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Woebot
11-11-2004, 09:45 PM
You know how it is. On one hand, and this is the most principalled way of conceiving it, we are driven by a hunger for new sounds to distort our perception of the world into fascinating new shapes. On the other, the drive to acquire music is, lets face it, associated with what is seen as a debased volition to "be cool." Debased because one plays what is seen to be capitalism's game, debased because one is engaged in a seemingly pointless pursuit- the acquisition of an invisible, essentially meaningless status, as a means of reinforcing one's own fallacious sense of self-worth.

Recently I've been thinking (in my own small wayhttp://www.dissensus.com/images/smilies/wink.gif) that by dismissing this latter instinct as the worst kind of empty hipsterism we might be missing something. That perhaps these motives might map onto a larger matrix of behaviour. Thinking that it might be worth considering the acquisition of "cool" as having some kind of more profound meaning.

In my vision of this theory I'd create an implicit connection between the cold abstract demeanour of the hipster and his/her confidence in the "amulets" which give them power. It'd be to easy to dismiss this link with the observation that the most intently rapt devourers of culture are often frothing at the mouth. Aren't these people usually vivacious proselytsers for their own brands of culture, and therefore hardly diffident? I don't think this can diminish their core distance. Even the frothiest hipster enjoys a comforting perspective in the company of "lesser mortals". Indeed I've noticed that many of the most hyper-sensitive consumers of culture, even if they are masters of conveying their own enthusiasms, (true to this theoretical pairing between hipsterism and "the cool") DO tend to be diffident. If they weren't diffident, they'd be be swamped by culture, too easily excitable to critque acutely.

I'm only partially in possession of the kind of theoretical knowledge that'd be able to illuminate these fumblings. I do have a few pointers however. There must be some kind of socio-historical history of "cool", some text which defines human being's deployment of the armament of "cool", a work which takes in the psychological machinations of the french aristocracy and blue mountain rastas and their use of signifiers to territorialise their demeanour.

Actually I'll admit to be being curious that the notion of "cool" has a quite explicit socio-historical descent. I remember David Toop alluding the attitude's origin in West African witchcraft. Obviously much of the occult is concerned with the ways in which certain modes of behaviour can have calculated effects (I'd tend to view this kind of manipulation of the environment as a social science/psychological trick, but you could just as easily take the other side if you were so inclined). In this afro-centric visioning of the phenomenon, the "cool" meme passes into Blues and Jazz and into the broader culture. Now with Wiley and his frozen wastes we have the latest incarnation froideur. As a sidenote I was fascinated to hear on Trim's Bogeyman Wiley threatening to "break your face down, bring the spirits in..."

Beyond the voodoo jiggery-pokery entailed in my vision of what is entailed in "cool", it's tactical detournement of street politics, there is an element of "cool" which pertains to the mutabilty of existence. Isn't there some part of the desire to constantly remain at the edge of things which is to do with attempting to control or arrest the passing of time? With each new acquisition we believe we have "fixed" the flux, nailed into place the world's location and our relationship to it.

rob_giri
11-11-2004, 10:48 PM
Well I think that 'cool' is by and large (surprise) a psychological state of mind, and that when one assimilates and processes culture into their lives they essentially open doorways and, as you say, distort our perception of the world into fascinating new shapes. But isn't this, the apparent first reason why we listen to music, ultimately make us cool in that it softly creates new imaginary worlds within our inner most consciousness, makes us, to quote Toop again, more aware of our non-verbal selves in a meditative (with a small m) act of self-actualisation? And isn't this what it really means to be cool, to be in a state of 'enlightenment', so to speak, and to make us better equipped to tackle lifes many tribulations? Surely the accumulation of cultural capital, of cultural credit, is merely the fickle residue of this quest, which can at times given the content of the listener's character, override the initial purpose of discovery, and which does, at face value, happen to appeal to others. But isn't the very fact that it is appealing come from this first reason? That people, on seeing someone devour culture, think that they must be a 'cool' dude whos coloured and enriched their life with music? Then again, this could just be my own distorted perceptions of cool coming through ;)

Every human has to tackle with self-doubt, every human has to tackle with the problem of identity, of self-validation and of reassurence that what they are doing is right, or indeed 'cool'. Thus, for a consumer of culture it is only natural to, at times, reflect back on their knowledge and feel proud, high and mighty. This is what you mean by reinforcing one's own fallacious sense of self-worth. For me the idea of cool arose out of people's uncontrollable quest for self-validation in the presence of wider culture and society. I believe it has no more profound meaning, and is in fact a meaningless status that people identify with. It is a societal construct that has no objective meaning (surprise surprise again!) and is created in the process of territorialisation. I think in Ocean of Sound, Toop relates the terms cool and chill to african american slang in the 19th century for killing someone, and the serious, staunch demeanour somehow passed on to become what we know today as 'cool'.

arrhhhh its 9:30am i can't write anymore. Very interesting topic, Matt. Not sure if my input made much sense hah. :) :D

DavidD
12-11-2004, 09:26 AM
Its also about wanting hot girls/guys to want to fuck you.

