Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


During a break at work I was telling a friend about finding this old patriotic song “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” in an old book of music for kids. I sang the first few bars and my friend said, “Oh, I know that song from Bugs Bunny!”

Years ago my beloved spouse went to see a Seattle Opera production of Wagner’s “Die Walkure.” (Please visualize an umlaut over the “u.”) During the Flight of the eponymous spirits, the auditorium murmured with everybody whispering “Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit,” quoting Elmer Fudd in Bugs’s version of the tune.

Bugs made Wagner pop, just like Stanley Kubrick got Richard Strauss to write the theme song to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” 70 years before the fact, sure, but that’s a technicality.

What is classical music? The music of J. S. Bach has more in common with Britney Spears than Anton Webern. It’s tonal, it’s catchy, and a lot of it is based on dance rhythms.


In some rockwrite circles I’ve intersected with, usually only as a reader, it’s an article of faith that “Britney sucks.” Just mention the name, no need for elaboration. I was suspicious. I didn’t know her music. She had a catchy Pepsi commercial a couple baseball seasons ago. Saw her on Saturday Night Live once; didn’t remember her songs but she was funny and charming in the skits, as good as Derek Jeter. The contrarian in me was really happy when I heard a song I really liked on Top 40 radio, looked it up, and found out the singer was Britney.

I mention this because I recently came across a blog by an interesting writer named Franklin Bruno, who critiques the music-crit term “rockist.” He makes good points (that “rockist” is always pejorative) and observations (that “rockist” and “racist” are orthographically similar) and asks what do people mean by “rockist” anyway? Since on June 6, shortly before reading this, I had pejoratively used the word “rockist” to describe Nick Hornby, I feel motivated to answer Franklin’s question. Rockists are rock music fans who reflexively say Britney sucks, or who say a certain genre of music sucks because it’s “too commercial.” Nick Hornby excellently exemplifies what I’m talking about in the piece I was commenting on, where he uses Britney as an exemplar of bad music that’s too commercial.

It’s fine if you think Britney sucks, I only ask that if you mention it, you explain why, and not assume that it’s self-evident. I like Britney.

The “ism” of rockism connotes religiosity to me. I'm all in favor of religious enthusiasm about music, but a lot of Rockists are intolerant fundamentalists, and intolerant-ists grate on my nerves. I will try to be more tolerant of them in future.

Rockists who equate Aggression with the Rock grate especially. The Aggressivist view of Rock leaves out Carole King, for one thing. Carole King rocks! If the only songwriter to be covered by the Beatles and the Byrds and Aretha Franklin is not rock-worthy, that's not the Ism for me.


I’m not guilt-ridden. I’m aggressive in my denunciation of aggressionism. The irony is found on me. I don't know what to do about it.

Now this is funny ;)
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