[Dixielandjazz] ESR: jazz survives mainly as fuzak

Rob McCallum rakmccallum at hotmail.com
Mon Nov 15 14:00:43 PST 2004

Hi all,

In the past 100 years?  I would argue that the arts-- literary, musical and 
visual, didn't become alive and accessible to the masses UNTIL within the 
past hundred years.  Between the Renaissance and the end of the 19th 
century, the "arts" to which the author is referring were almost exclusively 
part of the culture of the elite wealthy classes who, for the most part, had 
very little understanding of what the arts actually were, and much less 
cared.  Pick up an Edith Wharton novel and you'll clearly see what the "art" 
scene was like in late 19th century New York.  The opera was nothing more 
than a "seen and be seen" space for the privileged few and their slightly 
less-well-off followers who showed up to see them (not the opera).  As for 
visual art, I suppose if his idea of high art is a painting of a "realistic" 
portrait of a man of wealth and "social status", then by all means, 
everything produced over the last 100 years must seem like a part of a 
decaying process : ).  However, I see, beginning with the Impressionists, 
not the beginning of the end, but rather the beginning of a new beginning.  
An era of discovery had begun and the arts began to pull themselves out of a 
dark and stilted haze of dull confines.

The 20th century will be looked back upon as an era of intense and rapid 
change when there finally existed enough of an environment of freedom for 
people to develop and express their own ideas.  Inherent in that is the fact 
that not all ideas are good so thus we can build skyscrapers and communicate 
on the Internet as well as slaughter millions upon millions in brutal world 
wars.  Thus, only in the 20th century would it have been possible to have a 
Louis Armstrong and a Sid Vicious both claiming to be musicians.  But it's 
not because of a "decay" that Punk rock or trash novels or Kenny G or Jerry 
Springer or whatever exists, it's because people have the freedom to express 
and define themselves.  Defining "art," or "literature" or "music" is 
entirely up to each individual in this era.

BTW--When did classical music ever have a connection to "popular" culture?  
Up until the 20th century (and I daresay well into the 20th century) it was 
almost exclusively a part of the domain of the wealthy privileged classes, 
and has still not completely shaken that connotation to the everyday Joe on 
the street.  Mozart created great music that can be enjoyed by "everyman" 
despite the environment he worked in.   Lost vitality?  In the 20th 
century... or even now?  That position is nothing more than an elite arts 
snob passing judgment on things he doesn't like.  The author is using the 
term "popular culture" as coded text to justify his romanticizing of a 
supposed lost cultural era.  Had he been alive 200 years ago, he'd have 
probably been equally disappointed.

All the best,
Rob McCallum

>From: "Edgerton, Paul A" <paul.edgerton at eds.com>
>To: "'DJML'" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
>Subject: [Dixielandjazz] ESR: jazz survives mainly as fuzak
>Date: Mon, 15 Nov 2004 15:24:52 -0500
>This will be painful for many of you, so do yourselves a favor and skip to
>the next thread now.
>Really, I mean it.
>Still here?  Alright then, here I go -- but don't say I didn't warn you...
>Eric S. Raymond casts a long shadow in the world of open source software. 
>is also an advocate for libertarian politics who espouses views that I 
>most DJML subscribers will find challenging.
>He has written a blog entry describing the decay of literary, musical and
>visual art, of which the first paragraphs read:
>    "There are entire genres of art that have self-destructed in the last
>     hundred years - become drained of vitality, driven their audiences
>     away to the point where they become nothing more than museum exhibits
>     or hobby-horses for snobs and antiquarians.
>    "The three most obvious examples are painting, the literary novel and
>     classical music. After about 1910 all three of these art forms
>     determinedly severed the connections with popular culture that had
>     made them relevant over the previous 250 years. Their departure left
>     vacuums to be filled; we got modern genre literature, rock music, and
>     art photography."
>As my subject line suggests, he makes a partial exception for jazz. You can
>read his analysis here: http://esr.ibiblio.org/index.php?p=157&c=1
>-- Paul Edgerton
>Dixielandjazz mailing list
>Dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com

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