Friday, May 3, 2013

A French man called Cyril Galbrun told me about his schema for differentiating punk / postpunk / new pop as stages of the same cultural formation:

1st wave, the “new” one that would be new wave [i.e. punk]
2nd wave, the “modern” one that would be post-punk
3rd wave, the “postmodern” one that would be new pop

and Cyril compared it to Art Nouveau / 20th Century avant-garde / postmodernism as phases in an otherwise unified dynamic

I suggested that it might actually correspond better to Fredric Jameson's schema of Realism / Modernism / Postmodernism

Realism: novelists, painters, playrights, addressing social reality in a more direct and unprettified way, a response to the effects of industrial revolution and science, the desacralisation of the world

Modernism: more abstract, a series of formal responses to the forces and currents underneath the surface of the modern world, the accelerating pace of industriallism and urbanisation, huge leaps in terms of speed, mass communications, energy extraction...

Postmodernism: the dawning of the post-industrial era, the rise of the age of information and mass media, which then becomes digital / computer-based / net-based. A society saturated with images, advertising, desacralized iconography (celebrity, brands, logos). Where virtually the whole space of the social is commodified.

Punk would be Realism (of a kind never really seen before in rock, which had previously been largely Romantic - the Clash writing about tower blocks and street violence etc)

Postpunk is the more abstract response to  the same reality, based in the belief that the form should be as challenging/confrontational/anti-Romantic as the lyrical content.

New pop is the shift into postmodernity, meta-pop - music about music, self-reflexivity, pop that is about the history of pop and its own archive of images and styles.

It's not watertight because glam was a preview of New Pop stylereflexivity / archival quoting, history-as-wardrobe of costumes and roles; punk wasn't all Realism -- indeed glam currents of excess, theatre, the Extraordinary were in there too; some elements in postpunk already got working on the postmodern-y stuff that New Pop would do....

In any given phase there are figures whose mindset/modus operandi belongs to an earlier phase and often produce good results that are hard to deny. And - this being pop, where the standards aren't as rigorous as art theory or academia, there's a certain laxness - there are people who oscillate, or hold opposed sets of ideas simulataneously: Bowie the postmodernist circa Ziggy becomes Bowie the modernist circa Low/Heroes, because he falls under the spell of time-lagging Romantic-Avant-Garde Krautrockers. Then he goes back to postmodern with "Let's Dance"

Eno is another one who oscillates back and forth, in his interviews in the late Seventies he will be espousing innovation/make-it-new type talk at some points, and then at others he's already questioning the role of innovation in artistic creativity (saying it's a small percentage), talking the patter that eventually led him to scenius and curator-as-creator.

But overall I think the schema works quite well, and fits how rock's evolution -- Romanticism to Realism to Modernism to Postmodernism -- occurred in an accelerated form, out of synch with higher culture - but recapitulating that dynamic.(Is it an inherent logic within any given cultural field?)

Some of the discrepancies in the schema actually come through bleed-through into pop culture of ideas from higher culture / the Art World. So for instance while Rock in the Sixties / early Seventies is essentially Romantic, in the larger culture Pop Art and Warhol has already happened  and that can't help contaminating rock's brighter but also  more impressionable minds e.g. Bowie who transitions from hippie singer-songwriter into Warholite rocker.


But then - as I concluded in my chat with Cyril - the question that we are asking, still, and with increasingly perplexity, is WHAT COMES AFTER POSTMODERNISM? Because as far as I can tell we're still in it, up to our necks. Most of the practices that I lump together under the rubric "recreativity" are basically postmodernism with added digital / netculture powers.

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