If you have come in search of profundity, craft or soaring intellectual observation, you will be deeply and tragically disappointed. This is not a coherent message tied up in a wrapper of taut and handpicked phrases; it is a disjointed series of musings about music. I care about music a lot; I was a musician, I listen to music constantly (except when I am reading or writing and can’t stand the distraction) and I am rarely happier than when I am hip-deep in my iTunes library compiling play lists for anything from a rainy day to a dejected month. The depth of my love will not be reflected in well-wrought prose, not this time, but if you try some times, you just might find…you get what you need. I just made that up – catchy, no?
Yesterday the person who I guess is my boss, although I am old enough to be his mother and he doesn’t ever actually “boss” me (a wise decision on his part) asked me a question. The conversation went something like this:
Boss Boy: What do you consider to be the three greatest influences on 20thCentury music?
Me: Ummmm, well, one would have to be Bach…..
Boss Boy (Trying graciously to behave as if he had not just realized that his cook had the IQ of a pea hen): Yeah, well, agreed, but I was talking20thCentury.
Me: Oh! Duh. Well, The Beatles would be one,
Boss Boy: I’ll give you that one.
Me: Maybe Elvis?
Boss Boy: No.
Me: The Who?
Boss Boy: No.
Me (Busying myself with de-lumping cheese sauce to hide my increasing embarrassment and despair): The Beach Boys?!
Boss Boy: No. Okay, I’ll just tell you: David Bowie and Chuck Berry.
Me (all skeptical): I might buy Chuck Berry because a lot of people stole his style and his ideas, but Bowie? I’m not a fan.
Boss Boy: Still, Bowie was the first person to do “pop” music as we know it today.
Me: Mmm hmmm. So Bowie was pop, Berry was rock, and the Beatles-
His Walkie-Talkie went off, ending that particular conversation. I have been thinking about it off and on, ever since. I want proof. I want to see a diagram with The Beatles, Bowie and Berry at the top, and little vertical slash thingies connecting them to their followers. I don’t get it, I’m not sure I’m buying it, and I don’t like feeling clueless about music. Is this just his opinion, or a Fact in the Library of Congress? Is it terrible that I do not love Bowie if he is among the Big Three, the heads carved into the Mount Rushmore of 20th Century popular music (carved, no doubt, from pristine blocks of high-quality blow)? I am disquieted.
While thinking about my failure to identify the Big Three, I watched “Glee,” which I adore, no matter how many snarkers tell me how stupid it is. I like the music, I think it’s hilarious, and it is a delightful diversion. That being said, I did not enjoy last night’s episode much, and I think that has a great deal to do with the fact that the music was all Britney Spears. I will reiterate, perhaps a bit defensively, that I like LOTS of kinds of music, including La Traviata, Tool, Garth Brooks and Peter, Paul and Mary, but I do not enjoy Britney. I don’t care about her breakdown, her marriages, her lack of underwear, or how much she weighs. I only know that there is music that brings me in and makes me feel something, and music that doesn’t. I might have hummed “Oops, I Did It Again” at some point, and I think she’s a clutch dancer, but otherwise, not so much. That’s all: remember, I did not promise you the proverbial rose garden of a post, here.
Finally, I was irritated again this morning by the fact that when I jump from station to station on my car radio (a necessity only when I have depleted the battery in my iPod Touch by blasting cooking music for five hours) I hit three Christian music stations in a row – two adjacent stations broadcast the same programming, the third plays “contemporary gospel.” I am not anti-Christian; I work in a Church, and I am pretty tolerant of persons of faith regardless of flavor. I also love a great deal of classical music with a religious basis – Bach’s B-Minor Mass, Faure’s Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria, and too many other Magnificats and Te Deums to count. I also have a thing for both “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Godspell,” as well as the heart-racing aural joy of real gospel music and the sweet, earthy sounds of the Carter Family, Jimmy Cash or Elvis singing about their faith. Contemporary Christian music, however, is pop-flavored, saccharine, over-produced drek that sounds like a slightly updated Lawrence Welk chorus on Xanax. It’s Bad Music. It just is.
If those people really love the Lord, they should write better music to prove it. I’m sure there are contemporary Christian artists I haven’t heard who are genuinely masterful (or is that Masterful?) but aside from conceding that Amy Grant has a lovely voice…I’m sticking with my prejudices. In my dreams, I will hit the “Seek” button and find that the Three Strikes of Christian Music have been replaced with show tunes, bluegrass and death metal. How much richer life would be……