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A Point Of View: The Tyranny of Pop

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Heard this on R4 this morning...


[color=#a52a2a]Roger Scruton deplores the tyranny of banal and ubiquitous pop music. Young people, above all, need help to appreciate instead the great music of our civilisation.

"Unless we teach children to judge, to discriminate, to recognize the difference between music of lasting value and mere ephemera, we give up on the task of education."[/color]

[url="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06mv4js"]http://www.bbc.co.uk...rammes/b06mv4js[/url]

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At the time of first 'release', much of today's 'classical' music was equally decried. It's a generational thing, too. I doubt that the bloke would appreciate much of the music that I listen to with as much attention as he his. I'd agree that most of the 'consumer' pop is not very enlightening, but then, nor was much popular folk music 'back then', nor 'sing along' stuff such as 'Roll Out The Barrel'. There's music for all ages and tastes; there always has been. No need for a crusade.

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Fine, but the thing is is that some people don't really care about music. They're not somehow stupider or are able to form less valid opinions than people that do listen to music.

My wife's a very clever person but doesn't listen to anything other than Radio1 and has never purchased music in her life.

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[quote name='RhysP' timestamp='1447619967' post='2909027']
Who gets to decide what is "Music of lasting value" & "Mere ephemera"?
[/quote]

Me. I have Captain Beefheart, The Clash, Bach and Elgar on my MP3.

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This is a typical partisan conceit. Another example would be the idea that blues, and/or rock derived from blues, is somehow more 'authentic' than pop.

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On actually listening to Scruton, who I can't pretend to agree with on almost all issues, I discovered that his complaint about the ubiquity of pop muzak is a complaint often and commonly heard on Basschat.

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[quote name='RhysP' timestamp='1447619967' post='2909027']
Who gets to decide what is "Music of lasting value" & "Mere ephemera"?
[/quote]

Time gets to decide.

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Most 'pop' music is not designed to be long-lasting; quite the opposite. If a chart-topper got stuck at the top for too long, how would the next one sell..? Each must yield its place to allow the commercial pop machine to turn over the riches of the spending youth. That, cynically, is how it's supposed to work, and it succeeds. There's no great claim to 'high art' there, and never has been, so the bloke is comparing apples and breeze blocks. I don't think that shutting off the pop music will promote any other form of music for many folks. Not a fair comparison, I'd say.

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[quote name='Truckstop' timestamp='1447619763' post='2909024']Fine, but the thing is is that some people don't really care about music. [/quote]

Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of people that this applies to, who are employed in the music industry.

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[quote name='Dad3353' timestamp='1447619419' post='2909016']
I'd agree that most of the 'consumer' pop is not very enlightening, but then, nor was much popular folk music 'back then', nor 'sing along' stuff such as 'Roll Out The Barrel'. There's music for all ages and tastes; there always has been. No need for a crusade.
[/quote]

This is a good point. It's not reasonable to compare pop music of today with classical music of other times - a better comparison would be with the songs performed in music halls and pubs, sung in homes at social gatherings or published as cheap song sheets.

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What a miserable old git... Ok, so Metallica have 'more to say' than Lady Gaga? Really? Because they're old white guys with guitars? Compare 'Born this way' with 'Battery' - which one is making the bigger statement?

Oh wait, is that cherry picking? Totally generational 'my music is better than yours' bulltrousers...

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I was reading the biography of Thin Lizzy the other day. I didn`t know much about them, but found out that their first 3 albums were flops. I know that a lot of this sort of thing happened to a lot of artists years ago, but they would probably have struggled today . Today you get a record in the top 20, and it is deemed as a failure. 40 years ago, it was a case of celebration. So it is no wonder that a lot of pop music is seen as lame today, as there are so many bands that occupy the top 10 that have never had chance to develop and give the longevity that some of the older bands enjoy.

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[quote name='Beer of the Bass' timestamp='1447678555' post='2909414']
This is a good point. It's not reasonable to compare pop music of today with classical music of other times - a better comparison would be with the songs performed in music halls and pubs, sung in homes at social gatherings or published as cheap song sheets.
[/quote]It is strange though. I go into local rugby clubs today, and all the drunk 20 year old`s are singing at the tops of thier voices to things like "you`re More Than a Number in my Little Red Book, and Hi Ho Silver Lining.

