so tell me, why is Kaputt better or worse than Let England Shake?

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there is a large, well-known, and pretty unchanging "rock canon" that totally sucks and extends beyond the bounds of any one community.

Why is this such a big deal...? English lit has a canon. It's helpful in a way to know that if you're interested in 19th century country life then Jane Austen or Tobias Smolley wrote novels about it. No one forces you to accept them. It's just a list.

Whenever RS publishes one of its umpteenth GOAT lists and spot What's Going On I remind myself, 'Oh, right, I need to own it.' Yet I own and love (among others) the decidedly non-canonical In Our Lifetime.

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:09 (2 years ago) Permalink

*Smollett

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:10 (2 years ago) Permalink

in my perfect world its nothing but goregrind and latin freestyle on the radio 24/7.

scott seward, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:11 (2 years ago) Permalink

clarke and cntnrdrzr are right about how canons are developed in communities like this one. but there is a large, well-known, and pretty unchanging "rock canon" that totally sucks and extends beyond the bounds of any one community.

same thing & process, just on a larger scale and over a longer period of time. i wouldn't say the semi-official rock canon "sucks", just that it exists and that it has certain qualities, some positive, some negative. i mean, i like the beatles and the stones and the velvet underground. this isn't to say that there isn't room for other voices and visions.

Little GTFO (contenderizer), Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:13 (2 years ago) Permalink

It's helpful in a way to know that if you're interested in 19th century country life then Jane Austen or Tobias Smolley wrote novels about it.

i don't feel like pop/rock music canons are presented in quite this neutral a fashion!

"if you're interested in music in the 60s the beatles and the stones wrote some records then"

call all destroyer, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:14 (2 years ago) Permalink

and i should be careful and say i don't think the stuff in there nec. sucks, but it's more how ppl use it/talk about it that can suck. does that happen with the lit. canon? idk haven't been in that game in a while.

call all destroyer, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:15 (2 years ago) Permalink

people really do seriously rep for the enduring importance and quality of like shakespeare, joyce and dostoyevsky, though. it's really no different than putting leadbelly and led zep up on a pedestal.

Little GTFO (contenderizer), Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:17 (2 years ago) Permalink

the beatles and rolling stones are not presented as 'part of a canon' to most people, they're presented as bands that millions of people across the world liked, important historic figures in the history of pop music, etc. etc. whereas, idk, big star are 'part of the canon' but relatively few people listen to or care about them. being on lists probably increased the # of people who listen to them, but pretty marginally in the big picture.

I think the general public 'canon' is pretty far from what people who care a lot about music think is the 'canon'. most of the world considers coldplay 'canon'.

iatee, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:19 (2 years ago) Permalink

xp yeah true, also gets into things like scope and scale and how lit vs. music gets consumed etc. etc.

call all destroyer, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:19 (2 years ago) Permalink

ftr i am slogging my way through kaputt again trying to figure it out while positing itt

call all destroyer, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:22 (2 years ago) Permalink

the canon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_albums_worldwide

iatee, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:23 (2 years ago) Permalink

I think the general public 'canon' is pretty far from what people who care a lot about music think is the 'canon'. most of the world considers coldplay 'canon'.

I think that's stretching the notion of canon way too far... We should be careful to differentiate between canon and consensus, and between those notions and large-scale popularity as well. I maintain that canon implies some temporal distance and involves the notion of serious enduring popularity/meaningfulness beyond just being widely enjoyed.

Clarke B., Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:23 (2 years ago) Permalink

yeah but that's the navel-gazing critics canon which really isn't v. important to many people and if it were the public canon would look more like it

iatee, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

that canon is 'consensus', all canons are, it's just the consensus of a smaller group of people

iatee, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:27 (2 years ago) Permalink

the canon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_albums_worldwide

― iatee, Thursday, February 9, 2012 3:23 PM (1 minute ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

this is actually really incorrect. Lots of incredibly popular stuff gets forgotten, and stuff that was extremely marginal in its day can gain popularity even after the artist has died

there's actually a big book about this http://www.elijahwald.com/rjohnson.html

D-40, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:27 (2 years ago) Permalink

alright so whatever the universal itunes 'most played list' is canon today.

iatee, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:29 (2 years ago) Permalink

Is certainly is important to many people! Popular music critics still have lots of power, and it's not as if the public operates in this separate sphere. I see what you're getting at, but I think it ignores the huge ways in which critics and critical discourse informs what the public consumes and is exposed to. This points to the fact that canons are necessarily tied into notions of cultural control, tastemaking, and influence.

