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Old 11-08-2007, 05:09 PM   #1
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"The Case Against Pop & Rock"

...Lately I've been doing some reading up on music, and honestly it's caused me to somewhat re-evaluate how I see "pop" music (which I would say includes most rock music, and a good portion of U2's music.)

I'm not a musician or an expert on music, but sometimes I do wonder what effect the last 50 or so years have had on music in general. ie: is pop music dumbing down music for everyone? For all the greatness of U2, are they contributing to this sort of dumbing down in some way? Edge is a great musician, Bono a great lyricist, though how do they stack up against past centuries of music?

I haven't had time to read this whole article yet, but it seems like a good (and challenging) starting point.

http://nomuzak.co.uk/against_pop.html

Just looked a bit deeper, to see whether U2 are mentioned at all, and a few of Bono's (in my opinion, at the worse end of the scale) lyrics are quoted on this page, in less-than-complementary way:

http://nomuzak.co.uk/against_pop1.html

Just like pop music fans can be stereotypically portrayed as shallow and talentless... classical music fans can be seen as snobby and completey out-of-touch... and somewhere there is space for common ground for those who can find it...

IMO, U2 are some of the few artists around who can bridge this gap- I know Pavarotti and Sinatra would agree, I guess I'm just wondering whether I personally, as a U2 fan, could explain and defend this viewpoint to a classically trained musician, or to put it more bluntly "music snob"...

anyone else out there thinking about sorts of things?

thanks.

*edited to add* -

The authors of the website seem to think this is the best page to begin reading-

http://nomuzak.co.uk/thinning.html

This site appears mainly founded to combat "muzak" and then goes on to complain against pop music in general. I tend to disagree with that association, quite vehemently.

Let me also say, some of the content on this site makes it tempting to attack the authors of the page as snotty and elitist. While I won't disagree with that view necessarily, my reason for starting this thread is to generate a productive discussion on how rock and pop music share the qualities the authors of this site value, and how "our music" (U2, rock, pop) can be defended to people who view music through this particular lens.
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Old 11-08-2007, 06:59 PM   #2
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there's always been pop music. i don't understand the hate for it... there's a place for it, and it belongs.

however, noone should believe that pop music is the be-all and end-all of music as a whole. generally speaking, it's redundant, formulaic and rarely passes the test of time.

but that's not what pop music is about. pop music is supposed to be understood quickly and digested almost as fast as it's taken in. again, this is an all-too-easy metaphor for the society we find ourselves in.

it would be nice of course, if people would expand their horizons a bit, but at the end of the day... who cares? what difference does it really make to you if other people "get it"?

very interesting thread you've started here.
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Old 11-08-2007, 07:38 PM   #3
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I also find this to be a very intriguing topic, mainly because I'm taking a class right now that deals exclusively with analyzing rock and pop music. My professor is a brilliant musicologist who has spent a good chunk of his career studying pop music, but he also studies European classical music as well. In fact, each class period, he usually relates some happening in a pop song back to a classical term. So, it's not like pop music is completely thrown out as garbage by all serious musicians or people who study music for a living.

I also don't see why it's such a big deal for pop music to exist; it's already a part of our culture, and I'd say because of our short attention spans, pop music has flourished. Would classical music and traditions be more productive to listen to and better for society? Possibly. But, anyone who has taken a mass media class, or even just read about mass media, knows that there has always been a battle between populists and elitists about what should be seen and heard. And, the populists usually win.
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Old 11-08-2007, 07:45 PM   #4
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Wait. What benefit do we have if we listen to classical music instead of popular music??? It's not like it's better for our health or something! The whole case against popular music is ridiculous. Different music moves different people. That's why it's all subjective. And that means a person listening to Mozart is no righter or wronger than a person listening to Britney Spears. Classical music doesn't increase your IQ level or make you more intelligent, does it?! To me, it looks like an article written by total snobs!
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Old 11-08-2007, 08:28 PM   #5
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Oneblood, I wanna take that class! Sounds like my dream course.

As far as popular music, it's been around forever. Madrigals, folk songs, whathaveyou ... there's always been a fluffier alternative to classical music. I would assume even back in 1600 there were music snobs and critics, pooh-poohing some love song made popular by dudes with lutes.

Classical music is less prevalent now, I would think, or at the very least less heard because people don't go to the opera or the ballet or whatever version of theater - they watch TV or play sports, or whathaveyou.

