Romanticism and Rock
A rock musician who has not read Worthsworth’s preface to Lyrical Ballads, Shelley’s Defense of Poesy, and certain of John Keats letters to his friends and brothers (especially the letter on the power of negative capability), cannot be said to really get what rock music is about.
I have been talking to rock musicians lately about this, and I am appalled at their ignorance of their own tradition. Without these insights from romanticism there is no way a rock musician can reasonably innovate without most likely just ignorantly rehashing a romantic trope.
A rock musician ignorant of romanticism has no way of knowing where she has come from – how can she find a future in herself without knowing the name of the force which possesses her. For the power or force that flows through great rock music is no less than Romanticism itself.
And what is Romanticism? It is the power of daemonic phantasy to adorn, overcome, overpower, or transcend reason.
It is the power of the capital-a Artist.
Is it the daemonism (no not demonism: look the word up you doofae) the daemonism of inspiration past madness.
Romanticism is THE driving force of modernism. The desire to be free of the past that infuses Romanticism – a force which will deny even it’s own point of origin in order to feign a reckless libertinage over the wildly, truly liberating sound of the Rolling Stones and Beatles - is the sole source of avaunt garde rock.
The pretense of canonicism is heavy on rock music. We are a group, rock seem to say, of total individuals. But the result is like the mob in the Monty Python film Life of Brian when Brian tells the crowd to act individual and they all shout back in unision “Yes! We’re all individual.”
To be a really individual rock artist is to pay the price: conform to the reality of the past as a foundation for genuine innovation.
Romanticism is the soul of Rock. Ignore it at your peril.