Monday, June 1, 2009

2000 : 02 "Mountain Music," by Momus

Rich Thomas and I occasionally debate which music-related events from the 1990s cast the longest shadow over the music of the Aughts. At the top of my list is usually the 1997 reissue of Harry Smith's great Anthology of American Folk Music. Pretty much everyone who bought a copy of the reissued Anthology immediately went out and bought a banjo or a fiddle, and would end up doing at least a short stint in a freak-folk band by the end of the decade. Needless to say, this also led to a lot of engaging head-clutching about issues of authenticity and fake authenticity: i.e., is is OK to go around emulating the music of (say) hardscrabble West Virginian working-class people if you're (say) a white kid from some middle-class suburb somewhere? But issues of authenticity are awfully tricky, and this fact is nicely pointed out by cultural wag Momus on his 2000 album Folktronica. This track, "Mountain Music," points out (and embraces?) the oddity of appropriating old-time music for a modern context while simultaneously critiquing our entire notion of authenticity, pointing out the ways in which it's a distorting (and comforting) illusion. Representative verse: "It never was so simple / it never was so pure / the folks who made it never were / so ignorant and poor / They traveled round the world / and never stayed where they belonged / and if they had we'd never have / these lovely mountain songs."

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Momus >> "Mountain Music"


Rica said...

Momus is definitely an interesting guy and there is a great wealth of information about him on the next. Some time ago, I spent a whole day wandering through his website and now he also has a a live journal blog called click opera. I am only disappointed that the link to buy a Momus doll is no longer active...

jpb said...

I don't read "Click Opera" that often, but when I do it's always interesting.