Clarke B., Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:29 (2 years ago) Permalink

(My first sentence there refers to iatee: "yeah but that's the navel-gazing critics canon which really isn't v. important to many people "

Clarke B., Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:30 (2 years ago) Permalink

yeah but that's the navel-gazing critics canon which really isn't v. important to many people and if it were the public canon would look more like it

― iatee, Thursday, February 9, 2012 1:24 PM (31 seconds ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

^ disagree. the fact that one particular critical canon (and there are TONS of them out there) isn't precisely the same as overall popularity does not suggest that canons are unimportant and/or the product of "navel-gazing". critics are engaged in a dialogue with popular taste, and they do help shape it, especially over time. the rolling stone not only documented the shifts of a musical culture, it helped define and shape that culture, it sold not just purchasable objects but a collective aesthetic and cultural vision to a popular audience. pitchfork is doing the same thing today, and so is the wire, though the audiences aren't identical.

Little GTFO (contenderizer), Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:31 (2 years ago) Permalink

there's a weird, shrugging anti-intellectualism to a lot of what iatee posts.

"canon" is obviously not the same thing as "whatever happens to be popular". a dictionary would tell you this.

Little GTFO (contenderizer), Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:32 (2 years ago) Permalink

this entire conversation about the musical canon is making me want to post this:

I spend a lot of time thinking about apricots (DJP), Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:32 (2 years ago) Permalink

'most people in the world don't look at music the same way a site filled w/ music critics who look at 200 'best of lists' every year do' = anti-intellectualism

iatee, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:33 (2 years ago) Permalink

let's apply that line of thinking to the lit canon while we're at it

call all destroyer, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:37 (2 years ago) Permalink

anti-intellectualism = pretending not to understand what a simple word like "canon" means while taking lazy swipes at "navel gazing" critics in general

Little GTFO (contenderizer), Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:38 (2 years ago) Permalink

i mean, that's fucking textbook

Little GTFO (contenderizer), Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:38 (2 years ago) Permalink

can we just declare iatee the Taco Mayor of this thread and move on

I spend a lot of time thinking about apricots (DJP), Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:39 (2 years ago) Permalink

This ties back to my earlier comments about hating to see critcs straining to build or add to the canon. In doing so, they're fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of canons, the fact that we don't choose our canons so explicitly and with such willpower, that they evolve complexly and sloppily over time and space.

This is a good point but I think I'm more bothered by critics seeking to assert the existing canon - they're guilty of the same misunderstanding but also it also seems less necessary somehow.

Gavin, Leeds, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:40 (2 years ago) Permalink

lol any argument with iatee is an inescapable quagmire of nonsense basically

Alshipleyan Goalpostmover (some dude), Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:40 (2 years ago) Permalink

where did all the chill vibes go???

BJ O (Lamp), Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:44 (2 years ago) Permalink

we started talking about the pj harvey record

D-40, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:47 (2 years ago) Permalink

funny how conversation about the war record got all contentious and concerned with the historical placement/importance of music

I spend a lot of time thinking about apricots (DJP), Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:49 (2 years ago) Permalink

Taco was a pretty chill band:

In honor of the Taco Mayor and this thread generally.

grandavis, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:53 (2 years ago) Permalink

sorry for ruining yr guys canon thread ;_;

iatee, Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

canon on, men, canon on

iatee, Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

hey lamp is correct in noting the lack of chill vibes of late herein, allow me to return them

omar little, Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:02 (2 years ago) Permalink

thanx omar

yknow something tells me that if we all just knocked off work early picked up a couple of bottles of wine and some fresh fruit and kicked it on the beach together these kinda unchill debates wouldnt happen so much

BJ O (Lamp), Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:05 (2 years ago) Permalink

gis result for destroyer kaputt

omar little, Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:07 (2 years ago) Permalink

gis result for pj harvey let england shake

omar little, Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:08 (2 years ago) Permalink

I think deej is right that music canons are becoming decreasingly important, I would say because more and more listeners are intersecting with music in a decentralised manner (even if only casually, sparingly, and with nothing like the intensity of yr average ILM poster).

