Saturday, 15 October 2016

A Nobel Prize for a pop artist

The pop artist Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for Literature. What happened to the Swedish? Was society not equal enough? Have they read Bourdieu too much, or did they burn their libraries? Or did they get too much drink during the dark winter months before they woke-up groggy this summer and decided to not go through the whole selection process again?

But it can get much worse. The New York classical music critic Alex Ross, author of the brilliant 20C music history 'The Rest is Noise', compares this pop icon with Wagner, the way words and music are combined:

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/bob-dylan-as-richard-wagner

Comparing Dylan with Wagner, in whatever way, is grotesk, because the contexts in which these two artists worked, were universes apart.

What happened to Ross? Was music life not pedestrian enough? Was the classical music world still too much a museum culture, with a collection that had to be enlivened with grafitti on the walls? The nobel prize gaffe leaves serious scars on the organization's reputation, but some people - like Alex Ross - feel delighted by it, why? It seems that this embarrassing misunderstanding vindicates their lack of taste, and their own misunderstanding of the way, distinctions in art are made. Giving a Nobel Prize to a pop artist is administering absolution to the unwashed, it is a populist gesture, and critics like Ross happily join-in. But that is a good thing, I think, because it reveals their true colours: every new piece of music journalism from their hand can now be read with this knowledge in mind, offering a measure of their professionalism.

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