April 19, 2005

empirical f.f.r.r.

Following up a little: Daphne Brooks did a really good presentation on rockism, and not exactly this kind. But given how much of a buzzword it's become since K. Sanneh's piece in the Times, and how broadly it gets used on say ILX, I suspect it might be useful to encourage a pretty narrow definition of "rockism," just to keep the idea from getting too loose or too wide. (I can very easily see a slide into talking-about-rock-is-rockist, which makes it a much less helpful concept.)

The formulation that makes the most sense to me is that rockism is treating rock as normative. What follows from that attitude is that e.g. pre-stereo country and blues are interesting because they anticipated rock, other kinds of popular music "rock" when they're good & also are interesting inasmuch as they work the same way as rock, etc. ... rockism is, at the moment, also kind of built into the discourse about popular music, because almost all of the interesting early writing about pop was about and published during that late-'60s/early-'70s rock moment, which means that the whole house was subsequently built on that foundation.

(What's interesting about this formulation is that a writer doesn't have to overtly disparage non-rock music to be rockist, & at the same time you can write/think/care about rock all you like without necessarily being rockist.)

I suspect that one shortcut to figuring out a non-rockist (or, as Brooks put it, black feminist!) way of talking about popular music may be building on closely focused popular culture criticism that's not about music at all--critical writing about film or theater or literature as a model for critical writing about music, & as a way of short-circuiting the trap of music-crit heritage. We don't need another (fill in the name of your favorite Creem writer here), we need a Pauline Kael. Or a George Orwell. Or maybe even a Ruth Reichl.

Does this make sense?

In other EMP-related news, I consulted my notes, and I actually got Drew's quote wrong: the correct version is "a kind of discursive smoothie of formaldehyde and lube," which is much funnier.

Posted by Douglas at April 19, 2005 12:19 AM | TrackBack

have you read the new ruth reichl? it's a quick read, and really fun. easy to read with baby, i would expect.

Posted by: lauren on April 19, 2005 2:29 PM
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