July 29, 2010

I'm nostalgic for Muzak.

You could ignore it. It was designed to fade into the background, and we used to scoff at it for precisely that reason. Now, I have to listen to the urgent yearnings of pop singers oozing from tinny ceiling speakers wherever I go. Even stuff that should be good — I've heard U2's "With Or Without You" twice in 2 days — sounds cheesy and insincere when piped into a restaurant or lobby. What are these decontextualized problems the singers are going on about? What does this person's troubled relationship have to do with my scrambled eggs?

96 comments:

madawaskan said...

It's the damn words-I think if it was just instrumental-it would be a lot better.

btw-I think this is how I learned to loathe the Beatles-yesterday's waiting room U2.

Chase said...

Muzak is still alive and prospering, thank you very much.

shoutingthomas said...

I'm tired of over-emoting in music, no matter where it occurs.

The worst example I've heard in decades is the truly awful "Streets of New York" by Alicia Keys.

Think of some R&B singer called upon the perform the National Anthem at an NBA game. You know, the kind who has to yodel and demonstrate the full range of their vocal acrobatics on every vowel. Sort of like Whitney Houston in her full drug fury, screeching and howling.

I had to listen to Keys screeching her New York song several times a day at a recent job. It was a nightmare. Keys doesn't seem to have a clue about musical restraint or subtlety. And, I suspect, the vocal gymnastics are supposed to be some sort of "I am Woman Hear Me Scream!" statement.

I listen a lot to Big Band and blues these days, precisely because the musicians show some emotional restrain and sense of proportion.

Pogo said...

Brian Eno's Music for Airports should be sufficient, if the silence causes too much anxiety.

TMink said...

Then there is the aural assault from the tiny, distorting speakers! Or listening to some garbage sounding song while waiting for someone to answer the phone. I would not care if it did not sound so painfully bad!

Trey

k said...

For some reason, as I read this post, my mind drifted to the sound of the LP music Nurse Ratched puts on in the ward as she administers meds ... ostensibly soothing the savage breast. Right before the riot.

Palladian said...

I was just thinking the same thing the other day. I cannot stand going to a store or restaurant that pipes in that homogeneous, over-produced emotive treacle. I'm hypersensitive to my environment so it's absolute torture for me to be subjected to music that I hate accompanying a singer who can't sing singing lyrics that anger me with their cretinous inanity. And usually it's being played several notches above the threshold where there's any hope of ignoring it.

It's my opinion that most of the problem is lyrics. I'm very word-oriented, so I'm unable to ignore the chin-strokingly cod-sensitive man warbling his way through some blather about his feelings for some silly twat that either got away or doesn't realize that he'd make the mountains tumble into the ocean for her. I can't not cogitate words when they're thrown at me at high volume, especially when my nerves have already been sanded down by the glare of fluorescent strip lighting and the harassment of sales associates named Skyler or Staci.

The solution? As Althouse implies, go back to the old Muzak! Elevator music! Instrumentals! The Longines Symphonette! 101 Strings Orchestra! Ferrante & Teicher! Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra! As boring as most of those were, they did exactly what they were supposed to do: fill dead air without distracting you.

I think part of the problem is that so much contemporary music wouldn't hold up rendered as an instrumental arrangement. Almost no one writes melodies anymore.

HDHouse said...

We did a music research study back at Michigan State. The Student Health Center was a pain in the neck - long waits, restless students - long before computers and laptops and I-phones.

We found that feeding music of longer duration and particularly without words lowered the "I've been waiting forever" complaints significantly. We supposed that the same held true for any "trapped" situation that provided background music (elevators, restaurants, lobbys, etc.) but didn't do that research.

sonicfrog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
k*thy said...

Clearly, you're an outlier for the particular focus group's consensus. Or it's what the manager likes.

Let go or be dragged, A, let go or be dragged.

sonicfrog said...

I posted this a month ago, but it fits here:

I was in the bank yesterday, and a really bad cover of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" was playing, not enough in the background. It had the standard triple-time disco-techno beat driving it, and the vocals, well, lets just say "no feel / no heart / all auto-tune". A few hours later, I'm eating at Mica's, one of my local haunts, and another cover song comes on. I don't remember what it was, but, wouldn't you know, it had the exact same disco-techno beat, and had the same "no feel / no heart / all auto-tune" type vocals behind it. Blegh!

It's worse when you're a musician because your ears are trained to notice little nuances in music, and you end up having to try and block out this stuff that has no little nuances what-so-ever. At least traditional Musak was kind of fun because they often covered more obscure songs, and it was a game to see how many of the lesser known songs you recognized.

Pogo said...

Riceboy Sleeps - All The Big Trees is also nice.

It involves the artist behind Sigur Rós.

edutcher said...

It was so bad, it was good.

madawaskan said...

It's the damn words-I think if it was just instrumental-it would be a lot better.

That was the essence of Muzak - badly done instrumentals.

Palladian said...

Pogo, that's perfect! I'd like it even better if some big-box store played a selection from Eno's Ambient 4: On Land. Now that's music to shop to!

madawaskan said...

No one can top Palladian....

Gawd-I hate the damn lights-they drain the hell out of me.

madawaskan said...

edutcher-

I dunno the Beatle's Yesterday makes me want to kick something.

I swear-my maxillofacial surgeon played it in his room de wait in my yute.

Just sayin'...

Quayle said...

I was thinking this very thing a few weeks ago.

There are times when you want to hear a Beatles tune done by orchestra and a pan pipe.

Pogo said...

I love On Land.

We must be the two guys that bought the album. I have never met anyone who has ever heard of it.

madawaskan said...

I also remember this-

Let me take you down,

[here's where I get the urge to flying tackle someone across the room]

'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.

Nothing is real...


[Rush Limbaugh post?]

and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.


Gawd!

I'm off to go do yoga-"for balance"-or drink Chivas...

traditionalguy said...

There is more and more a frantic world around us expecting instant everything as it communicates more and more words, noises, pounding raps, and distracting input. That is not human speed. It is in fact a form of drugging people. To claim the right to escape from it is a bold revolt.

Palladian said...

Mozart is perfect background music. Pleasant enough, unobtrusive and not worth one's full attention.

HDHouse said...

This is kinda what I was driving at...

The Crack Emcee said...

Alright, let's get to it:

1) U2 was NEVER good. Trying to find something good in it is futile. (I guess you can say you "still haven't found what you're looking for", huh?) I think, if it took tinny speakers to show you how bad U2 is, then let's praise tinny speakers - which, BTW, is how artists are supposed to listen to their music, after mastering, to see how most of the public will receive it.

2) Muzak, done right, has it's charms. It should strike you like Paul Anka's cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", where the shock comes from how far the arranger's tongue is planted in your cheek, or your ear, or whatever. Basically, it should tickle you with recognition while surprising you with it's novelty, just like any good cover tune. Nobody minds that, even in a restaurant.

