Friday, April 25, 2008

Blimpy's Full Disclosure

I felt very inspired by reading Snadfrod's amazing first 'Spill post, and by reading the comments that followed it. Because, I'm going to be away this weekend, I thought I'd use my potential comment as a new post, to get us nearer the magic 500 (only 7 posts to go, 'Spillers!). 

So, full disclosure is in order, I believe. 

There's some things I''ll happily admit, or maybe admit is the wrong word to use. I'll happily talk about how much bollocks the sodding Beatles add up to. Fuck 'em. Fuck the Beatles. Fuck the shitty Beatles. Yeah, they did some stuff first, so what - fuck 'em. Fuck 'em and fuck those people who think music starts and ends with the fucking Beatles.

Anyway, proper confession time then:

1. I really like Blink 182 and Less than Jake. And NOFX too.

2. I went off one of my favourite bands, Radiohead, when OK Computer got all hyped and jumped on by idiots. Things have never been the same since. It's my own myopic fault for missing out on what is, probly, some of the best music ever made.
I tried to rehabilitate myself with In Rainbows, but it didn't work. Radiohead playing The Forum just after The Bends was released was one of my bestest gigs ever.

3. Sometimes I look at my itunes library of six billion songs and can't find anything I want to listen to, can't find anything that ignites me like the 20 records I had when I was 15. Sometimes i think that's it's all a dead end from here on in. Which, for a music geek like me, is no good.

4. I don't believe in records being "collected" or calling the shitty pile of vinyl I own a collection. "A collection" means one of everything. I dont' want one of everything. All I want is 3 minutes of pure joyous noise where I can experience the moment, and nothing else. I don't want the weight of music history bearing down on me, I don't want context, I don't want to recognise influence, I just want Wow! Blam! Fuck! Like a fucking Lichtenstein painting for my ears!

5. I don't believe in the canonisation of musicians, even if they're ones I like. This goes for Kurt, Lennon, Buckleys, Elliot Smith, Richey Edwards, and the rest. They aren't any more special for being dead. Fuck people who say they are.

6. I got into Belle and Sebastian late, cos I was blinkered by the fact their singer is happily christian when they first came out. This put me off at the time, I now view Tigermilk as being one of the best records ever made. I'm less judgemental these days.

7. I'm an indie snob, and sometimes can't help myself. I'm sorry, BUT, I was into them first. Now us humans don't rely on hunting and gathering meat to survive, is this all we have? 

7a. And yes, I will look down on you according to the music you listen to. 

7b.  Or up to, if you're ejaydee. 

8. I can't really be bothered listening to all the Beefheart records that I inherited. Can't be arsed with Television either. 

9. I lost interest in dance music after I stopped taking the drugs. LCD soundsystem doesn't count. 

10. I own over 100 Manics records...

And then? Only Martha has the answer:

Martha's Swaery Number

38 comments:

Catcher said...

Best. Post. Ever.

For passion, conviction and unapologetic swearing, you have to love this post. Even if some of it is bollocks.

Anonymous said...

Are ye lookin' at me, Jimmy?

Blimpy said...

Catcher: sincere thanks.

Anonymous: what's your name? McFuck?

saneshane said...

2..never liked radiohead apart from creep..I'm always told I should..why bother if it doesn't get you straight off.
3 can always find a wow track..mostly now due to all the nutters on here..cheers all.

4 my 4AD cover art is a collection
(but I did have a relationship end , I went "you have the flat, I'm keeping the music") I lived on sofas for 7 years..no regrets.

5 dead people don't make good music any more..end of..

6 I like the imagery of religion
cass mccombs seems to be a god botherer but I like the pictures painted in the songs.

7 I want the indie hair clip and badge.

7b my ms'collection small but brilliant African music.. 5 years ago just went WOW.

8 inherited lots of boxes listened to bits.

9 Ditto..few songs I still love but wouldn't be classed as dance by purists...


10 don't get the manics either!!!

martha does indeed know the score, can it be mashed in with MTMG time to pretend as a contrast

(I'M TOO OLD FOR THIS)
love this post

Blimpy said...

