Thursday, February 11, 2010

Music Appreciation

-Once again I write with the expectation that younger people likely will dismiss these words as nothing more than the ramblings of an old guy whose opinions don't matter.

As I was getting in my workout yesterday, I had on Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits. I fancy myself as a fan of all types of music from all eras. But as I listened I thought...and here we go..."Nobody writes music like this anymore!" (That sounds like something I would have dismissed too if one of my parents had said it.) But...well..they don't. Someone under forty might also say "That's a good thing". But I'm talking here about the construction of a piece of popular music more than whether it makes a sub-woofer jump off the floor or rattle a car.

As I listened to I Am a Rock, for instance, I heard poetry. I heard wonderful, lilting melody. I heard performers who understood the importance of the beat, but also nuance, storytelling, tonal quality, lyrical rhyme and interpretation. This wasn't a song that set down a beat, a looping melody line, and then attempted to pound out some words to make a commercial package of some kind out of it. This was a beautiful story told in poem form and set to a melody built with the efforts of multiple master musicians.

Oh, I'm not here to complain that everything new is bad...and everything old school is good. Far from it. But the commercially successful music of the 21st century is more of a cookie-cutter, formulaic effort, in which true artistry is secondary to the look, and often, the outrageousness of the performer. Oh sure, all eras have their bombast and buffoonery when it comes to music. But the songwriters of today seem to be totally secondary to the make-up artists, costume designers, and studio engineers. True musicianship and artistry have a hard time getting recognized. Can we agree on that?

Even country music songs which, unlike other genres, seem hell-bent on telling a story, often are over-produced and drowned in special effects and instrumental hooks. And does anyone know how to rhyme lyrics anymore? Its frustrating listening to country songs that can't seem to find two words that end in the same syllable. Since when does truck rhyme with walk? Come on's not really that hard if you put some effort into it. I know you're trying to tell your story...but there are some generally accepted rules to writing poetry...and a song is a poem put to music...right? If you take poetic license it should only be an occasional thing.

I'm certain I'm not going to change the tastes of the popular music world by what I write here. But please, let's continue to fund music education, creative writing and literary appreciation in our schools. And let's also pay someone who's qualified to teach it. That's the only way real music artists will be developed...and the rest of society will know one when we see one...or hear one. And listen to a little Simon and Garfunkel once in a while to understand where I'm coming from. Thanks. I feel better.

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