On genres and music criticism – and how both may (or perhaps should) be either dead or evolving
A friend, who has been known to be a critic and journalist covering Seattle hip-hop, sent me this blog post from a blog called Shallow Rewards. I thought I’d share.
She knows how much I dislike the mainstream use of music genres, and how much I struggle with the part of my job which requires me to be a critic rather than a storyteller. So, it should be no surprise that I was pleased to see I’m not alone among critics. But, I know there may be some of you who would wince at some of the implications – chief among them that criticism and the genrefication of music is pretty much irrelevant at this point, particularly in an online context.
(I maintain that criticism really only belongs in academia anymore, and maybe in small doses in traditional print publications; but that the blogosphere should focus its efforts away from telling people the merits of a particular recording, and instead serve as a boosting ground for bands who would otherwise get lost in the din of a gazillion artists who post their music online. That is, that modern social media “critics” now fill more the role which used to be filled by the considerate record store employee.)
What particularly struck me from this blog was the following assertion:
Young people are totally divorced from—and confused by—my generation’s panicked response to the current state of affairs. We drape their music in auxesis and frillery to frame dichotomies and debates amongst ourselves, presupposing questions that might fire neurons in people who lived through an era of physical media and Tectonic genre shifts, but are surplus to requirements for the young. We should have evolved relativistically to account for that—for our own sanity if nothing else—but also to arrive at an interpretable version of the world they occupy. Music and media as broad corporate-style industries, and the ostensible tragedy of their dissolution, are conceptually alien to kids. It’s not that they don’t care—it’s that they literally cannot understand what we are talking about.
I quote this not because I think any critic should ever assume the bulk of their audience is “young people,” and so should only cater to the college-aged crowd. Instead, I just think it’s a good point to consider that the future of our craft – such as it is – lies in the hands of people who take for granted that the media is structured the way it is currently structured. They don’t miss magazines because they didn’t grow up with them, and that’s fine. That’s how progress has always happened, and how it will continue. To presume that the media will fail, or the music industry will fail simply because it doesn’t look like it did 20 or even five years ago, is silly.
That’s not news, of course. But this blog post by “Editor” nicely fits the role of “occasional reinforcement.”
And now for a slight diversion/rant about the downside of the internets…
The only issue I take with this piece: it was posted by someone named “Editor.” When I try to find out who “Editor” is, I hit a wall. Shallow Rewards has nothing indicated in any way that I can easily (or with some difficulty) find which will tell me who operates it, and why they know enough about any topic to inform me about anything.
It’s a bit of a personal pet peeve.
In the new social media spectrum, individual writers are their own brand. I know most working writers are freelancers nowadays, and not on staff anywhere. So, I scan the internet for pieces by writers I know and trust. Someone named “Editor” will probably never catch my eye again, despite the fact that I’ve written this whole post about something they wrote. While this person seems to have some interesting ideas about the new media structures, I regret that there’s no way I can develop a personal relationship with their work. As someone of an age which is old enough to feel some nostalgia for the old music business and the old media, and yet young enough to be excited about the natural evolution, I appreciate there are folks of “Editor”‘s age cottoning to that notion as well.
Something I find many “old media” bloggers disappointing me on is the notion that I have any idea who they are. Perhaps somewhere in the archive of the blog, there’s an indication that this person was once an in-print staff writer somewhere. Or that the blog is highly reliable for some reason or another. But we all know the quickest way to a website we never heard of before, is through some side door and back hallway, via a peripheral Google search. What makes the transition from print to web difficult for any publication or author is that you have to constantly remind yourself that whatever you’re currently writing could be the first thing someone ever sees of that particular publication.
Who is Shallow Rewards? I don’t know. I’m sharing the above with you anyway, though, because I know there are some folks here who might find it an interesting read. Enjoy! I’d love to read your thoughts.