What is 'pop music?' Where did this distinction arise and what is its purpose? If it has a purpose, who does it serve?
On close examination, you see that it's the way society absorbs a thing; the way the tiger is defanged. It's another useful illusion from society's toolbox of illusions. All through my school years, I had to put up with this prattle about 'serious music,' and 'pop music.' Oh sure, I bought into it a bit, at first. But one only has to question the status quo.
First of all, we all know what it means, this business of 'pop music' and 'serious music.' It depends a lot on what side of the fence you're sitting on, of course. If you're a 'serious musician,' 'serious music' is 'good,' and 'pop' music is 'bad.' Of course we all know that 'serious music' will make you no money. Why? Because it's 'good,' of course, and the majority of people don't know about 'good.' They only pay for music that's 'bad.'
Now to be fair, if you're on the other side of this particular fence, 'serious music' is 'boring,' (that's bad) and pop music is 'cool.' (That's 'good'). Moreover, this historically speaking, has tended to be 'radical' and 'revolutionary.'
'Serious music?' Part of the establishment.
It's important to reflect on the political demographics implied by these distinctions in music. They are fairly obvious, when you stop to think about it, but it is interesting that most people toss these distinctions about without a second thought. From these two simple musical categories, you could easily build up profiles of the listener's politics, religion, average income and so on and so on. People do plot these demographics. Not the audience, but the people who are in the business of sales and marketing.
However, as you might suspect, all these demographics are bound and held in place by belief systems that are spun on half truths, exaggeration and out right fantasy.
Even 'serious' musicians have allowed themselves to be saddled with ridiculous myths and caricature profiles of past composers, much to their own detriment and decline of the tradition. Most of these folks, who should know better, have been content with whatever historical spin has been handed down.
This kind of thinking has drained the vitality out of the tradition. Take just the idea that composers like Beethoven and Mozart were not actually popular until after their death. This notion has bred a mentality that has said whatever it creates is too good for present day audiences and it must constantly create for some, undefined, superior future audience. This also conveniently isolates it from any criticism of what's going on.
In point of fact, Beethoven was acknowledged as the greatest living composer in his own lifetime. The city of Vienna, an historically vital center of culture in Europe, paid the man to live there. As far as being 'radical' or 'revolutionary,' well, let's see; we have Beethoven dedicating his third symphony to the leader of the French Revolution. We have Hector Berlioz composing an enduring masterpiece while stoned on opium.
We have premiers of famous classical works like Bolero and the Rite of Spring that were either banned or caused a riot. This list goes on and on.
And what of this hoary chestnut that says pop music is a lesser discipline? Anyone with a musical ear can tell you that there's been plenty of great 'pop music.' And why not? Many of these artists, like Elton John, went to music school. They're 'serious musicians.' So why this great deceit? The most obvious suspect is the music business, but it's obvious by now, that they have no idea what they're doing either.
No, the deeper reality is that, as long as there has been a culture in the western hemisphere, there has been a counter culture. All this business of counter culture, that supposedly began in the sixties, didn't.
How far back does it go? Well. Richard Wagner, in his early days, was part of a free love movement in Germany and his first opera was called 'Forbidden Love,' and it has nothing to do with rings of power or Teutonic nymphs.
It's an opera that Wagner, later in his life, professed that he would like to forget about, and, well, we're just not going to let him. I will deal with culture and its twin, counter culture in subsequent articles.
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