Plumb Lines

September 9, 2009

Pitchfork Elitism

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matthew Schmitz @ 2:39 pm

While literary canons have, in recent times, been subjected to sustained attack (and dubious defenses), one of the most striking thing about this list is what it says about our contemporary willingness to construct canons of the products of mass culture.

Update: In the comments, William Randolph Brafford dissents:

Listmaking isn’t really the same as constructing a canon. The book and film versions of High Fidelity explained this pretty nicely. It’s a way for music fanatics to do a bunch of social signaling. (What’s the difference between the literary canon and the list of the top 500 books of Western civilization?)

I think William’s point is correct, and my original post should have reflected that. I haven’t seen High Fidelity (despite long wanting to), but while canons are not the same as lists, its worth floating these ideas simultaneously. If allusions help us trace what is canonical, their increasing importance in the music of our  sample-happy age means that people are starting to think more and more in terms of a musical canon. I’d say the Pitchfork list is just one indication of this fact.

-Matthew Schmitz

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1 Comment »

  1. Listmaking isn’t really the same as constructing a canon. The book and film versions of High Fidelity explained this pretty nicely. It’s a way for music fanatics to do a bunch of social signaling. (What’s the difference between the literary canon and the list of the top 500 books of Western civilization?)

    Comment by William Randolph Brafford — September 9, 2009 @ 5:05 pm


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