Familiarity Breeds Consent? Distance and Dependence in Fringe Music Writing

Graham, Stephen. 2023. Familiarity Breeds Consent? Distance and Dependence in Fringe Music Writing. In: Ian Pace and Christopher Wiley, eds. Writing on Contemporary Musicians: Promotion, Advocacy, Disinterest, Censure. Abingdon: Routledge. [Book Section] (Forthcoming)

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Abstract or Description

How do writers on fringe musical forms create critical distance when the proximity and co-dependence inherent in fringe scenes work against it? Critical distance – in this context, the willingness to test and extend pre-given conceptual frames and criticise artistic content – is a crucial but often neglected value in writing on music. Music’s cultural power and semiotic ‘give’ leads to writing that boosts more than it interprets. This conflict is felt all the more in contexts where personal access and even intimacy characterises the writer-artist relationship.

This chapter looks at a series of case studies – Ben Watson on Derek Bailey, Irmin Schmidt and Rob Young on Can, Tara Rodgers on electronic music and a selection of shorter pieces from The Wire magazine – in light of both this claim and the opening question. Do these examples from different fringe scenes and contexts maintain critical distance and, if so, to what end? In itemising a range of characteristic fringe approaches and issues it argues that, although staying within readymade interpretative settings is understandable and can even lead to good work, much more is gained by writers applying a critical spotlight to their subject.

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January 2023Accepted

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Date Deposited:

06 Jan 2023 17:28

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07 Jan 2023 01:27



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