If you have read any of my other pieces on here or elsewhere, you might rightly reach the conclusion that I am utterly in the thrall of the philosophy which is known as existentialism.
Indeed on this blog alone, there’s one essay entitled Existentialism In The Age of Social Media and frequent references to this intellectual love-child of Jean-Paul Sartre in many of the others. I have written existentialist articles for my other blog but I can provide no proof due to my insistence on doing a Banksy and keeping the Montag identity a bit of a mystery.
It would be easy to think then, that existentialism is the philosophical substratum to my waking life and that it underpins my thoughts and deeds in the way that a good, practical philosophy should. The truth is that this is not completely the case. It is true that I am a great admirer of existentialist thought, but this is mainly because it gives contemporary expression to aspects of a much older philosophy which has informed my behaviour through the majority of my adult life.
I grew from babe to child in the second half of that decade, and matured into a teenager during the colourful and spectacular nineteen-seventies. I consider this timing to be fortunate because it seemed to me then – and still does – to be a time in which the populace were not afraid to experiment. My impression is that the middle years of the twentieth century were alive with new ideas as well as the motivation to live them. Most importantly (and especially so from the perspective of today), denizens of that time seemed prepared, if the ideas they wished to live required it, to go against the accepted grain.
It was the summer of 2014. The online community was in the middle of the twitterstorm that had been raging since the Ferguson riots. I was enjoying beautiful vacation time in the south of France — waking late, drinking far too much of the produits du terroir, and generally having lovely times in the warm Languedocien sunshine.
Despite the noise and fury that had previously emanated from my @iammontag Twitter account about the amount of time that people spend online (and my short-lived #offline campaign), one of the first items on my vacation to-pack list is always my laptop. So when Ferguson kicked off I was able to keep up with the developments on the internet.
Houses of Parliament from Westminster Bridge – Photo by Montag
Have you ever seen the once-familiar in a whole new light? Looked really hard at something (or someone) previously taken for granted, and regarded it/them completely differently?
It happened to me once at junior school. I remember staring at one of my then friends. It was strange. It was like I was doing so for the very first time. A train of thought alighted upon me: Who is this person? Why am I hanging around with him? Why is he my friend? I stopped being so chummy with the lad shortly after that. It wasn’t that he’d done anything wrong. It’s just that awakenings can do that to you.
I had a similar episode regarding the concept of broadcast news a while ago.
The creation event of twentieth century popular music – its big bang if you like – can, to my mind, be traced back to a singular event in January 1865. That moment could be characterised as a dark black explosion, the shock waves of which reverberated for the following one hundred and fifty years. Despite the myriad creative ways in which this basic story has been retold by the powerful and the political, it is, to me, a tale of slavery, of freedom and of novelty.
In this piece I’m going to ask you to suspend the accepted narratives and to think hard about the origins of what we now call pop music. Through this I hope to arrive at some conclusions about the trajectory of music – and society – in this the second decade of the twenty-first century.