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Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Review: Popular Culture *The Metropolitan Experience* by Iain Chambers

Popular Culture:
The Metropolitan Experience
by Iain Chambers
p. 1986
London: Routledge Press

  Intellectuals writing about music...what a fucking disaster.  The utter and total failure of intellectuals inside and outside the university system to write accurately about the role of music in the lives of audiences didn't really manifest itself until after the full rise of popular music in the post World War II period: before then, music just wasn't ubiquitous or important enough in the lives of normal folks to expose specious intellectual attempts to discuss music and the it's role within the lives of audiences.

   Regardless of the epic landscape of failure, the discriminating audience member needs to tackle this literature to understand the music of the present, and I would suggest that Iain Chamber's Popular Culture: The Metropolitan Experience (1986) is a Culture/Music Theory 101.  Popular Culture is paperbook size, but it functions as a punk rock text book describing intellectual theories about popular culture from the 1800s through the punk era.

    The bibliography is super solid, and Chambers does a good job mimicking the 'cut-up' techniques of the modernist inspired layout.  The book design aspects of Popular Culture double or triple the value of this book.  It's something a pop star could carry on in her handbag during a european tour and read in 5 or 10 page bites.  It's affordable enough for the part-time musician working in a coffee shop.

        This book costs .63 cents usd + four usd shipping on AMAZON.  It's a light, fun, easy read that packs a huge informational punch on the description of intellectuals and their theories about popular culture.  If you flip through it and go straight to the bibliography, like I did, then more power to you.

       Personally, I think the combination of used books on Amazon, streaming Netflix and Google Books represents a revolution in the production of knowledge that will surpass the rise of the university system in 18th century Germany.  This is the time to get on board that three headed hydra: used books on Amazon, streaming Netlix, Google Books.  What do you need a university for in terms of the production of knowledge?

        The goal of this blog is to help other people find their own path to understanding using the new materials that are available, not to push people down one particular path: but you should go somewhere, do something.  It's a revolution in the production of knowledge, so produce some fucking knowledge.

    People who make a living from music should be familiar with what intellectuals have written about music, because that is how they are going to be judged.  There's no magic or creativity to writing about music, rather, the interesting part is how little the music writers themselves understand what it is they are doing, or even trying to do.

   Thus, musicians who have a conscious understanding of how and why people write about music will have an advantage of those who do not, and audience members who understand their 'place' in the discussion .... well I guess the benefit depends on how much you care about the role of music in your life.  If you don't give a shit, then you don't need to care about any of this information.

       On the other hand if music 'means' something to you, ignoring these ideas means you are ignorant.  Not stupid, just ignorant.  Most of intellectuals theorizing about popular culture is them writing 'about' the audience- not as a participant, as a detached 'scientific' observer.  What a bunch of bullshit.  Popular culture is about experience not observation.

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