by carl wilson

Brooks Brother's Suit

A couple of friends in NYC text- and Facebook-messaged me today with references to Times columnist David Brooks that I couldn't quite understand. Tonight I find out why: I'm name-checked, along with Sasha Frere-Jones (and Steve Van Zandt), in his latest column. I'm not a Brooks fan, but I don't mind this one, which synthesizes my and Sasha's points (ditching the notion of a beef between us, happily, since beefin' was never my intention) into the notion of music now mirroring a "segmented society." I'm not so down with its "these kids today" and "music now sucks" 'tudes ("most young musicians don't know the roots and traditions of their music. They don't have broad musical vocabularies to draw on when they are writing songs" ... really? My experience is that young musicians now do very wide listening - if anything it may be an issue that our knowledge bases tend to be so broad that they lose some focus, and perhaps that fewer young musicians get traditions passed down in person from older ones.) But he's refreshingly comfortable with the idea that music, and culture in general, tends to reproduce social structure (more than it causes it, as conservatives and overzealous artsies alike tend to think), and I like his point that this segmentation is a source of widespread anxiety at a lot of levels. And I want a copy of Van Zandt's proposal for a curriculum that teaches American history through American music history.

Also at the Times site, Democrat Kurt Campbell makes a case for the social force of today's Nashville country music that I'd happily endorse if he weren't dismissive of the need for anyone aspiring to speak to a broad popular audience to listen more deeply to what hip-hop/R&B; have to say in equal measure. The more this electoral campaign wears on the more I feel that John Edwards' "two Americas" message is the most vital thing going, except it should be more like six, ten, twenty Americas.

Meanwhile, Peli makes a strong case for not reading tastes in reverse-mode: That is, that to have a strong positive reaction to a certain kind of music (or whatever) is not necessarily to be damning other categories and their audiences. Pierre Bourdieu would argue otherwise, saying that tastes are foremost an aggregate of distastes - that is, that if I reject the music associated with groups of people from whom I want to distinguish myself, I gravitate towards music as unlike that music as possible (and arguably made deliberately to be unlike that music). But Peli usefully points out that straight people who are strongly pro-queer are not taken to be adopting that stance because of their bias against groups of people who tend to be anti-queer (working-class black Americans being his example). I'm not sure that we can be so positive - surely part of the reason a straight young person adopts an outspoken pro-queer position is not just appreciation of queerness (and one's queer friends) but a distaste for intolerance and often for the particular brands of intolerance held by people (fundamentalists, for instance) that that young person finds distasteful, and that distaste goes beyond the hatefulness of the anti-gay position to a distaste for an entire worldview, a cultural difference. But Peli's right - this doesn't invalidate the pro-queer position itself. (Although it might condition certain snobbish, dogmatic ways in which it can be expressed?) This is why in my book I was more concerned to examine cultural dislikes, which I think have stronger social subtexts. Yes, people like stuff because it in some ways suits them, where they're coming from (which might be a socially segmented place). But that wouldn't be a big deal if it did not so often also include a desire to place those likes above other people's likes, to say, "This is good because it's not like all that bullshit that other people like."

General | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, November 21 at 12:31 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)



Both of those NY Times op-eds were so full of uh, simplistic black and white, cliches. Yuck.

Posted by curm on November 23, 2007 1:26 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson