Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Death Disco 2012
Embedding this just because I think it's brilliantly great, and to see if it gets a rise out of arbitrary_greay. Also, the Dead Lester thread is getting close to where LiveJournal does that horrible thing of collapsing subthreads on us, so if you have any more responses to what's on that thread, I suggest you do so on this one.

  • 1

Re: Don't call it a new thread; I been here for years

Agreed -- "rules" is the wrong word. I'm thinking now (since I started putting rules in scare quotes in my response to Katherine and Maura) that the word is something like "processes." When you answer the question "How do you do this?" you may not be defining rules, but you are articulating a process of some kind. And I think that whatever that process is, it's shared in particular disciplines, whereas rockcrits don't always share the same process in how they converse, work things out, etc. But really that just gets me to your point:

even though there are indeed models and assumptions for how to do economics that Krugman and DeLong share, that doesn't explain why we are having such a tough time

Which is where I'm stuck.

Re: Don't call it a new thread; I been here for years

But economics is a much more quantitative field than music. Analysis can be automated in a computer spreadsheet, which is why many business firms are hiring engineers instead of economists. The way for models and assumptions to be codified for music the way it is for economics is the way I described before, in discussing not music content, but music as an object within the music/entertainment industry. Then you could perform analysis and create models from sales numbers, concert attendance, fan demographics, etc.
I suppose you could attempt to perform analysis and form models of music content based on theory and songwriting techniques. How many songs use a certain structure, etc.
In terms of discussing music content as far as its resonance on the listener, which is entirely subjective, you could approximate an objective analysis through survey-based data collection and then identifying common themes, which is what happens for the peer-reviewed journal articles. Speaking of which, how do you consider the quality of those? Or are those too isolated to count as conversations, even if they have laundry lists of references to other articles?

Re: Don't call it a new thread; I been here for years

I'm usually underwhelmed by survey research into tastes, from Bordieu forward, for the ways that the approach oversimplifies the frameworks we might understand how to interpret how people respond to those surveys.

An example from my own practice -- we have a measure called "active reasoning," which literally is a measure of how children write about the music, TV, movies, etc. they like. It's a "0" or "1" measure. If students write something reactive ("it's funny" or "it's cool" or "I like it"), they get a "0"; if they write something relating to the construction of the media ("it has a good beat" or "I like that the message is 'never give up'") they get a "1."

What this measure mostly tells us is that students who score well on standardized reading and writing assessment also tend to use more "active reasoning responses." But as an observer of kid behavior, I also know that when a kid says "I like that! It's so cool!" there may be depths of analysis happening that the student simply can't articulate yet (especially in writing, which is in many ways a separate measure).

I don't think survey data has really told us much about the "guts" of taste -- much of it is tainted before it begins with the assumptions it brings to texts it uses in the first place, as in Bordieu's experiments with music and social class, which explores what (e.g.) working class respondents listen to and then analyzes it without asking good questions about "how" and "why" of those respondents' listening habits of the respondents themselves (very difficult using survey methods). Or when someone codes "My Humps" as "highly sexualized" and then uses it in an argument like "kids respond positively to highly sexualized music." More of it just can't say very interesting things in the format. Free response, interview, and ethnographic observations get you something else entirely, and ethnography and anthropology are sets of practices that I think lots of music critics, myself included, would do well to think more about even when approaching their "home" tastes.

That's something that keeps me returning to music criticism, as messy and sporadic as it often feels. The flashes of analysis, insight, and feeling that emerge in it are often far closer to what I seem to "get" out of music than what data tells me about (e.g.) group behavior. Duncan Watts's recent experiments are very useful in tracking social behavior, but he's not judging anything about what people say to themselves about popular music they like, merely observing which songs are popular in particular settings and how popularity spreads. (And he argues more forcefully in his books, Six Degrees and Everything Is Obvious, that it's a serious error to try to read any individual motivations into these group behaviors.)

Re: Don't call it a new thread; I been here for years

The academic fields I most closely follow are education and media studies (the intersection of those two fields is sometimes called "media literacy," which is the subfield I find myself in and identify with). And in these fields, returning to questions is habitual. There are general motivating questions that all scholars, regardless of their input or quality of their writing or credibility of their research, return to routinely, test out, and try to find different methodological approaches to "solve" or at least learn in more depth.

I would say that this is a community that can certainly sustain an intellectual conversation. But I also think that the conversation itself has huge issues, problematic questions, etc. But there are regular conferences, journals, departments, etc. etc. that are devoted to sustaining the conversation, such as it is.

To me rock criticism has the opposite problem; there are tons of great insights and ideas, lots of intellectuals contributing various bits of knew knowledge; and these people often come from strange places and can be wildly interdisciplinary. Some of the best books and pieces on music I've ever read come from neurobiology, history, musicology, media and cultural studies, journalism, network theory, and fiction. Over time, the isolation of all of these voices and ideas takes its toll on the field, which, especially in a time when funding is being systematically slashed and academic silos get paranoid about letting outsiders in, feels disparate and unsatisfying, despite its bright spots.

I return to my rock critic haunts out of a mix of nostalgia (reactive: "it's cool") and expectation that something will surprise me, if not always in the writing than at least in the music under the microscope (or being left out of the microscope, or whatever) -- sometimes especially when I'm not being surprised in the places people are supposed to be providing insights and discoveries. (Ashlee Simpson can activate me to be a better intellectual than almost anything anyone has ever written on Ashlee Simpson.)

  • 1

Log in