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The Boss’s ass

July 11, 2003

The quote of the day:

“And I bailed on a lecture entitled “Bruce’s Butt”—Bruce Springsteen’s butt, as seen on the cover of “Born in the U.S.A.”—when the speaker began to interrogate the image of the butt, which, under sharp questioning, wouldn’t give anything away.”

That quote courtesy of the New Yorker’s Alex Ross. To see more, go here.

Did I mention that I am a musicologist in my last entry? No, I thought not. Very cagey yesterday. Plus it’s a term that I’m not at all comfortable with. It sounds like I made up a fake profession. Certainly musicology, the study of music, has little in common with ‘ologies like biology, zoology, etc. Although it is burdened with jargon that often belies an anxiety about lack of rigor similar to another -ology — anthropology.

Anyway, back to Ross’ article. It gets at a lot of the crap that many of us in the business think of when we think of popular music studies (not to say that there isn’t good work out there, there’s just a lot of work that doesn’t fall into that category) and at the same time makes a case for the validity of popular music as a subject for academic work. It is best, however, for its description of musicological papers and conferences from the point of view of a non-musicologist — both instructive and hilarious.

I am also still thinking about Ross’ description of the Ellington/African-American model of creativity as a group effort versus the European model of the cult of personality of the genius. It is, I think, a very important distinction in classical music as well as pop — I think here of the difficulty in marketing string quartets and other small chamber music ensembles. Perhaps even more complex is the conductorless orchestra, like Orpheus. We are so acustomed to understanding the whole orchestra through The Conductor. However I am not certain about the attribution for the origins of the group model, at least in the case of classical music — the nature of music-making in jazz is rather different. In classical music, though, it would seem to me that the group model might hold an attraction for the disenfranchised, e.g. women or minorities, who have had a difficult time competing within the sphere of the cult of personality.

Sorry. Didn’t mean to get so ponderous today. I guess I should be working on my dissertation. I leave you with a couple of musicologist links: This one [link dead] describes one of the reasons I reacted so positively to Ross’ article and also why I often feel like the word musicologist deserves scare quotes. Here [link dead] is someone who has painted a picture entitled “The musicologist. I’m going to try not to think too hard about that one.

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