[Marxism] Post-Modern Music?

Terrence McGovern mcgoverntj at gmail.com
Thu Aug 2 04:26:58 MDT 2007

[Note: First List Addition Thing Faint Idea of Mode of Operation, Apologies]


As is often pointed out by many people [etc. etc. reference
reference], art and literature are products of their times first but I
have not often heard (never heard) an analysis of popular music in
this vein.  For instance, after the nineteen seventies, roughly, the
post-modernistic, late imperialist stereotype of thought became
obvious in most of the artistic and scholarly fields. I'm not sure I
need to reference critiques of the pervasive post-modernism in high
scholarship. Once again however, music seems to have escaped this sort
of critique. I happen to be a lover of music and equally a hater of
modern music and my hateful reflections on the capitalist music
industry have led me to become quite aware of a interesting fact.

[this could take minute to explain]

The music I enjoy (and naturally demand others to enjoy) is
Progressive Rock, which existed for a limited time from about 1967 to
1981, (from earliest to latest). I believe a short description is in
order: Today Progressive Rock is called "Classic Rock" more often than
"Progressive" and it is indeed very similar in character to "classical
music," it is essentially a reach for complexity and profoundness,
instrumentally and thematically. For example, quite a few songs are
over twenty minutes in length, solos are regularly given in each song
by each artist, albums are themed and lyric writers are held to
considerable poetic and literary standards. There are no all-powerful
producers or celebrity stand-ins. Time signatures are used which are
wholly unorthodox, refrains barely see the light of day... to get on
with it, it is virtually the negation
of pop music. I noted first that this "progressive" phenomenon came
about at the height of the period just before post-modernism proper
and was literally birthed in the student protest movement, being
anti-establishment as a rule. Secondly, it shares similar iconoclastic
ideals, of "progress"
and that sort of considerate idealism with modernism.
Well, Progressive Rock fell to pieces and now we have Lindsay Lohan
singles. It seems to me that modern music _and not just in lyrics_ is
fully post-modern. Starting with Punk, complex or proud/skilled music
has been denounced as "pretentious" and is replaced by the simplest,
honestly the most vulgar sound bites. I am reminded constantly of the
post-modern attack on "meta-narratives." Essentially they pose a
not-much dressed up argument of pretentiousness to tackle modernist
philosophies. The idiocy, the contorted brutality and baseness of
popular music, the emptiness of note and word, I have come to see it
not as "populism" but as an active bourgeois repudiation of music. The
argument returns to the question
of whether "the people" take what they're given or ask for what they
take. That the content modern music is almost perfectly explained by
post-modernism leads me to conclusion similar to that of the WSWS with
regards to historical falsification as an active component in academic
work with today's bourgeoisie.

- Terrence J. McGovern

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