Woebot
12-11-2004, 09:33 AM
Surely the accumulation of cultural capital, of cultural credit, is merely the fickle residue of this quest, which can at times given the content of the listener's character, override the initial purpose of discovery, and which does, at face value, happen to appeal to others.
Yep. All good points bruv. Though I suppose I'm trying (and its flying in the face of decency and reason, lol) to try and retheorise that oft-dismissed "residue".

Woebot
12-11-2004, 09:33 AM
Its also about wanting hot girls/guys to want to fuck you.
innit.

rob_giri
12-11-2004, 11:14 AM
innit.

Haha, everytime you guys use that word it makes me laugh (dreams are weird, innit? haha). I wish we had something like that in Australia. I still don't quite understand what defines innit. Like obviously its 'isn't it' but its come to describe a wider range of questioning. Someone explain to me and forever destroy my ignorance.

(and obviously the social transgression factor that woebot described in the animal collective/junior boys etc thread comes into the equation, making it even funnier ;) )

And do we all agree that trying to be cool for the sake of it is in itself shallow and pathetic?

rob_giri
12-11-2004, 11:18 AM
There must be some kind of socio-historical history of "cool", some text which defines human being's deployment of the armament of "cool", a work which takes in the psychological machinations of the french aristocracy and blue mountain rastas and their use of signifiers to territorialise their demeanour.

And yea i forgot to mention that this would make a very cool dissertation, even though i believe, as aforementioned, that cool is societally-constructed residue and nothing more. Would make one hell of a read, if slightly ridiculous.

luka
12-11-2004, 12:39 PM
isn't 'eh' (A) the antipodean equivelent of innit/

it's hot eh bro
r a
how about those wallabies eh
etcetc

Woebot
12-11-2004, 12:58 PM
Haha, everytime you guys use that word it makes me laugh

actually i successfully swore off using "innit" for ages. i nicked it off sufi and wore the hell out of it. still, i like it.

Rambler
12-11-2004, 01:03 PM
If you're after a full-on academic discussion of coolness (or hipness), you could do worse than download the pdf to be found here:

http://mq.oupjournals.org/cgi/reprint/86/1/49

[Philip Ford, 2002: 'Somewhere/Nowhere: Hipness as an Aesthetic', Musical Quarterly lxxxvi/1, pp.49-81]

It might not be what you're after, but it could be a useful place to find a reading list if you wanted one. Another (academic) article that looks good is here:

http://psc.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/27/6/1,

but you need a subscription to view it online...

redcrescent
12-11-2004, 01:21 PM
Actually I'll admit to be being curious that the notion of "cool" has a quite explicit socio-historical descent. I remember David Toop alluding the attitude's origin in West African witchcraft.

"Cool philosophy is a strong intellectual attitude, affecting incredibly diverse provinces of artistic happening, yet leavened with humor and a sense of play. It is an all important mediating process, accounting for similarities in art and vision in many tropical African societies. It is a matrix from which stem ideas about being generous, clear, percussively patterned, harmonized with others, balanced, finished, socially perfected, worthy of destiny. In other words, the criterion of coolness seems to unite and animate all the other canons.
Coolness is a metaphor for proper living; it symbolizes moral aesthetic accomplishment. It requires an attention to balance and harmony. It shades into behavior as well as art: "Coolness is the proper way you represent yourself to a human being"
In Yoruba art, the face is a focal point of this concept. Babatunde Lawal a Yoruba art historian calls attention to the connection between face and coolness when he says that to " ... tame or pacify is to 'cool the face'" (Thompson 1974/1983, in Yarbrough, T.: "A concept of face in Afro-American culture (http://www.temple.edu/isllc/newfolk/face.html).")

It would be interesting to investigate this concept of cool with the notion of maintaining 'itutu' ("grace under pressure") as attributed to people like Fela Kuti.

DigitalDjigit
12-11-2004, 03:51 PM
It seems to me like there is some kind of confusion going on (or maybe I am reading that into the discussion).

There's cool as in "grace under pressure", "lack of unnecessary emotion".
And there's cool as in "hip", "superior to others", "in the know".

Are we talking about both, either? There could certainly be a connection, if one posseses the first then it is easier to display the second.

