[LAU] Art's suitability for anything

Brent Busby brent at keycorner.org
Sat Aug 17 18:04:55 UTC 2013

On Sat, 17 Aug 2013, James Harkins wrote:

> I don't entirely agree that art should not suit to anything. I come to 
> feel more and more that art doesn't exist without a subculture, and 
> people make art/music/fashion etc to appeal to one or more 
> subcultures. There are possible exceptions (Harry Partsch, perhaps) 
> but I'd argue those are extremely rare.

I'd agree completely with that.  In fact, that may be exactly what's 
been wrong with pop music since about 1997 or so -- there is no 
subculture.  In fact, apart from the electronic(a) movement and its 
various sub-genres, the one thing that immediately strikes me about pop 
music after grunge is that it has no name, no statement, no people, no 
look, and no intent.  It's just a bunch of a assorted songs from various 
labels which, while they all seem to be trying to co-opt some sort of 
look or feel from the past, don't actually have anything in common or 
seem to be in unison trying to say anything.  In all the years that rock 
music (and its offspring) have existed since 1955 or so, that has never 
happened before, and is probably the best argument that rock music has 
stopped evolving and has become like jazz -- an important style that's 
well on its way at this point to being taught in college courses.  The 
last prevalent style movement that had a name and a look and a 
subculture was grunge/alternative in the mid-90's.  Fashion and music 
have been on auto-pilot ever since, for lack of any concrete direction. 
(I wasn't much of a fan of grunge, so I'm not defending it as some sort 
of golden age -- just acknowledging that it was a real rock movement, 
and it looks like maybe the last one ever.)

> Many western classical composers in the early twentieth century argued 
> for "music for its own sake" -- music that captures a glimpse of the 
> Eternal and thus whose artistic merit transcends human relationships. 
> But of course, it's all tap-room banter without a community of 
> musicians and listeners who agree with that idea! So this was just 
> another musical culture (which sought to pretend that it was beyond 
> culture).

One could actually argue that the musical conservatory type culture they 
had created between themselves and their audiences was a subculture in 
itself, with far more direction than the post-1997 top-40.

The ironic thing about all of this is that the most potent rock 
subculture ever, the psychedelic period in the 60's, was very political, 
and happened in an evironment that's very similar to where we are now -- 
questionable foreign wars, questionable executive branch practices (from 
both parties), massive popular disapproval of the US government. 
Except this time, music and art is strangely silent about it all.  One 
would think in times like these, artists would not need to be coaxed to 
make a statement.

+ Brent A. Busby	 + "We've all heard that a million monkeys
+ Sr. UNIX Systems Admin +  banging on a million typewriters will
+ University of Chicago	 +  eventually reproduce the entire works of
+ James Franck Institute +  Shakespeare.  Now, thanks to the Internet,
+ Materials Research Ctr +  we know this is not true." -Robert Wilensky

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