Music taste and crystal balls

Music scientists know you better than you know yourself (free registration required). Remember that as with all research there are limitations on what you can conclude from it, and that large scale analyses emphasize aggregate effects in populations, ignoring the elusiveness of agency, and ever-intractable/intangible actor-network theories, not to mention how the whole shebang is royally screwed by forces of commoditization and marketing so sophisticated we hardly see it anymore, and hardly care. What I mean in more respectful terms is that this sort of research often ignores the initiative of individuals and groups working within (and for that matter, outside) business and cultural structures in ways that make certain products happen and certain other ones die like dogs.

I wore a black fedora to a swing dance one night (several months ago), surrounded by Chinese-Canadian kids in sweatpants. There was no booze served. And had I the expertise, I would have joined that totally unwholesome Charleston circle near the front. Too much social mediation going on to quantify according to the framework arrived at in some study of what’s on people’s iTunes playlist-epitaphs, and in their crummy blog memoirs. Music lives in human environs, and is usually made to live through performance, and, dance. And it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) solely occupy a rarefied space between the earbuds – it occurs within the total social experience or social performance of the people doing it. Don’t tell me you can quantify the totality of the rain outside, the cut of a girl’s dress, the strange mixture of smells in the place, the nervousness of being among an unfamiliar crowd, and the limitations of a low-powered sound system in a big old hall…(etc., etc…)

But if what you’re interested in is “what are the kids listening to”, then I suppose such a tunnel vision view is all that’s required. See you at the next IASPM conference. Hopefully.

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