viva hate / listen with prejudice
in this Critical Beats panel discussion from Feb 23 on the subject of Aesthetics, Innovation and Tradition (w/ Lisa Blanning, Joe Muggs, and moderator Steve Goodman aka Kode9), Stevie G starts by asking us each about our listening methodology, how we look out for and define innovation in what we're hearing. And I riff a bit about listening for a strong feeling or a strong idea, or both... move onto Fredric Jameson's A Singular Modernity re. the modernists's obsession with measurement (a metric for innovation and newness) and re. the modernist drive towards negation: decreeing things to be passe, superceded, no longer contributing to the Advance of Art. And I close by adlibbing a riff about the Court of Aesthetic Judgement and how being a stern, severe judge is necessary in an age of overload and sonic overproduction because there's a great need to thin things out, clear some space, decide what's essential and what's inessential. In a real court the presumption is "innocent until proven guilty", whereas in my Court of Aesthetic Judgement, the presumption is "boring and irrelevant until proven otherwise".
well i realised later that this is an idea i'd riffed before, slightly differently, in this 2009 blissblog post in response to something Carl Neville at the Impostume had written:
"thinking again about Carl's talk about needing to have "some broad operative criteria in order to be able to navigate the vast reaches of modern music consumption/production", how "I suspect that there’s even a certain moralistic aspect thrown in. I tend to approve of records I enjoy", I realised that in a sense what he's talking about is the necessity of having a cop in your head. Because the cop in your head is your friend; the cop in your head is you. It's a system of judgement that serves to protect you from the torrential barrage of trifle and ordure that is the entertainmentscape. (The problem with popism: it's no cop).
I'm talking about a kind of aesthetic super-ego... Most people will start with an inherited one... prejudices and biases, values and aversions that are assimilated from their immediate environment (family, friends, school, etc)...later from the media or from subcultures they might join. (That's what the Big Other is, am I right?... a collective super-ego... I ask because all I know of Zizek is osmosed via K-punk!). The goal is to create your own aesthetic/cultural super-ego... maintain and modify it... not eliminate it altogether. (People who try just end up with another super-ego: "Thou Shalt Not Listen to Indie"... you can even turn eliminating the Big Other into just another Big Other...) Having a filter, it's essential, a matter of survival, of effective time-management. "
I'm nothing if not consistent.
And as I said in the Critical Beats thing, I got this mindset not from reading modernist manifestos and art criticism, but from the UK music press.. the punk/Burchill-ite presumption that 99 percent is shit... the structural requirement of the Singles Page as Herculean ordeal, where you review 20 singles, out of which 15 are slagged or damned with faintest praise, but to get to that 20 you have to listen to 60 singles in a grim all-day, all-of-the-night session... thinning down that week's pile of hopeful contenders who've come forth hoping for attention and praise... you get toughened up real quickly, hard-hearted, just impatient with time-wasters... that's never left me really.
but i don't really listen with prejudice... my only prejudice is an aversion to the heard-it-before, the blatantly derivative, the mildly tinkered-with... i'm prejudiced against boredom
But talking about consistency, for those who find Retromania curmudgeonly, you should read the stuff I wrote in the mid-Eighties for Monitor, when I was 22 or 23... gloomy surveys of the then-Now like "What's Missing"... basically my default position is dissatisfied: the psychology is bipolar, a violent oscillation between manic and depressive.