I found one of Brooks' points a little dubious, however. He blames the rise of the “mass educated class” for the fragmenting of mainstream music. He claims that people feel more “individualistic and special” when they “cultivate obscure musical taste.” I'm really not so sure about this one, especially when everybody at work is talking about American Idol and I'm in the office in my little bubble listening to Henry Threadgill, I don't feel particularly special, but I don't feel particularly left out either. That may be more due to my curmudgeonly nature than anything else. Working at a public library, I can assure you that there is a healthy appetite for the mainstream in all forms of culture. The idea of the Long Tail really comes into play here. The CDs we have from the pop heros of the moment are always in circulation and it's hard to get people to take a chance on “outsider” entertainment, whether it's Matthew Shipp or China Meiville.
Brooks' interviews Steven Van Zandt for the piece, and while I admire his attempts to save and promote traditional American garage rock, his comments in the article fall into an all to predictable screed about “those damn kids.” Indie rockers, he says have lost touch with their roots, the fertile ground of American music, blues and R&B. Musicians of Van Zandt's era certainly had deep roots in the blues as do modern bands such as The Black Keys and The White Stripes. But for modern indie rock, I think that it isn't that they are rootless, but that their roots are in different soil. Raised on MTV and rock radio, musicians today don't have the exposure to blues and traditional R&B, so naturally this element of their music will be less prevalent than in bands of the past. At the end of the article, Van Zandt proposes a high school curriculum teaching American history through music. While I would support this, I just hope it does not lead to the stale classicism that plagues institutions like Jazz at Lincoln Center.
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