Saturday, May 22, 2021

Ted Gioia on learning that highbrow music borrows from lowbrow after thinking highbrow and lowbrow were opposed to each other


Question from Student: In your book you show how innovations in musical styles and trends come from marginalized groups and more oppressed groups in society. I was wondering which way you see this trend going in the future?


TG: I will talk about this, and I will make a prediction—and you can hold me to it. This is one of the most interesting things I discovered in my research. When I started I thought—like everybody—that the key divide in music is between highbrow and lowbrow. Or, put another way, there’s music for the elites and different music of the great masses of people. I thought these were opposed to each other. What I learned is that the high music borrows from the low. I know those are pejorative terms, as they are typically used, so you need to understand I’m talking metaphorically. The key fact is that the music of the masses of people is the engine room of innovation. But here’s the twist: ultimately the people at the highest levels—the elites and authorities—crave the energy of that innovative outsider music.


So here’s my prediction. I just saw an article yesterday about how Sony and other record labels want to expand their positions in Africa. They have ambitious plans to record more African music and, of course, to sell more music in Africa. I listen to a lot of this music, and much of it is very exciting. I believe you will see an extraordinary number of amazing musicians and bands come out of Africa over the next 10 or 20 years.


It makes sense because the music of Africa deserves this attention. It also makes sense because this is the most obvious source of outside innovation in the current-day music world. You’ve heard about K-Pop and J-Pop, but get ready for A-Pop. It will be the next big thing.   

Maybe for the last part.  If A-Pop takes off does anyone think the United States will get behind that?  I'm not betting on it, although I've heard and read Peter Gabriel has been producing some great albums recorded by African musicians over the years. 

But I have, as regular readers of this blog know, taken issue with the strictly bottom-up innovation thesis Gioia uses.  I have more sympathy for the idea that highbrow and lowbrow have had a synergistic relationship to  each other that was attenuated by ideologies of authenticity and purity that erupt like rashes across the history of the arts.

William Deresiewicz has a piece at Harpers on what the pandemic has done to the arts

I finally finished his book The Death of the Artist this week so this article is not a surprise.

on John Borstlap and Helen Pluckrose on the humanities, and etiologies of cultural decline--the post Cold War erosion of pax Americana since 2001 may explain more of "Western decline" than jeremiads about French intellectuals

I have heard of Cynical Theories and I have started into it. I know that plenty of people view French intellectuals from the 1960s as the bane of intellectual life.  There are things to dislike about them, I suppose.  

On the other hand, people in the United States blaming French intellectuals is kind of old hat, whether from the conservative side or, in Helen Pluckrose's stance, a secular left side.

Which French intellectuals ruined things?  Ruined what for who?  Sometimes I wonder whether in the last twenty years the moment for the Religious Right isn't the only one that came and went, that Christopher Hitchens style New Atheism came and went and for paradoxically similar reasons, throwing the weight of their thought into a pax Americana that has passed its shelf life and that maybe both the religious conservatives and the new atheism find in French intellectuals a shared scapegoat.  Some of the scholars Helen Pluckrose were harshly criticized by Jacques Ellul in The Humiliation of the Word. He wrote extensively on what he regard as the assault on the nature of language to communicate he saw developing in French thought through the 1970s and 1980s.  Pluckrose is writing functionally half a century later almost as if there wasn't dissent even within French intellectual circles against what she calls postmodernism.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

will have to write about some books by Crawford Gribben before too long, a trio of books revolving around the idea of millenialism in relationship to politics

I've finished two books by Crawford Gribben in the last few months and am working through a third.  The first book was Writing the Rapture, a fascinating survey of the theologies that have informed bad pulp fiction dystopian literature from evangelicals and fundamentalists since the 1890s. The second was his new monograph on survivalism and Christian reconstructionism in the Pacific Northwest that just came out in March, and the third is his survey of evangelical Protestant millenialism in the trans-Atlantic world 1500-2000.

Jim West highlights Synagogues in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods, a new book on archaeological discoveries

The present volume is an extremely important contribution to the furtherance of our knowledge on the topic.  Here, advances in the study of synagogues, how material remains should be interpreted, filling in the gaps of our knowledge about practices in ancient synagogues, and the societal contexts of those structures and the gatherings which occupied them are explored.  Topics such as dress codes, torah reading practices, the practice of worship itself, and the ubiquity of synagogues across the Mediterranean world open up new vistas on old problems.
I found this collection particularly stimulating because when I was a student in grad school all those decades ago the conventional wisdom was that there were no ‘free standing’ synagogues until the third century.  That is to say, we were under the supposition that Jews, and Christians, scattered across the Roman world met in homes.  ‘The House Church’ and the ‘House Synagogue’ were the place of meeting until the third century, we were informed, when buildings devoted specifically to Church and Synagogue began to appear.   After all, we were reminded, even in Capernaum, the home town of Peter and the operational hub of Jesus’ ministry, they had a synagogue that only dated to the fourth century!
Along the years we’ve learned better.  This book continues the tradition of correcting old errors.  And for that reason alone, it is worth your time.
This sounds like an interesting read to eventually get to.  

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

John Borstlap on Nikolai Kapustin's `vulgarisation' of Bach in 24 Preludes and Fugues, a direct question about what (if anything) was vulgarized

Ever since Roger Scruton died last year I have been considering his interaction with (and significant debt to) the work of Theodor Adorno.  I was first inspired to go actually read Adorno after reading John Borstlap's The Classical Revolution.  Regular readers of this blog may recognize that Borstlap and I frequently differ on a specific set of topics.  He may believe, entirely erroneously, that I am in some kind of cultural relativist camp when I am not.  

Borstlap argued last year that classical music is not conservative.  I'm open to such a proposal provided there is room to explain what is meant by conservativism and, more pointedly, what conservatives seek to conserve.  Borstlap made his case as follows:

on Mark Driscoll claiming to have a 30 year old English Standard Translation

Per, the ESV was first published by Crossway in 2001, meaning it was impossible for Grace Martin to have gifted an ESV to Mark Driscoll 30 some years ago.  It could have been a New American Standard Version, a Revised Standard Version or even the Common English Bible and that would have been possible.  The ESV, however, didn't exist 30 years ago.

The Instagram status in question was date-stamped March 21, apparently this year.  Whether it is still up and available or whether, as often happened with Mark Driscoll media material circa 2013-2014, it was de-published or purged would have to be verified by people who actually go to Instagram.

Nobody bothered, it seemed, to provide a hard-link to confirm that 1) the post was up or 2) whether the material may have been replicated elsewhere. Should you be curious about just how extensively Mars Hill church was using robots.txt to preclude people finding stuff from Driscoll's old sermons and media presence that might have made him come off badly there's actually a dedicated tag for that.  There was a good stretch in 2013-2014 where I would chronicle things Driscoll said from the pulpit or on The Resurgence and stuff would just vanish.

So if Driscoll published the image of an ESV that was allegedly given him 30 years ago by Grace and the Instagram update has gone missing, well, there's some history to that pattern.

Driscoll's gone back to having facial hair ... which may be just as well because there was a stretch of time a few years ago where he went clean-shaven and maybe someone told him that at his current age he looks like Pat Robertson when he's clean-shaven.  I wouldn't blame Driscoll for not wanting to look like Pat Robertson.