I think Matt's point makes more sense with respect to the latter notion of "cool". I certainly do not possess the former one and yet by getting some musical artifacts that I feel have "hipness" to them I feel a kind of superiority to "them" (those people out there). It's like secret knowledge or something. Musical quality is certainly part of it but sometimes I feel they are cool just because certain people say so and then it is just trying to participate, to belong to this virtual group. Wasn't there a discussion before on how people of the same social class have similar musical tastes (this was in the topic about Carioca Funk). Cool is then belonging to this group that you deem better than others.

blissblogger
12-11-2004, 04:22 PM
a guy called John Leland, veteran musicetc specialisign a lot in hip hop writer in the US, has just published a book called Hip: the History -- the little bits i've read seem quite cringy (mainly cos he tries to write "hip" as well as do an archaelogy of hip) but some people rate it quite highly. his basic thesis is that it's all about white-on-black stuff.

interestingly cf. origins of the cool/grace under pressure concept in West Africa, Leland relates how slangologist Clarence Major traces the word "hip" back to West African /Senegal and Gambian verb "hepi" meaning to see and "hipi", which means "open one's eyes". so being hip relates as was said above to secret knowledge, suss, subcultural capital

yeah i agree also with what was said upthread there's a slight conflation of cool as a kind affectlessness or you-cant-reach-touch-or-impress me style imperturtability (i think of the expressionless frozen-faced japanese kid in that jarmusch's Mystery Train, with his cigarettes and rockabilly hair as ultimate symbol of the pathos of aspiring to cool) and then hip as knowledge. some people who are hip are uncool -- they're burbling enthusiasts. And lots of cool people aren't actually hip.

of the two attributes, "hip" seems to me to the more desirable and defensible project, since although in practise most hipsters want to impress and require interlocutors, it's much more in essence about interior stuff, the personal treasure of sensibilty. whereas cool definitely is mainly about an audience, how you pass through public space.

that said ,like i'm sure a lot of people here, i often use the word hipster as a kind of pejorative term -- and that habit has a kind of bad faith about it -- in the same way that rock critics often use the word "rock critic" in reference to a mentality or set of thoughts/assumptions/mental habits as a kind of insult, as if they could somehow exempt themselves from the category rock critic so easily!

nomos
12-11-2004, 04:47 PM
I wish I had more time to take part in this discussion as it gets to the core of what I'm working on these days (which is, ironically, why I don't have the time).

In any case, there were a couple books I wanted to mention in this context. Sarah Thornton's Club Cultures develops a Bourdieu-inspired notion of "subcultural capital" - essentially a political economy of cool, from what I gather. I've yet to get very deep into this one. It seems useful, though in a sense I think it's going in a different direction from Matt's argument and it's socio-historical questions. Though cool, in whatever form it takes, may represent a fundamentalism of the now or the future, I think its unravelling can only be achieved through a historical approach.

I'd add to any analysis that cool is predominantly, though not universally, a gendered designation in that, in most scenes, cool seems to come down to one's ability to perform or relate to a codification of masculinity. Of course there are heaps of exceptions. But it's interesting that feminist-activist scenes like riot grrrl or the current electro-feminist punk scene are largely concerned with breaking down cool in an effort to enforce inclusionism. This could be over compensation in a sense. And certainly new forms of cool are created there.

But to take this a step further, cool also seems to be largely about performing a particularly 'black' form of masculinity. A stereotypical form of black masculinity. I'm not talking about anything inherent or essential here. But a construct that is performed by people of whatever background as a condition of their belonging to whatever subculture. Sometimes it takes ironic form or it goes unacknowledged/forgotten. I certainly wouldn't just reduce it to white-on-black as perhaps Leland does. Obviously, this leads to a whole heap of other questions. If it was before, I don't think it's hegemonic any longer - in any direction. Gilroy is good on this one in Against Race. bell hooks has recently written We Real Cool - Black Men and Masculinity. It's gets into some different territory but I think it could offer something to a socio-historical reading of cool.

I like the approach Matt suggests - not reducing the whole enterprise to questions of fetishism, spectacle and consumerist submission. There's obviously a deeper current running through the obsession with cool. The vogue for fragmentation and difference in cultural theory really only serves to highlight divisions between different incarnations of cool, but a productive universalist approach (while profoundly uncool) could go some way to locating this fundamental need in a historical context.

Jamie S
12-11-2004, 05:56 PM
I know the etymology isn't really Matt's point but it's fascinating.

It set me wondering about the use of 'hot' (Westwood: 'Damn that joint is hot!') and Miles Davis sprang to mind. You get all those albums with heat metaphors (Cookin' Steamin' etc.) and then Birth of the Cool.

Had a quick look at the OED and guess what...

d. Applied to jazz music: restrained or relaxed in style; also applied to the performer; opp. HOT a. orig. U.S.

