Michael Long


On his book Beautiful Monsters: Imagining the Classic in Musical Media

Cover Interview of February 20, 2009


I hope Beautiful Monsters will be appreciated for what it is – an effort to provoke conversation rather than to promulgate unassailable arguments.  I’d like to think that it could inspire others, especially students in the still-expanding fields of popular music and media history and criticism, to think and to write about how music works expressively in humane ways, even in the new digital environments.  Whether or not my attempt to keep the tone light much of the time succeeds with all readers, I think it important to have made that effort.  I’d say the same about what could be taken as my occasional “lapse” into sentiment.  Both are gently but intentionally subversive.

I admit to finding our overspecialized and over-theorized humanistic academy, including the discipline of musicology, an unnecessarily grim place.  (This was perfectly encapsulated for me in a recent blurb I read for a presentation at a humanities center, advertising the speaker’s theoretical plan to “render happiness complex and difficult.”)

For me, the sound of the European musical past in twentieth-century American media was neither primarily the marker of a fraught cultural confrontation with normative culture, nor commentary upon or denial of normative culture.  Media let the classic transform our ways of being expressive while the classic’s original implications were transformed right back, ensuring its continued viability in some form.  For the future of our post-historical world of all musics, that was surely a good thing.

© 2009 Michael Long