Day by Day

Monday, December 24, 2007

Music

This is going to be a long, rambling post, which probably won't make sense at all. Just so you're warned. I'm not exactly all that coherent right now, and my mind is wandering like a horse escaped from a barn. A horse with ADD. So read on at your own risk.

Ever had someone ask you what sense you'd rather lose over all others? You know, "What would you rather live without - sight, hearing, smell, ect., ect,. ect" For some reason I always had people ask me that as a kid. Maybe I just had some really messed up people around me as I grew up. That could explain quite a bit. But even as a young kid, I always picked anything other than my hearing. I need my hearing. Not for my job, or for my family, but for music. Without music, I would probably end up dead within a year. I'd off myself, most likely. Music is my drug of choice, and it can affect me like nothing else with the exception of my wife. Right now I'm listening to KT Tunstall. When I first heard her songs (and I'm sure you've heard at least one of them on the radio) I thought "Hey, catchy tune" The music was good, but it was nothing that made me jump up and buy the CD.

Then I saw a video of her live, singing "Black Horse and a Cherry Tree" solo. It was just her, a guitar, a tambourine and a repeater that she used with great effect. And it sounded just as good, if not BETTER, than the radio version. That's what got me hooked.

In the day and age of Britney Spears, Lindsey whatshername, and countless other pop "artists" who's success can be chalked up to someone else's writing and a really good computer program, seeing someone get up there by themselves and sing their hearts out makes me want to jump for joy.

I've probably written about this before but what the hell here I go again. I honestly believe that music has degraded over the years. Before I bought the KT Tunstall CD I hasn't bought a "new" CD in years. By new, I mean that the CD is from a modern band. I've bought some Bach, Yo Yo Mah, and music that while performed in modern times was written several hundred years ago. The fact that I got so damn excited over a woman PERFORMING HER OWN SONGS ON HER OWN without a synthesizer or some other computer program making her sound good made me reflect on that. I've often said that modern music is crap. I'm going to have to revise that statement, because on it's own it's not true. So the modified statement is this: Modern music, as foisted upon America by the music industry, is almost all crap. Via Instapundit comes this statement from David Byrne:

What is called the music business today, however, is not the business of producing music. At some point it became the business of selling CDs in plastic cases, and that business will soon be over. But that's not bad news for music, and it's certainly not bad news for musicians. Indeed, with all the ways to reach an audience, there have never been more opportunities for artists.
And a truer statement has yet to be written. So many music artists aren't musicians at all; they're people who have been picked to fit a certain look, given music that someone else has written, told how to sing it, told how to dance, and had everything run through a computer to make sure it sounds good. Think of all the "bands" that have come and gone over the years. The Backstreet Boys. 98 Degrees. N'Synch. Britney Spears. Christina Aguilera was in danger of falling into that group, before someone told her that naughty sounding bubblegum pop was a loosing proposition. The One-Hit Wonders of the 80's, who after expending the whole of their creativity on one song faded into obscurity where they quite honestly belonged.

And don't get me started on rap. I can't stand it. Hate it. Rap is a combination of banality and a total lack of musical talent. But there's something worse that I've been exposed to down here in Puerto Rico. Reggeton. For those who don't know what reggeton is, count your blessings. Take all the worst aspects of rap, and take away what little skill is needed for even that, and you have reggeton. I swear to you, every computerized beat is exactly the same. It never changes from song to song, from "artist" to "artist". It's like they made a beat on a Casio keyboard and then just passed that keyboard around in the studio. It is mind-numbingly alike, and it's all over this island. I can't stand it. As someone who loves actual music, being subjected to reggeton is like having hot pokers jammed into my ears.

But this post is about music I enjoy, isn't it? So let me continue on that path. If I had to pick one season who's music I could listen to for years on end, it would be Christmas. And while modern Christmas music often falls into the "modern" side of the scale instead of the "Christmas" side, you have centuries of music to listen to.

Yes. Centuries. All you have to do is look in any Catholic missal.

Oh Come All Ye Faithfull (or it's proper name, "Adeste Fideles") written in the 1800's.
Joy To The World, music written by G.F. Handel, early 1700's.
Lo, How a Rose ere Blooming (original German - Es ist ein Ros ent­sprung­en) 1599.

You can find more, but these songs were written by true musical composers. What's more, they were meant to be sung by ordinary people. It's a sad fact that most people today cannot carry a tune in a bucket, much less harmonize or sing a descant to any of the above listed songs. But at least at Christmas, people try. I've found that by and large it's not a matter of musical talent or the lack thereof, it's that people aren't taught to sing music anymore. In all the hustle and bustle of daily life, people have forgotten what makes life worth living, until they turn to me when I sing at church and go "Gosh, you're good!" No, no I'm not. My vocal abilities are modest at best, but I had several years of being taught how to sing from my high school, from my parents, and from people I admired for their vocal talents. I have had the great fortune to be around musicians when I was growing up, and while I might not be able to do what they can do, I can at least appreciate it.

In any case, during the Christmas season I'm in heaven musically speaking. And while being down here dampens a bit of my Christmas spirit, I still have my music to listen to and remind me that things will get better. We won't be able to do four part harmony in church this year, but two part is within our grasp. Real music, performed live. Hell, it's half the reason I'm in the choir be begin with.

Any post I put up tomorrow will be short, so if folks choose to do the smart thing and turn off your computer in order to be with their family, let me wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I'll be spending it with my wife, curled up on the couch, dreaming of a roaring fireplace and snow on the ground.

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