1947 (record by Charlie Parker Quartet, Dial 1015) Cool Blues. 1948 Life 11 Oct. 138 Bebop: New Jazz School is Led by Trumpeter Who is Hot, Cool and Gone. 1950 Christian Sci. Monitor 8 Feb. 15 Bop is ‘cool’ jazz in contrast to the ‘hot’ variety of the swing or Dixieland schools. 1953 Melody Maker 9 May 5 Hot and coolyou've got to hear the lot. 1955 L. FEATHER Encycl. Jazz (1956) 30 Cool jazz to most musicians and students denotes the understated, behind-the-beat style typified by the arrangements and soloists on the Davis records. 1957 H. PANASSIÉ in S. Traill Concerning Jazz 61 The ‘cool’ musicians..stopped using the traditional jazz technique and tone. 1962 J. WAIN Strike Father Dead IV. 204 The new developments which were to become first bebop and then just bop and finally cool jazz.

e. Hence, characteristic of those who favour ‘cool’ music; relaxed; unemotional; also used loosely as a general term of approval; cool cat: see CAT n.1 2c. colloq. (orig. U.S.).

1948 New Yorker 3 July 28 The bebop people have a language of their own... Their expressions of approval include ‘cool’! 1953 Time 14 Sept. 68/3 The latest Tin Pan Alley argot, where ‘cool’ means good, ‘crazy’ means wonderful. 1955 N.Y. Times 22 May VI. 19/2 Maybe it's all these new buildings breeding more of these cool Brooks Brothers cats. 1955 Sci. News Let. 1 Oct. 221/2 This is not cool chatter between some young hep-cats in a smoke-filled jazz joint. 1957 Sunday Mail (Glasgow) 10 Feb. 11 Gonethe best, in the top rung, the coolest. 1958 Observer 23 Nov. 16/3 On one side was the frenetic..bumptiousness of the rock-'n'-rollers, on the other the calculated indifference of the cool cats. 1959 Ibid. 25 Oct. 29/8 They got long, sloppy haircuts and wide knot ties and no-press suits with fat lapels. Very cool.

That's the origin of it and the two uses of the word that DigitalDigit talks about are related; one flows from the other. However, there's clearly been a transference in meaning, at least in the UK, such that it's just the second meaning, or even just an expression of approval.

There is definitely a white/black thing going on in those citations as well. Doesn't hip also have roots like that? (Never read Norman Mailer, The White Negro but that sort of thing and the Beats, presumably, is where the word is coming from.)

Rambler
12-11-2004, 06:01 PM
See also Anatole Broyard's "Portrait of the Hipster".

DigitalDjigit
12-11-2004, 06:04 PM
Kinda weird that we are still using the slang 50 years on despite the original sub-culture that born it being dead. There's another meaning too, a guy I worked for told me that in the 70's "cool" basically meant you smoked pot.

Woebot
12-11-2004, 06:45 PM
There's cool as in "grace under pressure", "lack of unnecessary emotion".
And there's cool as in "hip", "superior to others", "in the know".

Are we talking about both, either? There could certainly be a connection, if one posseses the first then it is easier to display the second.
Yeah i think i'm slightly guilty of a conceit here. I'm maybe been a little too keen to roll the two together.

However, to ping blissblogger's example back to him:


(i think of the expressionless frozen-faced japanese kid in that jarmusch's Mystery Train, with his cigarettes and rockabilly hair as ultimate symbol of the pathos of aspiring to cool)
Isnt that character in some way set up to be ridiculed? His "cool" is suspect because it founders on a fetishisation of Elvis. And how can an icon like Elvis, as blandly american as a McDonalds burger, possibly be motivated as a talisman of cool? Yet that is so often the case with "cool" people, their taste can appear to the "hipster" (ok lets make the distinction just for this argument) to be lame, and yet they invest such belief in their chosen idol that they perform the same function as something rarified.

A classic example of this might be Bill Clinton, who you'd have to term a "cool" person. I wonder how much energy he really invests in his record collecting, but i imagine it's quite an important signifier to him nonetheless. That he can get up on stage (jesus i cant believe im arguing this!) and blow that sax with those "cats", man i bet he thinks thats the REAL Bill Clinton.

jd_
12-11-2004, 07:00 PM
Carl Perkins

Woebot
12-11-2004, 09:00 PM
Carl Perkins
er yeah, as american as carl perkins, fizzle.

making precious little sense i know, lol http://www.dissensus.com/images/smilies/smile.gif

polystyle desu
13-11-2004, 07:19 PM
Hmmm,
Matt you are onto something , slippery sure , but a fun Saturday morning thread to jump into ...
Without quoting all the previous good points made , some observations /2 cents :

Checking new sounds , acquiring music as part of an armoring' larger matrix , yes but not only objects and stuff for 'show' , parts of survival armor to mirror - shade back out there

'cool as in (example) 'grace under pressure' and cool as in (example) ' in the know, superior to others' -
these descriptions don't seem so very different ...
Cool, you know when you see it , so Matt , I'm not sure you were off rolling things somewhat together.

The cool of blues - jazz - hiphop - rap - 'frozen wastes' of grime . That's not such a long ride from 1948 to 2008.
Seems smoking herb has been a constant - prehistory , now and post 20th century .