I'm not that aware of classical music these days - is there a high output of it? Are there less composers these days? Of course they aren't in the public lexicon like they might have been back in the good ol' days of classical music, when that was what people heard (in church, at the opera, whathaveyou).

I wish I could be around in 200 years to see if today's classical composers will have any significant lasting impression ... or if 200 years from now, people are still listening to the same classical music people listen to now as the "classics."
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Old 11-08-2007, 08:30 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by Zootlesque
Wait. What benefit do we have if we listen to classical music instead of popular music??? It's not like it's better for our health or something!
I take it you're not familiar with the studies that say that playing classical music for babies makes them smarter.
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Old 11-08-2007, 08:39 PM   #7
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Originally posted by corianderstem
Oneblood, I wanna take that class! Sounds like my dream course.
Oh, it's fabulous! By far my favorite class, and it's currently the only thing getting me through this semester without wanting to jab pencils in my eyes. I'm planning on taking the history of rock class with the same professor next semester as well. He's seriously one of the smartest people I've ever met; he can listen to a song and just walk over to the piano to play it, and he has many times, anything from Green Day to The Beatles, and he's hilarious too. One day, we were talking about censorship in the music business, and he just started rapping an Eminem song. Keep in mind, this guy is a straight laced, proper, I mean he speaks like he's British, but isn't, type of person, and all of a sudden, he starts talking about how he can't sell coke no more, and he has to go out and choke a whore. Just imagine the looks on all of our faces... But, he definitely got his point across.
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Old 11-08-2007, 09:00 PM   #8
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That sounds awesome, oneblood! I would love to take courses of that nature...I'll have to see if any of the colleges here offer stuff like that. I think it'd be absolutely fascinating, and fun.

As for the main topic at hand...it's kinda funny that some classical music listeners frown upon pop/rock music, because there's been many a musician from those genres over the years who's cited classical music as one of their influences, or who incorporate it into their work. They have a healthy respect for classical works, so why some classical music lovers can't return the favor, I'm not sure.

That said, if pop music or rock music isn't one's bag, that's fine-everybody has their genres they latch onto over others, I don't care. But why be so bothered by what others listen to? Maybe to one person a rock song isn't very meaningful, but to the fans of said song/artist/genre, it obviously is, and at the end of the day, isn't that all that really matters? I don't understand why people feel this need to tell others what they should and shouldn't be listening to. Let them decide that for themselves.

I'm not overly familiar with the classical genre, but I do like what I've heard from it-there's some gorgeous creations there, no question. However, I fail to see how people seem to think the pop or rock genres can't be intelligent. I've personally heard some songs from both genres that have just as much thought put into them as in anything else. Besides, people seem to forget this simple fact: Balance. Is. Good. Yes, I love music that challenges me and makes me think. I also love music that's simply there for no other reason than to allow me to dance around like a maniac for 3 minutes. Why not just embrace both elements? Why does it have to be one or the other?

Angela
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Old 11-08-2007, 09:09 PM   #9
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The other thing I don't like about that website is that the person quotes a bunch of lyrics which are without a doubt some of the worst lines in the history of popular music! Like Madonna's I Love NY, Van Halen's Why Can't This Be Love, Shakira's breasts/mountains crap or P Diddy whatever. And this is representative of all popular music.. how??? What about Bono's poetic gems from the past? Why pick on Elevation? What about Madonna's Oh Father or This Used To Be My Playground? If you quote the Bangles Manic Monday, of course pop music is not gonna stand a chance against classical music!
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Old 11-08-2007, 09:21 PM   #10
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wow, great points made.

so glad to see that i'm not the only one interested in this topic. ;-)

Zoomerang- yes, I took a class in the history of "Western Music" several years ago and I remember the mention of the long-running tension between pop (or 'folk') and classical music.

it's a good point that especially in today's world where we have to multi-task and things move so quickly, pop music seems more suited to the times. a lot of pop music owes alot to classical music, and i think the self-proclaimed "experts" on classical music could offer alot more to the discussion and to the state of music in general if they could overcome seeing it as "us versus them", and contributed their talents more readily to music that is actually being heard and appreciated and enjoyed by large numbers of people in the present.

Oneblood: wow, that class and your professor sound great. I'm sure you could add a lot to this conversation. I'd love to hear any tidbits your professor has passed on as far as relating classical music to pop music.