@saneshane -thanks for the lovely comments!

your no. 4: I love that. Utter respect! there's a short film in there. and no. 7: too funny!

MGMarthaT - now there's a challenge!

saneshane said...

I'm thinking Pixies 'debaser'
White Stripes '7 nation..'
boney m 'night flight to Venus..'
mix the drums patterns, guitar and bass..
then MGMarthaT words over the top
WHY DON'T I have Mac to play on

(oh.. or any tech skills!!!)
its in my head..can hear it now

there is quite a long film in point 4!
enjoy your weekend.

Catcher said...

My pleasure, sir. Meant every word.

snadfrod said...

Blimpy, I love it. And thank you for the kind words. Oh yes Martha has it right.

The dead musicians point is one of my personal favourites, and I wholly agree with you.

Oh and as for the thing about putting links in to posts for money exchange - understood and agreed upon.

God its like AA this, isn't it. "My name is snadfrod, and I am a snob..."

SwissToni said...

Now, I wouldn't go as far as to say that I like Blink 182, but otherwise I'm with you pretty much all the way. You know how much I paid for "In Rainbows"? Nothing. Zip. Nada. Not even the transaction fee (which for some reason they never asked me for). I like the band well enough, but the last time I saw them they were in one of their awkward moods and they played nothing but awkward electronica all night, mainly with their backs to the audience. Don't get me wrong, they can play what they want, but if you resent playing to an arena crowd, then don't fucking book arenas. I paid £30 for that gig, so as far as I was concerned they owed me and were on probation. Do I like the album? Hmmm.

Belle & Sebastian? I didn't know the guy was a christian, but I hated the very twee indie idea of them. I loathed them on a point of principle. Then I heard them. Properly. "If Your's Feeling Sinister". I loved them, and I've not looked back, no matter how closed minded I try to be. I love'em.

Good post.

ST (TheSozz over on RR)

SwissToni said...

[god I hate typos - If You're Feeling Sinister, obv.]

ToffeeBoy said...

Top post blimpy.

The whole matter of looking down on other people's musical taste is an interesting one. On the one hand I hate the musical snobbery that you get from certain quarters (only in very small doses on this wonderful blog, I hasten to add!) -but on the other hand I openly despise the X-Factor/Pop Idol mentality and am therefore guilty of the very attitude I deplore in others. The problem is one of perspective.

I had a fascinating (and infuriating) discussion once with a colleague of mine who used to be a serious punk rocker but has discovered classical music (particularly opera) and jazz and now rarely listens to anything else. Which is absolutely fine except for the fact that he sees classical and jazz music as intrinsically superior to rock/pop music, call it what you will. The phrase he used was that the former was a higher art form.

As you've probably worked out from my posts, I'm a sucker for a song with a good tune - if it's got a thoughful intelligent lyric to go with it, then all the better - but mainly it's the melody that does it for me.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this but (if anyone's still reading!) I'd love to know what you all think about this. Is there such a thing as high or low art when it comes to music? And if so, what does it all mean anyway?

treefrogdemon said...

TB, I hate it when people assume that one kind of music (or any art form) is better than another - usually because THEY like it. I loved it when that professor (sorry, can't remember his name)said that Dylan's lyrics were as good as any other poetry, and worthy of academic study.

I have a vivid memory of an adult (actually my father's assistant, whom I looked up to in a vague way because he was a grownup who deigned to talk to a 13-year-old) saying to me "I expect you like pop muic" and when I said yes, saying: "Oh, you'll soon grow out of that and start liking jazz and classical music"...Well, in fact...

...another memeory, when I was working (very unsuccessfully) as a secondary-school teacher, and one of the most difficult students in my most difficult class said "Miss, do you like Culture Club?" and of course she expected the answer 'no' but I really did like them, and said so.

The arts get exploited as a great way of putting people down, I think, so that they feel inferior. Which is, in my opinion, a bad thing.

CaroleBristol said...

I think most people here know the knid of things I like, but I also love a lot of show tunes, Baroque music, Italian grand opera, Classical music, 20th century stuff too (Schoenberg, Berg, Britten etc), lots of other "serious" music.

