mercredi, juin 20, 2007

Terry Gross interviews Booker T. Jones at NPR who recounts how he started with Stax in high school but continued with his education--high school and college--while balancing session and production work at Stax (in some cases Isaac Hayes would fill in for him when he was at school) which prompted oh-so-grating Terry to condescend:
"Had I just been listening to your records, I wouldn't have guessed that you were into classical music and I might not have known that you were as studious and as serious sounding as you are."
Gross (who's worked my nerves before) is this close to telling him, "You speak so well." She stays on this suspect line of questioning by basically positing that all soul aficionados think classical forms inauthentic and begging Jones for comment. For Gross soul/funk/gospel is slackness and classical music, studiousness and reserve, which she tries to attribute to some unspecified people. Jones existence, of course, explodes this false assumption (derived from ideas about how Black people are and by extension what their cultural production is) and this audibly unsettles Gross to no end.

This is why I have a love/hate relationship with NPR. That which masquerades as liberal and progressive is insidiously problematic and audaciously oblivious to its own prejudice. The first can be conquered with education but not with the latter condition.

I am compelled to elaborate. The things that Gross might have thought are solely her responsibility for unpacking. They have absolutely nothing to do with Jones. And the inclination to rely on one's own baggage-racked compass to blindly manufacture someone else's persona (we're talking no personal interaction or biographical information) is straight up foolish. I am opposed to this lazy interview style where the interviewer tells the interviewee all the things they think they are. This runs counter to the true purpose of that sort of engagement, which is to ask an individual all the things that they are. One should never be surprised because surprises are hinged on assumptions from which one should always steer clear. Full disclosure: I have done this. I interviewed Leela James a few years ago and said something stupid about the soulfulness of her sound I'd more associate with the south than LA. Stupid, stupid, I know and she sternly set me straight. I actually got my best quotes then but so inadvertently.