Aging, Death, and Revival: Representations of the Music Industry in Two Contemporary Novels

Moorey, Gerard (2014) Aging, Death, and Revival: Representations of the Music Industry in Two Contemporary Novels. Popular Music and Society, 37 (1). pp. 65-84. ISSN 0300-7766

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Abstract

This article examines the passing of the rock ideology: the system of distinctions and stratifications whereby popular music was classified and argued over in terms of its cultural value and authenticity. It does this by analyzing parallel representations of the music industry in two contemporary novels: Jonathan Franzen's Freedom (2010) and Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010). Both novels suggest that rock culture and the ideology underpinning it are finally nearing their end or, what amounts to much the same thing, have undergone such a radical transformation in recent years as to be unrecognizable. In the popular press of the last couple of decades, any number of emergent cultural and artistic forms have been casually granted the epithet “the new rock and roll.”1 But what happens to rock and roll itself once it has become “old”? This is the question asked in two acclaimed novels, Jonathan Franzen'sFreedom (2010) and A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) by Jennifer Egan, both of which mark the passage into the second decade of the new millennium. By alighting on characters who are intimately connected with the music industry, either as musicians or as talent scouts and promoters, both novelists examine the passing of what, in broad terms, might be called “the rock era.” This is to say, they chart the decline and fall of “rock” not so much as a discrete style of music, or even as a meta-genre (Fabbri), but rather as an ideology: a system of distinctions and stratifications whereby popular music is classified and argued over in terms of its cultural value and authenticity. As Keir Keightley comments, “Taking popular music seriously, as something ‘more’ than mere entertainment or distraction, has been a crucial feature of rock culture since its emergence” (110). It is precisely this endowment of seriousness to popular music that Egan's and Franzen's novels question, not in order to disparage or discredit popular music—at least, not chiefly in order to do this—but instead to re-think its taken-for-granted centrality in the cultural life of Western societies since at least the end of World War II. In their different ways, what both novelists do is to present us with a world—our own—in which music is no longer as important as it once was.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Popular Music and Society on 31 January 2014, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/03007766.2012.726036.
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Media > Music and Media
Research Priority Areas: Being Human - Past, Present & Future
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2015 14:11
Last Modified: 04 Nov 2016 16:00
URI: http://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/1290

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