Thursday, January 12, 2012

interview fragments, part 397

Q: What do you think of Frank Zappa’s famous phrase about musical journalism? “Rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read”.

A: One of those sayings that seems very funny and has the ring of truth simply because of the rhythm of the sentence. Its "truth effect" is totally caused by the language and the structure and cadence of the sentence. When you inspect it more closely, it's complete rubbish.

Some of the greatest writers of the second half of the 20th Century -- as prose stylists, as well as thinkers -- happened to write about pop music. Pop music was their prism for writing about society, culture, the human condition, you name it. As Greil Marcus said, with Lester Bangs you had to accept the idea that the greatest writer in America was someone who primarily wrote record reviews.

Equally, some of the sharpest thinkers and about music and culture happen to be musicians: incredibly eloquent, lucid and witty figures such as Brian Eno, Green Gartside, Morrissey, Robert Wyatt, Lydia Lunch, David Bowie, Malcolm McLaren, Momus... that is just scratching the surface. And right now we are enjoying a total boom of musician-conceptualists -- the guys in Vampire Weekend, Dan from Oneohtrix Point Never, Ariel Pink and James Ferraro, the guy in Dirty Projectors. There is a lot of music around at the moment that is "music of ideas" in the same way that people talk about "literature of ideas".

And finally, "for people who can't read".... well there are certainly people who've left comments in the comments section of pieces I've done for online newspapers who would appear to have difficulty reading! I think it is partly because people are reading too fast these days, they are skimming through text because there's so much to check out and they're always in a hurry. But you know, I think the existence of the music press -- particularly the UK music press in its heyday -- and the existence nowadays of this huge network of music blogs, it shows there is and has always been a lot of people who are attentive readers who really think hard about what they're reading. They get turned on like an electric switch being turned on. Their brains light up. That's what the blog boom is -- a whole movement of readers who became commentators themselves.

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