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Is That Screaming in Notes Really Called "Music"?

Updated on September 9, 2018
ValKaras profile image

Val is a life-long practically oriented student of effective emotional and attitudinal responses to the many challenges of life.

Should We Give Them a Standing Ovation or a Painkiller?
Should We Give Them a Standing Ovation or a Painkiller?

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?

If You Figure It Out---Educate Me
If You Figure It Out---Educate Me

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?"

If My Wife Told Me This Way That She Loves Me, I Would Call 911
If My Wife Told Me This Way That She Loves Me, I Would Call 911

Anything Goes

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.

Hey, We Invented a Real Iron! Oops! No One Is Ironing Anymore
Hey, We Invented a Real Iron! Oops! No One Is Ironing Anymore

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.

I Got a Music To Match This Scene---and It Could Almost Be Whispered
I Got a Music To Match This Scene---and It Could Almost Be Whispered

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.


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    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      20 months ago from Canada

      Dana---You are so right. In a culture where anything goes, and there is no real criterion of what is art, we are left with "tolerating", not appreciating.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 

      20 months ago from LOS ANGELES

      Okay, between reading the two hubs, I can see the word "artistic" can be a long stretch depending on who is being asked. I know that when I hear screaming accompanied by music and told it's art, or my favorite, told this is how a person express themselves I just want to gag. This reminds me of the saying -someone's trash is someone else's treasure. You go to a garage sale and pay two dollars for a painting and find out because it was painted by some famous painter its value is five-thousand dollars.

    • Ewent profile image

      Eleanore Ferranti Whitaker 

      21 months ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

      Somewhere in the far recesses of my mind, I once had to write an article on a French King who painted a tower cell purple to drive his sane brother mad. Oddly though, the color purple has always been a symbol of royalty.

      Then, there is the old wives tale about how painting walls and ceilings totally black will "suffocate" you while you sleep. Obviously, when my then teen son wanted to do it, I was on pins and needles.

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      21 months ago from Canada

      Eleanore---It's fascinating, isn't it. Thank you so much for this interesting input! To add a little to it, I heard or read somewhere that in certain penitentiaries with criminally insane they paint their cells in a hue of pink, because it keeps them calm. Also, if those athletic weight lifters are facing such a painted wall, they can't lift as much weight as they normally can, because their nerves are not mobilizing enough "will".

      But, again that about restaurants and music that you are mentioning is really some "cool" stuff.

    • Ewent profile image

      Eleanore Ferranti Whitaker 

      21 months ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

      To show the link between our psyches and music, one friend of mine, a scientist who was studying the effects of color and sound on the human mind, found in his research that music in restaurants tends to fit the type of restaurant service.

      I never really noticed it but as he claimed, fast food restaurants tend to paint their walls in vivid yellows or orange. Rarely blue. They also tend to play fast, upbeat background music. The idea is for people to eat and hurry out the door.

      Conversely, he found that the colors of the walls in the most upscale restaurants tended to be muted blues or rose and the background music less boisterous.

      The fun part of his thesis was that fast foods cost less and therefore, these restaurants need faster customer turnaround. Upscale restaurant menus cost far more and the idea is to keep customers long enough to spend more on their meals.

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      21 months ago from Canada

      Carolyn---It's always a pleasure to hear what you want to say, and this time it was no exception. I certainly admire your musical taste, actually share it---when it's about classic for sure.

      When you compare our ages, not to mention so many other aspects where we may differ as humans, it comes natural that music fits differently into our personal intimate reality. And yet, look how two people can be on the same page in matters of tastes which don't insist on facts.

      Since I do the vacuum cleaning in this household, I don't like the mix of the machine's noise with music. Well, I am like that, maybe a little too disciplined in mind---when I mean business, I don't mix it with pleasure, and the other way around. For example, during dinner you won't hear me talk about "serious stuff"---to me, that's the time to enjoy food, not to spoil digestion with toxic thoughts. But you may hear me praise the cook, which I regularly do, LOL.

    • Carolyn M Fields profile image

      Carolyn Fields 

      21 months ago from South Dakota, USA

      I've been thinking about this topic some more (excellent, by the way - that's what a hub is supposed to do). Anyway, I wanted to add that yes - there is a difference between music and noise. How to define the difference is quite another matter. I, too, generally prefer more quiet, meditative pieces. I also enjoy up tempo, higher volume pieces for certain situations, like cleaning house. I even enjoy turning the volume WAY up, and celebrating, like when I listen to the Hallelujah Chorus at max volume, to celebrate Christmas. That's all I wanted to say. Thanks for listening.

    • Ewent profile image

      Eleanore Ferranti Whitaker 

      22 months ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

      Val..You know...About a decade ago, there were two teens outside a convenience store cursing in the most disgusting manner. I asked one of them if their parents knew what they were doing. Of course, I got the bird flipped and a few choice words and one smart mouth saying, "Free Speech" remember. I responded, "Free Hearing remember?"

      So, I went into the store, complained to the store owner and he told the brats to move on or he'd call the police.

      Like you, I tend to value peace and quiet. I just don't see why it is noise is so attractive. When they aren't looking for attention revving up one of their motorbikes, they are blasting music till it is shaking the cars they drive.

      I can tell you that there are consequences. Since my younger son is a professional drummer, he always wears earplugs when he plays to deaden the sound. He had to do this because he realized he was losing his hearing.

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      22 months ago from Canada

      Eleanore---I just couldn't agree more, and you described this modern musical "situation" so well!

      To be honest with you, I would not even question who-likes-what, if this noise parading as music was not so imposing in public places. It reminds me about legal rights of criminals, while much less is thought about the rights of the victims.

      So, if it's their "freedom of expression" to play it loud, what about the "freedom from public disturbances" of all those folks who couldn't care less about that kind of instrumental/vocal noise making?

    • Ewent profile image

      Eleanore Ferranti Whitaker 

      22 months ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

      I have two adult sons who are professional musicians. Over the years, I've heard them discussing how songwriters and musicians are "told" by commercial recording companies what they can and can't write. That doesn't leave much room for creative artistry.

      When music notes became dollar signs, the entire premise of the music industry changed so that singers now have to try and be as outrageous for PR purposes as their commercial backers demand.

      In my first life career, I was a dance educator. But now, even dance has evolved into some bizarre form that is akin to wrestlemania. Everything in dance is a competition. Two points for a perfectly executed pirouette and ten points for a perfectly executed fouette. Not exactly art is it?

      Enter the techies who can literally replace musicians and singers by the press of a button on a computer keyboard. Don't laugh. Art has gone the same way. Remember when it was actually FUN to take photos with a camera and not a cell phone "selfie" machine? Now, it is impossible to judge photographic images since nearly all are computer enhanced.

      What the ears perceive as music to some, others hear a cacophony of noise. Not to worry. Already the melange of noises that are ear splitting are becoming part of recorded collages set to computer enhanced "music." Tchaikovsky must be rolling in his grave.

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      22 months ago from Canada

      BizBejabbers---The very first musical screamer that I could remember was Little Richard. Among Pat Boone, Paul Anka, Perry Como, and other soft singers, that guy sounded like he had some serious issues that no tranquilizer could have taken care of.

      However, as long as we are talking about musical tastes---anything goes, and I am the last person to impose mine on anyone. The hub was trying to find something like an objective measure of what passes as music and what is merely a hysterical discharge of immature emotions and possible tantrums of disagreement with the Establishment.

      Actually it had nothing to do with the technicalities of recording in a studio, although it is possible that studios could alter the quality of voice by playing with bass, acoustics, and some other tricks that I am totally unfamiliar with.

      In any case, I am happy you seemed to have fun reading the hub.

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      22 months ago from Canada

      Carolyn---Loudness per se is not an issue, but rather "what" is being loud. A happy, loud, belly laughter can be quite contagious and a treat to ears; and so can be the sounds of nature.

      I got your point about certain classical pieces of music actually insisting on loudness. But then we are coming to tastes, and you just won't see me listening to that kind of music. I am a meditative type, and my whole nature is wrapped around the subtle, fine, calm, and inspirational.