3) Eno's Music For Airports (and his other background experiments) haven't been given their due by society planners. On the other hand, being Americans, the fact that Jazz isn't our default background music is crazy. I can still remember the first time I heard Money Jungle by Duke Ellington, Max Roach, and (my step-father) Charles Mingus, and I started screaming, "Why haven't I heard this before?!? Where is this music in America?!?" As Frank Zappa said, Americans feed their children madness, cloaked as creativity, and then complain when their kids turn out to be know-nothing, deviant, sex-crazed whack-jobs.

To me, as usual, the answer isn't Muzak, but the upholding of standards in quality. If you don't know the difference between good and bad, you can't expect the music you hear to be any good, or to get much better.

3)

E.M. Davis said...

I've been using a lot of Percy Faith for some videos I've been editing the past 2 weeks.


Now that was some awesome elevator music. And I am for some strange reason, really digging it.

wild chicken said...

I'm actually missing the older more melodic standards that Muzak played back in the 1960s before the studios started adapting rock and moving it into the playlist. I even miss the old easy-listening stations that used to broadcast for the WWII generation. The music was comforting and escapist. Anything to get away from the here-and-now.

God I'm old.

Sofa King said...

When I shop, I want to hear Herb Alpert gorrammit!

Andrea said...

Agreed -- but you could play some of the lighter classical stuff -- chamber music and the like. (No big dramatic orchestral things.)

MamaM said...

Talking is cheap
people follow like sheep
Even though there is no where to go

Silence is golden, golden,
but my eyes still see

Instrumental or not, I still hear the words.

raf said...

The self-righteous narcissim of youth (This "music" is not relevant to my life and feelings!) slides unobtrusively into the tired narcissm of late middle age (Why do they play "music" that bothers me all the time?!).

Not trying to be mean. I achieved late middle age earlier than most. I started missing Muzak decades ago.

Julie and Janet said...

Yes, yes, YES! So great to hear that someone else feels that way too.

Not only is the quality of the music tinny and distant, but, for me at least, it is terribly distracting. I get caught up in the lyrics and loose track of my errand. I don't particularly enjoy supermarket shopping but I need to get my family food. Occasionally, I get so distracted by the lyrics and cannot focus that I have left the market after only getting through a portion of the store just to get my wits back.

Yes, bring back instrumental muzak if you MUST have tunes in stores.

Richard Dolan said...

Why 'nostalgic for muzak' rather than 'wishing for silence'? Is it that people crave background noise so long as it's easily ignored - there but not there?

It's another way in which the modern world is completely different from earlier times, when silence was the all-encompassing norm and anything that broke the flat expanse of aural (and visual) nothingness was welcome. Huizinga's book, the Autumn of the Middle Ages, begins with a passage describing the silent darkness of early medieval life. Too much of a good thing makes you wish for its absence.

The Crack Emcee said...

Percy Faith was an (unacknowledged) giant. Hardly anybody digs him anymore but Rap producers - "crate diggers" - who (privately) can't get over the lushness.

I think, if more people understood Rap, they'd see how far the range of music they're dealing with is, and start to appreciate it (partially) for the educational experience. Like how many people, here, knows David McCallum - of Man From U.N.C.L.E. fame - recorded some really good tracks? Well, you would if you were a Dr. Dre fan.

Discovering the history of contemporary music is a big part of rap's appeal.

The Crack Emcee said...

Richard Dolan,

"Why 'nostalgic for muzak' rather than 'wishing for silence'?"

Because you'll get silence when you're dead.

Methadras said...

It's music over the phone while you are on hold that makes me want to kill someone. Atrocious. It's one thing to have wait on hold for "5 minutes to 20 minutes" and then have this sonic assault permeate my mind in between getting hustled for new way to have my money removed from me.

That's why I love death metal so much, it's because you can take any song. Any song at all and death metalize it. Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow, you name it and it will sound awesome. Hail Bolt Thrower.

LordSomber said...

Nelson Riddle boring? He was good enough to back Sinatra!

I grew up hearing Herb Alpert and Beatles muzak. I was astonished to discover that Beatles song had lyrics.
Made me appreciate instrumental music though. From Stan Kenton, Les Brown, on through lounge, surf and other genres.

Eno's Ambient stuff is great.

And just to weird out the topic, have a listen to a certain band's "E-Z Listening Disc" if you can find it.

The Crack Emcee said...

Methadras,

ROTFLMAO!!! [High Five]

The Crack Emcee said...

Lord Somber,

D-E-V-O.

Sofa King said...

Because since achieving real silence is impossible in such a public environment, "silence" can be equally distracting. Without something else to hear but not listen to, the mind then focuses its auditory attention on other things: the squeaky shopping cart, the constant checkout beeps, the whirring cooler pumps, and worst of all, the inane and frequently confounding snippets of conversation among shoppers and their companions/phone calls. These all make you want to leave as quickly as possible, which is not what the stores want.

They could, I suppose, achieve a similar effect with white or pink noise, but easy listening is also supposed to have the effect of relaxing people and making them feel good about buying things, which white noise alone has not been proven to do.

Methadras said...

LordSomber said...

Eno's Ambient stuff is great.


It is isn't it. Music for Airports is one of my favorits, but his collaboration with Robert Fripp on Evening Star for me, is fairly glorious. I'm a huge electronic, Ambient, Chill-out, Trip-Hop fan too.

Donna B. said...

Crack Emcee -- it's possible I dislike rap because so many fans of it seem to use it as a "weapon", an assault of sound, mostly bass. Usually at a red light.

It's that same feeling of being assaulted by sound that drives me out of some stores. And, recently, one of my daughters has started wanting music to play in the background in her house... just a tad louder than I'm able to ignore.

Words are very intrusive. I hate going to doctor's offices that have TVs in waiting rooms usually tuned to a cable news channel. ugh.....

Thanks for the Money Jungle link. That was good, and now I'm off to listen to it again and some of the other related stuff on the youtube sidebar.

Methadras said...

The Crack Emcee said...

Percy Faith was an (unacknowledged) giant. Hardly anybody digs him anymore but Rap producers - "crate diggers" - who (privately) can't get over the lushness.


Percy Faith is in my crate. I just went to go take a look and this is what I have, holding them now:

Amour, Amor, Amore
Bim, Bamm, Boom
Boquet
Boquet of love
Claire
Percy Faith Plays Continental Music (love this one personally)
Carzon
Exotic Strings
Fascinating Rhythms
Girl Meets Boy
Adventures in the Sun
Angel of the Morning

and a few more that are in my crate. He's on my iPod for those long flights because his music helps me to relax and concentrate on the things I love most. My family. His music isn't only lush, but it's timeless and can enjoyed by anyone.

Methadras said...

The Crack Emcee said...

Lord Somber,

D-E-V-O.


Mmmm. Soft Things. Devo is putting out a new album I understand.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Because you'll get silence when you're dead.

True dat. It's done much to reconcile me to the prospect.

Palladian said...

"It's music over the phone while you are on hold that makes me want to kill someone. Atrocious. It's one thing to have wait on hold for "5 minutes to 20 minutes" and then have this sonic assault permeate my mind in between getting hustled for new way to have my money removed from me."

