Why so many are satisfied to engage with music at only the level of feeling is a vast, impoverishing mystery. — I literally used to have constant arguments about this with a co-worker of mine.

This article is from 2015​ but popped up in my Medium feed today. It probably sounds a lot like an old, irrelevant person complaining about The Kids These Days™, but a lot of it resonated with me.

That said, a commenter makes a good point that this piece may be overlooking the very rich fringe of music that exists now, i.e., all of the independent artists on Bandcamp, SoundCloud, YouTube, etc. doing whatever the hell they want.

I.e., I fell like popular music is maybe worse than it has ever been, but hot damn do I have an easy time completely ignoring it.

View at Medium.com

34 thoughts on “Why so many are satisfied to engage with music at only the level of feeling is a vast, impoverishing mystery. — I…

  1. Daniel Swensen Are the Beatles the exception that proves the rule or a refutation?

    I dunno that this article implies a Golden Age, but it certainly argues that we’re in a Lead Age (if that’s a thing).

  2. Fantano had a thing recently re: the quality of millenial music.

    I think music has only been “devalued” if you think in terms of the machinery of the music industry. Yes it’s tragic how labels are treating artists, how little they get paid etc. But you also have to consider that the phenomenon of the rock star, of the highly paid touring artist etc. is basically a phenomenon that only properly started after WW2. So it had three or four decades to peak, and if now, three or four decades later that model is falling apart, perhaps from a historical standpoint we should consider it as an anomaly. It’s not the “standard way of doing things”, it has only been the standard way of doing things for like 30 years. When we lament “the context” of the album and its liner notes, you have to also remember “the album” is only as old as vinyl.

    So yeah, the commercial world of mainstream radio and itunes is shit. But then again Adam Neely has half a million subscribers on youtube, so I think the future of music is gonna be ok.
    youtube.com – This Generation Makes / Supports GREAT MUSIC!

  3. I don’t buy the premise. Music is devalued because a Jazz muscian can’t be super popular? What about; Bluegrass, Doo Wop, Blues, Gospel, Ragtime, etc? The kids don’t do what you want, they’re not supposed to. (I don’t mean you == Mark, but you == author.)

  4. Mark Delsing I might be the wrong person to answer this, mainstream music has been a wasteland to me since the 90s, but the stuff I’m able to find online is a vast wealth.

    Liner notes may be gone, but there are still places where enthusiasts dwell and congregate… again, just not as easy to find.

  5. I come from a completely different place. Why would I care about what new music is being made or not made when the 1000s of songs I already love are immediately available on demand.

    I mean I think I calculated that I could continuously listen to my iPod for a year without ever hearing the same song twice. That to me is the Golden Age right there.

    Don’t have to wait to hear your favorite song on a radio rotation. Don’t have to call in to a request show. Don’t have to lug around suitcases full of CDs or cassettes. Hell, don’t even have to change out the media. Just hit play and listen to every song you’ve ever loved back to back to back forever.

    What more could I possibly need from new music that I don’t already have in what I already have…

  6. Spotify’s personalized “Discover Weekly” and “Release Radar” playlists have expanded the variety of artists I listen to regularly by several orders of magnitude (not an exaggeration, and I don’t think I had a small horizon before that either). Also, personally, for me pop music is better than ever, even some of the super big acts, though a lot of my favorite artists that I’ve discovered over the past few years in this way are tiny in comparison. I agree that the devaluation of the album as context changes things, but now artists have Instagram pages and so forth, and album liner notes are themselves a relatively recent historical development. The economic challenges seem a bit more complex and I’m not sure what the best solutions are but both EDM and classical musicians have found various business models that seem relatively successful.

  7. i am going to strap down my jerking knee for just long enough to type this:

    a) re Paul Czege’s the millenial woop taking over pop music: it’s the same as it ever was. the gospel beat and blues chord progressions took over pop music in the fifties. gated-reverb drums and about a dozen DX-7 patches took over pop music in the eighties. Cher’s Believe autotune (that T-Pain borrowed and ran with) took over pop music in the oughts. Musicians have always been magpies and always will be.

    b) Would this author even be equipped to recognize the “serious” music being made today? His touchstones are giants of the past. The giants of the future will not hold to the same template … actually a splendid thing given how all musicians are all magpies.