Compare/contrast with TV which I think is in an era where canon-building is quite important. This reflects a couple of things: the fact people are still mildly surprised that TV can be worthy in a long-term sense and so feel more interested in exploring that concept, but also and more importantly that it's only been in the last decade or so that a lot of people have taken control of their TV consumption in a manner similar to the control they already had over their music consumption; it's inevitable that the first thing a lot of us then will do is look for heirarchies of taste to make this new-found sense of control feel less burdonsome.

Whereas, while the canon still exists for music (and remains stronger than for TV), it has receded from its prior pinnacle of influence to something slightly more... natural?

What inheres in both canonisation and viral connectivity is the fixity of ideas about music, the way in which the sharing of taste-codes doesn't merely share the music itself but an idea of what th emusic means, what it stands for, why it's important.

I'm rarely bothered by a record being more canonical (from the narrowest to the broadest sense: i.e. commercially and/or critically popular) than a similar or related record that I think is superior. What frequently bothers me is how that differential itself implies value judgments and biases (not towards certain pieces of music but to ideas around music) that are all the more pernicious because they're not openly admitted for the most part (and so are difficult to challenge without seeming contrary and defensive).

This isn't solved by getting rid of the canon - if anything that makes the problem harder by doing away with an obvious and easily understood target for deconstruction.

Also, by the by, there's nothing wrong with taste-principles per se, so long as you know what they are and where they fall they short. In this context, a principle is really a codified bias for the most part, and if it's codified it's much easier to put in its place (both internally and when you see it used by other people).

Tim F, Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:14 (2 years ago) Permalink

Compare/contrast with TV which I think is in an era where canon-building is quite important. This reflects a couple of things: the fact people are still mildly surprised that TV can be worthy in a long-term sense and so feel more interested in exploring that concept, but also and more importantly that it's only been in the last decade or so that a lot of people have taken control of their TV consumption in a manner similar to the control they already had over their music consumption; it's inevitable that the first thing a lot of us then will do is look for heirarchies of taste to make this new-found sense of control feel less burdonsome.

well i think its also important to note that there a bunch of sites and magazines and big national newspapers whose critics all share somewhat of a similar aesthetic sensibility that can work to codify the new tv canon whereas music criticism is becoming more fractured and specialized. like most tv critics agree on a set of middlebrow ideas abt 'what good tv is' that resonates with their audience that places the prestige cable dramas and single camera sitcoms in the 'cannon'. like the fact that the critical/institutional consensus is operating w/in a p narrow spectrum of 'tv programming' is part of what makes the cannon exist/seem impt - no one is seriously claiming that sports programming or pbs documentary series or competitive reality shows should be part of the tv canon whereas imo for the better music criticism has had to open itself up to a much wider range of ideas about what 'good music' can be

BJ O (Lamp), Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:31 (2 years ago) Permalink

I'm rarely bothered by a record being more canonical (from the narrowest to the broadest sense: i.e. commercially and/or critically popular)

i was arguing upthread for the idea that canons aren't intentionally creaated things in themselves, but rather process artifacts. i think that's true on a certain level, and it's becoming more and more true in the present moment, but it overlooks the fact that we inherit the word "canon" from a context (western art and literary history) wherein the act of creating and maintaining an official worthiness roster was done very intentionally and explicitly. the canon of "great books", for instance, or of the great works of western art.

i think this will-to-authority persists to some degree in a still popular and perhaps even dominant view of 20th century popular music. blues artists like son house and robert johnson are more-or-less "officially" canonized, along with their followers and their peers in jazz, ellington and billie holiday, etc. this is followed by bop and the emergence of rock in the 50s, miles davis and chuck berry into john coltrane and elvis. then folk & girl groups and the british invasion, the prog and singer/songwriter stuff that followed, punk and disco into indie and techno and so on. this canon, both the narrative and its star players, presents itself as "officially recognized". its centrality and importance are strongly and constantly defended, both directly (the rock and roll hall of fame) and indirectly (the circulation of memes).

this is what makes "the canon" an actual canon in the art-historical sense and not just a list of stuff some people happen to like and/or consider important. its defenders are not only influential but organized, and they seem to have established a greater claim to collective authority than its detractors - at least in certain important quarters of what we might lazily call "the public mind".

Little GTFO (contenderizer), Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:39 (2 years ago) Permalink

lamp OTM about the fairly unitary nature of the narrative, re: "quality television" in comparison to the fragmentation we've seen in music criticism over the last 100 years.

