Wednesday, 4 January 2012


Simon Reynolds makes an interesting point about the non-existence of a generation gap in contemporary culture.

... the only actual generational rebellion is to have zero interest in music, or minimal investment in music (opting not to see it as anything more than background enhancement to other activities, a tool for socialisation/decor for life, certainly not any kind of grand project or zone for identity formation / emancipation ...

My guess is that many young people actually learn this view of music as "decor for life" from aging, economically comfortable elder family members who have long since exchanged an "investment in music" for an investment in a 4-bedroom pile in Surrey.

In a substantially privatised culture, the ability to act independently in one's youth via a collective social apparatus is no longer possible, and the economy becomes anchored by the principle of inheritance. Hence the nu-folkers, an emphasis on tradition, record collection rock, etc. Pop music becomes a sort of bourgeois heirloom. It's not that the children of the baby boomers (and their successors) are rebelling against their parents' ethos of music-as-emancipation; rather, the view that has become institutionalised by the affluent, no-longer-radical members of this older generation is that music is just another means of capital accumulation. And it's the sons and daughters of this demographic that are breaking through to success and visibility because they're merely continuing the family business, as it were.

Hence the terrifying aptness of Mumford and Sons. (And obviously there's all the other bete-noires: FATM, Lily Allen, Laura Marling, all children of wealthy and influential parents, often counter-culture apostates. It's all in the book so sorry if I'm repeating mesel').

Depressingly (here's me thinking the faux-folkers had run out of gas) the 2012 installment arrived in yesterday's Guardian in the form of the Staveley-Taylors:

Note the first exchange in the interview: family and the home is now the starting point of musical meaning.

So what would the real modernist rebellion look like? As with a lot of these things, it's not a case of an enterprising individual somehow breaking out of this context to come up with something new: innovation will only take hold on a sizable scale when the whole culture is reorganised along fairer lines.

Also, I reckon those parents who did genuinely stick to a counter-culture philosophy and didn't sell-out are passing on a more meaningful "legacy" to their kids. It's just that these people tend not to be wealthy enough to be able to give their offspring the sort of leg-up that is necessary to make it in the music industry these days.


Thom Morecroft said...

i worry we're returning to a feudal idea of musicians as well behaved courtisans. Beethoven wouldn't have put up with this shit.

Thom Morecroft said...

would be interested to see your take on the thatcher film?

Alex said...

Have you ever met someone who signs on and also makes music?

Alex Niven said...

Alex -- your man here (though I think he has a job now).

Thom -- haven't seen the Thatcher film yet, but it seems to fit with the generally very depressing Xmas/NY 2012 mood: the radicalism of last year dissipating, Cameron riding high in the polls, the Royal Family sitting pretty, everyone fearful of the future and staying at home knitting and baking cupcakes. Maybe it's just a seasonal thing -- when the weather improves people will start taking to the streets again.

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