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 Everett True

True on Morley

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Paul Morley - Morley On Media

Taken from paid Content: UK. The rest of the article is equally as interesting.

The people who really write The Guardian newspaper now are not the person whose name is at the top but the dozens below. The mission of The Guardian newspaper now is mutualisation, to accept that these people are more important than them. The Guardian are now merely the hosts at some grotesque dinner party waiting for these guys to come in and flail them.

They’ve fallen for the wrong thing. They’re not trying to generate a new way of doing things in the 21st Century. They’re falling for the gimmicky side.

I’m intrigued by this. I’m beginning to think that it’s impossible to function as a critic in web 2.0 environments without acknowledging that the basic nature of criticism has changed from a monologue to a dialogue. (This ties in with the whole academic way of thinking around music criticism during the 90s, that it’s a performance between writer and audience – see Atton, Brennan, Forde et al). At Collapse Board, I am aware that since the transition from print to online the playing fields have been levelled and there is often little – or no – distinction between the ‘critic’ and their readership. Not least because the Internet has allowed for the ‘critic’ to become anyone, however disinterested.

On several occasions I’ve attempted to shape the dialogue at Collapse Board by making the critic and reader interchangeable (e.g. here, and here). I try to encourage interaction, and for folk to accept that one person’s opinion is no more … not important, because that’s disingenuous … True than the next, unless they choose to make it thus. Of course, we rarely play to the crowd at Collapse Board whereas it seems that, 95 per cent of the time, The Guardian does. Maybe that’s as it should be: being a commercial newspaper, The Guardian‘s contributors’ and editors’ motivations are different from those at Collapse Board.

But yes, I agree. The commentary around the article is frequently more consequential than the article itself.

Is this good? I like this democratisation of opinion, but does that mean that the less thought that goes into an article the better? (All the better to generate ‘controversy’.) Also, it’s way more interesting to read an individual than a consensus.

I suspect it’s no coincidence that I was alerted to the above article by Sean Adams from Drowned In Sound’s Twitter feed. Drowned In Sound began life by publishing unedited, reader-generated, content, and it’s still very much driven by its vocal readership, alongside some equally opinionated editorial.

Paul Morley is an old school print journalist – first coming to prominence on the NME in the late 70s – and he can clearly be viewed as an expert in his field. As such, he exists in a rarified bubble. He was not trained to be a performing seal. But folk such as myself and Sean Adams, while drawing on elements of the ‘old’ music criticism, exist within an environment where it’s all about the interaction. Sean is successful at what he does, so is Paul Morley. I’m being torn to shreds, mostly.

In equal degrees, people loved and hated what I did at Melody Maker, and Careless Talk Costs Lives, and Plan B Magazine. We still have magnificent writers here at Collapse Board and yet mostly people seem to hate us. The quality of writing and the approach to writing hasn’t changed between these three publications, not particularly. So should the conclusion be reached that attitudes to music writing have changed, or that simply people have been taught to expect less from their music reviews and more from the commentary around the music reviews? Or…? I have no idea, really. I’m just a failed former music critic.

Perhaps the final quote from the linked article above sums it up:

If you try and complain about the times you live in, then your time is up. It may be that my time is up.

11 Responses to True on Morley

  1. Wallace Wylie October 9, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I find it fascinating how content people are to bow down to ongoing cultural trends and historical cycles. It’s true that if somebody complains about a particular trend or technological development you can basically set your watch and count in seconds how long it will be before someone calls the person past it, and insinuates that their uncomfortableness with a modern scenario makes them obsolete and basically dead. The kind of person who levels these “past it” accusations does so knowing that they are on the most secure ground imaginable. Nobody calls them out on it. The young revel in being young and feeling young and modern, and those who feel less than young feel a deep, abiding fear at being one of those “past it”, obsolete people. Fear of this particular kind of cultural death stalks the internet and causes such obvious nausea and insecurity I’m amazed nobody is willing to call bullshit on it. But nobody does because they fear that calling bullshit on this cultural death will mean that they themselves are obsolete. Since the time of the Impressionist movement many cultural trends that were at first derided have since attained an eventual cultural victory. This is true even today (witness the resurrection of disco and 80s pop). Fear of being on the wrong side of a cultural event gnaws away at so many people that their bite is held back. Praise for what turns out to be a piece of shit is rarely paraded around to embarrass a writer, but lambasting something that ended up being cool is true cultural death.

    I think valuing other opinions is fine, as long as it’s not at the expense of a solid, entertaining opinion that goes against the consensus.

  2. Neil Kulkarni October 9, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    hey look i’d love to give up. it’d be good for my blood pressure. mentally i’ve given myself until my book comes out (next spring) to say everything i want to say about pop music and then stop. but everytime i want to stop i stumble across some piece of shit music writing and it drags me back in: i simply can’t leave it to the fkn chuckleheads to own pop talk forever more: however eventually I will. s’just that date keeps on getting pushed back as i see more and more spodboy bollocks and smugness masquerading as writing.

  3. Chris Ovenden October 9, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Don’t you dare, Neil. Don’t you dare.

    I agree with Everett that democratization of opinion is a good thing. But we still put writers on a pedestal, by editorially processing their words, adding context (like CB’s embedded videos) and their all-important byline, embedding links to their writing to other areas of the site, etc. And that’s as it should be because the chances are that writer spent a bit more time and effort considering their words if not actually researching their subject that the commenters.

