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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Auteur Theory, DIY & Bedroom Indie

  Auteur Theory, like "Post-Modernism," and "Gothic" is a good example of a critical concept that transcends art forms.  Auteur Theory was developed by film critics in Paris to describe the personality of a films creator transcending the compromises required by the industrial nature of the production and distribution of films. (1)

 As I've watched dozens of Criterion Collection titles from decades of Cinema, I've had ample time to muse on the meaning of Auteur theory and what, if any, relationship it has to the Artists I've worked with in the music business.  It occurred to me early on that some of the Artists I've worked with: Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls, Crocodiles, Dirty Beaches, had many of the characteristics of the film auteur in that they were controlling all stages of the recording and distribution of their Art, albeit at a  "DIY" level.

  In a very real sense, every unsuccessful Artist can be considered an Auteur- Auteur status typically comes only after a film maker has succeeded.  Auteur status is often confirmed AFTER the qualifying works are released, and one of the important currents in film criticism is the continuing struggle over whether a specific film maker can be considered an Auteur or not.

  Because of the industrial nature of film production and distribution, the desire to control every aspect of the creation of a work of art may be compromised by other needs by other players.  This is well documented within the world of popular music.  It is almost taken for granted that the involvement of larger players with musicians: major labels, management, public relations, will result in that musicians ceding important parts of their artistic identity to a third party.

 This process is so taken for granted within the world of Popular Music that there has essentially been no attempt to apply Auteur Theory analysis to musicians.  To apply Auteur principles to any Top 40 Artist borders on the absurd.

  On the other hand if you look at recent trends in the DIY/Indie area of music, technology has enabled an entire generation of bedroom indie Artists whose rise relates directly to the standard definition of "Auteur," creating a work in an industrial production/distribution arrangement where the vision is solely/primarily that of the Auteur.

  There are also Top 40 Artists, particularly those within the world of hip hop, who would likely claim Auteur status if you asked them.  I'm sure Kanye West would call himself an Auteur. (2)

  In conclusion, the point of this analysis is to suggest that when you are evaluating a new Artist, it's important to consider the extent to which that Artist has the makings of an Auteur, i.e. the ability and wherewithal to control every aspect of their production and distribution.  This is a facility that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with talent, in fact the world is littered with Auteurs who are unsuccessful because their vision is not compelling to anyone.


(1) Auteur Theory Wikipedia page.
(2) Kanye Weste Auteur Google Search.

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