Quickie (literally)

I'm doing a course on he historiography of music, which mostly consists of reading books like this. One topic that comes up a lot, in traditional music history, is periodization: how to divide history into blocks, which for some reason is considered important.

Our teacher, obviously stuck in the usual elitist Eurocentric (aka "western") tradition, talked about the length of periods, and mentioned how some claim you can have sub periods as short as maybe 25 years! Some people claim Sturm und Drang as a subperiod even! Obviously, as a pop genre buff I scoff at that sort of numbers. In pop music discourse it's not uncommon to have genres that everyone agrees only lasted for five years or so - grabbing something out of thin air, say, post-punk.

This got me thinking. What, when it comes to generally used and agreed-upon genre names, is the shortest-lasting genre ever? Tentatively I've started thinking of really short genres with definite starts and stops, and I've come up with Rocksteady's two short but incredibly, incredibly creative years as a first shot. But surely there must be even shorter ones?


Anonymous said...

yikes. i hope your teacher doesn't read your blog -- right on as your criticism may be.

i think rocksteady's a pretty good example of a short-lived (yet massively influential) genre.

i guess other examples (trip-hop? electronica? [pre-jungle] hardcore?) raise the intrinsic question: what is a genre? who says so? how 'organic' vs. 'marketed' need a term be to qualify?

Anonymous said...

Dance crazes don't last very long. Snap, Crank Dat, Crumping?!?!? Tootsie Roll. Not really musical genres, but you could probably pull something out from this world.

Birdseed said...

The crap thing is I actually like my teacher a lot. Like a lot of younger musicologists, he's totally radical when it comes to teaching methods and analyses (big on gender, etc.) but reactionary in his choice of repertoire.

As for the genre thing, I guess if you're going to have a really short genre it needs to be, pretty much, a period. What makes Rocksteady, Snap and for that matter Sturm und Drang work as short genres is that they are geographically and culturally restricted... There's no conservative holdouts continuing on afterwards, nor an avant garde ahead of its time.

As for Organic vs. Marketed, it's all the same in the end, isn't it?