One thing though, The dead guys with orchestras are not better than The Ramones, they are different - Yes - but music is about emotion, if it moves you it works, if it doesn't move you - forget it.

snadfrod said...

TB, I completely agree with you and I think one of the things that most bugs me is when people get so goddamned TRIBAL about music to the exclusion of anything else. 'I am a Goth, therefore I do not like that.' 'I like Indie therefore I laugh at anything with a chorus.' And so on.

Or, worse, when someone asks you to describe what sort of music YOU like and are put out when you can't really sum it up in a single word. I just like music, whether that be crassly embarrassing stuff or things that would sit happily on a pedestal next to a Ron Mueck, and if it moves me and makes me go YES (or, alternatively, NO) then brilliant.

Yes there is stuff I hate, but I would never dismiss anything (i hope) out of hand before I listened to it. Whether I am able to listen without prejudice is a different matter, but at least I will LISTEN.

I wish I didn't get angry about it, but I do...

goneforeign said...

tfg: his name is Christopher Ricks, I was sitting here prepared to wade into this one but I decided to bite my lip.
It really doesn't make any difference does it?.

steenbeck said...

Toffeeboy, I've thought a lot about what you said. My mother is a classical musician and a professor of classical music. When my brother and I started discovering pop and rock it was met with withering disdain. So I was early inured to people looking down on me for what I listen to. But I also learned a kind of respect for snobbishness, as long as it was well-informed and sincerely felt. My mom doesn't even like a lot of the classical music that most people do--she only likes baroque music, for instance, if it's performed on original instruments. She's scornful of a lot of classical "stars" as crassly commercial and devoid of soul, just like we here at the 'Spill might be of, say, Sting. There are so many discussions to follow from this--high art/low art; intended audience; motivation for creation... I find if fascinating, but I can barely even touch on it here.

SwissToni said...

it's an interesting point Steenbeck alludes to... that we tend to think of classical music as a kind of amorphous blob, and yet we would be horrified if our blues was mixed in with our R'n'B and our soul was mixed with our metal.

Is that an inverse snobbery of ours?

I struggle with classical music, although my wife loves it, and I do catch myself being scornful of it out of ignorance. I have tried with it, but still really fail to see the different 'types' apart, which is entirely my failing, I know. I was once told that my personality type would suit Shostakovich, so I tried him... nothing. It gives me a headache, which in my mind puts classical music up there with techno.

Mind you, I still felt nothing but scorn for the American pseudo-intellectual captaining an Oxford college team on University Challenge who had no idea who Robert Zimmermann was, and sneered when he heard the answer and pretended he had no idea who Dylan was anyway. Knob.

ST

treefrogdemon said...

I like baroque music too, and I like the idea of its being played on contemporay instruments - not sure whether I'd be able to tell if it was or not though...my younger daughter has a degree in wind-instrument-making and for a while thought she might make a career of making recorders etc in Renaissance style, as there seemed to be a demand.

In the end she decided she didn't want to do the marketing part, so she became a primary school teacher instead. But she made some ace recorders.

steenbeck said...

TFD, when I was a teenager, living in London, I was taken to this small shop for my birthday where I was allowed to buy an instrument (within a certain amount). It was like magic--recorders, crumhorns, sackbutts (oh how Malcolm would love that name), lutes... Maybe the kind of thing your daughter eventually made. I don't think I picked anything, but...I did play a borrowed tenor viola da gamba in a collegium musicum when I was in highschool and early college. That's right, I was THE LEAST COOL kid on the planet.

Shoot, I have a million things to say based on Blimpy's post and Toffeeboy's response. Nothing I won't regret tomorrow morning, though.

Just one idea, though BmcF, when indie fails you, when the lyrics start to sound repetitive and insipid, and you've heard that damn tune 5000 times before...there's always hip hop.
I'm having a shitty evening and having trouble thinking, but I bet when I'm feeling better, or maybe Ejaydee or Mr. DNA, or Nilpferd could help... We could find you 3 genius minutes of brilliant lyrics and music.

steenbeck said...

