Sunday, October 31, 2004
Whatever Happened To The Avant-Garde, Part II: Beyond Rockism vs. Pop-ism
So I'm sure this is the one everyone's gonna be talking about this week. It's long overdue, and you couldn't have wished for anyone else except this dude to have come through to clarify the situation.
Even better, here's Eric Weisbard's unbelievably timed review of Elijah Wald's brilliant book on Robert Johnson and Ned Sublette's book on Cuba-as-the-mother-of-all-pop-rhythm that suggest deep alternatives to both rockist writing and traditional scholarly approaches to pop. Read the review then run out and get the books.
But the point of this short rant--I can go on, but I don't have time right now--is to suggest that the rockism vs. pop-ism debate is mad played out. As even my man suggests in his closing lines, "We deserve some new prejudices, too"--no doubt so that he can elegantly skewer them as well, but anyway.
Here's my mini-statement of purpose. If there's a hiphopcentric approach to all this, it certainly ought to oppose rockism, but also establish some standards, prejudices, whatever you want to call them--aesthetics. It ought to run the gauntlet between the critical theory line that most pop is bad (the rockists' debt to Adorno) and the cult-stud line that most pop is good (the antidj-rockists' debt to the Brits). It ought to make a virtues of both showing-and-proving in front of a community and leading that community somewhere else. Audience affirmation should lead forward not backward.
My own criticism has been moving in two not-yet-contradictory directions. One is towards the global--a stab against what I once called musical unilateralism in some stupid essay long ago (for the record, this year's model brought tears to many of our eyes, I'm not kidding). Let's admit, for instance, that the worldviews of rockists and popists often seem utterly ridiculous from other shores. Proof? Start with the brilliant DJ Nuts.
The other is toward a return of the avant-garde. Remember that? Before the post-isms and the bloggerati levelled everything?
I don't mean only unlistenable stuff you have to study in class. Jazz at Minton's was avant-garde. Sly Stone and Funkadelic was avant-garde. Hip-hop when it came downtown and went global was avant-garde. They shared a comfort in knowing the ledge.
I'm down for pop that wants to be avant-garde (or like this or this or this) and avant-garde that wants to be pop (or like this or this or this or this).
Rockists are correct to celebrate rebellion and Big Statements, Pop-ists are correct to celebrate pleasure and mass appeal. Pop avantists or Avant-popists, whatever, a new avant-gardism, should want an aesthetics of progressiveness, of standing outside (whether one wants in or not), of risk, of of desiring and creating a better world.
Alright yall, gotta run, mad issues to deal with today...let the convo begin...
And yo, go vote. Your enemies already did.
posted by Zentronix @ 10:30 AM
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