The Corner

Things Old and New

 

 

“Make it new” was Ezra Pound’s famous advice for poets and other craftsmen. The Swedish folk-metal group Hoven Droven takes the motto literally, reshaping traditional Swedish tunes into rock forms, and creating something very much worth listening to. (An introductory example here, and much more to choose from here.) Often, in cultural criticism, too great an emphasis is laid on the explicit consciousness of tradition. But I think the validity of Pound’s principle does not, finally, depend on the listener’s knowledge of the tradition that is being borrowed from, recrafted, and/or argued against; my knowledge of Swedish traditional music is basically zero, yet I love this new version in and as itself. (Similarly, someone who has never heard Julie Andrews’s version of “My Favorite Things” is not prevented from having an immediate and fruitful experience of John Coltrane’s.) The “other level” of understanding that knowing the dialogue of an innovator and his source gives a listener does not diminish the value of the more basic level, that of  immediate confrontation with the new work.

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