A century after the flowering of the Industrial Revolution, sculptors like Picasso, González, and Smith scoured factory yards and rubbish heaps for saucepans, sieves, bolts and screws, which they would weld together to create figures of strange and extraordinary beauty. This new kind of sculpture, called assemblage, changed the world's perception of what it was to create art. No longer did a masterpiece have to be chipped from pure marble, or cast in bronze. Suddenly, it could be made of samples.
Many decades have passed since the advent of recorded music, and now the same wave of modernism that motivated Picasso is hitting music today. The old genres of rock 'n' roll, pop, hip-hop, punk, R&B, metal, and hardcore have begun to dissolve. These days, what band doesn't define its sound by a collision of labels? It's as if most groups have become chemists, crashing molecules together to fashion new atoms of song. And that's in live music. In studios, hundreds of successful performers are erecting aural sculptures of their own from the fragments of recordings from all over the planet. DJs like Moby now surpass in popularity the old guitar giants, and kids in basements are almost as likely to be sitting down at synthesizers than strumming out chords.
To echo these shifts in the world of sound, The Independent is ending the eight-year reign of the Rock 'n' Roll Quarterly and will launch in August a new music supplement. We will continue to retain the tight focus and in-depth, beyond-the-review coverage of the old RRQs, but feel it is time to push ourselves and our readership to discover where music is heading in the new millennium, and where it will take us along the way.
In RRQ's farewell issue, six of our writers have delved into the rock sounds of the last 30 years. These articles will take you from Arrogance's 1969 birth in a UNC-Chapel Hill dorm room, through the Brit-embellished '80s, the sheer power and perversity of the '90s scene, and into today, where we see that while the impulse behind all this great music remains, the form will continue to change. "Rock 'n' roll is dead," Pete Townshend sang in his famous and prescient paradox. "Long live rock." --the editors