NY Times Magazine has an article today on Broken Social Scene. It's worth a read, especially if you are interested in the conflicts of independent artists. How do you incorporate the major label system in order to participate while simultaneously rejecting the consumer capitalist notions of big business? The answer is you can't, but that you have to pick your battles and find a balance that makes sense. The article does a good job of depicting all the little tensions. Read it.
A sentence in it has stuck with me though, in the 20 minutes since I read it, so I want to figure out why.
Alissa Quart writes: "If it all sounds hopelessly earnest — another emo band bent on saving one little corner of the world — it isn't, or not quite."
I don't know if it's possible to think about this without arguing about the definition of emo, but I'm going to try.
First of all – and this already proves the exercise a failure – emo is about a sound, or a look, or an image, or something. "Saving one little corner of the world" is a goal much larger than a niche marketing tactic or an adolescent boy's sensitivity. It's a grand statement, but it also seems to me to be a defining aspect of pretty much all artists/musicians I know. That's what I want to do. That's what lots of people want to do. It doesn't matter how small the corner (well, to some it does), but that little snarky phrase, well, pisses me off.
"Hopelessly earnest"? The alternative, in the world of pop music anyways, is akin to prostitution, but that's a harsh word. 'Selling your soul' is also a bit melodramatic. 'Faustian' makes it seem more profound. Robert Johnson actually makes it something great. Anyways, it doesnt matter. Why would people choose any of that over earnest-ness? Why does that sound so condescending? I'm not sure.
The very first definition in the OED says "Ardour in battle; in wider sense, intense passion or desire." What is that, too serious for some people? Maybe so. But this whole thing sure does feel like war, or a cycle of war and peace. So I guess I am offended on two counts. One, that an offhand comment belittles a central ethos in the world that I (and a lot of others!) exist in, and two, that is associates something about me with emo, which may be the worse offense.
UPDATE: this, found on Alex Ross's blog:
"Whoever is capable of listening to himself, recognizing his own instincts, and also engrossing himself reflectively in every problem, will not need such crutches. One need not be a pioneer [it. added] to create in this way, only a man who takes himself seriously — and thereby takes seriously that which is the true task of humanity in every intellectual or artistic field: to recognize, and to express what one has recognized!!! This is my belief!" -Schoenberg, of all people.