Volume 2-2012



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Learning from Jimmy Iovine

Interscope Records CEO Jimmy Iovine was featured in a recent piece in Rolling Stone, and it was one of those rare celebrity interviews that actually yield insight and useful information for people interested in music production and engineering. READ MORE...

On Selling Songs Through TAXI

Occasionally, as an amateur songwriter, I will open the account I have with TAXI, the Web-based Artists & Repertoire service, check out the listings, usually for those calling for Film & TV soundtrack music, and if I have something that seems like a possible match I will upload an MP3 mix and submit it for consideration. I never get anywhere with this past-time... READ MORE...



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New Releases on RARadio: "Last Call" by Jay; "Darkness" by Leonard Cohen; "Sweetbread" by Simian Mobile Disco and "Keep You" from Actress off the Chronicle movie soundtrack; "Goodbye to Love" from October Dawn; Trouble in Mind 2011 label sampler; Black Box Revelation Live on Minnesota Public Radio; Apteka "Striking Violet"; Mikal Cronin's "Apathy" and "Get Along"; Dana deChaby's progressive rock




"The Musical Meccas of the World"









Original Musical Compositions and Select Covers

Fiction and Non-Fiction

Special Projects






"Elvis the Pelvis"

Elvis Presley



"Comeback Special Elvis"


"Las Vegas Elvis"

"Movie Star Elvis"


Elvis Presley reinvented his look and revitalized his career at various points in his show business life, at each step along the way providing powerful iconic images that seared into the public mind where they stuck as immediately recognizable symbols of Something.

In Elvis' case, there was "Elvis the Pelvis", "Movie Star Elvis", "Comeback Special Elvis", and "Las Vegas Elvis".

While the reincarnations of stars who stay "on top" function like vertical sales in the brains of receptive viewers, the actual What an icon represents  matters little relative to the power of icons themselves - the little mental placeholders that give us a snapshot reference for easy file and recall. They are peculiar, self-actuating emotional response triggers that switch whatever they represent to a basic state: On.


The Power of Icons



Psychologists tell us that "icons", or iconic images, function in our minds as pictures for associating specific types of information. These are considered to be either personal or impersonal in nature; personal symbols being associated with individuals' personal experiences, good and bad, and impersonal symbols being associated on the unconscious level as universal archetypes of recognized qualities, values or characteristics. We respond to certain archetypal images - icons, synonymous with "symbols" in the secular, cultural sense - at the subconscious level.   

"Iconography" largely traces the origins of icon creation to the eastern branches of the Christian and Catholic churches of the 1st and 2nd Century A.D., an arc that fits nicely with the establishment of Christian faith and the attendant need for branding and objects of adoration.

It is worth noting that the original church-related icons were flat by design: one-dimensional panels, images produced on metal, carved in stone, embroidered on cloth, painted on wood, done in mosaic or fresco, and printed on paper. An example (left) is "St. Theodore" from the early Greek Orthodox.

What the early Christian icons were not was three-dimensional, because in truth icons had been around a long time before Christian artisans appropriated the crafts of icon production and the Christian church wanted no part of what they had represented.

The early Christian church associated symbols produced by pre-Christians ("Pagans") with "false idolatry" and suspected that their provocative, even titillating works were inhabited by demons. The Greek sculpture "Nike of Samothrace", shown here (right), presented all of the aspects of "pagan art" that so bedeviled the Church: close attention to detail in human and animal forms, bas relief beyond the three-quarter limit imposed by Church law, apparent idolatry of qualities or characteristics suggested by the art itself (power, movement, emotion).

The history of iconic art is rich and fascinating, but not really the focus of our story here, which is all about what icons mean in our present day cultural lives. For deep reading on the genesis of the forms, a list of reading materials has been provided below.

EXPLOSIONS IN YOUR BRAIN: Humans have recognized the power inherent in iconic imagery since early civilized people were painting on the walls of caves around Lascaux France. Some believe those early hunter-creators used the images as persuasive dreams to bring the beasts that gave them life into killing range.

Enter Betty Boop...

As media developed and creators were provided with more ways to produce images, we started to get idolatry of widely varied types, including the 1930s image of Betty Boop (left).

Betty Boop was intended to be iconic of the "Flapper" girls of the Roaring '20s, who were the "easy, breezy cover girl(s)" of their time, symbolic of adventurous good times lived in the discretionary spending zone where cash flow is not a problem. This played well in the 1930s Depression Era, when Betty Boop played as an entertainment, a fantasy, and on a subconscious level a symbol of optimism for the future, which put Betty right in line with all the religious icons who had gone before.

Whatever salvation the image of Betty Boop promised, the personality traits she personifies show up repeatedly in generations of fun girls ranging from Mae West and Marilyn Monroe, to Madonna and Katy Perry.

They have appropriated iconic aspects of this character because for reasons not entirely known, it stands out in the mind's eye outside of the stream of images that otherwise are consigned to our inbox for perceptions that never rise to the conscious level. But Betty, for the sake of our argument, pops!

This quality in iconic images has been the subject of significant scientific study, such as that presently being done at Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Brain Research in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. There scientists are trying to learn "whether perception can be influenced by long-term and systematic training and whether such training does not only change the processing, but also affects whether the stimulus can be consciously perceived". Their research hopes to expand understanding of neuronal processes for medical applications, including ways to train stroke victims to recognize visual cues that lesions in their brain might otherwise be blocking. Or, describing their testing process in the most confusing possible Scientist talk: “While the learning effect for the pure processing of the stimuli, that is the discrimination of the shape, was lost with the spatial rearrangement of the stimuli, the clearer visibility of the images, that is the learning effect in terms of conscious seeing, remained.”

