Friday, July 21, 2006

Music: The Improvement of a Tired Form, Part One

This is part one of many parts in an ongoing quest to explore (both personally and sociologically) the foundations and functions of music, and how one can improve the current status of popular music. Enjoy, J--


When one spends a substantial amount of time considering the emotional value of music, the result will more than likely turn into a value assessment of one’s character traits. At some point, when the likelihood of emotional response becomes imminent, conception becomes a different form of inward expression. This is important. Listening becomes a secondary format for understanding—projection being more immediate. For example, if you are introverted, the lyrical side of any song will reflect a certain understanding— the opposite is true for the outgoing individual who will look to the repetitive and ignorable instrumental side of a band’s/group’s catalog. This is evidenced by the number of people who argue music simply by its impetus for dancing or soundscapes (the rise of instrumental music being a catalyst for this essay). Necessity for classifications derives its merit from this type of general understanding of human condition--i.e. labeling comes from judgment.

Within any given musical classification, a certain amount of marketability is mixed into the music’s fan base. With each new genre comes a contextual choice. Should we market a new type of music to a fan base that enjoyed other classifications? Calling a certain type of music “Crunk” or even labeling a certain age group the “hip-hop generation,” immediately envisions a certain type of fan—the contingency supporting southern hip-hop for example can equate this movement to a post-punk wave of rock bands like Wire et al, but there is no need—“Snap," "Bounce," or “Crunk” (with the monosyllabic syllogisms for drunken antics) are ready made for marketing. “Math Rock,” “Post Punk” and etc. consolidate the appreciation of formerly unpopular styles of music. This typifying of the musical mindset grossly miscalculates the amount of effort and emotion in music; it guarantees the brevity of these subgenres. Therefore, emotional response becomes completely unnecessary—garnered useless by generic tags affixed to simplify the nature of movement from other musical forms.

Essentially, music’s dada is forthcoming. Since the emotional mindset of the consumer is so innate and lost, listening has become an exemplary way to completely betray the onslaught of iconological contrariness. The aforementioned difference between listening techniques (the example remaining introverted vs. outgoing) is, then, more important to avid consumers that they are projecting their own personalities onto their musical choices. Segregation of the genre specific forms of habit—fans of certain music tend to advertise that love with clothes, buttons, and imitations of the prominent figures of said genre. These habits become more important than the music itself. The way a consumer carries his/herself is inherently more valuable than an actual music conversation. Like being a New York Yankees fan means more than being a baseball fan, all music conversations become argumentative rather than appreciative of music (or baseball) itself. Argument, acceptance and agreement become the cyclical understanding of a music conversation—as the sentence now seems to go, “have you heard the new ________? It’s not as good as __________, but better than the new _________.” There is neither appreciative talk of performance nor a specific guideline, save for comparisons and argument. Music has become a form of function—a narrow vessel of personality rather than a fruitful dialogue of artistic integrity. Conformist conversation has cornered the market. Listening has become a useless facet in both the music and the banter.

Considering listening as a form of expression seems pointless in the face of such a graceless musical era—as we speak there are probably six different “generations” all sharing the same age groups. Instead, listening must take on its true form. Identification and projection must be separate from the "muscle" of new music. For instance, one of my favorite bands, the now dysfunctional Hot Snakes, bent their genre to the point of cessation of classification. There is everything from the 1950’s to the 1990’s within most every song (as I reviewed them once—"Punk Rock, Rockabilly, Rock and Roll and Classic Rock" can finally hang out in the same room together). One listen, however, could immediately assign a label of “Rock” and move on. Upon multiple listens, the subtle nods to other genres and overall quality of the music percolate the listener’s sense of innate observation. There are many examples of this, but the preachiness and condemnation of music is altogether to easy to adopt (part of the problem, so to speak).

Listening will weed out the imperfect--training of the ear to understand quality of lyric and emotional attachment to instrumentation will comprise a better understanding of each genre's place in the present. Coincidentally, having to understand and label all music’s standing is still a rather new venture in musical history (were the kids raving about the Baroque back in the day? Did they even really think that Baroque meant anything more than different?). As it stands, the definition of listening—making an effort to hear something; paying attention to garner understanding—stands to reason that people are only hearing the sounds and patterns of music on a large scale. Music used to be a formative escape, whereas its new place in society is a point of discussion alongside television, movies, and sport. This idea of classification is fine but wrong--albeit unintentionally. Entertainment is a knowing and demanding beast meant to form a barrier between respect and understanding. Respecting a musician is to fundamentally dismiss his/her/their entire form. Understanding a musician is the same as acknowledgement. To define is to confine, but to listen may be divine.

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