Friday, August 19, 2011

Age of Authenticism

This is another mish-mash of a blogpost that I didn't have any music posted in. So I'm gonna just post another song that reminds me of fall and you can skip the rest -

I just finished reading this rather long, but good, article on the "death" of postmodernism and it is a counterpoint to the interview I mentioned before. Specifically -

If we tune in carefully, we can detect this growing desire for authenticity all around us. We can see it in the specificity of the local food movement or the repeated use of the word “proper” on gastropub menus. We can hear it in the use of the word “legend” as applied to anyone who has actually achieved something in the real world. (The elevation of real life to myth!) We can recognise it in advertising campaigns such as for Jack Daniel’s, which ache to portray not rebellion but authenticity. We can identify it in the way brands are trying to hold on to, or take up, an interest in ethics, or in a particular ethos. A culture of care is advertised and celebrated and cherished. Values are important once more: the values that the artist puts into the making of an object as well as the values that the consumer takes out of the object. And all of these striven-for values are separate to the naked commercial value.

What some people argue as nostalgia, or stealing, can be seen as attempts to make something authentic. After all, the argument against a band like Mumford & Sons is that they are faking it. That all the retro affectations are to merely make them appear authentic, rather than being an honest reflection of the band and what they want to communicate. In the same way, I think it was the longing for authenticity that made it so important originally for Bon Iver to have recorded his album after some heartbreak, alone in some Wisconsin cabin. His songs were real in a way that the audience is allowed to believe that they are actually experiencing the feeling of heartbreak and loss and not some interpretation of it. It's why I think bands like Motopony are trying so hard to avoid an internet presence, to cultivate mystery, and to control how they are perceived. It is easier to be seen as real and authentic by avoiding the internet, where we've become accustomed to look at everything as a lie and as a self-creation. To not have a band biography allows a listener to assume authenticity.

An article that was posted today in the NYTimes about David Foster Wallace might put it better -

[DFW] concludes by imagining some future group of “literary ‘rebels’ ” who would be “willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs . . . [and] accusations of sentimentality, melodrama.”

...Keith Gessen applauds Wallace for “trying, at last, to destroy” the oppositions between “irony and sincerity, self-consciousness and artifice.” He chastises those critics who in effect suggest that at “this late date, we might unlearn the postmodern vocabulary and recapture some pre-ironic way of being.” What we need, Gessen posits, in fiction writing at least, is someone to work “a sort of Barthelmeic magic” and “transform our language of apathy into a cri de coeur.”

The author disagrees with this argument, but I think it is a much better frame to think of when confronting musicians, writers, artists who are accused of nostalgia, theft, and borrowing. At least they are attempting to do something new as opposed to grave-robbing for its own sake.

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