Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Another Response to Mark Athitakis: Part Two

So let's answer another part of the question I asked in the first part of my response to Mark Athitakis: why go through the torture of listening to music you don’t like so you can eventually like it?

It is not to prove anyone wrong, as in his example of Bob Dylan's Christian albums or to avoid appearing “stuffy,” “tweedy,” “unimaginative,” or “smug.” I think these are examples of why a critic might embrace questionable music by otherwise great musicians, but the benefits are really for regular people. I can speak from experience that once you embrace Advanced music you will discover great things that you would not have otherwise. Having a negative reaction to music is certainly valid, but I do think it's worthwhile to question why you had the negative (or positive) reaction. I've merely laid out some alternatives to the accepted idea that most artists lose it when they're old.

Mark (I believe we can use first names now) wrote in the comment section that Levon Helm's cover of "Long Black Veil" did not have an emotional impact on him regardless of Helm's intentions. He argues further that his opinion is still valid even if others, or everyone, have a different opinion. We're in total agreement here. Where we diverge a bit is that I'm giving a certain extra weight to Helm's opinion because I believe he is wiser than I am. He is essentially a critic of his own music; he chooses what to play and how to play it, and if his band can't do a good job on a song, it doesn't make it into the set. So by virtue of playing the song for an audience, Helm is showing that he's giving the song at least one thumb up, if not two. If we look at the artist as self critic, then it makes perfect sense to compare his opinion to other critics. Few would argue with me that a review by Edmund Wilson is likely more valuable than one by, say, me. I just think of Helm as part of the chain of people evaluating his music. Since he knows his stuff, I'm inclined to think that there is something I'm missing. He isn't infallible, but neither am I.

This leads me to one last thought: I didn't like Exile on Main Street until three weeks ago. If I look at technically, I can say it is a jumbled mess of tired blues licks by a bunch of rich British guys pretending to be poor black Americans. As much as they complained about the lack of tea in France, they were there because they wanted to be rich. Plus they were criminally negligent in their treatment of their children. For most of my life, I have never liked the blues because my idols stayed away from that style of music. I didn't like solos, the same chord progression over and over, the self-pitying lyrics, etc. Now, with more experience and hopefully wisdom, I realize that I was just being stupid and Exile on Main Street incredibly good. Mark authentically did not like the cover of "Long Black Veil" but that doesn't mean he wouldn't like it 15 years later. My hope is that people will use the Advanced Genius Theory to revisit some things they have dismissed and/or never tried.

I have one more thing to address: What is the role of critics? Should they even exist? That's for part three.

2 comments:

Tommy said...

Have you picked up the recent re-release of Exile? Mick Jagger in 2009 singing over demos circa 1972 strikes me as a rather advanced move.

Jason Hartley said...

Agreed.