A few posters over at the forums on http://rateyourmusic.com/ have an interesting discussion about the relative death of soul and jazz since the mid 1970’s, and there was a point made that interested me:
Jazz, however, is sadly dead. It’s gone the route of classical music – another all-instrumental genre that values musicianship originally enjoyed a period as popular music (Classical era/20s jazz), then as “art” (Romanticism/Bebop), then going into the avant-garde (Atonalism/Free-Jazz), then becoming dead.
Seriously, this is what happens with near enough every genre of music – and when taking into consideration more modern styles, it happened to metal and hip hop too. Just the way it goes. Phase 1, the music is fun, light-hearted and entertaining. Phase 2, the music is taken very seriously as an artform, usually seen as the classic or golden era, lots of great, expressive, romanticist, serious works. Phase 3, the genre goes avant garde, we experiment with noise and dissonance and genre-hopping and being ‘open-minded’ and the genre eventually dies. The modern equivalent of phase 1 gets shunned off as untalented and commercial, the modern equivalent of phase 2 releases quite a few albums that could be classics but are often ignored or missed out on as they swim in a sea of 100,000 other albums every year, and the modern equivalent of phase 3 is for some reason what everyone is looking up to to sprout out one new, revolutionary classic to lead the genre into the non-existent phase 4.
It comes for us all.
Though I don’t agree with all the points made above, I think this concept of genre life cycle, from birth to popularity to art to experimental to death, is fascinating. It parallels the marketing concept of a product life cycle, where products go from introduction to growth to maturity and eventually decline. This similarity would seem to mesh with the modern commoditization of music. However, jazz died before the current eras of conglomerate radio and overcommercialization, so perhaps these popularity-controlling forces will sustain genres like rock and hip-hop longer than their counterparts. Or perhaps rock has seen a larger lifespan due to its link with the large baby boomer generation, and hip-hop has yet to reach beyond its popularity phase. In any case, I think this idea of a genre lifecycle makes far too much sense to be mere conjecture. Thoughts?1 comment
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