The two most memorable (scarring) experiences I've ever had with forced ambient music were:

I. I went to see a popular film on opening day once, I can't remember what it was. I arrived at the theater early in order to get a good seat. I waited in a very long line before the doors of the theater were opened. I was able to get a good seat. The problem was, the film didn't start for over an hour, and once I had the seat I couldn't get up because someone would take it. I hadn't brought my portable music device and this was before the days of iPhone, so I simply had to wait. I suddenly noticed that the theater was playing Christopher Cross's "Arthur's Theme"– you know, the song that has the chorus that begins: "When you get caught between the moon and New York City...". Now, this is a hateful song from a hateful artist, but I could tough it out for a couple of minutes until the song ended.

That grateful moment arrived, followed by a brief silence. Then the same song started again! I assured myself that it must have been a simple mistake and waited until it mercifully finished for the second time, followed by a welcome silence and the murmur of the still-arriving audience.

Then the song began to play again

"...when you get caught between the Moon and New York City..."

And then again.

"...I know it's crazy, but it's true..."

And then again.

"...the best that you can do..."

The song played over and over and over again for the entire hour and twenty minutes until the movie started. Someone threw a drink at the screen, but missed. A baby cried. A few people gave up their seats and left, then came back during the previews and sat on the floor in the front.

Sometimes, even today, I "...wake up and it's still with me..."

II. Once in the late 1980s I was at Hershey Park, an amusement park in Hershey, Pennsylvania, home of the delicious cheap chocolate, waiting in line to ride a then-popular roller coaster. The park was crowded, the line was long, snaking through seemingly endless wooden corrals. A recent addition had been made to the waiting areas of the more popular rides at the park: television sets, suspended from the ceilings of the ride corrals at intervals, so there wasn't a single place the entire length of the line where you couldn't see and hear one of the televisions. The idea, I suppose, was to try to alleviate the boredom and misery of waiting in a very slow line on a humid summer day. I also suspect that the park got money to play promotional content on a loop. And what was playing on those televisions, visible from every part of the line, and audible through multiple low-fidelity speakers? This. And no, this isn't a tiresome use of a completely played-out internet joke. That was really what was playing. Over and over and over again.

For almost two hours.

A.W. said...

to all the resturants in the world, DO NOT LISTEN TO ALTHOUSE.

Lord, the last thing i need is more muzac.

codeword: hanate. defined as when something inately is a sean hannity concept. "Man, that topic is so hanate."

Methadras said...

Palladian said...

This. And no, this isn't a tiresome use of a completely played-out internet joke. That was really what was playing. Over and over and over again.

For almost two hours.


Damn, getting Rick Rolled in the '80's. I wanted to kill him when I first saw him. He reminded me of a red haired Bob's Big Boy with that hair of his.

Insoucient said...

I'm a new around here, so excuse my ignorance, but what does Professor Althouse mean when she says "I have to listen to" ?? Is she being forced to go to these restaurants and lobbies? Scrambled eggs are pretty easy to prepare at home, where there's no bothersome music to "have to" endure.

Sissy Willis said...

And it homogenizes all public space in a most disagreeable way.

Freeman Hunt said...

"With or Without You" was ruined for me when I met my husband. Listening to it from the comforts of an extremely stable and happy marriage, all I can think is, "You people need to break up and get on with your lives."

Paul Zrimsek said...

Perhaps those to blame for all the racket are the same "new" people who keep popping up here claiming to be baffled by the very concept of a public nuisance.

reader_iam said...

We must be the two guys that bought the album.

Make that three. Only I'm a gal. So, make that two plus one.

---

Jeez, Palladian, we must have been at Hershey Park about the same time. In my case, it was part of a Family Day outing sponsored by the financial services company for which I worked at the time. And because there were young children of co-workers there, I couldn't even swear, or substitute dirty made-up lyrics, not even under my breath. Which made the situation suck all the more.

virgil xenophon said...

I will say however, that the commercial firm that provides a custom-edited mix of 50s-to-present piped-in rock to Trader Joe's (at least in Santa Monica) is dynamite..

reader_iam said...

I listened to my Mom and Dad (musicians by profession, both) complain about and deride, in excruciating detail, Muzak pretty much all of my growing-up years. Now, oddly, like some others here, my Dad has expressed some jarring semi-nostalgia for Muzak and has been complaining even more about what took its place. Since my mom died, we've gotten him into the iPod world and downloading music, so it's gotten much better lately. He even got XM in the new car he recently bought! Just, wow. Who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks?

c3 said...

Life must have a sound track


Palladian;
Is the fire in your house getting bigger?

Bob_R said...

Terry Teachout had a post once where he was dismayed at one of his favorite restaurants using Kind of Blue as background music. I disagreed - one of the great things about Kind of Blue is that it works at so many levels and background is one of them. You can listen to it closely or not with great pleasure.

lemondog said...

....and (my step-father) Charles Mingus...

Wow.

Don't understand why jazz in the US has not a recognized preeminence to rock and to popular music in general.

Unlike popular music, to my non-musician ear, it has complexity.

I listen to the rich fullness of this in wonder as they improvise intricately weaving a thick brocade of color, light and flight

Celia Hayes said...

Ugh - my own experience with Muzak was much more personal. I killed a year or two actually working in the local affiliate. The music itself wasn't actually that awful; they have about 100 different programs of music, something suitable for any place. It's ok, just think of it as audio wallpaper. After I was let go I was plagued for several years afterward by being able to walk into any clients of theirs, and recognize instantly what program they had. It was a family owned company, incidentally. Be wary of family owned companies who claim that they treat their employees just like family. They do, but it's a dysfunctional and exploitative family. We used to come in through the employee's entrance, and every once in a while, the combo would be changed - and everyone would be stuck outside, wondering who had gotten the sack the day before. On one Friday, there were two people fired, and one quit.
Good times. I work at home now, as an independent contractor.

Fred4Pres said...

I am nostalgic for walkmans.

And boom boxes. Big ones.

And for that matter, Brian Eno. I loved MFA.

Jennifer said...

That video is not available in my country, Palladian. Sigh.

And that brings me to my most memorable ambiant music experience.

Wandering through a German version of WalMart, having searched high and low through every reputable store for weeks, trying desperately to find just ONE ICE CUBE TRAY and having no luck. Being lost and confused because products were laid out in a very different way than I'm used to (one that was not at all logical to my American brain but I'm sure made perfect sense auf deutsch). Essentially, just coming to a pinnacle of the wearying overwhelmingness of an abrupt move to a completely foreign land. Then, Jack Johnson came on over the speakers. Jack Johnson who grew up just down the highway from me in Hawaii. Somehow that completely reset me, made me feel a little more at home and much less on the verge of tired tears.

So, I agree that the ambient music can have a very profound effect on those of us muddling through it. Probably fairly rarely such a wildly positive effect. Probably best to go a more innocuous route.

jr565 said...

