21 June 2011

'It has since been turned into a luxury apartment building.'

In other words, we have an aesthetic, but no ethos.

Very nice and intriguing piece by Alex Niven over at the online arts & lit journal Wave Composition. Modernism, pop music and the common culture, the deferred dream of "taking it to the streets," history made by night, and the death of Romanticism by way of aesthetic impasse. Titled "Not Simply for Those Moments’ Sake: A Retroactive Manifesto for Late-Twentieth Century Pop Music," it reads something like Paul Morley on a theory bender. It's the publication's debut edition, and it looks to be shaping up very well at the launch.

Winding down on a somewhat plaintive note, Alex touches on something at the end of his piece, an idea that I saw curiously echoed by Simon Reynolds over at FACT mag. Discussing his new book Retromania in an interview by Matt Woebot, the baton passes thusly...

MW: Does music matter anymore? Are games and movies better, more Wagnerian contexts for [music]? Are the social networks better and more efficient ways of sopping up our need for a disembodied connectedness? What value music as a discreet cultural form in the 21st century?

SR: There does seem to have been a long moment when music had a particular prestige and and it does feel like that moment has passed. Music was a sort of sovereign zone: it demanded the listener’s complete immersion, you were subjugated to the temporality of the Album. Now music is much more about being at our disposal, it’s become convenient, a backdrop to other activities, a space-filler. Music is ubiquitous today in a way that it actually wasn’t in the Sixties and Seventies. It’s in the soundtracks of games and movies, it’s in TV commercials, it’s piped out as Muzak in supermarkets and cafés. We take it wherever we go with our iPods and iPhones. Yet this omnipresence and superabundance has ultimately led to a depreciation in music’s value.

Which dovetails in many ways with what Alex's comments about the role music, art, certain modes of expression or communication circulate in within a given society or culture. Or, more specifically: the means by which they carry or stimulate ideas, prompt discussion, or bring some shared or vicarious means of connectedness. Or has that too become a thing of the past?

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