Sorry Blimpy, I regret that already. I'm sure you know more about hip hop than I do. I never even knew Wu Tang had a glockenspiel.

ejaydee said...

Was that shop on Charlotte St? Or on Chalk Farm Road?
I liked no 4 about context, and the reason I like Feist, is no 7. I saw her opening for another band and few people were paying attention, but I dug her and her use of the sampler to create loops, since it was just her onstage. However, I successfully I fight the urge to let go of someone just because they went famous, identified here as No. 2. And I've never taken anything else than weed, and I still like dance music.

Serge Gainsbourg once had an argument on TV with another French songwriter (Guy Beart, father of Emmanuelle) about this. Serge was claiming that what he and BĂ©art do (songwriting) is a minor art, as opposed to literature, classical, etc. This always disappointed me in Serge, although there are many sings he would say I would probably disagree with.

If people want to call what I listen to minor, I'll argue with them, but ultimately it doesn't bother me that much. My older brother would get mad if, while he managed to catch an Ice-T video, my Dad woud ask "are they talking or singing", but what did he (my brother) expect? Growing up, for a long time I was alone in not being a Guns & Roses fan, and later a Metallica or Nivana fan. I actually rejected it, and the arguments were fun, although both sides were talking absolute bollocks. I don't expect everybody to love what I listen to, just don't say it's invalid as a form of music.

steenbeck said...

Well, I have been thinking about this a lot, and I feel like I agree with what everybody is saying and I would even if they were contradicting each other. BUT, I think in a strange way it all comes down to honesty or sincerity--if you really like what you like, and not because someone tells you to, and you don't stop because everyone else tells you not to...And if whoever made it is making what they have to make, and not what they think is cool or financially viable, then it's all high art.
I feel very glad that I grew up with an understanding of certain types of classical music, which I will always have, and still love. And I feel sad for people, say my mother, for instance, since I brought her up earlier, who will reject (without listening) all rock, pop, hip hop--anything she doesn't know.

steenbeck said...

And I don't remember where the shop was, but I have another memory--When I was 20 I was at University in England (I was supposed to go the full 3 yrs, just couldn't do it) on a break I went to a shop in London and bought a guitar. Another strangely magical moment. What is it about music shops in London? And I half wish I'd done like goneforeign and bitten my lip on this whole thing. It's the sort of thing you all have to sit around and drink some wine and discuss, I half-regret everything I've typed. I'm such a tired Claire.

ejaydee said...

I'm glad someone's channelling the RR spirit of AlexaK, who's been missing again this week.

Catcher said...

One of the things I love about The 'Spill is the tangents topics can take. I've been finding this one fascinating, and I think there are questions being raised here that we've probably all considered at one time or another. It's late, and I'm a bit tipsy, so apologies if I wander into meandering philosophical musings, I just wanted to contribute something. Probably more questions than answers, mind.

The high/low art element is interesting, but I always wonder if the whole snobbishness about classical music is related to contemporaneousness. I have daydreams about people in the late 18th century saying "You heard that new Mozart?" "Yeah, bloody rubbish, now Monteverdi, that's proper music!". Is the concept of classical music as high art related to its durability? If so, then it's totally unfair to compare it to a relatively nascent form such as pop/rock/etc, and they must each be judged on their own terms. Which is probably where most of us came in. Is it related to its complexity in terms of instrumentation? If so, how does that then compare to someone like Phil Spector using what we would now consider primitive technology to create the sound he did? Or a group like Spiritualized, who incorporate elements of each? To really muddy the waters, what would the classical snobs think of a group like Rachel's, who have been described as chamber rock, but to me sound like they're using the classical style in a contemporary format? To draw what may be a comparison I'll be shot down for, and fair enough if so, what is the difference between ejaydee's experience of Feist, or mine of David Pajo doing a similar thing live, looping and layering, and Bach's fugual style? The principles of counterpoint and harmonic layering are surely the same? What would Beethoven have done with a guitar and sampler? I'm no musicologist, but if I can see a link, then why are others so blinkered? And to keep drawing comparisons, why shouldn't it be okay that I prefer Joan As Policewoman torch songs to Schubert's lieder?

