Is That Screaming in Notes Really Called "Music"?
Any Yardsticks for Artful Expression?
My being an old-timer should not affect the validity of my arguments targeting that screaming type of the modern pop music. To be clear where I am coming from with that, I believe that there should be some standards in evaluation of what is to be considered as art---and what is not.
The existence of music critics would suggest that there really are such "objective" criteria that are not solely based on tastes.
Now, before I get to my announced arguments, I'd like to prepare the terrain for them by saying a few words about painting art, from which it will be possible to draw a qualitative parallel to music. Namely, I'd like to address that common to both "anything goes symptom" that's hijacking the very definition of artistic expression.
Allegedly, Pablo Picasso, the much celebrated father of the movement in art called cubism ("scrambled picture"), once admitted how he came up with that style with the only motivation of mocking the snobbish Parisian public. Then also, an anecdote, true or false, cites him as saying how he never worried about someone stealing his paintings from his basement, because "without his signature they were worthless".
That could actually be true when we take into consideration a certain test that was apparently done involving a bunch of art academy graduates, who were asked to pick out less known works of masters in art mixed with amateurs' artworks---all signatures being hidden.
As many of you must have guessed, those knowledgeable art graduates picked almost all amateur's works for masterpieces. Should we go any further about what really passes as art, if the only apparent "rule" is---anything goes?
Art Knowledge Unreliable
To prolong this beating around the bush for yet another moment, somewhat similar situation we may find in the world of fashion. I shamelessly admit that I sometimes watch on TV at least a part of a fashion show with the only motivation to have a good laugh.
No matter what sophisticated lingo they may use for praising that art, so much of it simply looks grotesque, if not downright silly, somewhat insulting those great looking models presenting them. I just can't help remembering Picasso's remark about the snobbishness of the Parisian public---wondering if the creators in fashion secretly ganged up to mock the taste of the fashion public.
The terminology of fashion, as well as that of general art and modern music in particular is so cosmetically artificial and abstract that a critic or a creator could easily talk about it for an hour without really saying anything of a substance. It's like almost anything can become an "art", as long as it can fit into a fancy terminology.
Now, without claiming to be a psychic or something, I can easily hear all those proponents of such art as saying: "You can keep your old-timer's taste, but don't criticize something that you know nothing about".
To which I would gladly comment: "When you say 'know', do you mean that 'knowing' of those art graduates, or some other kind of 'knowing?"
I wonder who was that first "musical Picasso" who came up with this brilliant idea of "screaming to the notes". Well, I guess the style was born out of the sexual revolution, when even some priests got carried away with their enthusiasm of new freedom while having fun with young believers. If they could take those freedoms so literally, why be surprised at the crowd of sinners with a beer in one hand and a joint in another---the new followers of the new culture of screamers.
The rule "anything goes" even sounds like an understatement when it's about the rap "music", which really sounds like a chanting around the fire in a rain forest, spiced up with an assorted mantras of profanities. Yey, long live freedom, down with art! Along with nudist beaches, those mentioned horny preachers, porno industry came this musical liberation with vocal crescendos and electric instruments to give the noise an illusion of a musical performance.
Quite possibly a musical version of the Primal Scream Therapy, discharging emotional pain, anger, frustration, and probably a good dose of rebellion against the establishment---unfortunately also against its musical finesse. Just the other day I was at a shopping mall, and wrapped up in deafening instrumental chaos was this screaming female vocalist exhibiting sounds of labor pains from giving a birth to twins---both trying to come out at the same time.
As Always---Times Must Change
By the way, have you been at any wedding receptions lately? If you can remember, were you able to hear the person sitting next to you at the table---or yourself for that matter? I tried to make some sense out of all that assault on my ear drums. Well, I only have sixty percent of hearing left anyway---a gift from all that shooting and exploding during my army service---so another explosion or two of musical instruments shouldn't bother me much.
And it doesn't. I was just curious, so I asked some young folks what they get out of that noise other than a reduced hearing. The look they gave me was worth thousand words, and I suspected that many of them I wouldn't want to hear. "You are an old-timer; you just don't understand it", they said with an air of a quantum physicist who just told me to stop trying to figure how an electron can be at two places at the same time.
Well, I didn't give up. I wanted to piss them off a little, to make them defend themselves and their high art. So I said that to me it sounded like an advertisement for a looney-house. I also asked them what's making them so angry to resort to music, while they are not allowed to scream in public places without instruments.
I also told them that, with an exception of some classical pieces of music, if you can't whistle a tune without missing one tone while driving your car---it's not music. Guess what, they just sheepishly smiled, shrugged, and as if they couldn't find anything more original, they said: "You are an old-timer; you don't understand." Well, at that point I actually started to understand: they didn't know what they liked about their music, they just liked it, and knowing didn't matter.
Well, Dean, Let Them Have It
I don't know why that kind of music reminds me so much of nudist beaches, where all kinds of unattractive human specimens show up to parade with their genitals. Now, to make the record straight, I have never been to one, and that's only what my imagination made from those stories of people who were brave enough to explore.
So those are the kind of raw images I get while hearing that crude discharging of sexually loaded musical exhibitionism. Screaming, and moaning, and crying, and sighing---with only yawning missing, but that's where I could contribute.
Sheer celebration of a rebellious undressing those sexual taboos. If Freud was still around he would experience some orgasmic epiphanies over what's going on, and maybe even the proponents of the alternative psychology would start agreeing with him.
I never liked the dude, and even though sexuality may be present in much of the motoric of this musical wave--- seriously speaking---there might be something else behind it. Maybe those youngsters were right when they couldn't put their finger on what exactly they liked about their music. Maybe it's not even meant to be art, but a symptom of a drifting soul outgrowing the old, while the new is not clear yet.
I may never like their screaming in notes, and as you may have guessed, I will always find some funny comments for all that. Besides, I have been through my own mini-evolution of consciousness, and there was nothing rebellious in it, but subtle and intimate, and non-intrusive. So, their "style" of outgrowing the establishment will need some major refinement to even get my sympathy, let alone an applause.
Having said that, I should also add that I may understand the content, although not the form. Being a new generation they have every right to be different from us. After all, progress is never about imitating the old ways, and every new wave in culture started clumsily, until it consolidated into something more sensible. Why not give them a chance to surprise us geezers.
So, at the risk of being accused of "changing my tune", while having done it on purpose---let's see what will come next after the adrenal glands get exhausted from screaming and chanting, and the rest. But, it will have to be something damn impressive so that I would use it as a replacement for Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" or Dean Martin.