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Hogarth judge

February 2018



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Hogarth judge

Notes of an unrepentant rockist, VII

It's one of the moral failings of the age that we esteem artists that seek to disturb their readers, or to undermine manners, taste, and morality, as being daring, creative, and original: while writers that do seek to reassure us or to uphold manners, taste, or morality are dull and plodding. This is a ridiculous bias without any rational basis, when you think about it: but some seem to think it's a self-evident truth.

It's also why the twentieth century was a great age of charlatans in the arts: think abstract expressionism, atonal and seralist music, and so forth. Think especially of the too long periods in which atonal music was the only serious concert music, and abstract painting the only serious painting. All you had to do was present something rude and unpleasant and hard to figure on the stage, and you were 'challenging the audience's boundaries' by dint of your genius.

Cheap mass reproduction technologies removed scarcity as the basis for art elitism. Now everybody could hang a copy of the Mona Lisa on their wall that looked just like the original. The ground for art snobbery moved from scarcity of object to rarity of taste. What elevated the connoisseurs over the philistines was their fluency in the bullshit that explained why this abstract daub was brilliant or how the dismal noise of a serialist composition represented the Shock of the New and the Now.


It's only a problem if anyone cares. There's little evidence anyone even noticed serial music - "classical" meant stuff from before the 20th century, stuff that sounded like it or film themes.

By crikey, the death of music journalism was long overdue. But it only existed because its audience couldn't afford the records. Now music is free.

Things are a bit better now, I think.

Kids' taste is still shit, of course.
Whether or not music is free, rock journalism will never die.

I admit to being slightly prejudiced on this subject.
I speak as a recovering ex-rock-journalist. Goddamn, if ever there were a profession deserving obliteration.
I can't quite condemn the century that gave us Finnegans Wake, motion pictures, John Lennon, Patti Smith, Neil Young, Henry Darger and J.R.R. Tolkien. What disturbs me mostly is corporate greed's stranglehold on creativity in the arts, disguised as the U.S. copyright laws. One almost has to put out random crap in order not to be accused of My Sweet He's So Fine.