Instead of muzak, or u2 businesses should play sounds of nature. Like the sounds of waterfalls or chirping birds. It removes the problem of repetitiion which is one of the worst things about background music. How many times can you hear THE SAME U2 song (or any song frankly) without gagging. But if you play waterfalls, it will calm people down and they will never say "not waterfall track 12 again". They won't know the difference between the various waterfall tracks (and is there a difference or do all waterfalls sound about the same). If someone has a problem with the sounds of nature, they are obviously anti the environment and should be shunned by polite society.

jr565 said...

Lemondog:
Don't understand why jazz in the US has not a recognized preeminence to rock and to popular music in general.

Unlike popular music, to my non-musician ear, it has complexity


Your second paragraph answered your first. The other reason is that a lot of jazz sounds ugly. Certainlly there is something to be said for following a journey of improvization,but very often said improv is just ramblng meandering atonal ugliness and people simply lose patience. As someone very wise once said "Don't bore us, get to the chorus". In jazz there are very often no choruses, or verses to speak of.
It's probably a personal preference but what would you rather read, a terse novel filled with very precise language that is not too verbose, or James Joyce's Ullyses. We can all agree that Joyce was an "artist", and we can admire the audacity of an artist intentionally forgetting to use punctuation, but who wants to read that? (Other than people who like challenges that is). I'm sure more than one person wondered where Joyce's editor was and why they had to decipher something so convoluted from someone who knows how to write properly.

veni vidi vici said...

Fuck, Palladian! You're in exquisite form today! Bravo!


This thread describes well why I listen to progressive house music almost exclusively anymore. It's instrumental, melodic, and has interesting and sophisticated arrangements with a lot of movement, drama and evolution among the parts and timbres. This is the essence of a great, escapist musical entertainment.

Of course, some people think it's like listening to a washing machine but they're either not giving it a chance or are listening to trance; the good prog is really deep and, well, proggy!

For the curious, I refer you to Nick Warren "Global Underground GU24: Reykjavik"; it has one disc of ambient/chillout that is exemplary, and a second disc of mainroom prog. Both mixes are exemplary, and like Calgon they'll take you away...

v


wv: "paphy" -- What the copy-boy said just before Al Jolson shouted "REWRITE!"

The Crack Emcee said...

jr565,

"If you play waterfalls, it will calm people down and they will never say 'not waterfall track 12 again'. They won't know the difference between the various waterfall tracks (and is there a difference or do all waterfalls sound about the same)."

Wrong. Any decent musician, after a few listens, will have figured out the tracks to anything.

'If someone has a problem with the sounds of nature, they are obviously anti the environment and should be shunned by polite society."

You're one those PSA Greens who should have a boxing glove, that appears out of nowhere, to knock the fuck out of you for saying stupid shit.

"A lot of jazz sounds ugly."

*POW!*

Look, there's something to be said for music that follows the western pop formula, and there's also something to be said for music that breaks it - that challenges us, or doesn't steer near any of the familiar sign posts [place chorus,...here] because that verse/chorus/verse shit can be mind numbing.

I hate to break it to you, but music is an art form - it ain't here to make you "happy" - or to conform to your (enviro-fascist-inspired) it-better-be-this-or-else bullshit. All it has to be is good.

And clearly, with your limited "if someone has a problem with the sounds of nature" outlook, you wouldn't recognize that under even the best of circumstances.

Da Da Da.

The Crack Emcee said...

"I listen to progressive house music almost exclusively."

Goatee Alert:

Your mom's going to find you hung in the cellar one day, with your eyes going round and round,...

jr565 said...

Crack Emcee wrote:
"If you play waterfalls, it will calm people down and they will never say 'not waterfall track 12 again'. They won't know the difference between the various waterfall tracks (and is there a difference or do all waterfalls sound about the same)."

Wrong. Any decent musician, after a few listens, will have figured out the tracks to anything.


'If someone has a problem with the sounds of nature, they are obviously anti the environment and should be shunned by polite society."

You're one those PSA Greens who should have a boxing glove, that appears out of nowhere, to knock the fuck out of you for saying stupid shit.


Dude, I wasn't serious about playing waterfall ambient sounds in an elevator (or the idea that if you don't like those sounds you're anti the environment). Maybe I need to put a sarc after my comment. I just love the idea of going into a supermarket and instead of hearing muzak or U2 hearing the sound of birds chirping for 35 minutes. It would be a great wtf moment? Personally I can't stand ambient sounds for more than 5 minutes.


"A lot of jazz sounds ugly."

*POW!*

Look, there's something to be said for music that follows the western pop formula, and there's also something to be said for music that breaks it - that challenges us, or doesn't steer near any of the familiar sign posts [place chorus,...here] because that verse/chorus/verse shit can be mind numbing.

I hate to break it to you, but music is an art form - it ain't here to make you "happy" - or to conform to your (enviro-fascist-inspired) it-better-be-this-or-else bullshit. All it has to be is good.

And clearly, with your limited "if someone has a problem with the sounds of nature" outlook, you wouldn't recognize that under even the best of circumstances.

Da Da Da.


Ya da ya da. Here's the thing. Certain people like poppy songs and certain people like progressive rock. You can't argue the merits of one over the other and no one can really say which is superior or inferior. It's all based on your own tastes.
As to jazz, it is definitely an acquired taste. Some people enjoy atonality that doesn't conform or the idea that you are travelling on a journey of improvisation to see what happens. And, in my personal opinion, very few jazz artists can do it well enough that I want to listen to it for more than twenty minutes. To me it's an unfinished thought versus a finsihed thought. And I prefer the composition to the practice session. But I will also say that if it's a rock band and they spend 20 minutes improvising (especially the drummer) it's boring too, so it's not limited to jazz. And note, it's not the idea of long compositions. Compositions are finished pieces of music that are composed a certain way. They may contain improv within them but they conform to a completed structure. Improv for improv's sake is just masturbation (in my opinion) so don't enjoy it AS MUCH. Now, I will say there are a few jazz artists that I like, or certain pieces that I enjoy and there are many types of jazz so not all of it is as atonal as I'm describing, but in general it's not my cup of tea.

Methadras said...

Freeman Hunt said...

"With or Without You" was ruined for me when I met my husband. Listening to it from the comforts of an extremely stable and happy marriage, all I can think is, "You people need to break up and get on with your lives."


It was the same thing with a lot of my friends that realized The Police, Every Breath You Take wasn't really what they thought it was and were horrified when I pointed out to them what it was really about. I had gone to 3 weddings with my wife one year and all 3 of them had Every Breath You Take as the wedding music somewhere in the ceremony and I would just look over at my wife and she would look over at me and we would roll our eyes, shake our heads, and played rock, scissors, paper, on which one of us was going to break it to the happy couple the song they just got married to. I won 2 out of 3. :D

The Crack Emcee said...

"Here's the thing. Certain people like poppy songs and certain people like progressive rock. You can't argue the merits of one over the other and no one can really say which is superior or inferior. It's all based on your own tastes."

That's bullshit - everybody falls back on that "it's subjective" bullshit when they got nothing else to lean on. Ain't shit subjective about The Beatles, or Coltrane, or any number of other great artists that some tasteless asshole may not like.

Music ain't held hostage to "taste" - it's art - and the only thing that determines what's what is quality.

