NOTE: the thread--
Rather than prolong the back-and-forth over “pop triumphalism,” I’d simply note the difference of opinion between John Halle and myself probably has more to do with generational, temperamental, and professional issues than actual politics. I’d direct interested readers to the whole text of the 1998 article to which Halle refers, “Elvis Everywhere: Musicology and Popular Music Studies at the Twilight of the Canon.” Although the piece does mention what we commonly think of as “pop” (Elton John), its main focus is not to endorse mainstream commercial music as somehow the real music “of the people.” In fact, the one manifesto-like moment of the article is a pitch for paying musicological attention to obscure, difficult, un-popular music like “the grittier end of the new age; the spookiest and most ethereal corners of ambient; the most uncompromising slabs of hardcore and techno.” It’s not about easy listening: the music I was highlighting demands sustained attention, provides few if any familiar sonic landmarks, and in some cases presents a powerful immanent critique of rock as the soundtrack to neoliberal populism. There is a difference between popular music triumphalism and popular music studies triumphalism; to pay attention to a form of cultural production is not necessarily to endorse it or the social formations that bring it into being. As an academically trained musicologist who is also president of the U.S. Branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, I am hardly going to walk back my conviction that the opening up of a post-canonic musicology to the study of popular music, broadly construed, is a good thing.
slab of hardcore
extreme new age (7-hour track!)