August 26, 2024

Slaying the rock snob

I once dated a guy who contemplated breaking up with me because I didn't like Mirah--at least that's how I like to tell the story. He was a rock snob, and The New Republic would like us to know that he is being slowly destroyed, along with the rest of the music snobs, thanks to the iPod. Whereas it's proved liberating for music lovers everywhere, to the music snob, who doesn't really love music but rather loves the import he feels certain bits of information or the possession of particular albums imparts, it's sounded his death knell:

Thanks to the iPod, and digital music generally, anyone can milk various friends, acquaintances, and the Internet to quickly build a glorious 10,000-song collection. Adding insult to injury, this process often comes directly at the Rock Snob's expense. We are suddenly plagued by musical parasites. For instance, a friend of middling taste recently leeched 700 songs from my computer. He offered his own library in return, but it wasn't much. Never mind my vague sense that he should pay me some money. In Rock Snob terms, I was a Boston Brahmin and he was a Beverly Hillbilly--one who certainly hadn't earned that highly obscure album of AC/DC songs performed as tender acoustic ballads but was sure to go bragging to all his friends about it. Even worse was the girlfriend to whom I gave an iPod. She promptly plugged it into my computer and was soon holding in her hand a duplicate version of my 5,000-song library--a library that had taken some 20 years, thousands of dollars, and about as many hours to accumulate. She'd downloaded it all within five minutes. And, a few months later, she was gone, taking my intimate musical DNA with her.
Intimate DNA...because to the rock snob, music is not part of the background, nor a soundtrack, or anything primordial. It is a stepping stone, an accoutrement. It is arranged around the rock snob to provide an element of meaning, of worthiness, a sense of uniqueness that sets him apart from those around him...
I'm not alone in these frustrations. "Even for a recovering Rock Snob, such as myself," Steven Daly told me, "it's a little disturbing to hear a civilian music fan boast that he has the complete set of Trojan reggae box-sets on his iPod sitting alongside 9,000 other tracks that he probably neither needs nor deserves." It's true: Even if music leeches don't fully appreciate, or even listen to, some of the gems they so effortlessly acquire, we resent them anyway. One friend even confessed to me in an e-mail that "I have been known to strip the iTunes song information off mix CDs just to keep the Knowledge secret."
Perhaps I did not have the mental faculties, the aesthetic refinement, the IQ to like and appreciate Mirah...perhaps I was not deserving of my music snob's love. But I've always been a fan of Nietzsche's take on music of the Dionysian variety...the kind you hear today at 7th Street Entry or basement parties or..,perhaps even the dancefloor of The Saloon?
Under the charm of the Dionysian not only is the union between man and man reaffirmed, but nature which has become alienated, hostile, or subjugated, celebrates once more her reconciliation with her lost son, man...Now the slave is a free man; now all the rigid, hostile barriers that necessity, caprice, or 'impudent convention' have fixed between man and man are broken
Come on, people, now / smile on your brother / everybody get together / try to love one another right now...Perhaps a little too utopian even for my base tastes but I don't think we've fully realized the wonderful changes digital music has brought to the way we relate to sound in just two or three years. Obscure local bands are no longer bound by geography but are finding disparate audiences connected through new means, the corporate music gatekeepers have lost some of the control over what bands reach what audiences, and old ways of packaging music--the planned order the cd, for example, have been completely erased. And yet at the same time, the consumption of music has never been so 'supporting' a band becomes an act that must be consciously thought about or planned out in an age when almost any cd can be downloaded for free. The death of the rock snob is just a minor victory.

a pervert on the new york city subway system; good television torrent source; see what happens when you fall for those nigerian email scams; another pervert on the subway; strangely beautiful paintings of biki atoll nuclear tests; crooked gay media outlets in the twin cities; scott heim's twenty great short stories

Posted by jason at August 26, 2024 01:18 AM

I still think it's a little sad. Gone will be the old aesthetic of the DIY culture...zines like Book Your Own Fuckin' Life, for example, will be replaced by websites and message boards...about as warm as a bowl of gazpacho. While the death of the music snob will not be mourned by most, the social hierarchy created by the "cool" of music knowledge was something I grew up on, and into, until my crash into the real world and my fall from coolness grace. It's a college radio thing, to be sure.
But, it'll be hard for me to relate to this new batch of kids with white buds in their ears, bobbing their heads to shit I had to trace through liner notes, band history, zines, the guy 4 years older than me and in a kick ass band that toured the VFW and American Legion scene, the supercilious store clerk...they'll just rip it from some friend who got it from some guy who happened upon it while, frappacino in hand, mindlessly clicked down the list of the 5,000 songs he just downloaded, and spit green goo when he heard one track..."Whoa! Who the fuck are the Replacements? Dude, they totally sound like Nirvana. Rolling Stone gave them five stars???"

Posted by: mike at August 26, 2024 08:00 AM

ohmygod, the replacements?! i love them. they used to hang out at the CC Club.

hey have you heard of the band Train? they're so cool...

Posted by: johnny at August 26, 2024 01:59 PM

You may find my reply here:

Posted by: Brian at August 26, 2024 04:05 PM

Who would've thought that the iPod would become the twenty-first century's Library of Babel?

But what's the point of being fanatically into something if you can't show off about it?

Rock snobbery is another manifestation of the collecting mania, of which there have been several studies recently. Possessing every single Wedgewood teacup or Beanie Baby or Slint bootleg only matters if nobody else has them. Rock snobbery, like opera faggotry, has the added factor that, if you weren't there when Callas hit that high C or Jerry Garcia played that particular lick, then there's no way you can top somebody who was--though of course you can pretend, which is almost as good. The iPod lets you do that.

This kind of collecting snobbery is a phenomenon of late capitalism, of course, so thanks, guys (and almost all of you are guys) for helping along the decline of the West. There's also a Freudian explanation, but you don't want to hear that though you probably can guess.

Posted by: glen at August 27, 2024 11:09 AM

I'd like to hear what it is.

Posted by: mike at August 27, 2024 05:57 PM
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