‘Auē, my last post was on September 17. How time flies . . . so fast! Iʻm going to ramble a bit about loose odds and ends, drifting and floating.
In my course this term on “Critical Genealogies of American Music,” students were assigned to read the work of cultural critic Greil Marcus, specifically his book The Old Weird America (originally published under the title Invisible Republic) about Bob Dylanʻs Basement Tapes recording sessions in 1967. Greil Marcus is a prolific commentator on popular culture and popular music; his book Mystery Train: Images of American in Rock ʻnʻ Roll Music has set the standard for rock music commentary, and Time magazine named it among the Top 100 nonfiction books. Marcus was one of the original writers for Rolling Stone magazine, and his work has also appeared in The Village Voice, Creem, and on various influential blogs on music and contemporary culture. His writing goes far beyond mere description, digging deep into the psyche of musicians and songwriters, and drawing connections between songs and contemporary culture.
The kind of commentary that Marcus writes goes far beyond descriptive journalism. It digs into the workings of the music–how singersʻ voices channel singers of generations before, how songs capture the ethos of places that have been irreversibly transformed, how singers trick listeners into seeing themselves displaced and unsettled, how singers are capable of convincing us that the world around us is not as it seems to be. Marcus is brilliant at capturing moments of time-shifting and shape-shifting.
And one more thing goes onto my bucket list–to cultivate public conversation about Hawaiian music that engages with the music qua music, conversation that rises far above the “I know what I like” level. Think about it–we pretty much have nothing between the newspaper journalism of John Berger and Wayne Harada and the academic scholarship of folks like me.
Go to Amazon.com and check out Greil Marcusʻs books and reviews posted about them. For a lot of really really concise and intelligent commentary on music, the NPR (National Public Radio) website on Music (www.npr.org/music) has a range of blogs on different aspects of music ranging from pop to jazz to classical. PBS Hawaii President and CEO Leslie Wilcox has interviewed many Hawaiian entertainers on her show “Long Story Short” and many can be heard on the showʻs website. There are so many possible models for raising the bar on discussion of Hawaiian music.