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17 December 2011


Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Going Back

ORIGIN late 18th cent. (in the sense [acute homesickness] ): modern Latin (translating German Heimweh ‘homesickness’ ), from Greek nostos ‘return home’ + algos ‘pain.’

Adam Ant
Since the members of the jury of the erstwhile classical prize known as the Driehaus Award (this year’s winner, Michael Graves), along with the I[C]A+A (see my earlier post), are in a mood to lead us back to the ‘80’s and Postmodernism, I’ve decided to relax and go along for the nostalgic ride—if only because pop music back then was so much more interesting than it is today. And perhaps, in a certain way, those tantalizing glimpses back to the past that PoMo offered as an antidote to sterile Modernism did open up the doors to a whole series of nostalgias that, in a few cases, led to more serious stuff. I think about my own trajectory from juvenile Postmod devotee to young classicist as, to be frank, partly tied to the romantic classicism in certain strands of early ‘80’s alternative music, some of which I offer here for your aural and visual retro-stimulation:
Adam Ant, Stand and Deliver

After all, the Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm Maclaren went on (after an interlude founding Bow-Wow-Wow—loved them!) to record an opera-inspired album (Fans). Not wholly coincidentally, I’m currently designing stage sets for a Baroque opera company in Chicago (about which more anon):

Like the movie Groundhog Day, perhaps, if we relive the ‘80’s, we can get it right this time ‘round and not be blindsided again by the neo-Modernism that was lurking just behind Graves’ pink pediments. Perhaps too, like the music industry over-managing the trajectory of pop music—giving us formulaic edge (Lady Gaga) instead of real edge (Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics)—we can avoid this time the facile acquiescence to the needs of the development industry that New Urbanism has succumbed to. In other words, we should listen to more of these folks
  • Lena Lovich (Lucky Number)
  • Nina Hagen (African Reggae)
  • Flying Lizards (Money)
  • Siouxsie and the Banshees (Arabian Knights)
  • Sue Saad and the Next (Young Girl)
and less of Bananarama and the Go-Go’s (not that I didn’t appreciate the latter once upon a time).

So, thanks to the folks at the Driehaus Prize for making me feel young again! And here’s to the guys in the tricorn hats. Like Sid said, I did it My Way:

Appendix: more Nostalgia Inducing Elements (thanks Colin)
The Stranglers, All Roads Lead to Rome


  1. While it's difficult to relate to PoMo as a positive thing, I take the generation of educators at ND at their word who say that post-modernism, for all its superficiality, really did open up the door to a genuine reconnection with living architectural traditions. That's the only light in which the Graves award makes any sense--but it seems like it could make for some awkward speeches: "we recognize you not for your actual achievements, which are dubious, but for accidentally allowing others to actually learn a thing or two where you just sort of played around. . . thank you for vaguely suggesting a keystone or an order". Even those who support the selection surely won't avoid being reserved, at best, in their support of Graves' work, as opposed to his suggested possibilities.

    But whereas I'm pretty skeptical of taking pomo into the fold of the "Grand Tradition," I'd wholeheartedly get behind a genuine revival of the sort of romanticism and verve expressed in post-punk/new pop!

  2. A little further nostalgia fodder, at my mix-blog--not the sort of stuff I have actually shared with anyone at ND, alas: