Saturday, January 20, 2007

Musical Free Fall

Prior Peter, over at Daily Bread, made an interesting little post about music being a gift from God and also took a little jab at some of the stuff that passes for "music" today. I heartily agree with his assertion, especially about mainstream secular music. I think music in the West is frankly in complete free fall. When I was in England a few months back, the stuff that was passing for music in the British Disco scene completely baffled me. Granted I'm something of a good ole' boy, and techno/dance music has never really interested me much. It is not much better over here in the States with rap/rock/country.

Most genres hit the mainstream in the late '80s/early '90s. Rock n' Roll and Country especially were born with the good American rebellious spirit combined with musical innovation. Those genres have become domesticated like a frufru dog whose ancestors in ages past were wild wolves. Even ghetto rap is, in a sense, domesticated. Its packaged by otherwise respectable music labels, and the majority of consumers being teenage white boys from the 'burbs. Even Jazz, which I think is the one music genre that still has some life and innovation and is in some ways still resistant to mainstreaming, has produced crap like Kenny G or has become a weird fusion of acid A-tonal nonsense.

For example, I am often hesitant to answer when asked if I listen to country music. I do, but people nowadays think of country music as stuff like Garth Brooks. When I say country music, I mean Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson. Heck, I'll even throw in some Tex Ritter for sake of argument. Can anyone really see any of those guys having the lack of integrity to sing trash like "She thinks my tractor's sexy"? I think not.

I am convinced when stuff hits the mainstream, it basically loses its soul. Does anyone really think there will be oldies stations in 20 years playing stuff from the 90's and '00s? Who will want to listen to repeats of Britney Spears and the Boy Bands?

I have witnessed an interesting phenomenon when doing pastoral visits to nursing homes. I witnessed it when I was doing CPE in Knoxville in a mostly white nursing home and in a nursing home this summer, which was made up entirely of Lakota Sioux. Both times, I was helping with a worship service, and both times some, if not most, of the impromptu congregants appeared to be either comatose or in various stages of dementia. Despite the people being seemingly tuned out or unaware of the worship service, I started to sing a hymn or, this summer, play it on a CD player because the hymn was in Lakota.

Both times, the people who I would otherwise have thought were "out of it" and might not even know what world they were living in suddenly woke up and started singing the words to the hymn. Then, as soon as the hymn ended, they went back to being comatose. It was almost reminiscent of that scene from the Robin Williams' movie Awakenings.

With the pluriform amount of music that people listen to these days combined with its basically monotone and unsingable nature, when my generation ends up in the nursing home, will there be some sort of song we will have in common that will momentarily rouse us from our dazed and senilic state? I sure hope it isn't some '90s trash like Walkin' on the Sun or Ice Ice Baby. Although, it would be amusing to hear a bunch of senile old geezers in the year 2060 singing Gettin' Jiggy with It.

I may have to leave that request in my will.

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