saturday morning link dump
Quite beyond the merits of Merritt's case for being a good white liberal (which, who cares? Right?) the fact is that music criticism is still a very white male-dominant field (as if I have to remind anyone, geezus), and the wounds are always fresh.
But I don't think any of this stuff gets to the more important question of how our aesthetics function in the world.
Point blank: Has the 5, 8, 30-year old discussion around popism and rockism helped us establish an aesthetic practice and discourse that changes the world for the better?
Answer: Nope, it hasn't done shit.
So I've figured out it's pretty much a waste of my time.
All these issues raised by Merrittgate (and this Marcus quote) dovetail beautifully with the P-ism/R-ism debate because they relate to this idea you get on the loony fringe of P-ism which is that listeners should step outside their own tastes/biases/preconceptions and achieve an impartial state in which things get understood "on their own terms." I don't think that is possible--not completely anyway--and I'm not sure it's particularly desirable, in terms of its effects of music writing. Oh, open-mindedness is good (although there's more to that statement to be unpacked, a lot more, but later for that; and as an ideal, catholicity tends to keep receding beyond one's grasp, given the dizzying multitude of kinds of music and sheer mass of sound) . But empty-mindedness, which is what a certain sort of "rid thyself of all preconceptions" strand of P-ism seems to propose, is not good. What are we, in the end, but our partialities (in both sense of the word)? Strong writing comes from a situated self, a self with preferences and history, but also blindspots. A piece of music (or any other cultural artefact) doesn't just happen to a listener; the person happens back. Experience is the chemical reaction between a cultural artifact and a self that carries plenty baggage with it. So this idea of achieving a self-erased and de-valued subject position from which an ideologically "clear" experience of music X or genre Y can take place is an illusion. And not even a useful illusion.