Blind acceptance or rejection of any form of music is to be abhorred, and I think everyone here agrees. We may have a particular loathing for a particular style, but I'm willing to bet money that none of us has ever dismissed a genre of music out of hand. For example, I've been open about my hatred of reggae, but I've listened to a lot more of it than some people I know who claim to love it, so I feel justified.

A few other things I want to respond too (if anyone's still here);

- ToffeeBoy, you mentioned looking down on the whole X-Factor/Pop Idol thing and seeing it as an element of snobbishness on your part. In an attempt to assuage your guilt (or maybe highlight a similar feeling on my part), what do they have to do with music? They're competitions in which people who think they're singers end up being exploited by Louis Walsh and Simon Cowell, manipulated into a career of piss-poor cover versions and cruise-liners. The blatant cynicism and greed of these shows is breathtaking, and I fear Cowell and Walsh may have ruined music for an entire generation by forcing such low standards on them. The records sell initially because people have gotten to know the people involved and feel some sort of empathy, and "good on you" mentality, but the talent is, at best, incidental. Whatever you think of The Beatles, surely it galls every music fan that Westlife have had more number ones or whatever the record is than them? With, again, pisspoor note-for-note, why-not-just-listen-to-the-original? cover versions and bland nothingness. As carolebristol and snadfrod said, it's all about being moved by something, and I just cannot fathom how anyone is moved by such anodyne dross which is so openly about pocket-lining.

- snadfrod, loved the point about tribal music fans. Why would anyone rule out so much? Fine, have a favourie style, but keep your ears open! Another thing I love about here is that that mentality is so happily absent.

Right, so that's my mammoth rant over. Probably didn't help the discussion any, but, like I said, it raised a few things in my mind I wnted to throw open to the floor. Dreading reading it back tomorrow, mind.

glasshalfempty said...

Great post (as was snadfrod's), and it sure provoked some reaction, most of which I agree with, so won't repeat.

I'm with you on the iconoclasm - even good bands make crap records from time to time, and we (and they) have to admit it. And I've never really understood the obsessive, stamp collector/completist ethic in music buying.

Given that all you "want is 3 minutes of pure joyous noise", you no doubt saw the article in the Observer on music blogs
'We're just trying to find the greatest next three minutes of your life' at
http://music.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,2274962,00.html
My question is, why on earth didn't they mention the wonderful 'Spill?

treefrogdemon said...

A big difference between now and 'the past' (whenever that was) is that now we have access to a huge range of music, increasing all the time, as everyone's back catalogues become available. So we can explore, dip into, discover kinds of music in a way no-one has been able to before. When I was a kid I used to haunt record stalls at markets where they sold ex-juke box snigles - you had to buy little plastic 'centres' to make them fit on your Dansette - because there was no other way of getting hold of the music I liked.

Now I can get it all without moving from my computer. Aren't we lucky?

ToffeeBoy said...

Excellent rant catcher - I'll have some of whatever you're on. And thanks for the reassuring words about the whole X-Factor/Pop Idol thing. But I still feel there's a problem here.

I think we all agree that there's a line that divides the music we all like (whether we're talking about rock/pop, hip-hop, jazz or classical) from the stuff we (for want of a better phrase) look down on. I've got no problems with placing, for example, The Go-Betweens, The Beach Boys, John Coltrane, Mozart, Wu-Tang Clan, Fela Kuti and (although I personally dislike everything about him) Bob Dylan on one side of the line and Westlife and all the Pop Idol clones on the other. But the problem is all the grey matter in between - and this is where it becomes purely subjective and as much about personal taste as anything else. So if we accept the existence of this grey area, can we really have a dividing line?

ejaydee said...

I've looked for this dividing line, couldn't find it so I gave up. I was also going to say I agreed completely with what steenbeck said about honesty and sincerity on the musician's part, but I'm not sure if, when it comes down to it, it's the ultimate litmus test for me. For example, I like some early Madonna songs, and I couldn't say for sure when she's singing something to be part of a trend, or maybe she just genuinely likes what's "hot right now". Basically I became much happier musically when I decided I didn't have to solely listen to musical geniuses.

