Golden Years?

I wonder if everything is really as bad in modern creative works as we seem to think they are. Every era believes that the golden age is long past, and the only way to usher in a new one is to recapture the glories of old. That’s a big part of what Pulprev is, and I believe Pulprev has a legitimate point.

I’m admittedly biased, but I’m also up front about it.

The funny thing is, those works we’re not widely regarded by the critics in their day. I know one shouldn’t place too much stock in the professional critic–after all, those who can do, and those who can’t make fun of it–but let’s go back farther than the 1920s and 30s. What did Jane Austen‘s contemporaries say about her, for example? Was she widely loved? Was Jonathan Swift? Herman Melville?

We’re Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers considered a masterpieces in their day? Or were they criticized as simple adventure stories for kids?

Every age must have its own existential issues when it comes to creativity. Ours feels more acute because we’re living in it! But even if we weren’t, this strange combination of a society that has essentially stagnated culturally since the late-1990s combined with an ever-tightening nostalgia spiral where we’re seeing remakes of things that were made just a few years ago get their own remakes.

It’s so bizarre to see Disney make live-action remakes of all it’s classic animated films, including some that aren’t really that old. Do we really need to see Disney’s entire 90s oeuvre remade in live-action form? I wonder who they’re going to get to play Quasimodo . . .

Modern music is similar, especially rock music. I checked out this great Rick Beato video where he discusses the quantizing of everything and how ProTools, which coincidentally came out in the late 1990s, resulted in everything sounding the same rhythmically. Every track is layered one by one, played to a perfect click track, and then quantized to make damn sure that everything is right on the beat, no variations in tempo here!

He goes so far as to quantize John Bonham Led Zeppelin to show how you can take a drummer with great grove and feel and make him sound like a boring chump.

You can add the over compression and the so-called “loudness wars” to this, and you end up with rock music that just doesn’t move, has no feel, the drum sound awful, and everything is very beige–and this is irrespective of all the problems with songwriting!

Beato shows how you can just cut and paste every part, add beads, change the rhythm, and do it all from my computer. No musicians necessary! I guess AI really is coming for our jobs.

That doesn’t answer my original question: did the ages of yore that we view as the golden age view themselves as a golden age

With the exception of the Boomer-era of rock ‘n’ roll, which thought that everything it touched was the greatest thing ever and shall remain so until the end of time while all other works will be forever inferior, no.

Every era believes itself to be a pale imitation of the past. Those who don’t are very defensive about asserting that these are the good old days as the scholars of past works scoff and point out the flaws and ridiculousness of contemporary works.

The pulps were spat on by the critics, even as they supplanted literary fiction. Oops. It’s the same way Led Zeppelin was lambasted back in their day. Oops.

The fallacy, especially these days, is that there is only one audience. That might have been true sixty or seventy years ago, but with the Internet that’s completely false. The gatekeepers have nowhere near as much sway as before, and especially as they cater to a narrow and narrower definition of “mainstream,” there are multiple audiences hungry for something outside of the slop they’ve been presented with.

It does feel that our current era is exceedingly stupid. Because it is. We’re in a periodic paroxysm of cultural upheaval that’s bound to happen after over a century of sawing all the branches upon which our civilization sits. The closest historical analogue in time I can think of is the Bolshevik Revolution which, let’s not forget, essentially won here in the United States.

I mean, speaking of audiences, those in charge of our cultural cathedral spend an inordinate time telling 25 to 50 percent of their audience to not enjoy their works and drop dead!

In unrelated news, Star Wars: Episode IX is going to flop.

It’s easier to tell when you’re not in a golden age than when you’re in it. And when you’re in one, don’t be afraid to acknowledge it.

We have to look to the past now because so much of the present is indefensible. Drug-addled Luciferian libertines have proven time and again that their only skill is destruction. Pretty, well-made destruction, but that’s like saying “Sure, it’s a pile of poison-covered shit, but look how well they composed it!”