The Crack Emcee said...

"Every Breath You Take"

Stalker?

Methadras said...

The Crack Emcee said...

"Every Breath You Take"

Stalker?


Kind of a yes. It is more about possessiveness as a function of stalking. Some people could see it as a song about stalking the one you can't have, but it's a pretty vicious piece of music.

lemondog said...

Jazz is not all atonal improvisation, in fact I suggest most jazz has degrees of improv but without the atonality. As an example and it is listening not only to the music as it unfolds but to the craftsmanship and artistry of the musician.

Garner, Ellington, Fitzgerald, Brubeck, Christy to name just a few, greatly improvised but delivered unparallel musicality.

Palladian said...

Screw Jazz improvisation. J.S. Bach improvised a 3-voice fugue based on a theme given to him by Frederick the Great of Prussia during a meeting between the them at Potsdam on May 7, 1747. The king then challenged Bach to use the theme and write a six-voice fugue. Bach took the theme back to Leipzig and two months later published a suite of pieces now known as the "Musical Offering", BWV 1079: two ricercars (the improvised 3-voice fugue and the 6-voice fugue Frederick challenged him to write), ten canons and a four-movement trio sonata with one of the parts written for flute, the instrument that Frederick played.

That's improvisation.

jr565 said...

Crack Emcee wrote:
That's bullshit - everybody falls back on that "it's subjective" bullshit when they got nothing else to lean on. Ain't shit subjective about The Beatles, or Coltrane, or any number of other great artists that some tasteless asshole may not like.

Music ain't held hostage to "taste" - it's art - and the only thing that determines what's what is quality.


Sure it is (subjective) that is. Who is the THEY assigning greatness to various artists, and why are they right. If Neil Young is considered great does that mean you HAVE to like Neil Young? Dylan is considered a god by many, but many others can't stand him prmarily because of his voice. What about Springsteen? I personally can't stand him, but I know he's beloved by many. It's all about taste. Now, there are artists considered great like Coltrane, or The Beatles, and you can acknowledge that they have a place in rock's history, but taste is whether you want to play them over and over. And everyone's favorites list will look different.
What is the criterion for greatness anyway? Number of hits? Then you'd have to include people like Britney Spears who has a lot of hits, and exclude the Pixies or some other band that is considered influential but never hit the charts. If it's not based on hits, then it's based on critics saying "this is great" and people going along with it. But are they right officially? There's no way to prove it,but you can agree or disagree based on taste.
Every year or so Rolling Stone comes out with the 100 best rock albums or the top 100 artists in Rock type issues? Is that definitive? Of course not. Are the Beatles no. 1 because Rolling Stone magazine says so? (they happen to be number one simply because). Your top 100 artists list will be different than others, and there are honestly people who don't like artists considered classic.
I remember I was driving with my friend about 15 years ago and he said he'd put on something that everyone likes and asked me to guess. I said The Beatles and instead he put on Boston. He then let on that he didn't like the Beatles that much. I was flabbergasted, but how do I argue with his tastes? If he doesn't like the beatles then he doesnt' like the Beatles.It's all subjective

jr565 said...

lemondog wrote:
Garner, Ellington, Fitzgerald, Brubeck, Christy to name just a few, greatly improvised but delivered unparallel musicality.

I shouldn't say that all jazz sucks, just that I don't generally seek it out. And there is different types of jazz. Certainly I would agree that earlier artists (like Fitzgerald and Ellington) are less atonal and while improvising stick much more to song structure and improvise within the songs structure as opposed to simply improvising. Which I like better.
Maybe I'm just responding to modern (as in the past 20 30 years) jazz, which is ruining the rest for me. St

jr565 said...

Methadras wrote;
It was the same thing with a lot of my friends that realized The Police, Every Breath You Take wasn't really what they thought it was and were horrified when I pointed out to them what it was really about. I had gone to 3 weddings with my wife one year and all 3 of them had Every Breath You Take as the wedding music somewhere in the ceremony and I would just look over at my wife and she would look over at me and we would roll our eyes, shake our heads, and played rock, scissors, paper, on which one of us was going to break it to the happy couple the song they just got married to. I won 2 out of 3. :D

This reminds me of a comedy bit by Robert Wuhl (?) where he was wondering why New Jersey chose Born to run as New Jersey's theme song, since if you listen to the words it's decidedly anti Jersey. And he read of various lines from the song to show how anti Jersey the song actually is:
"Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young
`Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run"

In springsteen's case though, he sings so illegibly that perhaps never actually understood the lyrics. In the Police's case though, that venomous songs is wrapped around a truly catchy pop song with a great arrangement. And love in general can be very possessive and selfish anyway, so I could see people mistaking it for a love song as opposed to a stalker song if they don't listen to the lyrics that closely.

DEWEY FROM DETROIT said...

There is (almost) no music/Muzak that wouldn't be preferable to the "information" about other helpful services provided by the utility/hospital/insurance company etc. that we're forced to listen to while holding for 15 minutes.

Is it too late to get that included in the financial reform bill?

Suburbanbanshee said...

The Detroit airport has birds living in it (I guess they got in during construction), so you hear birdsong and rustles in the planter trees off and on. Then the airport also plays random bursts of panicked bird recordings, in the hope that the birds will stay away from important bits of the airport and not breed much.

Sometimes nature sounds are not very relaxing.

Kev said...

I've been away for a while, but I can jump into this post with both feet...

Muzak is still alive and prospering, thank you very much.

Indeed. They have a building just outside of downtown San Antonio that we pass every year on the way to our state music educators' convention. I've been known to joke about wishing we had a small but powerful cruise missile in the car that we could aim at the building as we went by. ;-)

We actually listened to an entire set (~30 minutes) of Muzak in the Psychology of Music class that I took in grad school. It was interesting how they built the set: It started off with sparse instrumentation-slow tempo-soft volume, and each of those things increased over the course of the set. The amount of time could be increased or decreased, of course, depending on how long the restaurant owners wanted to go between turning over tables. An expensive steakhouse (where they want you to linger and buy more expensive drinks with your dinner) would have a longer, softer set than, say, Chili's, which likely wants you out of there in about 45 minutes so that the people waiting up front can have your table.

I think part of the problem is that so much contemporary music wouldn't hold up rendered as an instrumental arrangement. Almost no one writes melodies anymore.

It's been that way for a while. I can remember being in DFW Airport in the early '90s, and they played a Muzak instrumental arrangement of Duran Duran's "New Moon on Monday." Most of the syncopation from the melody had been stripped away--almost as if they'd quantized it--to the point where it sounded as square as a pop tune arranged for easy middle school band.

Kev said...

Because since achieving real silence is impossible in such a public environment, "silence" can be equally distracting. Without something else to hear but not listen to, the mind then focuses its auditory attention on other things: the squeaky shopping cart, the constant checkout beeps, the whirring cooler pumps, and worst of all, the inane and frequently confounding snippets of conversation among shoppers and their companions/phone calls. These all make you want to leave as quickly as possible, which is not what the stores want.