I had another thought, back when TB asked this question of high/low art, it's a bit like asking who's the most important footballer in a team, goalscorer or defender? There's no definitive answer, which is the way I see it.

steenbeck said...

Yeah, I was thinking about that last night after I wrote it. Some of the most beautiful art ever created was for patrons--was for financial gain. I think all these questions are interesting to think/talk about, but I agree, there are no definitive answers, and there are vast grey areas.

And TFD's point is one I think about, too. Remember when you bought an album (a record or a cassette) and you hadn't been able to hear most of it on the computer? It was such an exciting gamble.

goneforeign said...

Monday morning:
For me, Steenbeck summarises it perfectly when she says:
"Shoot, I have a million things to say based on Blimpy's post and Toffeeboy's response. Nothing I won't regret tomorrow morning, though."
That's where I've been for several days, now with a sore lip as this thread has evolved into the most interesting one yet on the Spill. I don't know how it got from where it started with Blimp's shotgun blast of "Full Disclosures" to where it's at now, but that doesn't matter; one point I initially scribbled down was that If we wanted to stay with some aspect of Blimp's opener how about:

5. I don't believe in the canonisation of musicians, even if they're ones I like. This goes for Kurt, Lennon, Buckleys, Elliot Smith, Richey Edwards, and the rest. They aren't any more special for being dead. Fuck people who say they are.

There's lots of room there for discussion from all sides of the aisles,
Canonisation is not the exclusive domain of the dead, there's plenty still around who we canonise.
Special's a different bag, that could lead us down lots of paths and maybe provide some insights for swisstoni.
From my point of view which is shared my many there's a very, very long list of musicians who are both special and dead, They're special because they advanced the music or expressed it in an individual way, or just by the sheer brilliance of their performance/creation/expression: just plug in a few of your own favorite names and then ask who today comes anywhere close?

What I'd intended to say at the beginning of this comment was related to the discussion of various types of music, the value of one versus another, music as a mirror of society, the evolution of various forms, [has anyone else got that great 60's album "The evolution of the Blues Song] and maybe even some comments on the state of contemporary pop versus say that of the 50's, 60's or 70's. But that's where the discussion has evolved to with many eloquent statements of belief and ideas. I was in almost total agreement with Catcher, specifically his opening comment, that's what I felt but was reluctant to get started.
Slightly off topic I was dismayed to hear him state his antipathy for reggae, my reaction was that I'd like to post a single cut and ask him to be specific about what in it causes him to hate it. I think we all have mental images of each other based on our comments and that one came as a shocker.

ToffeeBoy said...

I've been racking my brains trying to recall a quote which I felt was relevant to this thread. It's by the Canadian author/journalist Stephen Leacock; The passage is from an essay entitled 'Homer and Humbug' taken from his 1913 publication 'Behind the Beyond', in which he questions the worth of Latin and Greek literature and the high regard in which it is held.

"This is what I should like to do. I'd like to take a large stone and write on it in very plain writing; 'the classics are only primitive literature. They belong to the same class as primitive machinery and primitive music and primitive medicine," and then throw it through the windows of a University and hide behind a fence to see the professors buzz!"

It really is all about perspective, isn't it?

TracyK said...

You know, much as I love the music (and I really DO. Except the stuff I hate.), this is the joy of the Spill, having these kind of earnest discussions and swapping experiences and feelings and waffling like a bunch of philosophy students quaffing absinthe in a cellar bar.
At the weekend I was having a discussion about something Steenbeck said (I think it was S, anyhoo0: when I was younger and could only afford 4 or 5 lps a term, I listened to every note. I knew those records so well I'd memorised every pop and crackle. Now I can afford whatever I want, or listen on Youtube, I feel a huge amount of that crazy intensity has gone. Skip past the filler track, fillet the cd...I do feel it's a shame.
regarding the 'parents saying you'll get over music' thing, I vividly remember my dad pontificating (he does that an annoying amount), while sneering that I'd gone 2 miles out of my way to track down that week's NME and MM, "You'll stop buying those by the time you are 20: you'll start living in the real world". I finally stopped buying it about 4 years ago, but still buy the Xmas issue for the Jukebox Fury thing.
And Blimpy: with you all the way on 5, 6, 7 and 8.

steenbeck said...

