February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
February 21, 2011
One year ago, Paste Magazine’s associate editor Rachel Maddux wrote a provocative article that asked the question, “Is Indie dead?” Comparing the question to the one TIME writer John T. Elson wrote forty five years ago concerning the more existential question, is God dead?, Maddux ties the theological question to the musical one:
Elson wrote of some believers who accepted God’s death as truth but chose to continue as if nothing was different, just to maintain the order of their lives and the world. Indie is an artistic ideal, not a world religion, so while it faces the same dilemma—as a word that once meant so much, and still does to some, but has virtually lost all meaning and may now be doing more harm than good—there’s no need to be so careful. We can tear down this idol with reckless abandon because, to our question, there is a concrete answer: Indie is dead. It has killed itself. (link)
Elson’s project, swirling in the turbulence of the 60s and 70s, led to a very premature conclusion. God is not dead. Belief in God is very much present in twenty first century life, in both Western culture and the developing world. You could even say that God is thriving.
You could make the exact same statement about Maddux’s well intentioned but premature conclusion concerning indie rock. The concept of indie as underground, Do-It-Yourself, independent music may have changed, but the death of indie as a codified idea for Gen Xers is a grand project in missing the point. Just as culture has radically re-conceived of a God in its own image (we now have a Moralistic Therapeutic Deism) so too has indie changed with the times. It’s not dead if it changes, just like a child does not die when they hit puberty. They are new, different, changed, but certainly not dead.
The impetus of this sudden indie revival is last week’s stunning victory for indie rock: Arcade Fire, an indie rock outfit from Montreal, won album of the year at the Grammys. Arcade Fire is on Merge Records, one of the premier indie record labels, and they jut walked all over Eminem, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Lady Antebellum. As much as Arcade Fire may be a first class act in artistically minded circles, most people had no idea who they were when they won the award, which led to a storm of backlash from the pop music community. Thus, indie was resurrected.
In Maddux’s essay, she notes that Elson used as support a quote from Kierkegaard:“The day when Christianity and the world become friends, Christianity is done away with.” In similar fashion, indie had begun to make piece with the world of advertising. The Decemberists and other indie darlings signed onto major record labels like Capital Records. Indie music has become the de facto soundtrack of TV shows not named Glee. Indie was entering the mainstream as Maddux wrote; therfore, it must be dead. Taking that perspective, Arcade Fire winning a Grammy award is the gravestone. Yet, this could also be interpreted as the stone rolling away.
Elson was right about the death of God—the problem with his thesis is an anthropocentric view. To elaborate on the Kierkegaard quote, God did not die when Christianity and the world became friends, but it is far more likely that Christianity and Christians may have died spiritually. In Christianity, the world is supposed to be put to rights, to quote N.T. Wright. The same goes for Indie music. To Maddux and others indie may have appeared to be dead, with its acceptance, its awards, its supposed artistic Constantinianism. Instead, one can hope that indie just may put the music world to rights.