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NPR and black music

Posted by Christopher Shea  October 14, 2009 04:03 PM

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As a recent convert to (and an ambivalent fan of) the All Songs Considered podcast, despite its incorrigibly white-indie perspective,* I feel well qualified to judge this post by music critic Jody Rosen an absolute triumph.

When I listen to that podcast, I often have a fantasy that involves some sludge-metal band tramping into the studio, plugging in, and blasting Bob Boilen out of his Feelies-adoring trance. (Paging Baroness? Dethklok?) Carrie Brownstein, late of Sleater-Kinney, sometimes appears as a guest, and she succeeds in injecting not only wit but also some non-obvious, non-mellow song selections. (Example: Lightning Bolt.) Yet even her brand of sonic adventurism is, well, kinda white. Not that there's …

So does NPR dislike black music? Far from it, says Rosen. It fully embraces black music that fits comfortably within the DORF Matrix, a Rosen coinage. Read and learn.

Well-placed criticisms aside, you really should sample all of the streamed goodies at NPR.org/music, which include jazz and classical offerings, too. (Disclosure: I used to help write an NPR classical-music show, before NPR stopped doing classical music shows, and still know a few people there.)

*For those not up on the current white-indie canon, think: Bon Iver, Thom Yorke, The Mountain Goats, Radiohead, Built to Spill, Thom Yorke, The Flaming Lips, Arcade Fire, and Neko Case. Did I mention Thom Yorke?

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

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Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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