TracyK, I have this memory stuck in my head, for some reason--this girl I barely knew when I was 18 or so--someone was complaining about how fast-forwarding through certain songs on a cassette wore out the batteries on their walkman, and she said "I don't have that problem, when I like a band I like every song they've ever recorded." I don't know why it's stuck in my head, but it's such a testament to a certain time for me.

And Catcher, very interesting post. That High/low art is a question even within classical music. In the 18th century there was "popular" music--there were folk songs, drinking songs. The Beggar's Opera is kind of a crossover--all of the songs are based on some kind of popular song from the time (samples, almost).

Abahachi said...

Wow. Where to start? It would have been easier if the computer had behaved when I first tried to contribute my waffling to this thread yesterday morning. Part of me wants to pick up on the fabulous quote from toffeeboy, if only because I'm professionally engaged in that area, but I think I'll focus on the music side...

Personal context to start with. I grew up more or less oblivious to the existence of pop and rock music; most of my parents' records were classical, no television, constant background of Radio 4. So I got into classical without any sense of making a choice. Then at the age of 11 or so I discovered that you could change the frequency, and entered this whole new world; I still listen to classical music, and two out of ten desert island discs would come from that side, but generally it just doesn't move me in the same way as pop, rock or jazz.

Thinking about this, I become aware of quite how inconsistent I am; incredibly broad-minded half the time and narrowly obsessive and judgemental otherwise, about individual artists if not about genres. treefrogdemon's point about our access to the whole of the past is spot on, and my experience is that I lurch backwards and forwards between fanatical exploration of a new tradition and equally fanatical insistence on the Now and the New.

Sometimes these go together, as I get hooked on something current - for example, the weird electronic stuff that my stepson is listening to on his uni course at the moment - and then want to discover where it came from. Sometimes, however, it's a reaction; I spent the late 80s getting into the late 60s and early 70s because it seemed so much better than anything contemporary, and I headed off into jazz a decade ago because of a similar antipathy to everything happening in the popular sphere - not that I lost my love of pop music, which seems to be what happens with some people who make this shift to more 'serious' music, but that I couldn't bring myself to love anything currently on offer. And yet I still felt/feel guilty about doing it - and the day I stopped buying the NME, part of me felt really old.

It gets even more complicated if I think about my own attempts at making music: the tradition is both a blessing and a curse, an enormous resource of inspiration and a tremendous burden of expectation and precedent. 'The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living'. How to create anything new when it's all been done before? How to do anything naturally when we're all hyper-conscious of what we're doing and how it relates to the past?

But the past does offer hopeful examples of people who've faced this problem and come through it to make something new and wonderful; not just in music, but also in classical literature (to return to toffeeboy's quote). Homer, Virgil et al. could be a dead weight, suffocating originality because they're set up as the perfect form that must be imitated; they could terrify artists like Goethe because of the fear of being unable to equal them; but they could also offer a springboard to creativity, a way of stepping outside one's own time to get a proper perspective on it. It then becomes a matter not of trying to imitate Abba or Miles or Kraftwerk or whoever, but of trying to capture their spirit or essence, to be for our time what they were for theirs, both different and the same, both continuing and breaking with the tradition...

And that's still not everything. I can make sense of the Beatles in these terms, and see their importance, and I'd still quite happily never listen to another of their songs in my whole life. Gut prejudice; it just ain't got that swing.

Abahachi said...

What a load of pretentious twaddle. But do I get a prize for being the first person to mention Goethe on the 'Spill?

ToffeeBoy said...

@abahachi - Pretentious? Toi?

Blimpy said...

Awesome comments on this post.

When I said I was an indie snob in pointnumber 7, i more meant i 'm snobby towards other factions inside indie/alt music, rather than outward to other musical genres. ie the stupid pursuit of being into the newest, obscurist bands - and pouring scorn over the more mainstream, commercial side of things.