Currents manages to masterfully stay on track, as perhaps the archetype of our generation’s omnivorous nature and the 21st century’s new philosophy of history; a past, present and future which exist simultaneously, here, in one gorgeous musical tapestry.
If there is anything we’ve learned about music in the 21st century’s second decade, it is the uniquely innovative power of the music obsessed.
Before I go further let me clarify. Yes, for a couple of decades now we’ve had the record store equivalents of dumpster divers blowing our collective minds, here’s looking at you DJ Shadow, you know the kind, the “DJ’s” of the 90’s and early 2000’s who collectively changed our definition of what a DJ is and can be, and, perhaps inadvertently, for better and for worse, opened the door for the 21st century’s ubiquitous character, the producer as musician. (For the better part of that duality we’re looking at Daft Punk, and, for the worse, well, that’s neither here nor there.)
But where the musically over-literate of the 90’s and early 2000’s confined their nostalgia-inducing output to the recombination and retexturalization of music we forgot we loved and the sounds of which it was composed, the nostalgia-obsessed of the more recent 21st century have taken the concept one step further, using those sounds not as material but solely as influence, to create new music that sounds wholly familiar.
Words mean more than we mean to express when we use them, so a whole book ought to mean a great deal more than the writer means.
– Lewis Carroll
Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration and fuels your imagination.
– Jim Jarmusch
I’ve recently been spending an inordinate amount of time with two things. Generational theory, which attempt to understand and explain why we are the way that we are, and writing on criticism as we attempt to explain how we analyze and evaluate music today.
Unlike the generations which have preceded us, mine, the millenial generation, first and foremost identifies themselves individually. We don’t seek to fit in with a ‘group’ instead we pride ourselves on our individuality, our style, our taste etc.
How we define ‘cool’ is different too. According to writer Alexandra Molotkow, being cool is no longer based on what you know and other people don’t. Being cool is about what you have to say about thing things everyone else already knows.
This manifests itself in conversations third-party listeners often think sound pretentious or unintelligible. We’re so consumed with having an opinion and demonstrating our cultural capital and understanding of theory, that we have taken to re-evaluating everything those who came before us dismissed.
We’ve collectively revolted against elitism and our critical technique is to evaluate, to our credit, everything previous critics outright rejected as kitschy, pedestrian, low-brow (pick your negative word), etc.
Molotkow however, talks about the danger’s of this culture of acceptance we’re cultivating, and the risks inherent in ‘poptism’s’ all-encompassing policy of acceptance, by asserting that it’s one thing to defend the music of a Justin Bieber, it’s another to offer him a place in the music history canon.
The challenge for today’s critics and an idea which will undoubtedly continue to evolve as yet another reaction to what came before it in the history of music criticism, is the need to ask the right questions of these pop stars we insist so vehemently on defending. ‘Does this pop song do what a pop song should do?’ ‘Does it succeed or fail by updating, employing or subverting its genre tropes?’ These are the questions we should be asking and they’re hard ones.
Mindfully evaluating genres of music within the theory of the genre as opposed to a blanket comparison between genres will become the dominant theme in music criticism for the conscious rejecters of both rockism and poptimism, and as we descend into an ever more critical place may we all become smarter and more critical without resorting to yet another form of elitism.
In an art world that seems to accept anything and everything as art, the refusal by some to accept certain computer-made art as art is nonsense.
Another seemingly incongruent fact is the reality that in our post-media world we are starting to accept computer-created art as art provided we remain more or less unaware of the art’s origins in technology.
We are just entering an era in art in which we can accept technology can be the means to create artwork, and not just the subject.
Wade Guyton’s untitled pieces above serve as a good meditation on new media art. Their origin belies their creator’s hand while at the same time darkly prophesying a future of machines and machine-produced art.