Wednesday, April 18, 2007

an interview with SR on BtN and related issues, by Mark Fisher of K-Punk, for Fact magazine

1 comment:

rogerdrew said...

I have nearly finished reading Bring the Noise and I was fascinated by Simon Reynold's sign off in this interview that music's role at the centre of culture has somehow been usurped. Simon offers no clue as to what has taken its place.
I'd like to posit some suggestions. My own intense relationship with music started to dissipate around the 1997/98 mark. Not that I haven't loved lots of new music subsequently, but never with the same passion as before. This would seem to coincide several events. Some personal and not particularly relevant (meeting my wife, my career - tv script writer - beginning to take off). Others I think have resonated a great deal. Simon Reynolds has detailed how electronic dance music began to lose its edge around 1997/98. This strikes a chord with me. And if dance music began to suffer from the “haven’t I heard this before?” syndrome around this time, then Hip Hop and particularly alternative rock turned into a touring museum. I feel that the gradual decline of these genres and therefore of music in general aren’t just symptoms of a decline in ideas but also coincide almost exactly with two massive cultural eruptions elsewhere leading to a migration of talent and intensity.

1) Computer games. Whilst this industry has existed since the late 70s it really went stratospheric around this time with the launch of the Playstation and Tomb Raider. It has fluctuated in its fortunes since then but with franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Halo, and all the sporting franchises, a huge amount of attention, emotion, creative energies and intensity has flown from the music scene - from the teenage and twenty-something largely male contingent who used to make and care about music. It has all the genre crunching and formal innovation craved by music fans but it is completely new. I personally do not mourn this transfer of allegiance as I feel it offers the breakdown of racial and class barriers still very much in existence in music. Compare the social and racial cross-section testing out games in the big music stores to the segregated groups searching the music aisles. And whilst it is mainly a male preserve this is much less the case than it used to be.

2) The Internet. This epochal cultural moment seemed to explode in 1997-98. Of course it now contains and compliments all contemporary music, but it has also stolen music's ability to form subcultures and has replaced it with much more direct means of forming likeminded peer groups - blogs, newsgroups, myspace. The Internet has truly usurped pop and rock music's role as the providers of the 'next big thing'.

These two major cultural forces have seriously battered music's status for providing societal focal points and moments of intensity - the Internet probably more so than games. Both these forces are experienced individually or in very small groups in the home. This leaves pop\rock music to large groups at gigs or clubs, or in the iPod zone. The latter relegates music to an isolating and functional soundtrack to travel and exercise. The former may well see music follow a path akin to that taken by painting following the advent of photography. Becoming works of art that are reliant on their singularity in the context of gallery/performance space to give them value. (something like that, anyway) Or more like theatre is now – cinema and TV’s very much poorer live cousin. Or stand-up comedy if it’s lucky. Whilst there is a great deal to be said for the excitement of the live performance or DJ in club – the home consumption of music has always been a large part of its sphere of influence.

Of course I could be wrong, but I suspect those who would be the maker’s of rock/rap/rave’s next big moment are just as likely to be making films for YouTube or gearing up for GTA:IV or Halo 3.