March 14, 2012 by sw00ds
Have at it, folks!
I sometimes write about music for a website, The Compulsive Reader, that focuses on literature, film, and music:
(graduate, New School for Social Research)
Contributor to American Book Review, Cinetext, Offscreen, Pop Matters, Review of Contemporary Fiction, and World Literature Today
In addition, of course, I like reading about music; and the comments of a wide range of writers on music have interested me over the years, including those of James Baldwin, Playthell Benjamin, Delphine Blue, Nate Chinen, Kandia Crazy Horse, Stanley Crouch, Angela Davis, Jim DeRogatis, W.E.B. DuBois, Ralph Ellison, Christopher John Farley, Nelson George, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Claudrena Harold, Pauline Kael, Greg Kot, Will Layman, Wynton Marsalis, Michelangelo Matos, Paul Nelson, Sarah Rodman, Kelefa Sanneh, Gene Seymour, Armond White, Christian Wikane, and Carl Wilson. (I tend to like the Journal of Music http://journalofmusic.com/ , Pop Matters http://www.popmatters.com/ , and Wax Poetics http://www.waxpoetics.com/ , though I know there are many other publications available: http://library.music.indiana.edu/music_resources/journals.html ).
I have just read Rick Moody’s On Celestial Music, his collection of rather long-winded, thoughtful, and impressively sensitive and wide-ranging music essays (he discusses Meredith Monk, the Magnetic Fields, Wilco, the Lounge Lizards, and Pete Townsend, as well as experimental music, spirituality, music standards, computers in music, and more). As well, I have begun reading Blackness in Opera, an essay anthology on classical, folk, and popular music, on opera, racial politics, and public ethics and image, edited by Naomi Andre, Karen Bryan, and Eric Saylor…I had wondered, at different times over a period of years, about the history of black music criticism, and recently passed on a query about this to the Center for Black Music Research, and received a response from a librarian there (Thank you, Ms. Flandreau); a useful list of references:
Dougan, John M. “Two steps from the blues: creating discourse and constructing canons in blues criticism.” (Thesis: College of William and Mary, 2001)
Floyd, Samuel a., Jr. “Black music and writing black music history: American music and narrative strategies.” Black Music Research Journal 28:1 (2008) p. 111-121.
Garabedian, Steven Patrick. “Reds, whites, and blues: blues music, white scholarship, and American cultural politics.” (Thesis: University of Minnesota, 2004).
Maultsby, Portia K., Burnim, Mellonee V., and Oehler, Susan E. “Intellectual history,” In: African American Music: An Introduction. (New York: Routledge, 2006) pp. 7-32.
Radano, Ronald Michael. “Narrating black music’s past.” Radical History Review 84 (2002) p. 115-
Ramsey, Guthrie P., Jr. “Cosmopolitan of provincial? Ideology in early black music historiography, 1867-1940.” Black Music Rsearch Journal 16 (1996) p. 11-42.
Ramsey, Guthrie P., Jr. “The pot liquor principle: developing a black music criticism in American music studies.” American Music 22 (2004) p. 284-295.
Ramsey, Guthrie P. “Secrets, lies and transcriptions: revisions on race, black music and culture.” In: Western music and race, ed. Brown, Julie. (Cambridge: Cambrdge University Press, 2007). Pp. 24-36.
Ramsey, Guthrie P., Jr., and Angermueller, Rudolph. “Who hears here? Black music, critical bias, and the musicological skin trade.” The Musical Quarterly 85 (2001) p. 1-52.
Strong, Willie F. “Philosophies of African American Music History.” (Thesis: UCLA, 1994).
Wilkinson, Christopher. “A new master narrative of Western musical history: an American perspective.” In: De-canonizing music history. (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2009) p. 37-48.
Brackett, David, ed. The pop, rock and soul reader. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Clark, Andrew, ed. Riffs and choruses: a new jazz anthology. New York: Continuum, 2001.
Conyers, James L., Jr. ed. African American jazz and rap: social and philosophical examinations of black expressive behavior. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001.
Koenig, Karl, ed. Jazz in print (1856-1929): an anthology of selected early readings. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2002.
Lornell, Kip, ed. From jubilee to hip hop: readings in African American music. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2010.
O’Meally, Robert G., ed. The jazz cadence of American culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
Perkins, William Eric, ed. Droppin’ science: critical essays on rap music and hip hop culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996.
Tracy, Steven C., ed. Write me a few of your lines: a blues reader. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.