    It’s just that now the whole process is that much more transparent and accountable. The would-be opinion former is no longer handing out tablets of stone, but kicking off a debate. And how much more satisfying it is as a writer to see a debate unfolding beneath your words rather than a forlorn lack of comments, implying disinterest rather than meek compliance.

  4. Everett True October 9, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    (from Facebook)

    Ngaire Ruth, Chris Roberts and Adam Kincaid like this.

    Kevin Pearce
    This is quite fascinating, and I find myself very much in sympathy with Paul’s views. I guess I’m lucky in that people don’t comment much on what I write.

    Ng Tailor
    biting my tounge…..

    Anthony Dolphin
    Morley has a mind fine enough and humble enough to have anticipated and theorised his own obsolescence (and taken this to indicate the extinction of all cultural gatekeepers), whereas Everett still fantasises that his opinions inspire hatred. For someone whose views were once widely-read and provoked a reaction, a modest platform and indifference must be hard to bear but this is what the revolution always promised brothers and sisters: an affordable and accessible platform for all, cheap gear to record/broadcast with and a non-canonical pluralism free from the commercial demands du jour. Nothing about veneration or renumeration in there. Nothing about making a career out of it.

    Everett True
    Eh? I totally accept my own obsolescence. You shouldn’t let your hatred of me cloud your judgment otherwise you just come across as an untutored prat.

    Everett True
    I never wanted my opinions to inspire hatred. I only ever wanted people to dance to the same music that I danced to.

    Kevin Pearce
    I think what’s being missed here is Paul saying is The Guardian’s use of ‘the revolution’ the only one etc. That’s why he’s right to refer to radio phone-in shows in the same breath. And I would argue MORE people are making careers and names for themselves out of the new technology. It really is not all about doing it for love from what I see.

  5. Everett True October 9, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    (from Twitter)

    of course, A critic should rattle the cages, make all parties examine their motives and add to the conversation…

    And by all parties, I mean musician, band, critic. It should be a constant convo against complacency.

    I think the lines are still being redrawn but a great critic can still cut through. People will respond to it…

    indeed but 2.0 has seen a shift in perception that anything that isn’t recommendation (or polite) is trolling.

    a lot stems from that pitchfork life-style/consumer guide approach. Great, critical writing can rise above…

    …and people need that filter now to help them cut through the information overload.

    I disagree. Some of the finest reviews on CB are the ones most vehemently accused of trolling. e.g. http://tinyurl.com/453muda

    …or http://tinyurl.com/3dq7wcm. Or http://tinyurl.com/3p59uey. Etc

  6. Wallace Wylie October 10, 2011 at 2:18 am

    What’s often forgotten amongst all this talk of the internet creating new forms of communication and making others obsolete is that culture revives and slaughters at will . What seemed obsolete will suddenly be rescued from the dustbin of history. A completely obscure artist who sold next to nothing (like less than a thousand) could be picked up 50 years after their death by whatever the equivalent of a blogger is in that future time and resurrected. With the nature of the internet enough info could be dug up and some kind of cultural context could be created for them, when in reality they meant nothing in their time. The same can be true for almost anything. Writing, art, music, TV shows, movies, gaming, technology…..all can be rediscovered and revived 20 years after they were called obsolete. While information exists true death seems almost impossible (I don’t mean a physical being dying). Those who take delight in declaring something obsolete are merely viewing the march of modernity through blinkers. All can be resurrected. All can be revived.

  7. Matt O'Neill October 11, 2011 at 9:59 am

    That last comment is probably my favourite thing Wallace has ever written.

    It reminds me of a recent conversation I was a part of involving vinyl, CDs and downloads. Somebody, seemingly without irony, said bands should choose vinyl because “CDs are a dead format”. I found myself wondering what that made vinyl. Or, for that matter, cassettes. Nothing’s ever truly dead. Health and success are just not static concepts.

  8. Ben Myers October 12, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Holy shit…I think I actually agree with Paul Morley.

    I’ve definitely noticed a shift at the Guardian (who I have contributed blogs to for 5 years) away from freelance written articles covering different writers’ specialist areas of interest towards ‘Readers recommend their favourite songs about cooking’ list-type features.

    The past couple of months have quietly seen most freelancers jettisoned in favour of such pieces collectively written by readers. Free content, basically.

    I’m biased of course, but I find these articles are either a) shouting matches where no single voice gets heard above the roar or, worse b) just really dull reads.

  9. Everett True October 12, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Yeah, it’s hard to argue with free content, isn’t it?

    Amazon provide the model for all other point-of-sale websites to look on, and envy. Hundreds, thousands even, of reader reviews and ratings that provide a fair more comprehensive overview (and publicity) than anything their rivals can offer. And it’s all free!

  10. Everett True October 13, 2011 at 6:49 am

    There’s more on this over at Drowned In Sound.

  11. Everett True October 13, 2011 at 9:38 am

    (Taken from the Drowned In Sound discussion – comment by Sean Adams)

    time is the major commodity of the modern world. even people who can listen to music all day, everyday, still have to make decisions about what to spend their time on, when there are so many other options.

    seems obvious but my own prediction for the future is that there will be sites and services which have a huge depth of content and those which make sense of it, and offer up a few suggestions, which repeatedly are great and breed an element of trust. i think people need to know that someone has spent a crapload of time doing their research and ‘this’ is the best they’ve found from all of it (which is why our end of the year list is popular with people who rarely visit the site)

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