Agnès Gayraud makes pop music under the name La Féline but she is also a philosopher, and her latest book The Dialectic of Pop, newly published by Urbanomic, explores the theory behind the music we love. She talks to David McKenna about Adorno, Hegel, and writing pop songs inspired by science fiction
My Dad is primarily a fan of classical music but his tastes do extend to some rock, particularly that of his youth – Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin are two prominent examples. He once said something to the effect that Jimmy Page is almost as good as a classical guitarist. This voice, the voice (and the ears, I suppose) of my father – of the father perhaps – is one of those that can accompany you as a listener, to be joined gradually by the sometimes radically different perspectives of other good, close listeners you meet in the course of your life. These voices aren’t a burden as such, but they both shape and challenge our convictions, and sometimes those challenges demand to be answered.
One of the convictions that most of us playing, listening to, writing and reading about pop is that it is important and – in some way – an art form. We express this belief in more or less fragmentary ways, and will defend it against accusations to the contrary. But what are we actually defending? How do we define popular music? It’s a loaded term in English, even if it’s shorn some of the French connotations of the populaire as something unrefined, carrying shades of condescension to working-class modes of living.