Cool as a way 'to control time' - hold that moment , yes definitely

Yoruba cool , 'the proper way to represent' , Fela - Michael Jordan's game face , cold faces /street face/grill ,
'Don't push me cuz I'm close to the edge' ... , chill'em - killed 'em . cold = survival

hip'. Well , i doubt i'll rd that book , Leland's photo helped make it laughable .
'hip' flips to dip(*hit) to easily . Once tagged 'hip' - next is the trip up

The Japanese character in Jarmusch's "M Train" . Not only are Nagase's mug and hair is frozen - his image of Elvis was frozen . And Tokyo still has it's share of these specfic cats - shabu drivers in kitted out chrome trucks , film and RW Yakuza wannabe's hung up on a just - so image , 'Yankee' quiff mongers , nuts driving through the streets blaring right wing drivel .

Bill Clinton as 'cool' , some could say he was 'hot' in his way too (not ref. in a sexual way , more in the 'media' way)

So overall, i'm throw in that cool is armor, difference , suss and possessing it can let you survive /get you out of a bad situation .
Ever got that feeling you were about to get mugged /rolled and you got out of it ?

Going to tend to rate that as more useful then some of the physical signifiers like authors soul patches/funny sideburns /the right trouser width/ the right book, CD under the arm.

The roots ancient powers 'witchcraft' - voudou thing figures in too, as pointed out .
Gut , core being feelings ...

And yeah, looked at another way another day -
it can all be a bit like a Dave Chappelle's 'When Keepin' It Real Goes Bad' skit

cheers all

slanderlord
13-11-2004, 11:30 PM
Haha, everytime you guys use that word it makes me laugh (dreams are weird, innit? haha). I wish we had something like that in Australia. I still don't quite understand what defines innit. Like obviously its 'isn't it' but its come to describe a wider range of questioning.

When I first started reading about grime on blissblog and "eski," "Ice Rink," "Igloo" - I at first thought "innit" was some misspelling/slangerization of innuit (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=innuit) which just made me wonder more about this weird East London / Polar Circle musical axis.

Terror Danjah Australis
14-11-2004, 03:13 PM
Aren't the biggest hipsters the biggest nerds? Aren't the coolest people the most downtrodden? I see being cool as a way of finding a different hierarchy that you can sit at the top of when you're at the bottom of the dominant one. Maybe it goes back to the Romantics, or maybe it's part of "human nature".

"Every human has to tackle with self-doubt, every human has to tackle with the problem of identity, of self-validation and of reassurence that what they are doing is right, or indeed 'cool'. Thus, for a consumer of culture it is only natural to, at times, reflect back on their knowledge and feel proud, high and mighty. This is what you mean by reinforcing one's own fallacious sense of self-worth. For me the idea of cool arose out of people's uncontrollable quest for self-validation in the presence of wider culture and society. I believe it has no more profound meaning, and is in fact a meaningless status that people identify with. It is a societal construct that has no objective meaning (surprise surprise again!) and is created in the process of territorialisation."

Bruz, great point but how is self validation meaningless? Isn't it in fact one of the most important things in the world to some people? Isn't society in fact EVERYTHING? Isn't the self EVERYTHING?

Strictly personally, I think you're right. It's better to try (or to not try, like try without conscious effort) to forget your Self and its place in the ladder of cool/whatever, or at least not take them too seriously, for your spiritual well being and that of others. (but isn't that what makes you cool, and allows you to have an identity? isn't there a hierarchy of spiritual well being?) But this world is made of identities and territories and hierarchies and if you want to function in it and understand it, you have to realise that they're very real, meaningful and powerful things.

That's why Matt is OTM. And if we're talking about music, style is key, and doesn't style almost = cool? Are we listeners just supposed to sit back and say "it's all music man, it's about quality, not style or cool" or do we bask in the reflected glory of our supercool musical heroes, feeling on top of the world because we identify with them, forgetting that it's just superifical and it's just music and taking them seriously because they're just so fucking cool?

simon silverdollar
14-11-2004, 09:33 PM
"Aren't the biggest hipsters the biggest nerds? Aren't the coolest people the most downtrodden? I see being cool as a way of finding a different hierarchy that you can sit at the top of when you're at the bottom of the dominant one. Maybe it goes back to the Romantics, or maybe it's part of "human nature".


that's SO true. that's exactly why i hate 'cool' people. it's fundamentally non-egalitarian.

also, when has anything 'cool' EVER been fun?



never.

Terror Danjah Australis
15-11-2004, 04:20 AM
Idunno Simon, doesn't not caring about looking ridiculous make you cool? Isn't it sort of semi-pseudo-quasi-egalitarian because there can be an infinite number of cools and hierarchies? I mean, the more exclusive and underground you are, the less people think you're cool, but the cooler you are, so it counteracts the extreme inequality of the most popular kinds of cool. but yeah, i do hate heaps of cool people too. but aren't your and my favourite grime MCs the coolest people in the world?

