Culture Rover

#2 - Indie-Pop=Grad School

"Independent pop -- not just hip-hop -- has in many ways become a version of graduate school, a safe zone where artists can eke out a living, take their time doing specialized work. In most cases, this is the last thing a popular musician should be doing." - Sascha Frere-Jones, "Pop Music: Doom's Day," New Yorker, 12 April 2004, 76.

Frere-Jones' intriguing quip seems to me a bit off about grad school. Well, first of all, he's thinking of grad school in the humanities I suspect, not all grad school (the sciences seem like a whole other world). Second, even in the humanities, the more sinister aspects of the world of "pop" have invaded academe: it's not such a "safe zone" necessarily, even though it should be. Universities adopt corporate models, putting the squeeze on anyone trying to take their time to specialize in a field in a substantive way -- or ekeing out a living while doing so. Meanwhile, reactionaries increasingly attack and delegitimize fields in the humanities as bastions of supposed radicalism.

In this context, what's so wrong with fighting for a little independence anyway, in both indie-rock and in grad school? Maybe it's a pretty relevant place to be: the margins that are weirdly parallel to the center, where one can feel the squeeze even in the "safe zone" -- and where one might even find a way to cope, on the edge of the pop spot, where the light refracts.

28 May 2004

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