Friday, February 04, 2011


I read an alarming article in the Guardian the other day that articulated something that I have always felt about teaching on pop music courses at Universities. I can't remember who wrote it and if this was an academic piece of writing I wouldn't even comment on it without saying who the original author was- so sorry, original author! I will namecheck you if I can at some later date.
The gist of it was that the movement of an art-form that used to symbolise young people's dissent into an arena now called 'The Creative Industries' meant that rather than being a way of empowering working-class youth, the pop and rock world is now inhabited by public schoolboys (and girls).
They have learned how to rap, how to talk cockney, and with their connections they can network their way through the media and stand on the heads of those who paved the way with rougher, earlier, 'street' versions of the music they succeed from. They are good at processing and personalising information (they have learned this at school), and have effectively stolen whole slabs of musical inspiration from much less advantaged people.
I wonder as I'm writing this if this is something I am guilty of; being educationally backward, I was the one member of the family who attended a weird private school for a while (and boy, do I feel bad about that! Our family never went abroad on holiday apart from camping in France in the frosty early spring, because my school fees were cripplingly high). I was too stupid to win a scholarship, and as soon as I'd done my 'O' levels I went to the local comprehensive and ate spam fritters with everyone else.
So I've never had that network, and unemployment was a massive leveller in the 1970s. Could toffs get jobs back then? I don't know. I do remember that some of the revolutionaries in our midst were suspiciously unforthcoming about parts of their lives!

And there now in front of us is David Cameron, fan of The Smiths and The Jam...

I have been thinking a lot about all this.
McMum lent me Oliver Postgate's autobiography Seeing Things yesterday, which I read on my nine hour train journey. I was particularly taken by his furious objection to Universities 'trying to reconstitute art from intellectual data' (pp370-371) because that's exactly what I have had a problem with all my life, but it seems to be the way you get ahead in the world of University Research.
Here I am in a music department, believing in the power of art, believing that Art Is My Saviour and everyone else's too.
I don't recognise a place for myself in that world of Cultural Industries, which I see through a large, thick and very blurred plate glass window.

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