My contemporaries seem to enjoy by novel A Traitor to Dreams well enough. Read the reviews for yourself, then read the book, available here!

30 comments

  1. Interesting point about the mainstream becoming narrower and narrower… and to connect it to current poisoned works, I think of frogs who leave tainted waters first. The cultural work of those frogs will be celebrated as pure and golden…….eventually, when some future revolt against crappy pop culture is necessary again.
    Yet, it’s still convoluted because that may be what today’s gatekeepers think they’re doing?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rick Beato is a genius. I’m posting up a response to this now… and I’ve got a lot of thoughts on how it applies to music. The “Golden Years” is only sort of true, because there’s still plenty of bands out there that make music the old-fashioned way. But the cultural push is always towards (non-achievable) perfection. Everything we see and hear is artificially manipulated now. Just look at classic film stars: they weren’t perfect, but they had a natural beauty anyway. Now, they can fix *everything* in post-production.

    Liked by 1 person

    • From a non-musician’s perspective, the golden years never existed. Classical and Baroque had excellent workmanship but boring melodies; 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s rock and pop had excellent melodies but diminished workmanship–save for Steely Dan; and the gangsta rap of the present combines the worst of both worlds.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Looking forward to reading it!

      Your comment about perfection is part of it. Doing music the cut-and-paste way is also EASIER. No need for talented people who can play and sing on-pitch for an entire song—just keep going till you get that ONE good take and copy and paste it over and over. Better yet, splice three garbage takes together to get a “good” one from your barely functional singer. Success!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with Mama Equis when she writes:

    “The cultural work of those frogs will be celebrated as pure and golden…….eventually, when some future revolt against crappy pop culture is necessary again.”

    —-I feel there’s gotta be some revolt against the “crappy pop culture.” Remakes, reboots, “re-imaginings.” At least there’s Indys out there.

    —I used to think people were exaggerating when they said Disney/Star Wars/(fill in your own pop culture) had supplanted God for a lot of people but it seems less crazy now when grown adults brandish lightsabers. I’ve been watching some youtube reviews of the Galaxy’s Edge park.

    I understand people want a break from real life and adult responsibilities but it just seems off, that a little boy should be excited about making a lightsaber not grown men.

    —-Sticking to Rock Music and particularly drumming I understand how some musicians stuck to a high level of musicianship and couldn’t handle less than perfection. But I think Pro Tools can remove the human performance and one-of-a-kind musical performances. Maybe it’s just the exacting nature of the recording studio that producers and other band members become too fixated with perfect time, not realizing the space and groove, not necessarily exact timekeeping are what help make a song special.

    —I think most pace “issues” aren’t even heard by the casual listener; poor drummers locked into click tracks.

    —-I disagree about Episode IX flopping. People LOVE Star Wars and aside from casual viewers looking to have a good time and break from the Christmas holiday, there’s the hardcore fans who will see it to rip it apart or see it over and over because they love it. There’s also the people curious if the movie series can be redeemed after the mess of the last jedi.

    cheers

    Like

    • Some musicians can’t handle less than perfection, but they can actually PLAY that way. Rush, Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa—they all did the perfection thing sans pro tools. It can be done. It just takes talent.

      Like

      • Alexander
        And discipline. Something that’s obviously lacking.
        There’s too much contrivance. Look at the boy bands.
        We need more apprenticeships in the arts. Slog through the practices then you become good maybe great but ya gotta work at it

        xavier

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The Golden Years are always a myth, but a critical myth for cultural conservatives. The Inklings looked back wanting to revive Christian mythology. Before them, the Pre-Raphaelites and Neo-Romantics looked back at medievalism. The Renaissance was a movement that looked back at a mythical pagan past. Greek and Roman myth and written art were all looking back at some mythological better bronze age past.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jane Austen was widely read and very popular in her day, actually. Shakespeare was reasonably financially successful. The greats of classical music had esteem in their own time. But Socrates was executed by Athens. It varies, whether greatness was recognized in its own time.

    Liked by 1 person

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