Oh REALLY, fool?

Posted on September 15, 2010


I think that this scene from Billy Madison pretty accurately represents the ongoing battle between Repertoire Lovers (classical music fans) and fans of any other musical genre or group of genres: one claims superiority over the other for seemingly logical reasons, they battle head-to-head for the right to supremacy and ironically, both end up beneath a bunch of bubbles between a naked Billy’s legs (perhaps the one place that both sides can agree that they’d rather not be).

In the States, we are incredibly passionate about our music (not that this isn’t true other places, but I’m just sayin’.) Music is so personal to us that in many cases, it comes to define important aspects of who we are, how we use our time/resources, and what we hope to become. Because of this, for me to insult someone’s choice of music for almost any reason is just about as offensive/amusing to whoever (whomever?) I insult as a well-placed “your mom” joke (you know, the kind that is probably supposed to live and die in middle school but that I proudly carried with me through college and beyond). It’s as if I’ve insulted their very reason for living. Some people take “your mom” insults and “your music sucks” insults in stride, but for many others, they’re a reason to throw down. Knowing that, I know that when I discuss music with someone, I need to tread lightly and be more of a listener than a critic; more of a friend than a musician.

Yet the Musical Pharisees of the classical music world AND the popular music (yes, both worlds have them) insist on spending their time championing their music by verbally duking it out over who/what is better. And all the while, the swan looks on at the fray, judging with complete objectivity (and accuracy) that both sets of people are complete toolboxes. How sad that the swan, who is actually an inanimate object, has more common sense in his brass brain than we do sometimes.

One day in the not too distant past, I had an epiphany of sorts (or as my friends and I from college used to jokingly call it, an “apostrophe”). The apostrophe went something like this: in this life, when it comes to things that are morally neutral, we should learn to enjoy way more things than we despise. This applies to all areas of life, but here I’m dealing specifically with music. And since all musical genres/styles are morally neutral, why is it that we choose to latch onto one or two and ignore almost everything else? Why do we compare genres and styles of music- ones that usually have no intention of aspiring to the same standards or ideals- in hopes of finding a winner?

If you’re a classical musician or a Repertoire Lover and claim to hate…say…hip-hop or death metal, I have to ask: by taking that stance against those artists and their music, what have you accomplished? Achieving a sense of musicality that is more “refined” than theirs? Keeping the status quo among your classical colleagues? Sounding educated and feeling intelligent in your social circle? Successfully ostracizing nearly an entire generation from your influence because you make no bones about the fact that you couldn’t care less about the things that they love more than almost anything else in this life? Yikes. If you’ve accomplished these things, I hope you’re not too proud about it.

If you’re a popular music lover and a classical music hater/doubter/non-listener, ask yourself honestly why that might be. Is it because you have this idea it’s boring? Because you buy into the idea that classical music is soft or feminine? Is it because you have had just as little exposure to classical music as most classical musicians have had to your music, and because in reality you’re just as judgmental towards classical music/musicians as you perceive them to be about your music/you? If you think classical music is lame and has less power in it than your music, then why does Hollywood believe that using the dramatic power of an orchestra and/or choir to enhance so many of your favorite movies is something that you like? If that type of sound can have such power and sway over your emotions in a movie, why do you routinely choose to ignore the very likely possibility that The Repertoire can have the same if not greater impact on your heart and mind when it is standing alone? (What do you think influences those film scorers anyway? I’ll give you a hint: it’s The Repertoire.)

I hope you don’t think I’m trying to get anyone upset or bothered here. And I’m certainly not trying to be rude or ugly. I just think everyone who takes up arms on either side of this debate should consider what they might be missing out on musically AND socially by declaring entire genres or styles of music unfit for their ears or lifestyle. Remember the apostrophe: in this life, among things that are morally neutral, we should learn to enjoy way more things than we despise. Certainly there is room for personal tastes and preferences when it comes to the music we listen to, but at the end of the day, debating about whether shampoo or conditioner is best for our musical hair is really a moot point. They aren’t the same product.

Even the swan knows that.

Music I DARE you to listen to

Your assignment this week is to choose a musical genre or style that you almost never listen to/have a prejudice against and listen to it more than you listen to any kind of other music this week. For me, it means a week of Baroque music. Go ahead and judge me, classical musicians. For whatever reason, I just haven’t figured out how to love a lot of baroque music yet, and this week will be, for me, a step towards achieving that. I gotta practice what I preach, right?

If you actually do this, I’d love to hear your comments below about what the experience was like. Ask a friend to let you borrow something. Or, if you want to email me, I’ll be happy to give you some suggestions. And if you don’t like hip-hop and you read last week’s blog entry, you already know what I’m gonna tell you to spend the week listening to: Trip Lee’s “Between Two Worlds” album. Available at iTunes, Reach Records or you can listen to almost every track on YouTube for free. Just type in his name and the album name in the search engine.

Until next Wednesday, you stay classy Planet Earth. And try and avoid Adam Sandler’s crotch.

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Posted in: Music