23:45:51, by admin   . Categories: Europe, books, anthropology (general), music

The world's only anthropology professor of indie music?

Arctic Monkeys @ Explanda del Estadio Azteca. Photo: monophonic.grrrl / Mariel A. M., flickr

“Ask the indie professor” is the name of a new series in the Guardian. The indie professor in question is Wendy Fonarow. At a music festival she was recently introduced as “the world’s only professor of indie music”.

“I’m not sure if I’m the only indie professor, but I’ve spent the last 18 years recording, examining and writing about the culture of indie and the international music industry”, Wendy Fonorow writes in her opening post. Her book “Empire of Dirt: The Aesthetics and Rituals of British Indie Music” tackles questions such as “Why are drummers the most ridiculed band members?”, she adds.

The readers of this new series are invited to ask questions. “So if you are curious about why cassettes are the new vinyl, or whatever else takes your fancy, here is your chance to ask”, she writes. “And please someone ask me about why Americans think they invented indie.”

After one day, there are already more than 250 comments.

The Guardian presented her book two years ago.

Here is what she according to the Guardian writes about indie culture and religion:

“Religious narratives show up in all expressive forms, from politics to music. I see a lot of the religious narrative of Puritanism in the indie music scene; the idea that, to have the pure divine experience, it has to be direct and unmediated. So the smaller and more intimate a show is, the ‘truer’ fans believe their experience was, compared to someone who saw them later on in a bigger venue. That’s why so many people claim to have seen the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club. You can also find the aesthetic of Puritanism in the way indie people present themselves, such as childlike clothing, this idea of returning to the golden age of childhood or the musical past.”

Or here about music as ethnicity:

One of my ex-students once said ‘music is my ethnicity’. People want to find other people who are like-minded so instead of finding their ethnic identity through birth they find it through aesthetic preferences and that becomes their identity. For each one of those music movements, there are modes of display. Desmond Morris talked about how different earrings can signify where you are in the age grade of certain tribes in central Africa. To outsiders these displays are subtle or hard to notice at all.”

Interesting! But it seems the anthropologist is extremely fond of theory and might tend to over-analyse her informants. Here is how the Guardian begins the presentation:

Remember that time you were crowd surfing at an Arctic Monkeys gig and thought you were just having a drunken laugh? Rubbish! You were, in fact, being “collaborative in a unique social space, expressing super-intimacy with strangers and rejecting the self-aggrandising that comes with stage-diving”. Oh yes you were. And that time you were standing at the bar and thought you were just, well, thirsty? Not at all: you were probably just “proving your credentials as an industry professional” or “communicating to others a disinterest in the act”.

These are the theories of professor Wendy Fonarow, anthropologist at UCLA in California and the author of Empire Of Dirt: The Aesthetics And Rituals Of British Indie Music.

Her book has received a lot of positive reviews, while Pichfork reviewer William Bower is less convined by the book and its language. Check also Wendy Fonarow’s website at http://www.indiegoddess.com/


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