“In Defense of Pop Criticism”

re: yesterday’s link to Ted Gioia’s rant, New York magazine’s Jody Rosen has at it.

“Reading Gioia’s article, you are forced to draw one of two conclusions. Either Gioia is being coy about the periodicals and critics in question — is he worried about hurting the feelings of a Stereogum stringer? Doesn’t want to burn his bridges with Jan Wenner? — or his stack of music magazines wasn’t much of a stack, and his investigation comprised a cursory flip through one or two mags and a little casual web-surfing. Actually, my suspicion is that Gioia didn’t do much background reading at all, relying instead on his vague impressions — on the vibe, as they put it in poorly written rock reviews, that he’s picked up over the years. I mean, Gioia comes right out and says it: I’ve just spent a very depressing afternoon looking through the leading music periodicals. And what did I learn? Pretty much what I expected. He decided he wanted to write a piece about how music criticism sucks; he knew what he wanted to say in the first place, and, lo and behold, his extensive researches — a whole afternoon’s worth, and a depressing one at that — confirmed the suspicion he’d had coming into the project: that critics need to ‘stop acting like gossip columnists, and start taking the music seriously again.'”

(Ironically enough, I’m curious now to read Gioia’s jazz tome which Rosen says lots of nice things about.)

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7 thoughts on ““In Defense of Pop Criticism”

  1. I tried using Gioia’s History of Jazz as a text for a jazz class several years ago. Students who knew nothing technically or historically about jazz coming in found it laughable, ridiculous even. Those did know something just found it offensive. For all of them, Gioia seemed more interested, at nearly every point, with having evocative phrases than with being just the tiniest bit accurate. On page 7, for example, what he wrote had us all howling: “In New Orleans [sic] warm, moist atmosphere, sharp delineations between groups and customs gradually softened and ultimately gave way.”

  2. Appreciate the perspective; again, I don’t know his work at all, so can’t comment. I do wonder if there’s even a point engaging such silly lengthy pieces, as Rosen and Powell do–a little bit like shooting fish in a barrel, no? I guess because it’s by someone well known in certain circles and because his screed appears in a fairly well known web publication. His arguments are just too easy to demolish–not sure what’s being accomplished by taking up the fight.

  3. “I do wonder if there’s even a point engaging such silly lengthy pieces”

    That was my general response, and I’ve been known to pick on some fish in mighty small barrels in my day. DNFTT (final “T” is for “technicists,” maybe?) — but more to the point, let these things spin out on their own stupidity.

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