Hot off the presses of lived reality! Two week old thoughts on Critical Beats at Stratford Circus with Joe Muggs, Lisa Blanning, Simon Reynolds, and moderator Steve Goodman!
My question, which I didn't manage to ask - would have been about negativity in music. The panel discussed positivity/negativity in music-writing a lot, but I wanted to hear their thoughts on negativity in music.
Negativity in two senses, one being the destructive impulse to trash and render obsolete your forebears (classic example being punk vs prog, but also to be found in the Dance Continuum in its broadest sense, with grime's hoods & trainers turning out the lights on UKG's champage & smart shoes aesthetic, or with less of a scorched-earth animus, in hiphop/jungle passim, with the urge to outdo & supersede competitors... is it possible you just don't get moments of opposition/irruption as abrupt as punk because of how structurally & formally wedded dance music and (almost all) its subgenres are to continuity: they depend on the Mix, and this programmes in continuity (or Continuumosity (oh god) if you like)
The other kind of negativity I had in mind was that of formal absence: the way a genre is defined as much by what it's not as what it *is*. Take footwork - which came up repeatedly as an example of the New. This did come up via a different Q, as SR talked about its narrow formal range and the way in which its isolation, as a scene largely unto itself, ticking along under the radar of international appreciation networks for so long, had allowed it to blossom.
There was a question from the balcony approximately a paragraph in length which baffled many. I think it boiled down to this: there's a discussion regarding innovation in dance music which should acknowledge that it's coming from a particular group - a predominantly white middle-class group - and that this discourse should therefore be carefully scrutinized. *If* that was the question, it was a fair one: think of the tradition in the indie music press to valorize a certain kind of 'conscious' rapper for 'avoiding gangsta cliches' about 'drugs, guns and hoes'. You should check your privilege and then check it again just to make sure. But it felt as though the inflection of the original very long question was towards the idea that the blinkers of race/class had perhaps misidentified where 'innovation' lay, and I'm less convinced by that. I think those blinkers have their effects elsewhere. This issues also came to mind listening to Joe Muggs. It was great listening to someone so devoted to being a reporter: absorbing 100s of tracks a month, crunching through international scenes and trends, getting out in the field. But: although I wouldn't go so far as to say he's the dubstep Pangloss, it did feel as though JM's view left a fair bit out through a reliance on the utopian metaphor of the Melting Pot: the club as melting point (all races, classes, creeds etc) and music as melting point (chuck it all in, stir it round). Depending on your position you could say this evades or suppresses or simply passes over for others some fairly important discussions. Like the profiles of eg the American dubstep audience or the UK grime audience. Or more technically/formally, the fact that footwork only exists as this startling outcrop of ideas because it *doesn't* fold in as many genres as it possibly can, and that its hungry absorption (gentrification) by other scenes will inevitably alter it, normalize it, flatten it.