Simon Frith: An Interview
Jason Gross, Perfect Sound Forever, May 2002
Depending on how you see music journalism, Simon Frith is either a sinner or a saint. After the late '60's, rock criticism began to show signs of intellectualism but when a multi-degree threat like Frith came along, academia truly became part of the equation. In his columns for publications on both sides of the Atlantic and in books such as Sound Effects and The Sociology of Rock, there was on display an accelerated level of thoughtfulness and discovery (especially displayed in his genre-defining 'think pieces') of what was really under the veneer of popular music: not the grimy little secrets and dirty lies but what was the true mechanism of the system. To some, this was manna and to others, this was totally against what the spirit of rock and pop was all about. Either way, the writing game had changed and with it, the landscape of its discussion was altered.
As always, Frith is straddling the realms of education and journalism. He has spent the last three years as a professor at Stirling University in Scotland's Department of Film and Media Studies. At the same time, he has recently edited The Cambridge Companion to Rock and Pop. This interview was done focusing on his essays on the pop music industry and the question of "what is pop?"
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