Tuesday, August 01, 2006

shabby anniversary

MTV is twenty-five years old today. In the last two and a half decades, it has caused a tremendous upheaval in the world of music that has directly led to the dilution of quality in music and the incredible proliferation of style over substance.

It used to be that musicians were judged by their music. Today, the music scene is a wasteland of one-hit wonders by people who are generally musically illiterate and incompetent but who have trendy hair and attire, great bone structure, and killer abs. Every new act is hyped for six months or so and then fades to obscurity, and airplay is virtually identical from station to station with a monolithic corporate overseer that sells CDs which cost pennies to produce for thirteen dollars each at discount stores and pays the artists a few measly cents per copy.

Music has turned into a commodity and is devoid of artistry, skill, and literacy, paralleling our own vapid culture. We have lost something inspiring and ineffable in favor of record-breaking profits for the capos of the recording industry.

Much of what passes for music today is drenched in hate and violence and is a paean to the basest instincts of humanity. Music has been treated like a young runaway who has been forced into the vilest of acts of prostitution, and has lost its power to imbue listeners with hope and optimism. I find myself in the tragic circumstance of being a musician who detests most music.

This is a good time to remind everybody that the first song played on Music TeleVision on August 1st, 1981, was the Buggles "Video Killed the Radio Star," a satirical comment on the elevation of image over composition.

Talk about prophetic irony.

There is good news, though. Because of the digital revolution, the music industry is dead. It may not seem to be, but it is like a dinosaur that has received a mortal wound but continues walking because its nervous system has not yet managed to send the message to its brain that it is already dead. There is a new paradigm developing that will kill the music industry, that will put production and distribution in the hands of the artist, and will once again make musical skill and talent a primary component of the success of musicians.

More on that in a future post.


Blogger Ronni said...

And I thought it was just me!

Of course, we've been saying that about the music business for years, but, until recently, there was no alternative. Now there is.

I don't even listen to new music, and have found most music videos distasteful since their inception. It's all camera angles, dancers, and how far you can stick out your tongue.

7:18 AM  
Blogger Mary K. Goddard said...

No, Ronni, it's not just us, but those of us who are complaining are usually over 30.

"Turn off that noise!"

Does that sound familiar?

Seriously, I think the degradation of music is like the degradation of many things in our "modern" culture and it's been going on for centuries. Even the old philosophers like Plato and Socrates saw the coming changes of the generations and complained about it. We're evoloving.

It's not always good evolution but with the good comes the bad. We just need to be sure that we continue to expose new generations to the fine arts so they see the crap for what it is and keep their brains focused on the positive, not the negative.

We need to keep the arts and sciences in the schools and the communities and in the HOME (it DOES all begin at home) and keep those young brains expanding instead of contracting. Reading and arithmetic are the basics upon which the others are built but to set our testing criteria focus on those and expell the others is SHEER MADNESS (can you say No Child Left Behind). Kids need to question authority, especially when the authority becomes MTV, Busta Rhymes, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey....

Let's kill our TV's, or at least monitor children's viewing. Instead of letting them watch crap like MTV, Wife Swap and Extreme Sharks let's get them in front of Nova, Great Performances and Frontline. Get them out of the mall and into activities that expand their minds, not their wardrobes and their girth.

And I'm not talking about a resurgence of Frank Sinatra, cigars and Martinis. Those are not the "good old days" we are reaching for. There's a lot more to it than that.

Easy for me to say--I'm not a parent, I know, but I think of what my parents did with us when we were kids and realize that putting us in front of the tube, dropping us off at the mall, or shooing us out the door to get out from under foot was NOT the way it was done then and it's not the way it should be done now. Times do change but there's no reason to relieve oneself of the duty to raising children with thought and purpose. If we can't spend time with our kids, we shouldn't have them. If we don't have kids we should teach, or volunteer, or borrow some for a while.

I can tell you that sitting down at the piano with my mother every night before bedtime to sing old broadway tunes and classics gave me an understanding that, just cause it isn't brand new, doesn't mean it can't be fun and good, and it might lead to a better understanding that there are other things out there. It's good to explore. Show tunes might lead to Samuel Barber, and then, perhaps to other composers, modern and masters.

Snoop Dogg likely leads to Shakira...

12:48 PM  

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