It turns out that certain iconic images can be constructed to be recognized by the perceptive viewer. Those guys who created and sold the image of Betty Boop got that, just as certainly as did the icon creators of the ancient civilizations right on up through the later religious institutions.

Icons explode in the brain the way no other images do, not just on a visual level, but on visceral, emotional levels as well.


In image and word association fashion, iconic images are provided below along with the thoughts that each trigger as the author's response.

Edited 22412

So You Wanna Be a Rock'n Roll Star?

Far and away the most time that aspiring musicians spend in trying to advance their careers is spent trying to find the exact right combination of instrumentation, arrangement and vocal performance.

As making good music is first and foremost in the minds of aspirants, and working hard at it is time necessarily spent, none of it really means much if you and your unit don't provide some iconic image, or punch some button in the mind's eye of viewers that associates you strongly with some icon that has particular meaning for them.

I can look at someone and know instantly whether or not he or she has an iconic quality that will provide information to the brains of fans and excite their neurons with the electricity of recognition.

That is what icons do, they provide us with the thrill of I Get That! the way that laughing at a joke announces that you understand. These are responses that reaffirm our connections with things we value, and therefore with ourselves.

Iconic images, as it turns out, are really about the beholder, and our triggered reactions. And one senses that this is why our cultural, and even our spiritual, icons have tended to be such tortured souls. They play a part for us into a kind of perpetuity, or at least for as long as the public shows an interest, at which point the grittiest of the survivors reinvent a new personal icon for the faithful to rally around (Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Leonard Cohen). Others grow exhausted and simply disappear (Greta Garbo most famously, also Joni Mitchell).

THE X-FACTOR: Somewhat aside from the power of the iconic image is that thing we call "the X Factor" - some thing about whatever it is a person does that makes experiencing them qualitatively superior to experiencing similar others. This is the focus of the talent competition "The Voice", in which singers are rated initially on the quality of their vocal performances. "American Idol" has been a little less that way, and slightly more interested in the overall packaging of performers, but any icons associated with the show are "special guests", not contestants. The special factors the contestants hope to reveal are necessarily derivative, referencing icons but not endeavoring to chance offering a new one.

In fact, no iconic performer has ever emerged from any of these talent shows. Certainly that is due largely to the mathematical improbability of an obviously iconic performer emerging from a football stadium full of aspiring talent, or even one hundred such stadia.

And, as mentioned above, it is also due to the natures of these competitions, which are largely about miming iconic figures, not actually presenting as one.

Most importantly, anyone who represented some truly authentic iconic presence would not need to compete for prizes on any of these game shows.

FEW HIT WONDERS: There is room on the charts for performers who work to popular effect within a musical genre without boasting anything like personal iconic status. That would include every act that ever scored a single radio hit, and quite a few that have sustained long, low-wattage careers.

Iconic performers are the ones that stay around as  immediately recognizable caricatures or cartoon images of themselves, which probably opens up an entirely other discussion around the psychological ramifications of living life as a representative of some thing fixed in the public's mind.

Some iconic figures, such as the late John Lennon, famously tired of the role and did his best to walk away from something that would become impossible to escape. Gun shots fired by a crazed fan cemented Lennon's iconic image in our shared cultural history, where it will likely live on for generations to come.


Keith Richards:

Rock Music, personal debauchery, cavalier bonhomie





Tom Waits:

Barroom performance art, sly humor, skid row ethos, street sensitivity, authenticity, vaudeville




Patti Smith:

Uncompromising artistic expression, fearlessness, Bohemia, Greenwich Village, stridency




David Bowie:

Style and grace, conceptual performance art, quality, forward thinking




Chrissie Hynde:

Strength, legitimacy, Rock Music, lack of pretense, honesty, integrity




Young Bob Dylan:

Audacity, intelligence, attitude, courage, rebel, trail blazer, avante garde, Folk-Rock




Old Bob Dylan:

Individual, determined, funny, re-inventive, restless, timeless, intelligence, authenticity



The Meaning of Icons, by Vladimir Lossky with Léonid Ouspensky, SVS Press, 1999. (ISBN 0-913836-99-0)
Veronica and her Cloth, Kuryluk, Ewa, Basil Blackwell, Cambridge, 1991
John Francis Wilson Caesarea Philippi: Banias, the Lost City of Pan I.B. Tauris, London, 2004.
Fox, Pagans and Christians, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1989).
Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy (New York: Seabury Press, 1945) 413-414.
Robin Cormack, "Writing in Gold, Byzantine Society and its Icons", 1985, George Philip, London, ISBN 054001085-5
Margherita Guarducci, The Primacy of the Church of Rome, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991) 93-101.
James Hall, A History of Ideas and Images in Italian Art, p111, 1983, John Murray, London, ISBN 0719539714
Father H. Hosten in his book Antiquities notes the following "The picture at the mount is one of the oldest, and, therefore, one of the most venerable Christian paintings to be had in India."
Cormack, Robin (1997). Painting the Soul; Icons, Death Masks and Shrouds. Reaktion Books, London. p. 46.
G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. I,1971 (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, ISBN 853312702

Steve Miller

Steve Miller has been a consistent presence on the music scene since the 1960s, but I may not recognize him if I saw him on the street. (He doesn't look anything now like he did in that thumbnail shot shown here.) Steve Miller isn't really iconic in any personal way, though he has represented a range of music from ambitious early works to broadly commercial later stuff, and people like him. He retains his appeal from one generation to the next. I might suggest that he is the rare exception, the invisible rock star at least on the iconic level.



©Rick Alan Rice (RAR), May, 2012


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