Thursday, October 29, 2009

with the apparent fading-away or self-annulment of rockism-as-a-mode-of-discourse (at least in certain quarters, i suspect it's alive and kicking in many places) it seems like there's a bunch of other ways of talking-about-music that've stepped forward to take rockism's place (rockism of course not being a coherent, tidy scheme of value but a set of overlapping ideas: art-into-pop, rock-as-revolution, rock-as-folk, "fictions of community and resistance" (that's me, on post-rock, in 94, i have no idea where my head was at then!), anti-capitalist-energies-expressed-through-the-market, etc etc).

MODE 1: high seriousness. Treating music (certain musics: out-rock, post-rock, avant-jazz, avant-classical, experimental electronics -- Wire stuff, basically) as if it simply were high culture, outside the market (ignoring of course its own niche market economy etc), and simply taking for granted that it's superior to pop. You might say, well this is just rockism innit, but no actually, because a crucial part of rockism is populism (not pop-ism). True the approach is auteurist, but generally it lacks a social or political aspect, and the tone is quite mandarin. So I prefer to see it as straightforward substitution thing, various avant-gardes treated simply as if they were classical music. And the emergence of this mode is mirrored on the economic level by the alliance of this experimental fringe with various high art institutions (Queen Elizabeth Hall, etc), subsidies, the museum and gallery circuit etc.

MODE 2: pop as marketplace. pop as an entertainment product sold by stars-as-brands. You get a curious auteurist version of this in magazines like the Source (interviews entirely about career moves, the artist's rise through struggle and breaks and making contact with tycoon-benefactors etc etc; rap as the franchising of personality) but mostly it's consumer-oriented -- "I like this".

MODE 3: the quiet enthusiasm of the genre expert. I like this mode as far as it goes but what’s absent for me is the arguing-the-case-for element, ie, cos speaking to a readership of likeminds, the importance etc of the genre is taken for granted, one instinctively knows what is righteous, -- and so the proselytizing or justificatory element is absent. it stays relentlessly sub-meta and all great music writing must occasionally ascend to the meta level and the big questions of "what is all this worth? why does it matter?"

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