Terror Danjah Australis
15-11-2004, 06:33 AM
Hierarchies are actually quite redeemable, as long as you take their inherent and obvious flaw for granted. They're only always wrong and bad if you think power is, and you don't need to read Foucault to know we're all complicit. See, often what gets people to the top of the cool ladder is not just knocking the others off, it's rebuilding the ladder. And while cool is often pretty damn immoral, it can be moral, a serious objection to dominant values through style instead of substance (cf. er, the sixties?!), and it can be a way of building a new ladder for OTHERS below you (your biters?) rather than just to big yourself up. Re: what robosphere was saying, even though cool is inseparable from external validation, aren't the coolest people in a scene always the most internally validated, therefore most enlightened and self-actualised... hang on, that's just what you said in your first paragraph, so why do you go and contradict it in your second? What's more profound than enlightenment?

luka
15-11-2004, 08:50 AM
yeah i think thats a good defence of cool there from the man from aussie. the bit about dissembling and reassembling the ladder is important. (( like matt says the psuedoynms are pretty impenetrable. finney, mcdougal, who is it?! ))

simon silverdollar
15-11-2004, 09:53 AM
well, yeah, there are a multiplicity of heirarchies out there, but i still find the desire to be on 'top' of ANY of them totally repellent. the desire to mark one's self out as superior to others is just something i can't stand.

that isn't to say i find competition repellent. rather, 'cool' seems more insidious: it's not just about wanting to be better than other people in some respects, or the best, but rather the desire to look down on other people. it's a desire for some higher status than others rather than a higher achievement than others.

are my favourite grime MCs the coolest people in the world? i dunno. not really in the sense that i'm worried about 'cool'. there doesn't seem to be much concern to look down on others, but rather a concern with being the best MC out there.

also, what i dislike about 'cool' is how painfully self-conscious, over-deliberated and non-spontaneous it can make people. that's nothing to aspire to. and i don't think it's something that many grime MCs can be accused of.


i don't really like everett true, but i did like it when he said: 'Never trust someone who thinks they're cool'.

xero
15-11-2004, 10:06 AM
Aren't the biggest hipsters the biggest nerds? Aren't the coolest people the most downtrodden? I see being cool as a way of finding a different hierarchy that you can sit at the top of when you're at the bottom of the dominant one. Maybe it goes back to the Romantics, or maybe it's part of "human nature".

I heard quite a convincing case that 'cool' developed amonst african slaves in the us, perhaps an extension or application of west african traditions that have been already cited in this thread. An expression of power for the powerless and a way of communicating agression without violence which was subject to draconian punishment - the same conditions that in south america gave rise to capoeira

luka
15-11-2004, 10:22 AM
the desire to mark one's self out as superior to others seems to me to be the source of anything good that has ever happened in the world.

simon silverdollar
15-11-2004, 10:32 AM
yeah, i'd agree that the desire to be superior to others can be a source of good things. but i think the desire to be cool goes beyond that- there's a difference between wanting to be better than others and wanting to be 'cool' in the sense of marking yourself out as of a higher status than others, of wanting to look down on others.
for example, athletes want to be better than other athletes. but this isn't a problem. they see their fellow atheletes as, fundamentally, their equals. people who think that they're cool also think that they are better than other people in certain respects. but, crucially, they don't see the people that they are better than as their equals. that's why they're so condescending or patronising. that's why i hate them.

Rambler
15-11-2004, 10:57 AM
I agree with what Simon's saying here - the desire to mark yourself out as better than others, as superior is not an attractive thing - but isn't it also, in the end, pretty uncool? The ladder that put you up there among the cool (and let's not forget that coolness is often something thrust upon people, rather than something they create for themselves) can easily bring you down. That's the conclusion of Quadrophenia isn't it? If you self-consciously construct yourself as cool (Sting's character), people might fall for it for a while; but ultimately you'll never be able to hide the fact that you're actually just a bellboy, and deeply uncool.*

Choosing to be cool is impossible - it is unattractive, a false position - and thus the cultural forces that define cool for you will eventually find you out.

* You also end up dancing really badly.

luka
15-11-2004, 11:55 AM
choosing to be cool is impossible?? what??? WHAT??!! tell miles davis!

luka
15-11-2004, 12:07 PM
cool in its purest form is an aesthetics of being in the world. you're talking about a debased version. genuinely cool people make the world a better place. its a talent, a gift, and dpends on a very acute understanding of social interaction, body language, signs blahblah. i can't believe people would try to say its a bad thing. appaling. don't be churlish.

Rambler
15-11-2004, 12:11 PM
Well, you could equally say that he just chose to play jazz trumpet - it's everybody around him that decided that he was cool.

