October 24, 2002

The Rant

Print More

The bane of any critic’s existence is the relentlessness of all these genres that come into being and just will not leave, not for any price, not for any woman. We are critics. Our hopes lie in exerting our elitism, equipping ourselves with our own savage wit so we can brutalize new “genres” as fads and gimmicks. But, as hard as we try, these genres always seem to reemerge, stronger than ever, infecting a whole new generation. I’ve been wanting to say rock is dead since 1955, but then those punks at the record companies bring out an Elvis, or a Beatles, or a Nirvana and immediately dash all my hopes. Rock’s death is dead. I’ll be dead before it is. I thought for a moment I had gleaned the most glorious gimmick of all time when “Rapper’s Delight” came out, but now Eminem is the artiste famous so that dream is done. Hell, even hick music, which we all thought died somewhere in the New Deal, is at the forefront of the O Brother renaissance.

So who exactly can an enterprising critic desecrate? All these genres keep persevering, damn it, avoiding my death threats. (I have a restraining order that keeps me 30 kilometers from all jazz.) Frankly, I’m at a loss here. All I’m asking for, people, is one genre that I can send to the coroner’s office and thus launch myself into history as the one that prophetically said, his voice as loud and sonorous as the sound of spring, “[This genre] is dead.” Thus, this small box will be the destruction of a genre, for I have found a way out of this critic’s quandary. It is my intention to elucidate my theory in these pages today, letting the world know which genre is destined for destruction.

There will be those that contest my decision, but they are the stragglers, as dead as the music they adore. There can be no qualms here: German opera from the Baroque Era is not as vital or volatile as it once was. I admit, I was surprised when Dietrich Buxtehude’s Choral Preludes and Fugues beat out ‘N Sync’s “I Want You Back” on that infamous Total Request Live episode in ’98, but that was just one last gasp of desperation on the part of those “Buxteheads” (as the fans of Buxtehude are endearingly termed). The German Baroque period of classicism is currently on the outskirts of the pop culture front. As Encarta tells us (and, if you are an aficionado of what Steinbeck called “Baroakie Culture,” be prepared for a shock), the German Baroque era essentially terminated in the mid-17th century. Sensing that I had finally found a genre in its declining years, I rushed out to interview fifty people. In answer to the question, “Who would you rather listen to, Heinrich Sch