Ironically or appropriately enough, depending how you view it, what probably started this for me was the fact that several weeks ago i started uploading the 6-CD set from my old music history//appreciation class to my iTunes. I'm kind of a nut for looking at things from several frames simultaneously, so I enjoyed looking at my library by genre, by band, by alpha, and then by year.

The "by year" one was really interesting, as it caused me to start looking at the longview of musical history, and wonder why it should be that so much of my music is clustered into my lifetime, or why there's a lot from the late 70s-today, some in the 60s, some in the 50s, some in the 20s, etc, with big gaps in the 40s, 30s, and barely anything from the previous centuries, etc.

In 2007, pop music has pretty much arrived at a place where all the "fads' and trends are layered on top of one another. You can find people who are into just about any kind of pop music these days, granted it isn't older than the 1950s or 60s or so. Even ten years ago, this didn't seem to be so much the case.

Roughly speaking the 90s drew heavily on the late 60s and early 70s, and the 80s drew heavily on the 50s and early 60s. That sort of cyclical phenomenon has started running so fast that you could probably name popular acts today who draw from the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s and the 90s, all right now. Anyway, I digress a little.

To me, artists like Moby are bringing some of the classical sound into modern pop. U2 also and *ahem*coldplay*ahem*. I even have a CD of U2 covers played by a string quartet. It's really the melody that holds the identity of a tune, it can be dressed up and expressed any number of ways, or arrangements.

Cori, there are contemporary composers like John Cage and Philip Glass who might be considered "classical" but have done some pretty unconventional things within the realm of "classical." I've heard u2 refer to Glass as an influence, especially in the Joshua Tree days.

Then there are people like John Williams whose music could be considered classical in most senses, they earn a living by writing movie scores, and in that way become very widely heard, if not known by name. But it's a good point that there are probably thousands of "household name pop musicians" for every "household name movie score composer".

Zootlesque- yeah, there is a whole series of CDs called "Mozart for babies", the big selling-point being that it boosts their IQ, even in utero..

...there's more to say but I've rambled on enough for the moment.

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Old 11-08-2007, 09:23 PM   #11
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Babies should listen to Nirvana's In Utero.
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Old 11-08-2007, 09:32 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss
Cori, there are contemporary composers like John Cage and Philip Glass who might be considered "classical" but have done some pretty unconventional things within the realm of "classical."
To be honest, those guys didn't even cross my mind; I have such a dislike for that modern classical stuff. My mind immediately went to the more traditional classical music and wondered who was still writing that sort of thing (i.e., melodic symphonies, anything not so experimental or "modern"). But yes, that's a good point.

Quote:
Then there are people like John Williams whose music could be considered classical in most senses, they earn a living by writing movie scores, and in that way become very widely heard, if not known by name. But it's a good point that there are probably thousands of "household name pop musicians" for every "household name movie score composer".
Agreed on the last sentence, another excellent point. I wonder if strictly classical musicians/composers consider John Williams et al pop music and not "classical music" per se?

Which also makes me wonder - I use "classical music" as a catch-all for pretty much anything not pop music: opera, symphonic, choral, that kind of thing. Do "classical music" composers and musicians have different terminology for what they do? Like "symphonic" or ... what? What did John Cage call his genre? Or Philip Glass?
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Old 11-08-2007, 10:20 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by corianderstem
As far as popular music, it's been around forever. Madrigals, folk songs, whathaveyou ... there's always been a fluffier alternative to classical music. I would assume even back in 1600 there were music snobs and critics, pooh-poohing some love song made popular by dudes with lutes.
Great post. There was a certain little ditty played by dudes with lutes in the 1500s or 1600s called Greensleeves, the melody of which has survived the test of time and become a Christmas carol (What Child is This) sung to this day. Maybe it wasn't so light and fluffy after all.
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Old 11-08-2007, 10:27 PM   #14
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Simply put, the only reason that musical genres exist, today, and of course, in the relatively distant past, is that they have observably evolved due to certain disparate conventions and societal constructs. Now whether or not these conventions happen to be cultural, geographical, ideological, technical or lyrical, ultimately remains a matter of the grand situational disparities that have existed, and continue to exist, in our human experience(s). And as such, there will never be a golden empirical standard by which we can judge the validity or value of our myriad musical forms.

Needless to say, to suggest otherwise is tantamount to ignorance. As many traditional forms of musical expression are comparatively limited in technical scope due to their socio-economic origins (ala the blues, military tattoos, and the grand majority of indigenous folk music, regardless of national origins).