This was why I found it so hard to study in the library at college: It was too quiet, so that all you really heard was the annoying air-conditioner hum. It was like being in the practice building when nobody was practicing.

I lived in the "musicians' dorm" when I was on campus, and I learned how to study effectively with a guitarist on one side of me and a rock drummer on the other. (It probably helped that I went to one of those "open concept" high schools where a lot of the rooms didn't have doors or complete sets of walls.) Trying to study in complete silence drove me bonkers.

lemondog said...

That's improvisation

Improvisation: At the moment, without preparation, extemporaneous.

Improvisation is the heart of jazz.

The Crack Emcee said...

jr565,

"Sure it is (subjective) that is. Who is the THEY assigning greatness to various artists, and why are they right. If Neil Young is considered great does that mean you HAVE to like Neil Young?"

You miss the point:

Your likes or dislikes are irrelevant to the worth of an artist or piece of music. Like so many others of late, you haven't learned it ain't all about you. As a matter of fact, it ain't about you at all.

Let's move the discussion to another medium: say you don't like the Mona Lisa. Does that mean it's not a great work of art and Da Vinci was shit? Of course not - it means YOU don't know shit about art.

That "it's all subjective" line is way to avoid admitting that - especially to yourself.

Kev said...

OK, one more and I'm done (just wanted to break up the topics a bit instead of doing one ginormous post):

On the other hand, being Americans, the fact that Jazz isn't our default background music is crazy.

Agreed, although one could say that jazz is our default background music in that whenever jazz is being played--even live, in many cases--people are talking instead of listening. *sigh*

Don't understand why jazz in the US has not a recognized preeminence to rock and to popular music in general.

Unlike popular music, to my non-musician ear, it has complexity.


Before going off on his "jazz is ugly" diatribe, jr565 gave the correct answer: Jazz is not popular precisely because it has complexity. Some of it almost demands not to be background music, and many listeners don't want to go that deeply into the experience, or even to be challenged at all.

One big problem in my area is that a lot of the major jazz venues double as restaurants, so the people who are there to listen to every subtle nuance of the music are forced to share the room with people who are there to yakk with their friends or sell stocks on their cell phones. It's too bad these places can't (in the spirit of smoking and no-smoking sections) have listening and no-listening sections, preferably with a big door separating the two.

E.M. Davis said...

U2 songs are hardly about what most people think they are about.

They are the world's most significant Christian rock band ever.

On the subject of jazz, I think we can all agree that 'smooth' jazz is the devil's handiwork and threatens to ruin all jazz music for eternity.

Georgiaboy61 said...

Ann, agree with you re: nostalgia for muzak, or as one acquantance put it, "the kind of music you used to shop for shoes by..."

You think U2's "With Or Without You" is OK? Goodness, that the exact kind of thing I want o get away from! Shountingthomas, I'm with you - I've had it with over-emotive music - really pop music generally, being played in public, everywhere one goes. Are there any places left w/o piped in music? It sure seems not. How about a little silence for a change or just ambient noise? That's preferable to being force-fed this dreck posing as artistry. Yes, by all means bring back muzak!!

jr565 said...

Crack Emcee wrote:
Your likes or dislikes are irrelevant to the worth of an artist or piece of music. Like so many others of late, you haven't learned it ain't all about you. As a matter of fact, it ain't about you at all.

Let's move the discussion to another medium: say you don't like the Mona Lisa. Does that mean it's not a great work of art and Da Vinci was shit? Of course not - it means YOU don't know shit about art.


No you miss the point. You could have a piece of art, acknowledge it's greatness in a historical context and still think it's a piece of crap. And maybe I do think that Leonardo is shit (I don't, but work with me here) THat doesn't mean that I'm wrong because that's my preference. For example Gaugain is a "great artist" but I"m not fond of his works. You make such distincitions all the time by the way. You say U2 is shit. Last I heard, U2 was considered one of the greats in the pantheon (certainly not the top tier, but perhaps in the second tier) yet you think they suck. Do you deny their place in rock? Or how about Dylan? Certainly he was influential but must you like Dylan even if you say he has a place in the music pantheon? Preference is if you like the music, that doesn't negate that they are important artists.

creeder said...

This thread is really up my alley. My wife is a singer who works with some of the best jazz musicians in Texas. She's a real singer, in the big band mode of Doris Day or June Christy, the type who actually hit notes, hold, bend and caress them rather than grab the song by the throat and beat its head on the floor until it bleeds to death. She comes by it naturally: her late dad played with Tommy Dorsey and Freddy Martin, backed Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald, and was a major figure in the commercial music business in Dallas in the '60s and '70s.

We really hate the yodeling pop singers screeching over the store speakers and driving whatever it was we'd come there to buy out of our heads. And we've had the same problem with finding venues for her shows. She puts together full, 1940s-style nightclub shows. But people who go to a restaurant or bar think that if great jazz and standards are being performed, that's their cue to yak and guffaw at the top of their lungs. I really wish there were some classy joints around that put the music first. I'm tempted to partner with a chef and open one myself. If you're in Dallas and want in, contact me!

Similar problem we're having now: she's just completed her first CD. It's full of great melodies performed by a fantastic singer who doesn't screech, scat or overemote and jazz musicians who keep their solos melodic rather than jarring. The PR person who is repping it to jazz radio says that everyone who hears it loves it, but nobody knows what to do with it. Here's a crazy idea: if everybody who hears it loves it, how about PLAYING IT?!!

The Crack Emcee said...

jr565,

"You could have a piece of art, acknowledge it's greatness in a historical context and still think it's a piece of crap."

Not me. I will acknowledge it's place in a historical context, while knowing it's a piece a crap. Lady GaGa is a perfect example. There's a difference between celebrity, popularity, etc., and actually being good.

"Maybe I do think that Leonardo is shit. That doesn't mean that I'm wrong because that's my preference."

Bullshit. You've got have a right to your preference, but they bear no reflection on art. You think Leonardo is shit? You're wrong. Period.

"You make such distincitions all the time by the way. You say U2 is shit. Last I heard, U2 was considered one of the greats in the pantheon (certainly not the top tier, but perhaps in the second tier) yet you think they suck. Do you deny their place in rock?"

Again: Having a place in music doesn't automatically make a band/artist "great" in music. U2 is a perfect band to distill the difference:

Irish bands: U2 or The Pogues? No contest: The Pogues.

Rock bands: I'll put (just pulling this out of my ass) The Pretenders first album against U2's entire catalogue - and they still lose.

Pop music: Sorry, but I just pictured - *pictured* - Stevie Wonder in my head: no particular song or album in mind - and they lose.

High art/Conceptual art: The Zoo Tour vs. either Pink Floyd's (pick one: Pigs? The Wall?) or - slumming to give them a chance - The Flaming Lips' standard gig. They lose.

Fashion: Bono, in those Yoko Ono glasses? Miles Davis, he ain't, Dude.

Social relevance: E.M. Davis said "They are the world's most significant Christian rock band ever." O.K., who are they competing with there? Stryper? Fine. But, even then, it's with the caveat that it's a wide-open category that not many (comparatively) are aspiring to. But, as far as Christian music as a whole is concerned, they don't even qualify for a mention against Sam Cooke's b-sides.