And I know, 'Birth of the Cool', but that's tapping into a particular definition of cool isn't it? - and in turn creating a genre term of its own that is yet another etymological spinoff. As has already been pointed out on the thread, the definitions are really messy - for the record, in my post above I was referring to the later definitions of cool - 'you're so cool, man', that sort of thing.

Rambler
15-11-2004, 12:19 PM
Well, I also don't believe cool is actually a bad thing. I just think that saying 'I'm so cool' (cf 'We're soooo crazy') is a deeply uncool attitude. People saying 'He's so cool' isn't a problem - and the qualities that person embodies, the things their coolness gives to the world, is a gift.

Although, thinking about it, I can't think of anyone I admire purely for being cool. Everyone cool that I admire, I admire because of their actual gifts; being talented, dressing well, having excellent taste, great style - these things might make you cool, but without them, cool is just an empty vessel.

I dunno. The way I actually use 'cool' as a word every day is really really devalued - it's about as useful as 'fuck' these days. It's such a catch-all word it's hard to break it down so that it actually means anything.

luka
15-11-2004, 02:00 PM
miles davis was very consciously attempting to be cool. saying rather than admiring someone for being cool you admirethe way the dress, hold themsleves, phrase things, etc is a bit like saying you don't admire rooney for being a good footballer but for being good at dribbling,scoring goals, finding space etc etc.

Matos_W.K.
15-11-2004, 08:17 PM
Woebot, have you heard of a book by John Leland, a U.S. writer (was a very influential pop critic for Spin and the Village Voice in the '80s), called Hip: The History? I've read it, liked it a lot though it's a bit lumpy in places. Might wanna check it out.

sufi
15-11-2004, 10:39 PM
lovely thread,
there's an excellent archaeology of cool in west african religion in this book, (i showed it you before, no, matt? i'd recommend for eden especially...)
Flash of the Spirit - Robert Farris Thompson (http://www.webarchaeology.com/html/flashof.htm)

he derives the concept directly from the Yoruba concept of itutu


It would be interesting to investigate this concept of cool with the notion of maintaining 'itutu' ("grace under pressure") as attributed to people like Fela Kuti.

Terror Danjah Australis
16-11-2004, 12:57 AM
It's me Keith, Luka. What's up? childoftheblogosphere is my little bro.
My pseudonym doesn't suck too bad does it? Do any non-Australian grime fans actually get the joke?

Woebot
16-11-2004, 04:07 AM
'cool as in (example) 'grace under pressure' and cool as in (example) ' in the know, superior to others' -
these descriptions don't seem so very different ...
Cool, you know when you see it , so Matt , I'm not sure you were off rolling things somewhat together.

now you mention it http://www.dissensus.com/images/smilies/tongue.gif

Woebot
16-11-2004, 04:09 AM
they don't see the people that they are better than as their equals. that's why they're so condescending or patronising. that's why i hate them.
maybe theyre just in a different headspace

Woebot
16-11-2004, 04:10 AM
choosing to be cool is impossible?? what??? WHAT??!! tell miles davis!
couldnt agree more with this. its an intensely artificial position.

Backjob
16-11-2004, 06:10 AM
I believe the starting point on this thread was "traditionally we're down on people who collect music in order to assert some sort of superiority (which we can label cool) but maybe that search for superiority through music taste isn't intrinsically a bad thing"

Then there was a bit of chat over exactly what cool represents, and where it came from.

But going back to the beginning - I agree, I think it is a good thing.

Aside from what it means to be a "cool person" I think it's interesting to look at what "cool taste in music" or even "a cool record collection" means.

It's usually got one of the following meanings:

1) A prescient and cutting edge sensibility
2) An obsessive focus on an obscure musical back alley
3) Bizarrely eclectic and unclassifiable
4) An exclusive focus on music that is canonical to an 'elite' group

I don't think there's anything at all wrong with purposely pursuing any of the first three. And actually they all represent either an admirable triumph of discernment or a disciplined and extended commitment, which in any other field would certainly be laudable, so why not in the field of music? Unless we think that listening to music is a worthless activity compared to, say, playing snooker...

And further to that, this kind of activity nurtures and sustains new and obscure music, 'rebuilding the ladder'.

I definitely think 'cool' needs rehabilitating. Disparaging cool is like being one of those annoying student-y types who hate on people for caring about clothes.

luka
16-11-2004, 07:41 AM
it's true the discussion got sidetracked and i think you've pretty much summed up what matt was getting at that there. so, now that;'s done i'll quickly sidetrack again. cool, in the other sense of the word, the one matt wasn't inteding to discuss, is all to do with social interaction as performance, so it is completely artificial, but, perhaps, not much more so than anyone else's [ersonna, its just an act which is more highly polished, the actor is more accomplished, more in control of his effect on his audience.

