My friend Katie recently shared this post by Lars Gotrich from NPR’s monitor mix blog, which details a host of new musical Sub-Genres, mostly from the worlds of rock and hip-hop. It contains very helpful definitions of a ton of of these SGs (though not as comprehensive as Wikipedia or Urban Dictionary) – sort of an Unhip Person’s Guide to New Music.
Which has me thinking a bit… some of these names are preposterous (“Shitgaze,” for example, is shoegaze music that is… played poorly), but I wonder to what extent they are all embraced by their various subcultures. Anyone who’s browsed the Musician-Wanted section of Craigslist will tell you that folks certainly use these terms to describe their sound – (i.e. “We are a little bit Shoegaze with some Iggy Pop and a touch of Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster”), but do the fans of this music really use these terms? I’m unsure. Like, really, I have no idea.
It does make me think about genres past, specifically all of the various Jazz genres of the latter half of the 20th century. After the rise of Bebop in the 40’s, the map from there to here followed this route:
Bebop–Cool Jazz–Hard Bop–Free Jazz–Electronic Jazz–Pop Jazz–Neo Hard Bop Revival….
But then it sort of peters out. I think this is ’cause it’s really hard to put labels on things as they’re happening, and this article sort of bears that out. In twenty years, is anyone really going to be talking about “Crabcore?” I’m doubtful.
But then, music is more fragmented and specific than ever before, and things are different than they were in the 60’s. Those who listen to music outside the corporate mainstream tend to define their tastes by an ever-growing lexicon of obscurity, where it sometimes feels as though the point is obscurity (I refer you again to “Crabcore.”). Just take a look at the ever-growing “Genre” tab in your iTunes library. I’m certain that, for example, the new-folk revival has at least as many SGs as are listed in Mr. Gotrich’s post, SGs which your average flannel-clad Mission resident could most likely recite without batting an eye.
Precedent says that eventually most of these SGs will fall by the wayside, replaced by more broad categorizations, but perhaps this won’t always be the case. It’s not as though we need to simplify things in the interest of space, anyway – the pages of Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary are limitless in their hunger for new marginalia and jargon.
Maybe it’s more likely that musical sub-genres will become as numerous and varied as bands themselves, and we will all come to identify the type of music we listen to by simply listing the names of artists we enjoy. Which, come to think of it, is how I describe my musical tastes, anyway.