So, rather flaccidly, the argument presented finds itself toiling upon barren ground. For, as they’d best remember, that while the technical ability of a musician, and indeed, the musical complexity of any given piece, regardless of genre, can be judged objectively (something that has never been in dispute), whether or not said piece is good or bad (which, as luck would have it, are inherently subjective terms), cannot.

As this, as far as I can tell, is ultimately determined by the personal interpretation that one formulates whilst listening to a song or sonata. Additionally, although nuance and complexity are most definitely useful, they do not in themselves; authoritatively dictate the apparent quality of music.

Funnily enough, I would only change my opinion upon this rather contentious issue, if I were to be presented with irrefutable scientific evidence that proved the contrary to be true. Or, in other words, when I become dictator for life, and am treacherously slain by a man whose name sounds suspiciously like the moniker one would callously bestow upon a particularly cheap variety of cologne.

Conversely, maybe I’m just a relativistic philistine.
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Old 11-08-2007, 11:11 PM   #15
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Hehe, that album would be rather appropriate for that particular group of people, Zootlesque .

Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss
Ironically or appropriately enough, depending how you view it, what probably started this for me was the fact that several weeks ago i started uploading the 6-CD set from my old music history//appreciation class to my iTunes. I'm kind of a nut for looking at things from several frames simultaneously, so I enjoyed looking at my library by genre, by band, by alpha, and then by year.

The "by year" one was really interesting, as it caused me to start looking at the longview of musical history, and wonder why it should be that so much of my music is clustered into my lifetime, or why there's a lot from the late 70s-today, some in the 60s, some in the 50s, some in the 20s, etc, with big gaps in the 40s, 30s, and barely anything from the previous centuries, etc.
I've wondered about that sort of thing, too. I'll gladly give a listen to anything from any genre and any time period that's offered to me, but I do notice that quite a bit of the music I enjoy is from artists who I've grown up hearing. I think it's only natural that many people, while they may have very varied musical tastes, are going to be rather partial to the music that's from their generation. And that's why I get irritated with adults who complain about today's music scene and wonder how kids can listen to some of the stuff out today. I just think, well, excuse them for being born when they were. It's not their fault they missed out on earlier music, you know? Sure, they shouldn't automatically dismiss anything that came out before their time, but can you blame them for feeling more of a connection to the music they grew up on?

Now, how that "connection to their generation" thing explains people who listen to Bach and Beethoven and Mozart, yet obviously were not alive during those guys' lifetimes, I'm not sure... Also, thanks for reminding me that I really need to work on uploading stuff onto my little Sansa thingamabober.

Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss
In 2007, pop music has pretty much arrived at a place where all the "fads' and trends are layered on top of one another. You can find people who are into just about any kind of pop music these days, granted it isn't older than the 1950s or 60s or so. Even ten years ago, this didn't seem to be so much the case.

Roughly speaking the 90s drew heavily on the late 60s and early 70s, and the 80s drew heavily on the 50s and early 60s. That sort of cyclical phenomenon has started running so fast that you could probably name popular acts today who draw from the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s and the 90s, all right now.
Absolutely right. There's new artists out that I listen to and can totally tell what decade(s) most of their influences come from. And that's one reason why I love hearing bands talk about who inspired them-I always find that sort of discussion fascinating.

Quote:
Originally posted by ZeroDude
So, rather flaccidly, the argument presented finds itself toiling upon barren ground. For, as they’d best remember, that while the technical ability of a musician, and indeed, the musical complexity of any given piece, regardless of genre, can be judged objectively (something that has never been in dispute), whether or not said piece is good or bad (which, as luck would have it, are inherently subjective terms), cannot.
Exactly. This is a simple fact that people always seem to forget when it comes to these sorts of debates.

And that's another thing...I'm not all that knowledgable on the technical aspects of anything as it is, and music isn't any different. It's not something I think about all that often when it comes to what I choose to listen to, and there are other people out there who are the same way. I certainly applaud any artists that are technically proficient, and will note their talent when possible, but I dunno, I just think judging whether or not certain music is worthy of your time purely on its technical ability alone can't be all that much fun. Do what you want, but you're missing out on a lot of potentially good stuff that way, I think. I'm just more focused on the emotional side, personally *Shrugs*.

Angela
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