"Make it New Versus Positivise the Remake" by Simon Reynolds

Simon Reynolds

Simon Reynolds

Influential music critic Simon Reynolds kicked off the John Cabot University Media and Communication Speaker Series of talks for the 2011/2012 academic year in the Aula Magna Regina on September 19th. His thought-provoking and entertaining lecture focused on popular music and what Reynolds calls its “addiction to its own past.”

Simon Reynolds is possibly the most authoritative music critic working today. He is a regularly featured contributor to The New York Times, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The Observer, The Wire, Uncut, The Village Voice, and Slate. Among the many books of his that have literally changed the shape of popular music criticism and history are The Sex Revolts (written with Joy Press), Energy Flash, Generation Ecstasy, Rip It Up And Start Again and, his latest, Retromania.

The subject matter of Retromania formed the basis for the lecture. Source of much controversy and debate since its release, the book examines the dichotomy between innovation and creativity (“Make it New”), and looking to the past for influence (“Positivise the Remake”). It also explores the limitations inherent in the ways in which the idea and ideal of innovation and originality in the arts has been challenged by theories that champion notions of remixing, mash-ups and other modes of what one could term “re-creativity.”

A Q&A session closed things off, raising yet more insightful arguments and questions, such as whether it is legitimate for the concept of innovation to be deemed more valuable than renovation. It was a fitting conclusion to the first in what promises to be an exciting series of talks to be held at JCU over the course of this academic year.