Now listening: Nanook of the North, "The Taby Tapes"
'Specially: Track 12, 'Forget it Jenny, Love Is Just A Privilege For The Rich'
I sat in the gradlounge this late-afternoon, writing paragraphs for a paper on narrative techniques of conversion (again? again.) in early christian proselytizing literature (and NOT coming up with a clear and concise explanation of the differences/relation between the terms mishnah, gemara, torah, tanakh, penteteuch, midrash and talmud, which lead to some stuttered stumbling in review session this evening). While sitting, I overheard some other loungers discussing the 'hipster' catgory, and why they hoped they weren't in it. One criticism they leveled was that 'hipsters' start out anti-establishment, but end up establishing their own rigid hierarchicality anyway; specifically with regards to music. I believe the band they used as an example of this rigid secret knowledge structure was Dinosaur Jr., which I? Know not a thing about. So obviously I am not the problem.
The main thrust of the critique was that 'the hipster' is more interested in having/displaying knowledge than in gleeful enjoyment of the fruits of that knowledge. I ... don't know from 'the hipster', but I could be accused of the former. I love few things more than an impassioned and specific argument about, for example, the place of Green Apple Quickstep in the history of PNW pop, jazz influence or boy/girl harmony. I'm not saying it's not elitist; actually I am. I'm just not saying it doesn't read as elitist when I get really into it and fail to notice that you? Are not so much into it.
Mixes I make, mixes I plan for the various stages in the development of my potential brood of kidlings should such things happen, play on a sense I have of the most important/soulful/satisfying/creative/creation-provoking/lyrically astute/melodically resonant/you-get-the-idea albums and artists I know so far. There is much awesomeness in the world of recorded songcraft; some of it seems . . . more important than some other examples.
Which brings us to the process of canonization. Which I explained pretty damn concisely in the review session this evening; and by 'concisely' I mean 'simplistically'. Canonization is an evil word, right? It's Authority exerting itself at the expense of unbridled democratic experience. It says that this work, copied in this hand, and not this other text, deserves to be read by future generations. We tend to think of it as a repressive political force; like hipsters denigrating some new band that's never really respected pavement (hi!), canonizers scoff into oblivion that which is heterodox, redundant and misleading when measured against their sense of the best/only that their tradition has to offer. Being forced to self-identify as a canonophile, I get a little bit of sympathy for these Mean Old White Men (that, when we teach the canonization process, is the anthropomorphism looming behind my descriptions).
I don't know that they really are rigid and anal and elitist. I wonder if maybe there wasn't some glee there, some ecstatic abandon in providing for a future where generations will always know 'There's Nothing Wrong With Love' and 'Brighten The Corners' and 'Building Nothing Out Of Something'; 'I want home' and 'Jolene' and 'We rule the school'; Rebecca Gates and Britt Daniel and Elvis Costello. They will all know these things, and they will be able to talk about them together because everyone will be familiar with and agreed on their awesomeness. This is a canon, and to the extent that I'm ever powerful I will perpetuate it. Not because I hate the heterodox (I dunno, 'Snow Patrol' or 'The Sneaker Pimps' or other things that I actually like just fine, just not as much. Not as committedly.), but because I love what I know, what I've spent my time and attention and emotion on, honing myself and my reactions on swell and pitch and string arrangement; because I have glee.
Perhaps They did too, those excisers, those other canonodules. The canonoclasts who always get my sympathy - the proponents of the Gospel of Thomas, the ecstatic utterances of disruptive mystical troublemakers - are perhaps not the only kind of committed, human, artist that there is. Perhaps everybody together is in love with the collected works. But love is not, actually, democratic. Neither, though, is it only for the rich. It is for those who take the time to communicate themselves and their projects.
That which is still standing after those who needed to see it triumph are long dead? We call the canon. There may have been passion there, but now we mostly see the hierarchy.