So there's my simplistic, but still pretty good, assessment of where U2 stands in the pantheon.

I'll do the same about Dylan for you if you want.

jr565 said...

Crack Emcee wrote:"You could have a piece of art, acknowledge it's greatness in a historical context and still think it's a piece of crap."

Not me. I will acknowledge it's place in a historical context, while knowing it's a piece a crap. Lady GaGa is a perfect example. There's a difference between celebrity, popularity, etc., and actually being good.


Not necessarily. The Beatles were immense celebrities, while also being extremely good. Mozart was a celebrity in his day, also a virtuoso and a genius. And both were also popular. Van Gogh was a genius who no one appreciated till after he was dead. Sometimes it works out that people are celebrated and become popular because they're good and sometimes the fact that people are good is ignored.

Bullshit. You've got have a right to your preference, but they bear no reflection on art. You think Leonardo is shit? You're wrong. Period.

Actually I said I didn't think Leonardo was shit, but if I did think his skills were lacking (despite the fact that he is one of the preeminent renaissance artists) that would be my preference. Maybe I prefer Michaelangelo and think Leo is overrated. Maybe Rembrant is more up my alley, or maybe I hate all renaissance and baroque artists and don't think anyone got it right except for the surrealists. You can't argue preference. Who's to say that Degas is definitively better or worse than Rembrandt for example. It's subjective. If I were teaching an art history class, of course, I'd include them all as being part of the historical record when it comes to art, but it doens't mean that therefore I have to like any specific artist.


Again: Having a place in music doesn't automatically make a band/artist "great" in music. U2 is a perfect band to distill the difference:

Irish bands: U2 or The Pogues? No contest: The Pogues.

Now, this is simply your opinion and you're entititled to it. But there is literally no definitive way to prove that one is better than the other. WHo are the experts and where is the list that says the Pogues are better than U2? Based on what criteria? Vocals? Bono beats Shane Magowan. Teeth? Again, shane loses. Hits? U2 wins. Popularity and influence? U2 wins.This doesn't make them better necessarily, I'm only pointing out that the only reason you can say that the Pogues are better is because you prefer them. That's it. Its subjective. But in this case, you're wrong (in my opinion) U2 kicks the Pogues ass. Or U2 tells the Pogues "Pogue Mahone" (however you spell it).

Rock bands: I'll put (just pulling this out of my ass) The Pretenders first album against U2's entire catalogue - and they still lose."


Again your opinion. Though I agree with you that that is a great album. Is it better than U2? IN MY OPINION? Perhaps, I'd have to think about it. But the only thing I could do is offer my opinion. There is no factual basis that proves the Pretenders are better or worse than U2.



"Pop music: Sorry, but I just pictured - *pictured* - Stevie Wonder in my head: no particular song or album in mind - and they lose."


Stevie Wonder is better than U2, I agree. But that's just my opinion.
By the way, I like some U2, but they are certainly not my favorites so I'd probably agree with you on a lot of your assertions. That being said, we're both arguing opinions.


High art/Conceptual art: The Zoo Tour vs. either Pink Floyd's (pick one: Pigs? The Wall?) or - slumming to give them a chance - The Flaming Lips' standard gig. They lose.

Pink Floyd prpbably beats them, Flaming Lips, no.

jr565 said...

-continued-


Social relevance: E.M. Davis said "They are the world's most significant Christian rock band ever." O.K., who are they competing with there? Stryper? Fine. But, even then, it's with the caveat that it's a wide-open category that not many (comparatively) are aspiring to. But, as far as Christian music as a whole is concerned, they don't even qualify for a mention against Sam Cooke's b-sides.


I agree with you about Sam cooke. One of my top ten singers in pop/rock/soul categories. That being said, he's definitely not rock and his christian songs are straight forward gospel songs. U2 works as a rock band with subtexts that are religious so you can like U2 and not even realize that they are so overtly religious. If you don't like gospel music you probably wouldn't like the Soul Stirrers (unless you happen to love glorious vocals and can look past the fact that the songs are gospel songs).


So there's my simplistic, but still pretty good, assessment of where U2 stands in the pantheon.

I'll do the same about Dylan for you if you want.

Whether I agree with your assessment or not it's simply a stated opiniion,no more no less.You may think Dylan is better or worse than James Brown or the BeeGees, but it's just an opinion. How do you actually determine better. Better vocal sound, more hits, better guitar playing, better song writing? Who's determining whether those criterion are the criteria that should be used. You can't prove anything. You can only say what you like. And theres nothing to compare against. There is no list of artists and then ranking for you to compare against. So if you say the Pretenders are better than U2 or the Pogues how do you prove it (other than stating an opinion)?

The Crack Emcee said...

Now it's my opinion - another way to plead the subjective argument - even when you agree with me. Dude, I know more about music that you do - give it a break. You're just spouting shit:

1) I'm not a Pogues fan. Own none of their albums, never attended a show.

"If I were teaching an art history class, of course, I'd include them all as being part of the historical record when it comes to art, but it doens't mean that therefore I have to like any specific artist."

2) I never claimed I liked any of the bands I mentioned.

3) "Stevie Wonder is better than U2, I agree."

Then stop fighting and stay down.

4) "Pink Floyd prpbably beats them."

This is tiring.

5) "I agree with you about Sam cooke."

6) "Whether I agree with your assessment or not it's simply a stated opiniion,no more no less."

Bullshit. It's not my opinion. As you said, there's a pantheon, and it matters. Either you take it seriously or you don't:

I was born into this and it's my calling - I have no choice but to respect it to the fullest.

Kev said...

On the subject of jazz, I think we can all agree that 'smooth' jazz is the devil's handiwork and threatens to ruin all jazz music for eternity.

The biggest problem is that it's not really jazz (it's instrumental pop if anything), but it gets tagged with the jazz category because that's where most of the rest of the non-classical music without singing is placed. (Some of the music in that genre used to be called New Age, but evidently the religious implications scared people off, so they went to a more innocent-sounding title.)

The big problem is that, since instrumental pop sells more records than straight-ahead jazz, putting them in the same category skews the "jazz" record sales toward the pop variety, which means even more of that stuff gets produced. (Do we really need to hear that same major-pentatonic solo even one more time?)

Kev said...

I really wish there were some classy joints around that put the music first. I'm tempted to partner with a chef and open one myself. If you're in Dallas and want in, contact me!

creeder, I'm in Dallas (and a jazz saxophonist to boot), and if I had even a little bit of money to put toward such an endeavor, I'd be all over that idea.

And BTW, if you haven't already, you should definitely shop your wife's CD to 88.1 in Denton (where I worked for a number of years). They may be hard to pick up in some spots, but they'd probably get her some good airplay.

jr565 said...

Crack Emcee wrote:
Now it's my opinion - another way to plead the subjective argument - even when you agree with me. Dude, I know more about music that you do - give it a break. You're just spouting shit:

1) I'm not a Pogues fan. Own none of their albums, never attended a show.


