Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Mea Culpa!

Man, where did I disappear to? Nowhere really. Just life and family and stuff. But I'm back, I promise. And I missed all kinds of good stuff, including the apparent dismissal of bookie favorite Bez from the British version of Celebrity Big Brother. Reportedly, the only thing he regretted was that he could not smoke ganja in the house. Ah, Bez.

I have just been called a snob on a music thread at Eschaton. Hmmm. I don't think I am, really. There are things I don't listen to, but hey, there are only so many hours in a day! I just don't need to fill them with New Edition.

But snobbery, it seems to me, is a peculiar impulse. Thersites would point us to Bourdieu's Distinction, in which everyone's favorite Frog sociologist discusses patterns of consumption, identity, and the field. But I'm not Thersites. I see snobbery as an essentially exclusionary impulse, identity formation through process of (fierce, refusing) elimination. Not, "I am this person," but, "I am this person because I am not that person and never would be, and the person I am is better than that other person."

None of which is intended in anything like a hierarchical or moral sense, at least not from my end. We pop fans are modest: we make no claims to high culture. There are pop snobs, no doubt. I've met them. But it's not like I'm tying people down making them listen to XTC. I'm just encouraging them to do so. And ya know, if you're in my car, you take what you get. But I do weary of people saying to me, "That sucks!" over what, is, essentially, a matter of taste. (Particular pet peeve? When they do not in fact know the music in question and are sneering based on reputation, not actual opinion.)

This really only seems to be a problem when I'm shuttling teens about, which gets to my central point about the process of identity formation implied by snobbery: it's basically an adolescent mode of functioning. I don't ask anyone to come this site; hell, I'm embarrassed that somehow my mother-in-law found it. I'm always deeply touched when people find me through it, which happens not frequently, but steadily. Fellow travelers. But I expect the Leonard Cohen people congregate somewhere, and the Queensryche people, and the New Edition people. Don't they?


Fox said...

I don't know about the Queensryche & New Edition kids, but I can tell you it's pretty lonely being a Jimmy Eat World diehard in Bingoland.

Abelard & Heloise tomorrow night?


Anonymous said...

gotta love that john malkovich!

cake or death

refinnej said...

Sorry about the Mom-informing. (She wants to look at the babyblogging.) Honestly though, the one who should be concerned is Thers. (She's read the posts and may have questions when next they meet.)

By the way, The Velvet Underground totally rocks. So does REM but for different reasons.

Eli said...

Damn, I missed a music thread!

From briefly glancing, I can only assume that they meant "showoff" instead of "snob." If, as you say, you put other people down as unworthy of you because of their inferior tastes, or their ignorance of Heaven 17 and Tenpole Tudor, then yes, you're a snob. But if you just rave about a whole bunch of bands that no-one else has ever heard of, then you're either a diehard true believer or a total showoff, or both, largely depending on what kind of person they think you are.

Although if obscure music is at the center of your blog, you can probably make a pretty good case for "diehard true believer."

NYMary said...

One person's diehard true believer is another person's geek. And yet another person's snob.

Anonymous said...

I used to get the snob thing a lot when I was younger. The most common complaint was that I "hated everything." And yet, my record collection had almost ten thousand albums in it, while the people bitching at me had a few hundred, tops. Go figure!

Really, I think my attitude is pretty normal...I'm passionate about music, I like what I like, and I'm interested in why other people like they they like, whether I like it or not. My best friends have very different taste from me, but I love hearing them explain it...it's fascinating. I can appreciate someone's taste as being an interesting aspect of who that person is, without having to agree with it or (God forbid) change it.

Thers said...

Uh, I don't see the conflict with Bourdieu. B says that distictions happen, which they do, and that they are always also connected with social and cultural position, which they are. The problems crop up when these distinctions are presumed to be natural, normal, and insurmountable, as opposed to merely arbitrary.

I mean, it's not like you CAN'T say 85% of what you need to know about someone after you know what he or whe listens to and seeing how he or she dresses, speaks, and walks.

NYMary said...

Well, you obviously know Bourdieu a lot better than I do, Thers. My point was simply that instead of Bourdieu's three-dimensional model of the field, snobbery works on a two-dimensional ladder structure, it seems to me, the rungs of which each person decides for his or herself. Leaping into three dimensions makes everything more complicated right away, and thus indicates a more grown-up level of functioning. Dismissal (i.e. "that iss below me on the ladder and thus I shit on it") is simpler and more adolescent.

Personally, I aspire to an appreciation of other genres, though maybe not so much when you're flipping channels and stop on Motorhead.

Phila said...

That "anon" was me, if you didn't know. Re Thersites comment about "gut instinct," I have to confess that when I did "music journalism," my tendency was to look at the fonts, look at the song titles, drop the needle in a couple of places, trash the album, and sell it. I could do a couple dozen in an afternoon.

A friend of mine and I actually intended to start a magazine where we'd review records without listening to them, based on the record's appearance, band's clothes, and so forth...we were too lazy to get around to it, though. We got the idea because both of us ran record labels, and got a fair amount of promos...we used to write quick reviews before listening, and have a contest to see who was more accurate...it was really depressing how often you could get it right.

For a while I decided that anyone who creates a great work of art actually sullies the world and increases the volume of human misery, by inspiring thousands of tenth-rate imitations. That was possibly a bit overwrought, though...