DavidD
16-11-2004, 09:01 AM
If I was cool, I'd have this Cash Money pendent, only 30 bucks.
http://www.homiecentral.com.au/au/store/media/cashmoneyrecords.jpg

redcrescent
16-11-2004, 01:47 PM
@ sufi
That book looks interesting, I'll look out for it. Thanks.


couldnt agree more with this. its an intensely artificial position.
On the other hand, some people can't help being cool, even if what they do is 'anti-cool'. It's in the eye of the beholder, I guess.
We think people who bring home masses of obscure vinyl and find joy in connecting musical dots cool, but for most other people this is trainspotting behavior of the worst kind.

dominic
16-11-2004, 10:29 PM
in that it softly creates new imaginary worlds within our inner most consciousness, makes us, to quote Toop again, more aware of our non-verbal selves . . . . And isn't this what it really means to be cool, to be in a state of 'enlightenment', so to speak, and to make us better equipped to tackle lifes many tribulations? Surely the accumulation of cultural capital, of cultural credit, is merely the fickle residue of this quest, which can at times given the content of the listener's character, override the initial purpose of discovery, and which does, at face value, happen to appeal to others. But isn't the very fact that it is appealing come from this first reason? That people, on seeing someone devour culture, think that they must be a 'cool' dude whos coloured and enriched their life with music? :D

i think the above gets pretty close to the core. people who make music or who are really into music are, so to speak, on a different "vibe" than others, or at least this is how they imagine themselves (and how we, or I, imagine them) . . . . the vibe comes from being "more aware of our non-verbal selves" . . . . and yet, if we don't "dig" to one extent or another the music that a person is into, then we'll likely regard him as less cool than others . . . . moreover, commitment to music is not the only factor. as luka persuasively argues above, cool is a matter also of style, personal mannerisms and bearing, ways of speaking, how a person dresses. so it's not simply about music . . . . but i think that at the core it is about being into music, and having that space in one's head. and because he has that space in his head, because he's on that vibe, he is supposedly better able to keep things in perspective, so that nothing unduly fazes him -- and that's what makes the person cool. and yet without the right clothes, he still won't be as cool as others. and that's how it is (and therefore should be).

dominic
16-11-2004, 10:42 PM
and yet lots of introvertibly cool people don't keep things in perspective, and are quite easily fazed. for instance, miles davis. no definition of cool is satisfactory if it cannot account for miles davis, on the one side, and the cool dread carribean guys, on the other. plus, all the white people we think of as cool . . . . so, yeah, there's some kind of weird racial thing going on as well. that is, blacks are more likely to be "cool" than whites, and blacks with carribean backgrounds seem to be the coolest [but this last statement is obviously based upon my own narrow experience]

dominic
16-11-2004, 10:44 PM
and in the States, there's also what is known as "Asian Cool." But that seems to go more to what outsiders perceive as aloofness, rather than from the supposed space in the head, the inner vibe

dominic
16-11-2004, 10:46 PM
so, i'd say (1) into music, (2) openness to drugs, use of drugs, (3) personal bearing/manner, and (4) style of dressing

zhao
18-06-2009, 03:37 PM
with the passing of each year, i feel myself increasingly less concerned with being and looking cool.

you?

baboon2004
18-06-2009, 03:56 PM
That's a good trend, as it were. Mostly "cool" as it is commonly taken consists in the fetishising of the alienation of oneself from being able to be who one really is, and from expressing what one is truly feeling/being terrified of that. It's the opposite of passion, which is why it's a very apposite word.

Whereas being genuinely sorted is the ability to be oneself, no matter how that makes you look in the eyes of others. ie genuinely not giving a fuck, rather than pretending not to whilst the search for approbation is in fact consuming one.



(Zhao, your music is on its way!)

baboon2004
18-06-2009, 04:00 PM
Aren't the biggest hipsters the biggest nerds? Aren't the coolest people the most downtrodden? I see being cool as a way of finding a different hierarchy that you can sit at the top of when you're at the bottom of the dominant one.

very well put. No one needs to express their superiority to another human being if they feel secure. Modern life gives few such securities/validations of self-worth, being as it's obsessed with telling people they're not good enough.

zhao
18-06-2009, 04:30 PM
in the experimental music scene of big cities i've lived in (LA, NYC and Berlin), there seems to be always this inner circle of weirdos completely committed to being the Opposite of Cool.

you know what i'm talking about, don't you?

for instance at the Sublime Frequencies show last week there was this girl wearing bright pink overalls, like for a baby, with hand written kanji on the front, and really bad sneakers.

in LA there was and probably still is a group of people who similarly wear the most ridiculously un-cool clothes imaginable, the opposite of hipsters and fashion mags.

does this exist in London???

this could have gone in the clothes thread i realize but it's also to do with music scenes... :slanted:

zhao
19-06-2009, 05:55 AM
experimental music inner circle of weirdos completely committed to being the Opposite of Cool.

so these don't exist in London??? or just run in different circles than all you "urban" kids.