Of course it's opinion. It's opinion that creates a pantheon. Opinion that Mozart was great and Salieri was a hack. But you mentioned the Pogues beating U2. Are either part of the pantheon? If not then of course you are spouting an opinion about your preference just as everyone else is similarly spouting an opinion.
Where is this pantheon you speak of.Is it written down? How many people are in the pantheon? Who determines whether they are or are not in the pantheon? Are they right? For example, Neil Young is or is not in the pantheon. If he is, what is his rating? If he is in the pantheon and you don't like him what does that mean? Certainly the Beatles are in the pantheon, most likely at the top, but maybe it's the Stones. Who determines that? How do you get into the pantheon? Is it based on record sales (there goes the Velvet Underground)? If so, then why isn't Britney Spears in the pantheon. Or is it artistic worth. How is that determined?
All we are talking about is opinions. Whoeever, created the pantheon has his/her opinions about what bands should make the pantheon (just as when they compile a top 100 list in Spin Magazine they ask a bunch of critics their opinion of which bands are in the top 100, and then they create a list based on those opinions).
And why assume that I don't know music,simply because I don't agree with your assessments on some bands? When I agree with some assessments what does that mean? That simply means in certain cases we have different tastes and in certain cases are tastes are similar (and in my opinion, where we agree I think we have good taste, and where we disagree I think YOU have bad taste - kidding).
But lets take Springsteen. Is he or isn't he in the pantheon. How are you basing your decision? Is it based on who YOU think is in the pantheon (in ohher words your opinion) or is there some list written down somewhere that says he is in the pantheon. Now suppose you think he is in the pantheon but simply don't like his music. what then? Or maybe he should be in the pantheon. Who do we appeal to to add him to the pantheon if he's not there already?

The Crack Emcee said...

"I've changed music four or five times. What have you done of any importance other than be white?"

Miles Davis, while attending a reception in honor of Ray Charles at Ronald Reagan's White House in 1987. This was his reply to a Washington society lady seated next to him who had asked him what he had done to be invited.

"For this show, there is no precedent. On the last Friday in January at San Francisco's Transmission Theater, the feeling clumsily reached for on the 'alternative remix' of Puff Daddy's 'All About the Benjamins' comes to fruition over and over again. It's a simple, slamming sound that's equal parts punk and soul, but played with a precision that's less assuming than jazz. Repetition and groove are its motor, but the emotions the music provokes have more bang than bump.
'It's like they're playing all of our records all at once,' observes a colleague who watches the show in otherwise stunned silence. At the lip of the stage, the hippie-punk half-breeds who'll prove to be one of The City's enduring contributions to American culture groove without question to this melange, as does the black chick in work clothes who's just slipped into the back of the club after working late north of Market.
'I'm wise to testosterone lies about how girls are nas-stay!' screams lead singer The Crack Emcee in a voice whose edge manages to call to mind both Taj Mahal and Axl Rose. 'Here She Comes,' a womynist sex rap that first came to my attention as a song from Crack's raw, underground electronic album Newt Hates Me, comes off straight-up pretty in the hands of Little White Radio's two guitarists and astride the cajoling beat of Kevin Carnes, widely acknowleged as the best drummer in San Francisco."


--The L.A. Weekly

jr565,

As you probably know, by now, I despise NewAge and NewAge culture, for many reasons. One of those reasons is because NewAge is the refuge of those with limited imaginations. It's proponents say stupid shit like "you can't know everything", because they recognize the limits of their own understanding, and assume everyone else shares in their ignorance. Like a NewAger, your understanding of music's complexity - and, especially, your insistence on this "subjective" nonsense - is so limited there's nothing I can say to satisfy you, and seriously (because it's obvious I'm debating with a fool) this type of argument bores me. Instead of my (an atheist) trying to "articulate soul-knowledge", I'll pose a few questions for you, based not on my - since you think I'm biased, or tainted, or something - but other's "opinions" of what I know:

If I don't know what I'm talking about - and/or this is just my "opinion" - how can I (an artist who abandoned "playing" an instrument for "understanding" music as a whole) get those "widely acknowleged as the best" to play my compositions of "soul music" that are "like they're playing all of our records all at once" in shows that have "no precedent"? How can I (your Van Gogh-like, broke artist, typing alone in a single room) create work "over and over again" that an idiotically selfish celebrity multi-millionaire producer, with the world at his fingertips, has "clumsily reached for"?

The Crack Emcee said...

Because I know what I know, and those who understand that I know it gravitate to me - that's how - and I say that with no ego what-so-ever: I was born into music. I am music. I've understood it, and my role in it, since I was about five years old, or less.

In the time it's taken me to compose this post, I've listened to (in order) N.W.A., Télépopmusik, Aeroc, Johnny Five, Stevie Wonder, Joe Jackson (I'm The Man!) Savath + Savalas, DJ Logic, Alicia Svigals (Klezmer) Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, The Temptations, Miriam Makeba + The Skylarks, The Cars, Little Richard, The Fletcher Henderson Orchestra (featuring Louis Armstrong) Amon Tobin, The Meters, Augustus Pablo, Hall + Oates, and Robert Johnson - making no distinction between them (like genre) except for the quality of the compositions.

You, Sir, can't keep up. You'll never understand. Frank Zappa once said (I'm paraphrasing) the difference between his compositions and the musicians he hired was the same as a jet fighter and Orville and Wilber Wright. That's how I feel talking to you.

It's just like that.

The Crack Emcee said...

One more thing:

it's funny, but your attitude is the same one I get when faced with insecure musicians - who think I should fawn over them, because they worked so hard to learn an instrument, when they can't write a good song to save their lives - their poor little egos, demanding to be the stars, instead of merely being happy, as I am, for the opportunity to finally join (or understand) the pantheon. They're just sad, in their efforts to climb over me, when I'm standing there, open to whatever they truly have to offer. (I remember this one guitarist, screaming to the rest of the band, "I'm not taking direction from HIM!" That foolish imbecile will never be heard from again, while I'm about $10,000 away from another comeback - and redemption.)

You need to learn to acknowledge when you're in the presence of people who know something. That, to me, is the main problem with this country right now;

It's in the throes of a stupid NewAge culture, that says it's all about you, when you're arguing that no one can know anything. You laugh at those of us who are honest and unadorned - me (for music) Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin, Chris Christie - and scream we're idiots, arrogant, whatever, when we simply say we know something, and we know better. You can't stand that anyone else can know something - and, even worse, know "better". And we won't back down. We won't be your Buddhist-inspired version of humble. We can only be ourselves. Asking for nothing but the chance to reveal the difference.

Sorry.

The difference is all we have for you. We don't ask you to bow to us - like the gurus do - but to let us serve you.

it's your own stupidity that keeps us all trapped in this Earthly Hell of your own making.

I know music. You want to know who's at the top of the pantheon?

You will when I'm free - from the opinions of the likes of you.

Music: the most "spiritual" of all the arts.

Casey said...

Over use breeds comtempt.
Anything, like Muzak, that subjects us to the same old thing again and again wears it out like an old record.