Intro to Cargocult (blog post)

In the Second World War, Allied troops airdropped massive amounts of food, weaponry, and supplies onto the Melanesian islands as part of their island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. To the islanders, isolated from industrialization, the wealth and abundance of these drops were interpreted within a mystical, quasi-religious framework. When the war ended, and the airlifts dwindled to a stop, cults emerged among islanders attempting to ritualistically summon more supplies. Lacking an understanding of the core mechanisms behind the airdrops — a world war, mechanized flight, the Allied island-hopping offensive — these so-called cargo cults began constructing imitation runways, dressing like U.S. soldiers, and praying that supplies would come without success.

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“If It Sounds Bad It Is Bad”

One of the critical ideas I’ve found most interesting of late is a seeming contradiction: Just because it sounds like bad music doesn’t mean it is bad music. “Just because it reads like a bad novel doesn’t mean it’s a bad novel” is also sort of true, but a bit more complicated.

The tenability of the first statement, of course, is the result of specific parameters for what it means to sound bad versus be bad. Specifically, the phrasing of “sounding like bad music” is key: it opens the possibility, when X track sounds like bad music Y, that the sonic trappings and features which X shares with Y music are not in themselves bad; that the “bad music” in question is ineffective or unpleasant for reasons separate from its overlap with track X.

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