I just scanned the syndicated celebrity-birthdays column in my local paper, and noted that Kurt Loder is turning 67 today. That makes him almost two years *older* than your reporter, quite a feat in this day and age, but the real man-bites-dog story here is that Loder is described as a “Rock correspondent”(!) If that’s the new euphemism for our crowd, I hadn’t heard it before. Rock critic: the avocation that dare not speak its name.
Thanks again to the commenters above (in the “Andrew Sarris R.I.P.” thread) who helped clarify “Sullivan’s Travels” for me. I’m still not sold on the movie’s 4-stardom, but maybe I’m beginning to understand it better.
Now I need some help from our forum watchers in comprehending an issue of rockcritical prose style.
For at least 35 years now, I’ve thought that Jon Landau’s famous prophecy about Bruce Springsteen was “I’ve seen rock’n'roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” At least that’s the way I would have written it, not the part about Springsteen being the golden boy, but the syntax itself. But NO!, that’s not exactly what Landau wrote back in the ’70s.
I’m reading David Remnick’s “We Are Alive” feature on Springsteen in the July 30, 2012 New Yorker, and Remnick renders the quote as “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” The missing possessive makes the line read so clunky that I think, “Wow! Even the New Yorker makes typos sometimes!” But then Remnick quotes the line a second time, again with no apostrophe-s after “rock and roll.” So I look at Landau’s page on wikipedia, and there’s no possessive there either, when his most famous line is quoted. What gives?
Jeez! If Landau wanted to avoid dealing with a possessive, he could have written, “the future of rock and roll,” which would have a better rhythm anyway — you’d think a doctrinaire R&Bist like Landau would be concerned about such things. Or if he was projecting Springsteen’s success as occurring in some yet-to-arrive epoch, he could have written it with proper-noun caps, like so: “Rock and Roll Future” — that would make the sentence easier to read, so that your eyes don’t trip over the missing possessive each time. He’s just lucky he wrote this for The Real Paper rather than the Village Voice, as Dean Christgau wouldn’t have stood for such syntactical foolishness (take it from me.)
Or (again, as with “Sillivan’s Travels”) am I missing something here? You’d think such a legendary pronouncement could stand on its own two feet, though.
Richard, when I was digging up this quote myself a few years back, I, too, was a bit put off by the wording, and it wasn’t what I thought it was. I assume we can thank Bangs for that: didn’t he title his Kraftwerk rejoinder, “I have seen the future of rock ‘n’ roll and its name is Kraftwerk”? So maybe that’s one source of the confusion; maybe Bangs was as put off by the syntax as you were. But what threw me, for some reason, was less the non-pluralized “rock and roll” than his usage of “I saw” as opposed to “I’ve seen.” I don’t think either is wrong or correct (both are fine, technically speaking, I think), I just thought it sounded odd (again, probably because of Lester’s re-make), not to mention less, I don’t know, sage-like, perhaps? “I’ve seen” sounds so much more full of secret wisdom than “I saw.” “Seen” feels to me like a deeper way of seeing than “saw.” (But then, again, I think that’s why Lester’s rip was more effective; he was taking the whole prophecy notion to more absurd heights, obviously not Landau’s intent at all.) I’m going off in a bunch of directions here.
As for Landau; took his book out of the library once, thought some of it was pretty good, some of it not so much, but I’ll be honest: during this site’s actual run as a thing that semi-mattered, I’m saddened no one tried to nail him down for an interview. Not about Bruce — at least not exclusively about Bruce — but about his time in rock criticism, because I’m sure he’d have an interesting perspective.)
I’m not sure if Lester wrote it quite that way, but he obviously could’ve if called upon to do so. In taking a quick look now at his September 1975 Creem feature on Kraftwerk, in the “Psychotic Reactions” anthology, I found these bop-prosody gems instead: “There are, in the words of the poet, ‘machines of loving grace.’ There is, hovering clean far from the burnt metal reek of exploding stars, the intricate balm of Kraftwerk.” Ohmigod could Lester WRITE!
I suppose in my own catty way I was picking on Jon Landau’s prose to suggest that he was always more of a businessman than a writer. That reaction may in turn have been inspired by reading David Remnick’s drooling inventory of the priceless art collection Landau has amassed over his years of managing and producing Springsteen. Which riches I don’t envy at all — I’ve just never been able to “get” Springsteen’s music, despite him sharing my politics etc, so there’s a lingering disconnect there.
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