Little GTFO (contenderizer), Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:41 (2 years ago) Permalink

this is what makes "the canon" an actual canon in the art-historical sense and not just a list of stuff some people happen to like and/or consider important. its defenders are not only influential but organized, and they seem to have established a greater claim to collective authority than its detractors - at least in certain important quarters of what we might lazily call "the public mind".

― Little GTFO (contenderizer), Thursday, February 9, 2012 4:39 PM (6 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

this is completely uninterrogated, its not just being organized, there are power dynamics at work here

the example in the book i linked is that actually robert johnson being 'canon' was a fluke of history -- that when the canon was being created, it was by a bunch of middle class suburban record collectors for whom 'obscurity' had greater value, and it ended up turning the history of the blues upside-down; however popular a blues singer was in 1933, she (and it was usually women, at least in popular blues) would be almost unknown two decades later, while a marginal unknown like Robert Johnson had become "king of the blues"

you say its 'organization' but its not -- there are many dynamics at play

D-40, Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:50 (2 years ago) Permalink

i think its easy to see how economics and gender and race probably played roles in distorting how we remember history in that way

D-40, Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:51 (2 years ago) Permalink

this is what makes "the canon" an actual canon in the art-historical sense and not just a list of stuff some people happen to like and/or consider important.

perhaps the most important aspect of the canon i just described above, the thing that makes it so intractable, is that it's a coherent and comprehensive narrative. it's not just an individual opinion, like "the beatles were great and important, and if you don't like them then you don't understand music". it's an integrated, collectively told history, drawing its features from every stream of popular music and music criticism. therefore, it's all but impossible to oppose in toto. to do this effectively, one would have to come up with an compelling alternate narrative for every musical movement of the last 100 years. the best the "opponents of the canon" ever manage to do, really, is to clear some space for their stories and heroes within the larger narrative, which easily adapts to such meddling. not enough importance-points allotted to 60s girl groups or chicago/detroit house? okay, fine, we'll clear some room, even build a new wing if you like. meanwhile, the canon marches on.

Little GTFO (contenderizer), Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:58 (2 years ago) Permalink

you should really read this book, contenderizer

http://www.amazon.com/How-Beatles-Destroyed-Rock-Roll/dp/019975697X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328828397&sr=1-1

D-40, Thursday, 9 February 2012 23:00 (2 years ago) Permalink

...its not just being organized, there are power dynamics at work here

...you say its 'organization' but its not -- there are many dynamics at play

...i think its easy to see how economics and gender and race probably played roles in distorting how we remember history in that way

― D-40, Thursday, February 9, 2012 2:51 PM (6 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

i don't think you're really arguing against me there. i agree with everything you say. i defend the word "organized" because i think the maintenance of the canon is done is a fairly organized fashion. this isn't to deny that there are other dynamics in play, that things like gender and race play a HUGE part.

Little GTFO (contenderizer), Thursday, 9 February 2012 23:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

http://www.amazon.com/How-Beatles-Destroyed-Rock-Roll/dp/019975697X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328828397&sr=1-1

i probably should, thanks for the tip. but again (and it's hard to say without having read it), but even anti-canonical perspectives help build the canon, right? either by expanding it or by providing it with alternatives to triumph over. at this point, it's been so widened by appeals to inclusion that it's become all but meaningless, a history that includes almost everything. simple efficiency is arguably a bigger motivator for the creation of alternative canons the the failure of the larger of The Canon to adapt.

Little GTFO (contenderizer), Thursday, 9 February 2012 23:07 (2 years ago) Permalink

god that was fucked. though it's poor form, i'm just gonna try again...

you should really read this book, contenderizer

http://www.amazon.com/How-Beatles-Destroyed-Rock-Roll/dp/019975697X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328828397&sr=1-1

i probably should, thanks for the tip. but again (and it's hard to say without having read it), even anti-canonical perspectives help build the canon, right? either by expanding it or by providing it with alternatives to triumph over. at this point, the "official" canon been so widened by appeals to inclusion that it's become all but meaningless, a history that encompasses all of history. simple efficiency is arguably a bigger motivator for the creation of alternative canons than the failure of Thee Canon to adapt.

Little GTFO (contenderizer), Thursday, 9 February 2012 23:09 (2 years ago) Permalink

people really do seriously rep for the enduring importance and quality of like shakespeare, joyce and dostoyevsky, though. it's really no different than putting leadbelly and led zep up on a pedestal.

it's quite different actually imo

unlistenable in philly (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Thursday, 9 February 2012 23:34 (2 years ago) Permalink


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