A few posts back I wrote:
Dedication to old gear and pure hacking vis a vis current proprietary software systems in some ways recalls the rock purists of yore who insisted that only black Delta blues musicians had integrity relative to British cover bands, or that 3-chord garage bands always had the edge over prog rock & fusion. This kind of essentialism has Occam's razor logic on its side but can also grow stuffy and cult-like.
Modern Kicks replies here:
Point taken, and I generally agree. But with two caveats: (1) the part about 3-chord garage bands isn't really analogous to the first example, and (2) it happens to be correct. As the Mad Peck [in Creem magazine] taught us all long ago.
Then I said:
Thanks for the feedback on those posts. Regarding your earlier comment, I added a parenthetical ("Was it really necessary to throw out the baby of Canterbury and electric Miles with the bilge of Kansas and Spyro Gyra?") re: the prog and fusion (or proto-fusion) I think holds up against the Pistols, etc. By "Canterbury and electric Miles" I mean Soft Machine, Tony Williams Lifetime, Can, Faust, John Cale, "Thrust"-era Herbie Hancock, Larry Coryell ca. "Live at the Village Gate," early Mothers, Fred Frith, etc etc. Also, you didn't explain what makes 3-chord rock purists different from Delta blues purists.
Then MK said:
I guess my point was that prizing the integrity of black Delta blues over the British bands that covered them is to make a distinction between an original and a copy. But preferring 3-chord garage rock to prog isn't a matter of original and copy, it's choosing between two competing aesthetics. So the two comparisons work in different ways. The garage rocker doesn't dislike prog because it's a distortion of his aeshetic (as the blues aficionado does feel about, say, Led Zeppelin); he hates it because it opposes what he values.

I suppose one could argue that there is a similarity on the basis of a demand for some idea of authenticity on the part of the Delta blues and garage rock fan. But I'm not sure that works either. After all, many British bands insisted on attempting to maintain as high a degree of blues authenticity as possible (obviously a limited one, but nevertheless.) And garage, rather than the spontaneous expression of rock and roll it claims to be, is almost always an intellectualized, even mannered aesthetic. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
My reply to that:
Yes, the point of similarity was (presumed) authenticity but more particularly--in the context of hackers making music vs. musicians using off-the-shelf software--the quest for a kind of musical sine qua non. Thus the reference to Occam's razor: Which is the most economical musical expression? The original or the copy? The basic or the hyper-elaborated? 1s and 0s or unnecessary proprietary code? It still seems all of a piece to me. More important, all three (blues, garage, the command line) can be cults demanding adherence to the divine orthodoxy of reduction, as against the possibility that there might actually be good British blues, good use of Reaktor, or (gasp) good prog. And the Mad Peck was wrong about Kraftwerk, they were robotoid but also funky, which is why they were playing in boomboxes all over NYC in '78, and their audiovisual minimalism was admired by many punkers.

- tom moody 3-12-2005 12:47 am

Thanks for the link and comments. I must admit to being a little out of my depth here, but I don't think I really disagree with your broader point as stated here. Then again, I'm not really a garage rock cultist (I just play one on the internets.) I would say, while the sort of hardline purist attitudes you mention can be stultifying, a lot of times they are simply a way for someone to define what they are doing in order to get their own project (whatever it may be) going. When it's oppressive, it's oppressive, but the answer may lie in simply not taking it too seriously. Which is part of the reason why, true as it may be, it doesn't matter so much that The Mad Peck was wrong about Kraftwerk. He's still fun, he's just not the last, or only, word. That, of course, is bird.
- MS (guest) 3-14-2005 9:36 pm

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