Uncool no more

Changes in the ease of access to different cultural sources are definitely shifting what it means for something to be cool or uncool—especially, of course, for those with some amount of cultural power. I often wonder, though, whether this is a forward or a lateral shift. True, the old and the foreign can now be hip, but—if my own music tastes offer judgment—it just means that the new and mainstream are just correspondingly less interesting. (See also Jody Rosen’s takedown of NPR’s taste in black music, the “Dead-Old-Retro-Foreign Matrix“) An age of cherry-picking might provide for a lot of desserts and clever mixed drinks, but not, alas, much meat.

We’re living in a stylistic tropics. There’s a whole generation of people able to access almost anything from almost anywhere, and they don’t have the same localised stylistic sense that my generation grew up with. It’s all alive, all “now,” in an ever-expanding present, be it Hildegard of Bingen or a Bollywood soundtrack. The idea that something is uncool because it’s old or foreign has left the collective consciousness.

I think this is good news. As people become increasingly comfortable with drawing their culture from a rich range of sources—cherry-picking whatever makes sense to them—it becomes more natural to do the same thing with their social, political and other cultural ideas. The sharing of art is a precursor to the sharing of other human experiences, for what is pleasurable in art becomes thinkable in life.


from “The death of uncool,” by Brian Eno, Prospect Magazine, 25 November 2009 :: via The Morning News

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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