1/31/2013

- On the defenestration of Good Music



In this current generation’s culture there is nothing that we love more than our music.  It is the part of the American exceptionalism that we, our individual selves and nobody else, be able to listen to what ever we deem pleasing.  And we are glutted with genre upon genre with their thin lines that make them distinct; all of them cater to a specific man and his demographic.  Sometimes it is marketed to the populus at large and sometimes to a group of maybe three guys who remain die hard fans of a band that nobody has heard of or cares to hear of.  Along with this and the advent of relativity there has grown out of the confusion a greenhouse for everybody and their opinion on music.  Not everybody cares what their friends think of a movie or tv show, but many people will get furious when their favorite band is accused of being an offense to the ears.  This is hardly seen when people talk of movies, because deep down they really know that film, as a medium of art, does not merit the discussion that a book might; too many pictures.  That is the reason why we attended movies in the first place; the same reason why we go to a magic show.  To be wowed visually.  It does not make demands of our intellect or our learning.  Dim people can keep up with movies, but the tome which demands translation takes more effort than they are willing to give.  Music, on the other hand, is venerated as the single most beautiful enterprise and man can devote himself to.

And I am not to be considered as removed from this product of the times.  I grew up in a musical family where choices were many and dials always turned up to eleven.  My elder siblings were true 90’s kids and I was a mere child who only reacted to a catchy tune.  Since then I have learned a few musical instruments and have developed a philosophy of music and what should be heard by all.  I have my bands lined up in a row and am ready to talk to anybody who inquires of them.  I am the very thing I despise.

This essay is not about the popular music and how it is going to tear apart the moral fabric of society and laugh in the face of Mozart.  That should have been easy to see coming.  Rather, I am writing of those people who complain that this is what our music has come to.  They have other criterion: 1) Popular hipster extensive knowledge of all obscure bands, 2) Sharp arguments for why one genre shall not be confused with another, 3) Flippancy towards your ideas on music, 4) a glorified sense of their own credibility and authority on music, because they listen to a lot of bands.  Suddenly, we have a surplus of “experts” on music parading around their knowledge as often as they can.  Never have they considered to leave this to actual experts.

Of course, it had not always been this way.  There used to be clear class distinction in musical genre.  Classical music was agreed by all as best and all other genres had to compete to sit at classical’s right hand and judge the rest.  But in our prosperity and enhanced distribution everyone feeds their passions telling themselves that their taste is correct.  If you get into an argument with any of these people they will quickly start suggesting that musical taste is relative.  As though Rachmaninov’s concertos had no more claim to beauty than Charles Manson’s secret recordings.  Recently I had recently a friend tell me that some of Manson’s songs were pretty good.  This saddened me deeply.  How is it that we have come to this?  Everybody wants to think in their own mind that their musical taste is good and should be respected.  Nobody should mock them, for if they did a grim realization might descend on their heads declaring them a fool, for ever having pursued punk music.  Everybody wants to be “intelligent” and have equal say in the conversation.  They preach relativity and then assault another’s musical taste for not being their own.  But I am not here to bash on people’s taste.  I want to shine light on our inner workings when we claim a band is good.  Are we really being honest with ourselves?

What makes music loved and defended is not about it’s quality anymore.  It is all about how good the advertising is (pop music, with which I have no beef), or how charismatic the leader is.  People didn’t listen to punk music for any edification of sensual pleasure, but for an anthem of their ideals and loves such as disestablishment and anarchy.  Suddenly, I have people attempting dignified conversation about punk music before my very eyes.  Metalheads have begun to spawn actual college grads who claim absurdly that Metal is the logical extension of classical music.  They say this with sweet savor because the bands suggest that their songs are movements and should listened to as a whole.  Mistaken, they believe that if you have a series of crap then it is turned into gold.  The squeedly and meedly guitar remain a cancer in the ear and even for all it’s talent should never be taken seriously.

Mere contradiction satisfies these people.  They can present themselves as authorities by despising the popularly loved.  Recently I had a man laugh in my face for believing Led Zeppelin to be a good rock band.  Immediately, he had the entire room in agreement with him that I was living in a fanciful na├»ve world.  Professional movie critics will do the same when they give a box office hit two thumbs down; not to argue that their opinion is inherently wrong for this, but they do it for reasons other than truth.  Respect and credibility motivate these men and they will sell out any philosophical dignity just to taste sweet agreement with them.  The flippancy is hardest to deal with since again it is what convinces people that they are wrong.

The extensive knowledge which can be found on any wiki article is also revered by all and is a tool to gain the following.  The bands which must be searched for by a professional detective are gold mines for these power hungry peasants.  They are peasants wishing you would think them kings.  They want to have that ultimate wisdom and counsel and for you to know they have it.  As they peruse the obscure they miss the actual great music.  When someone presents to them an actual quality piece they become indignant of your suggestion and wish you would stop telling them how ugly they are.  Reality will occasionally catch up with these people and it damages them and their ego so acutely that they must return to home base and listen to their whole library to remember why they love themselves so much.

What ends up happening is a very uninspired and undignified conversation.  And the generational articles of the dunce have not helped any sort truth to break through.  “Uh, well like that is only your opinion.  Leonard Cohen is great!”  They have no sense of themselves and especially no concrete definitions to accompany their argument.  They rely on popular vote.  As I mentioned before I usually end up “loosing” the debate since there is power in numbers and in chronological snobbery.  I am labeled the fool who is too young to even begin to understand his world and himself.  Well, certainly I have not arrived at their position in life, which is such a bloated and glutted ego ready to burst in a fury of pride and self approval.  There is no hope in convincing them they have not a single clue in the things of art.  As long as they love themselves they will never admit that they were too hasty.

Perhaps, you and I both should hold ourselves to a higher standard . . . .