Friday, June 15, 2007

The Time This Blog Saved My Career

The listserv of the American Musicological Society is currently embroiled in an extremely frustrating discussion of the "disco sucks" movement. Obviously this listserv is not the place one goes for intellectual stimulation--a usual discussion thread will be something like, "Hey, let's list every piece of music we can think of that is about trains!"--but you know, I wish it didn't want to make me tear my eyeballs out. I can deal with boredom, but this...

Anyways, my friends and I joke that one's cultural capital in musicology is inversely proportional to the number of emails one sends to the AMS-l. But because I need to vent steam, this is what I would email in were I more careless. It is apropos of several emails from various scholars assuming that we all agree disco music is shallow and dishonest. My response is the boiler plate response anyone who has remotely studied popular music would give.
I myself was not born until after the famous Disco Demolition night in Chicago, so disco is purely a historical phenomenon for me, as it is for the undergraduates I teach--their knowledge, and mine before graduate school, largely comes from doing the "YMCA" at middle school dances.

So given that most of us historians of a sort, it seems important to emphasize that it might not be so productive to reproduce a historical debate as if we are now unaware of its ramifications. If the music was shallow, then the implicit argument is that those who found meaning in it were themselves shallow. Rejecting an entire genre of music wholesale is also to be rejecting those people who listened to it. Perhaps not everyone in the 1970s was aware of disco's original fan base in urban communities of gay black men, but presumably everyone on this list is now aware of this.

See, blogs make everything seem much more civilized. If I sent this to the list, people would think I am accusing them of homophobia (and they would be right), flames would ensue, my enemies would end up on a search committee someday, bad bad bad. Here, I can post this, maybe a few people will respond, and it's all good.

Incidentally, many congratulations to my two friends who received their doctoral hoods today! May we all live to see such a day for ourselves.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

YOU WROTE: "Anyways, my friends and I joke that one's cultural capital in musicology is inversely proportional to the number of emails one sends to the AMS-l."

What joke?? Actually, I think the AMS-L needs a filter, that's all. The person who develops a filter for insecurity, hubris, and pseudointellectual drivel, deserves an award.

Yet, I subscribe. For the CFPs, job announcements, and the occasional diamond in the rough.

And thanks for your diamond post, btw. :-)