Looking back at the variety of reviews I’ve written in the past few months, variety is the principal thing that strikes me. There are stylistic tendencies, but they have come about through natural enough processes, such as artists who know one another sending me their music to review: as far as my own proclivities are concerned I’m almost freakishly eclectic. This is a tendency I’ve noted in myself for many years, going back to when I was a young punk rocker who also enjoyed listening to the George Benson records I’d inherited from my dad, and it’s become more and more pronounced with time.
Music fans very often want to know something about the author of their favourite sounds. It is a widespread assumption that details of an artist’s biography or personality can provide an insight into their art: while this may or may not be the case, it is undeniable that the idea of the artist, as it exists in the mind of the listener/ viewer/ reader, has a significant effect on the way that they interpret the work. Artists may adopt a variety of strategies to make the author a greater or lesser presence in the work, to make it more or less impersonal.
How often does someone say ‘you must listen to/ read/ watch cultural artifact X’? How often is it assumed that you are familiar with a particular album, or does someone express shock that you are unfamiliar with another? This week’s topic concerns the cultural canon, and the idea of a mainstream. Certain artworks or artists can uncontroversially be described as canonical: in popular music, Elvis, The Beatles, Madonna and a number of others are likely to have made an impact on more or less everybody’s awareness.
I’ve been thinking back recently to my abortive attempt to train as a secondary school music teacher, and the furious bout of self-examination it induced. The process, which was not a positive one, but from which I learned a great deal, forced me to question, and explicitly articulate the value that I place on music. This is a very interesting question: most people will not be able to provide you with a coherent response, and there is clearly no single answer, any more than there is one single music.
I pay a certain amount of attention to critical theory, which is to say, I think about the ins and … More
A few of the recordings I’ve reviewed lately have challenged me to think about the relationship between words and music, and the location of meanings in vocal songs. I’ve never shied away from discussing music with a lyric in a language I don’t understand, but I’m always aware that I’m missing out on a whole heap of possible interpretations.