One River of Prose, with Many Tributaries

“[G]eneric labeling is of little utility, and can be seriously misleading. For the fact of the matter is that America’s many vernacular musics are dialects—not separate, mutually exclusive languages. In practice, spirituals and gospel music are often musically identical to blues and rhythm and blues, for example; only the lyrics change, from sacred to secular. In today’s jazz, an increasing number of special collaborations that span historical styles and generations are making a mockery of the vastly oversimplified notion that this music developed in a straight line, as a series of revolutions by young Turks against the musical status quo.”

Robert Palmer, “The Names May Change, But the Beat Goes On” (NY Times, 19 June 1986); it’ll be reprinted later this year in the Palmer retrospective Blues & Chaos.

I’d suggest, freely admitting that it is no great original insight, that something much the same has been going on in American literature as well, rendering the distinctions made between “literary” and “popular” fiction—between, to take one notorious point of contention, “chick lit” and “not chick lit”—equally misleading. I don’t really have much more than that to go on right now, but I wanted to set the thought down while it was fresh, perhaps as something to return to later…

9 September 2009 | uncategorized |