Thursday, June 29, 2017
A Taste Of Music...
Looking back through popular music of the past 90 years it occurred to me that terms like “corny” or “hokey” or ”cheesy” or “sentimental” or “schmaltzy”, etc have used to describe music that has had a residual touch of transcendence about it.
By that I mean music that attempts to rise above the squalor of the material present -to transcend the mere sensual and physical.
We all know pop sub-genres such as hiphop, disco, dance, punk, rock and r&b are intentionally simplistic and crude, designed to be temporary thrills for the mob.
But, what of the older popular forms upon which these genres are based?
Jazz music, for example, is also shockingly crude and one dimensional. I’d never really listened to it before until recently and when I did spend some time with it (about a month) I was amazed at how structurally unsophisticated and intellectually & spiritually lowbrow it is.
I mean I knew it was another sub-genre of pop music, but still, I was surprised at how bland and flat it was.
And the same goes for swing, big band and rag-time.
Popular music has, for the most part, reflected a rejection of any attempt at beauty and complexity, or transcendence.
Lyrically, only country music and heavy metal have made meager attempts at transcendence. Country does so only when it runs towards gospel music -which is strange as gospel music, as a genre, runs as far from transcendence as possible.
Heavy metal, of course, revels in themes of the supernatural and historical and is, musically, generally exaggerated. And, surprisingly, much of heavy metal, musically, post-1980 has been the most structurally complex and developed of all the pop sub-genres.
It seems that when people call a song “epic”, it’s usually a modern way of saying it has a transcendent quality to it.
This is all important as music has always been seen as being representative of civilization’s “soul” and “mind”.
So what does it say when the music that is most lauded and popular lacks any inclination towards transcendence?
Perhaps more importantly, what does it portend when music that does attempt transcendence is attacked and mocked?
And just a note on love songs. Romance is not a sophisticated or transcendent idea. Despite what many have come to believe in the west over the past couple hundred years, romance is a cheap, crude parody of love. It’s a long and involved subject, but no, romance was, historically, looked upon as a vulgar mockery of love. Romance is physical, and thus temporary, sensation. As such, it is not transcendent. The music of love songs may have a touch of the transcendent about them, but the lyric and theme is most certainly not transcendent. Quite the opposite, actually.