Saturday, June 6, 2009

Dreaming of the Pretty Things

One thing I have always wondered is why music is not taught as a part of art history. Is visual art somehow more important than performance art? It should come as no surprise that I think music is an important part of any culture, but I often wonder why very few others share this same view. I'll admit, I consider myself somewhat of a music connoisseur, but I have always felt that way. Also, admittedly, I have committed musical transgressions over the years, for which I am not ashamed. I was young, and not as versed in music as I am now. Nonetheless, why does music get a bad rap?

It seems that every school year, there's always a debate whether or not to keep music programs alive in grade schools, despite the educational benefits that music provides. Is it because quality music has become the domain of the counter-culture? Do we have to take part in an alternative style of living to break free from the blunders of top 40 radio? And that's not to put down top 40 radio, either. I have my fair share of guilty pleasures that fall well within that realm. Justin Timberlake? Yes, please. Be that as it may, I don't think we're going to be looking back at Eminem's Crack a Bottle in 50 years and think, "That was a fine example of popular music that has withstood the test of time."

So, I think that begs the question. Is the reason that music is not as highly honored as an art the result of the rather lackluster art (if that's what I must call it for the sake of argument) that is created in its name? Has too much of a good thing really become too much of a good thing? Have musicians decided that its better to release everything than to focus on the few gems that manifest themselves every now and again? Or is the industry at fault? I'll blame the both of them.

Also on the list of people to blame is Rolling Stone, who hasn't been in touch with reality in years. While Rolling Stone is, admittedly, the most opportunistic victim of the blame game, there are plenty of well-funded publications that I've read over the years and thought, "Do these people really know what the hell they're talking about?" That's not to say that smaller publications shouldn't be on the chopping block, either. Pitchfork, I'm looking at you.

I've never been a particular fan of musicians becoming creative brood mares. If it takes ten years to create your next body of work, then that's how long it takes. Take, for example, Portishead's Third. After eleven years in the making, Portishead created perhaps their best collection of work to date. I appreciate that more than churning out three lackluster albums in the same amount of time. The point is that art takes time and that art shouldn't be confined to arbitrary release schedules.

It is art, though, with its own unique cultural history and historical context. Perhaps I need to wait for recorded music to mature more before it can be considered part of a historical context. Then again, if the Bush administration is already being added to the history books, then I'm not sure what we're waiting for. Maybe I'm just crazy.

Currently in heavy rotation:

Straylight Run - Hands in the Sky [Big Shot]

Baxter - Out of Reach

Helmet - Unsung

1 comment:

Colleen Mullins said...

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because philosophy is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.

John William Gardner