Friday Debate: Why is music good/not good?

“What a ridiculous and overly-simplistic thing to ask, Jordan!” you declare.

My point: Why is it ok for music to be good, and for music to be not good?

I’ll use a couple of examples.

Exhibit A: A youth approaches someone from a more mature generation and says “Your music is ok, but mine’s totally GREAT!  Just listen!”  The other listens, bristles, and mutters “I’ll stick to Pink Floyd, thanks.”

Exhibit B:  A 50-something adult approaches me after a show and declares “Man, the radio is bogus.  I only listen to my Skynyrd CD’s anymore.  I can’t even turn the radio on without hearing a bunch of whiny teenagers singing about how hard love is.”

Hmmm.  There’s truth to both statements.  There’s also room for some perspective and growth.

Exhibit A & B demonstrates the listener wants to hear (only) familiar music, and whatever was on the radio or on the turntable in 1973 is pretty much the only thing that will be taken in with any pleasure.  It also provides a window into the divide: Dad’s music is better than Jr’s music.  It’s been this way since we were banging two empty halves of coconuts together to make a horse-gallop noise.  Jr is (unfortunately ) learning that it’s a war between old and new, and new is unacceptable to Jr, therefore the old music should be rejected.  Dad thinks new music is garbage, therefore Jr’s music isn’t valid.  The music itself doesn’t resonate with any effectiveness to either party.

How soon Dad forgot that his preferred music was (most likely) hated by his parents for not being Tommy Dorsey.  So much so that is was burned in bonfires sometimes!  What?!  Dad swore he’d never do that to his kids or grandkids.  Yet, here we are.  Music is only good when it’s relatable.  When dad was a teenager, his music idols were roughly the same age.  He remembers a time when Keith Richards wasn’t a haggard and un-killable machine.

Jr. likes to get fired up before a football game listening to rap.  Dad hates rap.  He thinks it’s of the devil.  For some reason, Dad’s parents thought KISS was of the devil, and pried it out of his clenched hands to send off to the incinerator.  History is a stinky cologne, or so they say.

Everyone feels right in this scenario.  Dad doesn’t have to listen to gansta rap, and Jr doesn’t have to listen to Boston.  Yet, both listen to Bing Crosby without batting an eye.  Music, when used in the right setting, can be acceptable no matter what it is.  You don’t bump rap at a funeral, and you don’t listen to Boston during a Christmas party.  Yet, when you throw on a piping hot beat from any era, the wedding dance floor lights up.  You play “Billie Jean” and the high school kids go crazy.  There’s grandma’s and young children out there breakin’ it down to Lil’ Jon.  It’s bananas because the music is right for the setting and mood.

All music is good, until it’s listened to out of context.  I can tell you, dear reader, that I need to get in to the right frame of mind to listen to bro-country.  If I have a certain mindset, it’s acceptable.  I can also let you in on a little secret: I freakin’ love Art Tatum.  His runs are just breathtaking.  Now, I’ve tried to get others on the bandwagon, but I presented it at the wrong place and time.  PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Let people listen to a suggested track on their own time.  They’ll hopefully be in the right frame of mind, and in the right setting.  Jr coming up to Dad with a fresh Kanye track while he’s running late for a business meeting is not good timing.  Neither is telling Jr his beats are nonsense and presenting him with Bob Dylan.  Not in the right frame of mind, Dad.

Share music liberally.  Be prepared for backlash if it’s ill-timed.  Listen to old and new music.  After all, it’s all rooted in Gospel, Jazz, or Blues.  If nothing else, we all have that in common.

Much Love.

PS: There’s an entirely different can of worms to open on “Music Discovery at Any Age”.  I’ll get to that.


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