29 September 2022

Pre-Alien-Abduction Link Sausage Platter

…which will/would sure beat suffering through four election-season commercials.

  • An unintentionally borderline-rage-inducing piece I heard last weekend on NPR exposes one of the real problems with the arts in this country in particular (and the West in general). Maggie Rogers' particular music is not particularly to my taste; but I was stuck in traffic while a mishap was cleared, so I got to hear this little snippet of an interview after listening to the setup:

    Rogers: …I was with a close friend of mine in the music world who the other day was like, "Do you ever wonder why it all happens?" I was like, "Yes, it's all I've thought about for years."

    Sanneh (interviewer): Your success or why your life is where it is?….

    Rogers: I think I'm really at the beginning of thinking about this question in general. When I think about this question, I really I was afforded the time, effort, resources, energy, and love from my parents to be able to really explore what I was passionate about. That was the greatest privilege or gift. There weren't people in my family who were specifically interested in music.

    (foofery/deflections omitted for clarity, obvious transcript artifacts corrected) And this from a former NYU student being interviewed by an NYU faculty member. No blame to or criticism of either individual, but—

    What does this focus on a child of comfortable living, who attended a (rather expensive!) private university in N'yawk, as an implied "proper" pathway to the performing arts say? The contrast with Mr Sanneh's story of his own, less-privileged background in the arts (as a stage assistant for his musician-father, decades ago) is equally instructive, because the real distinction between Mr Sanneh's music and Ms Rogers's music (to date) is that Mr Sanneh has long built some external context into his; Ms Rogers is too young, too much a product of less… experiential diversity. But one step removed, it makes one wonder what we're missing — what Maggie Rogers has missed — 75km north of her Colonial-chic-worshipping hometown on Maryland's eastern shore, in Baltimore (perhaps by going to Peabody/Hopkins instead of NYU?). Presuming for a moment that there's only some "small proportion" of a given population with an opportunity for greatness/acclaim/a real living in the arts, aren't we all better off increasing the size and diversity of that population? Too many don't have the "time, effort, resources, energy… from [their] parents" to even try (let alone tolerance, support, or, as Ms Rogers puts it, "love"). The distinctions were clearer — at least visually — between the execreble Pat Boone and those whose works he "covered"; but that's just all-too-typical laziness.

    So through no intent, these two further irritated me sitting in needless traffic (and, BTW, according to a later news report the driver who caused the mishap was arrested "on suspicion of driving while impaired"). And made me think about the full context of Mozart (which is very much not a pretty tale), of Proust (ditto), of Faulkner (not quite as bad but carefully sanitized), in contrast with those we don't and can't know about. "Progress in the useful Arts and sciences" does not come only from the parental top economic quartile.

  • This problem is also subtly, unintentionally, and only implicitly reinforced by complaints from old white men about "the brutal realities of modern publishing" that don't draw in the "spent the 70s as a PhD student at Oxford" context. One wonders how many equally-talented graduates of the University of Leeds even had the same opportunity…
  • Then there's the "death of utopian fiction" problem that occupied me — from a radically different perspective — several decades ago now. I could glibly claim that hopeful utopian fiction died at Ypres and not be far off… in English, anyway. But my perspective, and research agenda, is quite explicitly and intentionally on the works of the Moderns (and Postmoderns) and not the Victorians, so of course my opinions will be different from Prof Waffle's! Which is very much the point upon which the preceding two link sausages are already impaled.
  • After impaling them, we'll roast all three over the fire of unenlightened self-interest epitomized in TechBros and vulture capitalists "working together for the future" while suppressing anything not consistent with their immediate, unenlightened self-interests — and anyone not themselves. One wonders what Bernard Marx and D503 would have to say about this. (That their self-awareness would not have been sufficient to really explicate matters is the very sharpest bit, rather like an individual stockyard worker.)