Nice quotation from Sasha Frere-Jones’s current piece in The New Yorker, “Funky Precedent,” about modern musicians who are reviving (curating?) the work of soul, funk, and R&B acts of the 1960s and 1970s, such as James Brown and Otis Redding. He wrestles with the virtues of the modern acts, but concludes:
So why not just let go of the conceit of originality, and let the songbook stand? The revival problem is also the repertory question. Very few people complain that “Hamlet” is restaged every year. Why treat music differently from any other art? Once the original authors are absent, and we agree that their ideas are perfect as is, there seems little reason to monkey with them.
I admit to having dismissed most of these acts out of hand on first listen. Their live shows began dismantling my skepticism. We are broadly taught to respect the innovator, to trust that he or she is doing something important. But we also like what we like, and I like a strong downbeat. …
In an interview with Philip Roth, Milan Kundera said, â€œWhen I hear learned arguments that the novel has exhausted its possibilities, I have precisely the opposite feeling: in the course of its history the novel missed many of its possibilities.â€ If so many musicians are comfortable with returning to the past to pick up lost possibilities, we might do well to let go of our allegiance to our heroes, so that more of their work can reveal itself.