How did the hipster burn the inside of his mouth?
He was eating pizza BEFORE it was cool.
Walking into the café where I occasionally work this morning, I heard some of the strangest music I’d ever encountered in my life playing on their sound system. There was the sound of a really out-of-tune guitar and a lone, disembodied voice singing in what sounded like random fashion. And that was all there was. The music was haunting, startling, and compelling all at once. It had the effect of giving the brightly sunlit room a kind of hyper-awareness. Because of the music, I was made more aware of every detail in the room in a way I wouldn’t have been if this music hadn’t been playing. The barista told me that the music was by an artist named Jandek and that his music isn’t available in stores or itunes – you have to mail him and then he sends you his music. I checked Wikipedia and found out that Jandek belongs to that category of music classified as “Outsider” Music” – music that is not part of the commercial music industry. Outsider music is promoted usually by its fans, through word of mouth or blogs etc.
And it struck me, then, that traditional classical music seems to exist today (while not being exactly “outsider”) as music that is appreciated and enjoyed by a relatively small, dedicated group of listeners. Put another way, it seems to me that classical music is ripe for hipster appeal.
Borrowing freely from urbandictionary.com:
Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20′s and 30′s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter… Hipsters reject the culturally-ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers…It is part of the hipster central dogma not to be influenced by mainstream advertising and media.
Holy mackerel – classical music at the present time surely seems to fit snugly into the modern hipster credo. But then, classical music has always been an art form that existed largely outside the mainstream. It was music for the rich or for some elite cadre. Wasn’t Schoenberg’s “Society for Private Musical Performances” a bunch of Viennese hipsters hanging out? Or the Florentine Camerata, the Renaissance group whose discussions led to the birth of the opera art form – yeah, pretty much a bunch of hipsters. Or composer Robert Schumann’s “Davidsbundler” – the group of guys he surrounded himself with, in order to “fight the Philistines”? Yup – more hipsters.
One of the favorite discussions among arts administrators nowadays seems to be how to attract a larger audience for classical music. Perhaps, just perhaps, classical music could celebrate its inner hipster? Perhaps there is a way to market this music of the elite, the free-thinking, and the hip directly to its potentially ripest audience – the hipsters, the fans of outsider music.
You never know. Perhaps fans of Jandek would become fans of Janacek as well…