    The way I see it is, if the new music’s bad, it might be because the listener is obsolete.

    c) I.e., I fell like popular music is maybe worse than it has ever been Everyone over the age of thirty feels this way. Just like science fiction, the golden age of pop music is sixteen … unless you were some contrary kid who’s always loathed the mainstream.

    d) articles about how the new music sucks always get side-eye from me, given how the dominant form of pop music today (in the USA anyway) is the black music that white people didn’t steal very well.

  8. Believe autotune (that T-Pain borrowed and ran with) took over pop music in the oughts. Musicians have always been magpies and always will be. b) Would this author even be equipped to recognize the “serious” music being made today? His touchstones are giants of the past. The giants of the future will not hold to the same template … actually a splendid thing given how all musicians are all magpies. The way I see it is, if the new music’s bad, it might be because the listener is obsolete. c) I.e., I fell like popular music is maybe worse than it has ever been Everyone over the age of thirty feels this way. Just like science fiction, the golden age of pop music is sixteen … unless you were some contrary kid who’s always loathed the mainstream. d) articles about how the new music sucks always get side-eye from me, given how the dominant form of pop music today (in the USA anyway) is the black music that white people didn’t steal very well.]]>

  9. Take a mental leap backwards to the 1800s, to the advent of the player piano, an event that transformed music from performance to commodity. Suddenly, one didn’t need training and an instrument to make music. Suddenly, one just needed money.

    From a certain point of view, that was a fucking apocalypse. You want to talk about devaluing music? It was especially culturally devastating because the piano music that was replicated widely was not the classics, it was not Chopin and Ravel — it was the pop music of the day, the meaningless racket that people engaged with emotionally, not critically.

    And yet, even in the aftermath of that apocalypse (and the trailing apocalypse of the Edison cylinder) we got the masters our essayist appreciates so correctly.

    It’s the same as it ever was. The technology changes, the values change, generations come and go, everything new is unfamiliar and alien and off-putting — and yet there is golden age after golden age.

    Today’s golden age is difficult to recognize because the gatekeeping is scrambled, there are no singular authorities who elevate artists like there were back in the day. This is a DIY golden age, where is helps to be an active seeker. The new music I saw last weekend, the electronic jazz that is the heir to Hancock, is fucking mind blowing. But the only reason I saw it is because my bass player is a freak who does live music like it’s cocaine and he dragged me out to the clubs.

    This is a golden age of a million secret gardens, a treasure hunter’s paradise. You can engage with music on any level you like and be delighted. You can assemble a final mp3 collection that’ll take you through to the end of your life like Ralph does. You can gobble at the buffet like my bass player does. You can kinda muddle in the middle like I do (though I try to always make the first week of New Years’ about reviewing the best-of-the-year lists so I can get some freshness into the rotation.) And if you want context, like our essayist? You can reach out to the artist on the socials and talk to them directly. Because almost every artist today is struggling to make an impact. Those echoes are treasured validation.

    Anyway, TLDR, our cultural apocalypse is nothing new. Music is less The Day After and more like a phoenix.

  10. mind blowing. But the only reason I saw it is because my bass player is a freak who does live music like it’s cocaine and he dragged me out to the clubs. This is a golden age of a million secret gardens, a treasure hunter’s paradise. You can engage with music on any level you like and be delighted. You can assemble a final mp3 collection that’ll take you through to the end of your life like Ralph does. You can gobble at the buffet like my bass player does. You can kinda muddle in the middle like I do (though I try to always make the first week of New Years’ about reviewing the best-of-the-year lists so I can get some freshness into the rotation.) And if you want context, like our essayist? You can reach out to the artist on the socials and talk to them directly. Because almost every artist today is struggling to make an impact. Those echoes are treasured validation. Anyway, TLDR, our cultural apocalypse is nothing new. Music is less The Day After and more like a phoenix.]]>