psychotropic drug, even as a hallucinogen, its smoke could be deified as a go-between, linking the everyday world with the spirits. If voyagers, from Columbus onwards, misconstrued and mistrusted tobacco's magico-rcligious properties, they could certainly carry it back to the Old World and retail it, in good conscience, for iis medicinal virtues, even as a panacea. For within official Galenic medical theory, was it not plain that the inhaling of lobacco smoke would dry up superfluous phlegmy humours, or in other words fumigate the lungs? Though James I demurred, leading medical authorities confidently pronounced lobacco a sovereign cure for melancholy and wasting diseases, not least cancer.

As Sidney Mintz stressed in Sweetness and Power (1985), sugar, coffee, tea and many other habit-forming substances first made their way in Europe as medicines, before winning acceptance as pleasures and symbols of social prestige. This was also true of tobacco. Prices tumbled, and public use spread. By the seventeenth century, all classes were smoking it in pipes. Snuffing, far from being exclusive 10 rococo fops, remained a significant mode of consumption in many nations until the present century. Chewing was long preferred in America; and cigars, of course, have always had their aficionados, from the Spanish to Sigmund Freud. But the past hundred years have been the century of the cigarette: sales have rocketed, nicotine addiction has been probed, links wilh cancer and heart disease established, and (he weed has continued to be promoted, by multinationals, governments and the World Bank, long after demonstration of its lethal nature.

Such mailers - the fatal ambiguities of tobacco as big business - lead Goodman to the second of his "cultures of dependence": the subjection of producers. For a variety of reasons connected with soil and husbandry, Nicoiiana labacum and Nicoiiana rustica (unlike sugar cane) readily lent themselves lo small, independent production units. Bui the political economy of the Chesapeake and the Caribbean favoured lhe implantation of more dependent forms of labour - indentured servants, African slaves. Where they survived, pelly proprietors fell in due course under the sway of giant dealers (Glaswegians were among the first great lobacco barons). In more recent times, Third World peasant cultivators, nolably in East Africa, have come under the thumb of British American Tobacco (BAT) and world agribusiness.

Smoking, chewing and snuffing were adequately served by a host of local, petty capitalists. The mass-produced, mass-advertised and mass-marketed cigarette changed all that, and with astonishing speed. Negligible in 1860, cigarettes were taking over the West by the 1920s, thanks to mechanization of production. By 1890, James Duke was king of the American cigarette industry, and by the 1920s, Camels, Lucky Strikes and Chesterfields enjoyed an 80 per cent share of the American market. Marlboro now lead the world for Philip Morris, today the world's fourteenth largest company, and graced by Lady Thatchcr as their adviser. Cigarettes blazed the trail for oligopoly. Tobacco in History thus explores capitalism's success in creating subordination in producers and consumers alike, through marketing a commodity both addictive and toxic. One wishes Goodman had pursued these insights further. What does the tobacco story tell us about the attitudes of business and governments, past and present, to other addictive substances? In view of the concerns signalled in his subtitle, it is a pity that he did not explore in greater depth the specific mechanisms by which cigarettes captured the market, how the world became hooked. After its initial boom, tobacco consumption reached a ceiling by around 1730. But, a century and a half later, mass-produced cigarettes rocketed through it. So why precisely did this new commodity catch on, and become, alongside Coke and jeans, the universal signifier and hottest commodity of Western consumer culture?

Instead of addressing such key issues head-on, Goodman tends to go off at tangents, lavishing space on rather repetitive accounts of planter culture and merchandising circuits - fascinating topics, without a doubt, in the hands of an expert economic historian, but slightly marginal to a global survey dedicated to explaining how a dubious drug became the world's largest nonfood crop (China now consumes an astounding 1,500 billion cigarettes a year).

Overall, however, congratulation, not criticism, is in order. Read alongside Victor Kiernan's more personal yet also more political Tobacco: A history (1991), Goodman's study greatly enhances our grasp of the creation of the commodities that dominate the modern world.