Keith Harris

Keith Harris is a lawyer and rock critic whose criticism has appeared all over the place, including Rolling Stone, Spin, Slate, Salon, the Village Voice, the Chicago Reader, and City Pages. He lives and thrives in Minneapolis.



"Did New York Kill Indie Rock?"

Throughout the '80s and '90s, in college towns like Chapel Hill and Athens and in second-tier cities like Minneapolis and Seattle, local independent rock scenes thrived. In the '00s, by and large, they did not. Instead, New York City reasserted its traditional role as the cultural center that dictated tastes to the periphery, its dominance bolstered by an influx of musicians, critics and fans.

This paper will look into the causes of this transition. These may include: the rise of electronic media, which diluted the influence of local press outlets, allowing cultural coverage to re-consolidate in metropolitan hubs; the increasing acceptance of the idea of the U.S. as divided into "red" and "blue" regions, increasing a desire among the artistically inclined to escape from the latter to the former; and the ways in which the differing production and performance requirements of hip-hop and bedroom electronica undercut the traditional notion of a music "scene."

Finally, this paper will evaluate the fallout from this transition. At stake are two competing narratives of where art comes from. Has the scrappy indie-rock notion that art is something any loser can create in any unfashionable backwater been replaced by the more traditional idea, long prevalent in the art world, that artists must migrate to major metropolitan centers, encounter likeminded peers and mentors, and become accultured into the creative life? And if so, what effects has this change had on contemporary indie music?

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Friday, March 23

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