Friday, April 20, 2012

Much Better Start Than Yesterday

Remember this post? I summed up this way:
[W]ithout an attempt at analyzing music qua music, there is no way to come to terms with the meaning the music has. Relying upon historical accounts, without those accounts taking in to consideration musical detail, also fail in the end to give us as full an understanding as we might otherwise prefer. Moore's work is a good beginning in reframing our discussions of rock music by insisting on the primacy of the songs themselves.
Then, of course, the inevitable happened.
In the first paragraph you quote, after the writer claims that aesthetic questions are primary (or, rather, “the” aesthetic question, whatever that may be) he goes on with nary an address to aesthetic questions.
To which I responded:
Because that's the entirety of the book. The "aesthetic" question is just that: "the primary text" is the song itself, examined as a discrete unit, using the tools of musicological analysis, as a method of unraveling the many matters related to understanding rock.

I will admit the use of "aesthetic" puzzled me when I read it, until I realized it is used here in an analytical, as opposed to descriptive, manner. The questions you and I, and perhaps others, might consider under the heading "aesthetic" Moore actually sets to one side. Which is, all in all, a good thing, I think, as there is far too much baggage about the relative merits of pop versus classical music, among and within various sub-genres of various musical styles. I heartily agree with Moore that there is no way, a priori, to judge the artistic merit of any particular song or musical style. In that sense, more philosophical understanding of "aesthetic", the matter is one of value judgments, for which there is no handy musicological, or any other, tool.
The conversation deteriorated quickly.

At one point, I suggested Feodor's problems were not with me, but rather the author and that he take his questions to the author. At the same time, I thought, "What an inspired idea!" So, I emailed Moore, who is Professor of Popular Music at Surrey University in the UK.

This morning, I opened my email, and found this waiting for me.
Very many apologies for waiting so long before answering - I needed to get time to read your blog. I think you have it absolutely right - for all the book's faults you have described exactly what I was trying to do. I found the ensuing conversation interesting & quite fun too (although your interlocutor never did contact me) - I have soon to think about a third edition & I may bear some of that in mind. I am delighted to read that you found the book enlightening - I have recently published what is, in effect, a follow-up, again with Ashgate, in which I try & pin down some of the interpretive ideas which I don't think I really understood when writing R:PT. I hope most of it is still accessible to the non-specialist. There's some blurb at - let me know if it strikes a chord & I'll try & get a copy to you.

Thanks for taking the trouble,


Let's see. . . free book for a review, offered by the author who's a respected academic musicologist covering a field I personally enjoy.

That would be a, "Oh, hell, yes!"

And may I say that Moore is gracious and kind, and no apologies are needed. The only other author who has ever returned an email of mine is Gary Dorrien, who was just as gracious and polite as Moore.

This whole writing thing does have its rewards. So, thank you, Professor Moore, for making my day's start far more pleasant in most every respect. And, that whole vindication thing? Yeah, that was nice.

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