Spin’s list of the top 100 guitarists of all time

Time for my tuppence, although this list has been knocking about for almost two weeks already. Now, there have been plenty of hysterics about who was included and who was… not. It’s pointless to engage in the kind of debate about how they could leave the kind of people who would usually be on the worthy, dull lists pumped out by the likes of Rolling Stone or Q Magazine. Such magazines are the voice of the musical canon, of chin-stroking approval. I don’t weep for the fact that in this list Clapton and Page are nowhere to be found. We already know they’re excellent. Move on. As for figures such as Steve Vai, I don’t they should be included on any list to begin with (technically excellent, sure, but it’s a little like listening to a drum machine and being amazed at how fast it goes…until you get bored and decide to listen to something actually engaging.) All can agree, I think, that the exclusion of Jimi Hendrix, however, is simply willful perversity. Don’t have him at number one fine, no top ten…eek…ok, but nowhere? Childish nonsense. Jack Hamilton riffs about this in his article for The Atlantic, so I won’t fret over it here.

Spin‘s list struck a chord with me because from the off it is about considering guitarists, guitar playing, and all its attendant associations in the abstract. Continue reading

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A formal approach to poetry

How close does the “history of ideas” approach come to data-mining as the study and criticism of literature? I was rereading Christopher Tilmouth’s Passion’s Triumph Over Reason, and I began thinking about this. I met the author a few years back, in his Cambridge room in a turret of Peterhouse, when I was planning on undertaking a PhD (on the poetry of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester) there. We discussed the various approaches that are common now, and while he is not necessarily a party to the more theory-laden schools of thought, he certainly was familiar with their content and understood their attraction to many. I was there to talk to him about the possibility of taking a more formal approach to literature (which is in keeping with my techno-functionalist interests in philosophy!), one which did not make the text merely a conduit to discuss a particular theory of discourse, one which, incidentally might be anachronistic. At the same time, however, I felt that there was something about the historical scholarship approach to poetry that didn’t resonate for me. Continue reading