I want it all (and I want it now).

La professoressa Gillian Turnbull (che, tra le altre cose, insegna Popular Music alla Ryerson University), lamenta che gli studenti del suo corso non hanno più idea di cosa sia un genere musicale. Spiega così il motivo:

At the moment, it seems there are two phenomena colluding in the erasure of genre. For one, ignorance of the context surrounding music of previous generations means that young listeners don’t understand the emergence of genres in the first place. What made blues rock different from psychedelic rock? Why did progressive country form in Austin, away from the countrypolitan scene of Nashville? When the original context of those genres is missing, a full understanding of their musical subtleties—and by extension, their social identities—vanishes too. While the young generation no longer scoffs at its parents’ music (after all, these are the parents who were listening to Black Sabbath and Blondie in their teen years), it’s more that it doesn’t particularly care about the past. Teens in the 1980s were endlessly reminded of the social importance of the ’50s and ’60s, whereas it’s less common to see the 1980s touted as important in shaping modern life and attitudes. Combine that with a growing immigrant population across North America (many of my students are first- or second-generation Canadians whose parents didn’t listen to The Clash in their youth) and music of the past—no matter how popular—is firmly locked in that past and ignored by many of the young listeners I’ve encountered.

A second and paradoxical phenomenon contributing to the disappearance of genre stems from how as a culture we document every part of the creative process, the final product, and then memorialize that product long after its release. Shows like Classic Albums and book series like Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 let us narrate and relive great moments in pop music, but they are nonetheless divorced from the essential socio-historical factors that influenced people’s preferences at the time. Young listeners’ understanding of these artists is devoid of the genre-derived—and era-specific—cultural baggage, so it’s okay to like The Sex Pistols and Yes and Donna Summer, because they are no longer markers of incompatible tastes or lifestyles.

Le nuove generazioni, tra le quali i suoi studenti, sembrano essere vittime di quello che la critica definisce in modo negativo come «nozionismo»: si conosce tutto di un artista, ma ad un livello solo biografico-aneddotico; niente contesto, niente storia.

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