      Thus, I am much more likely to listen to a largo, adagio, a nocturne, or a sonata, than a symphony. Of course, of pop music it's the crooners of 50's, 60's, and 70's, and instrumentals like Mantovani, Billy Vaughn, James Last, etc.---not heavy metal, hard rock, and I don't even know the name that screaming kind.

      My hub was about screaming in modern music---with added loudness, which makes it even more unattractive to me. Loudness in general is not Val-friendly. Even when people raise their voice, I don't get it---who is supposed to be impressed by that, because the volume does not make anything "more convincing".

    • Carolyn M Fields profile image

      Carolyn Fields 

      22 months ago from South Dakota, USA

      At the risk of seeming snobbish, I think you are casting unnecessary aspersions at music that is played at a high volume. Some loud music is actually quite, well, musical.

      Case in point, carmina burana o fortuna.

      Or, let's not forget the ending of the 1812 Overtune - complete with canons and church bells.

      Loud does not necessarily equate with bad music.

      That said, a lot of what passes for "music" today, is really just amplified sound.

      Interesting read, by the way.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      22 months ago from Beautiful South

      Vlad, I must say that between my spasms of laughter, I was managing to gasp out “right on!” I also remember very similar words coming out of my father’s mouth over the rock ‘n roll phenomenon of my day. We kids ignored him and went on dancing and playing our 50s, 60s, and 70s rock, but you know, there really was a difference. For instance, the music of “Alone at Last”, Jackie Wilson’s hit of 1960, was borrowed from a famous symphony. My memory may be faulty here, but I believe it was Beethoven’s Fifth or maybe Ninth. So my childhood rock that I treasure did contain some actual music.

      My husband and I, being long-time broadcasters (and rockers), have tried to reason and explain this screaming phenomenon and also the fad of all guy singers sounding like teenage girls, but we can come up with only one explanation, and that is the change in technology. In our day both home and professional hi-fi units had deep bass woofers, subwoofers, and tweeters which picked up every note imaginable. We could turn them up and literally vibrate our control room or our house and the neighbors houses on both sides. This probably explains why almost all in our generation have hearing losses.

      Young folks of today listen to their music on smart phones, tablets, and other mp3 or mp4 players that use earbuds or can be plugged into tiny external speakers, most with no bass pickup. So these high screaming notes are mostly what today’s technology picks up and the kid’s ears are used to it.

      So, humans have evolved on earth from the primal scream of the caveman to classics back to the primal scream. Maybe this is a step toward telepathy that is predicted for future man. With all this screaming, the silent world of telepathy may be a welcome change.

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      22 months ago from Canada

      Tanyabhushan---One of the most neglected issues is the one of emotional maturity. Some emotions and their expression simply don't make any adult sense. That's why we don't wear diapers anymore---we outgrow those aspects of our emotionality which don't appear to be life-promoting.

      Thus, the question remains, what is worth expressing that wouldn't fall in a category of immature impulsiveness. Is every scream, every crude aspect of our pathology eligible to become an item of art---just under the umbrella of "being a part of being human"?

      Franz Kafka was recognized as a genius of darkness, expressing those most disturbed corners of psyche. He was also a mentally ill person. How does his dark genius give him a resume to inspire the world?

      Looked in an extreme---if Hitler happened to be a poet, would his poetry be something to inspire us?

      When I hear a singer in her crescendo mode of performance, my reaction is: "Lady, grow up, don't share your tantrums, they are not inspirational".

      Well, that's how I see things anyway, and that's not the only way to see them. However, since this is the only mind I've got, I am expressing it.

      BUT---at the same time, I certainly respect your look at humans expressing themselves.

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      When people write songs most of the time, it's their way of expressing their feelings, just like poets. Even when you're reading a poem you can feel the depth and emotion through the way they've put it. Singers probably do the same, on the inside they're screaming and they want to let it out whereas some of the write and sing what they really feel, it depends from which perspective you look at it through


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