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After reading the quote in the OP, my initial reaction was to dismiss it as musical snobbery. Reading the full transcript (thanks ET!), I don't think I agree with him entirely, but he does make a good point: music, in whatever form and of whichever genre, is now so readily accessible that it is piped into almost every environment, to the point that it almost does become background noise. It's even a nuisance in a lot of cases - arguably, worse than the hotel lobbies that keep "muzak" artists in business are the trendy bars that crank Top 40 rubbish up to 11 in the hope that your herd mentality will encourage your friends to hang out there and the ear-splitting volume will reduce conversation and expedite the consumption and repeat purchase of booze.

That said, he misses the key point that I and many others are also guilty of missing: an awful lot of people don't actually care about music. Whilst, for example, I went back to a much-beloved pub the other weekend and was delighted to notice they were playing Spirit's first album over the stereo, the majority of the punters likely didn't care.

Drifting off my point, though, Timmo's point above regarding the dwindling longevity of Top 10 artists, in what has become a very "throwaway" culture in the business, does set a potentially worrying precedent. If anything you could argue that artists like Lady Gaga have done well to survive as long as they have.

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[quote name='EssentialTension' timestamp='1447622291' post='2909080']
Here's the transcript ... [url="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34801885"]http://www.bbc.co.uk...gazine-34801885[/url]
[/quote]

He may have a point about the ubiquity of recorded music as a sort of aural wallpaper, I'm not keen on that either. But I heartily dislike his contention that a song with few notes in the melody must be of low quality. When I was a teenager, I couldn't stand hip-hop and rap, and I tended to make similar judgements. Lately I've heard some of those records again and it occurs to me that they were actually doing something bold and interesting by largely ignoring conventional tonality.

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The modern artists must have a fairly reasonable opinion of older music though since they are constantly reinterpreting parts of it or directly taking samples of it to use in their own 'original' recordings. ;)

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[quote name='Beer of the Bass' timestamp='1447679530' post='2909431']
He may have a point about the ubiquity of recorded music as a sort of aural wallpaper, I'm not keen on that either. ...
[/quote]

That was my main point.

[quote name='Beer of the Bass' timestamp='1447679530' post='2909431']
... But I heartily dislike his contention that a song with few notes in the melody must be of low quality. When I was a teenager, I couldn't stand hip-hop and rap, and I tended to make similar judgements. Lately I've heard some of those records again and it occurs to me that they were actually doing something bold and interesting by largely ignoring conventional tonality.
[/quote]

I agree wholeheartedly that Scruton makes some bizarre judgments but I do also think he makes some good points.

I particularly liked the line about our fear of silence: [color=#141823][font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]'[/size][/font][/color]Silence must be excluded at all cost, since it awakens you to the emptiness that looms on the edge of modern life, threatening to confront you with the dreadful truth, that you have nothing whatever to say.'

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[quote name='EssentialTension' timestamp='1447682456' post='2909457']
That was my main point.



I agree wholeheartedly that Scruton makes some bizarre judgments but I do also think he makes some good points.

I particularly liked the line about our fear of silence: [color=#141823][font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]'[/size][/font][/color]Silence must be excluded at all cost, since it awakens you to the emptiness that looms on the edge of modern life, threatening to confront you with the dreadful truth, that you have nothing whatever to say.'
[/quote]

Mr Scruton will always believe he has something to say.

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[quote name='alyctes' timestamp='1447710704' post='2909760']
Mr Scruton will always believe he has something to say.
[/quote]

Agreed, his BBC pieces come over more as 'curmudgionly old git' than 'learned academic'.

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Just read the article transcript. Scruton's complaint is more about the ubiquity of muzak and other unavoidable background music in public spaces. I agree with him about that part, but I would like it neither more nor less if that were classical music rather than pop.

I particularly loathe the endless regurgitation of Christmas hits at this time of year - I wish it would just stop!

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Well all I can say is that I heard Everything Everything's song No Reptiles for the first time last night. If there was ever any doubt in my mind that 'pop' is alive and well it is certainly gone now.

Seems to me that far from bemoaning the state of current music certain people need to put a bit more effort into discovering all of the fantastic stuff out there and not just expect it delivered to them via MTV.

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