Today I’ve been poking around on the Web, looking for interesting new music. Hoping to be inspired, basically. No luck, so far. There’s a vast wasteland out there.
Granted, my points of reference are perhaps terra incognita to your average 20-something ambitious pop musician. I’m coming from the far side of eclectic. I play in a symphony orchestra. At home, for recreation, I play Bach and Haydn on the piano. On my iPhone I have albums by Weather Report, Jon Hassell, Paul Simon, Bill Nelson, Frank Zappa, National Health, and the Residents.
More than anything else, I respond to music that’s intelligent. If a piece simply wallows in an emotion for four minutes without any evidence that the composer expects listeners to engage in mental activity, I find the music not just boring but offensive.
But that’s what I’m finding online. I don’t think I could ever write music this stupid. It would drive me nuts. I keep wanting to use, you know, melodies. Chord progressions. Bass lines. Syncopations. Phrases. Maybe even key changes or meter changes. When I listen, I listen for those things.
An endlessly repeated drum loop is bad enough. When there’s no discernible melody, when the bass line plods endlessly along the roots of a single four-bar progression without so much as a passing tone to break the monotony, I find myself wanting to shake the composer until his teeth rattle.
Has none of these alleged composers ever heard of any of these fundamental techniques? Or are they just afraid to alienate their brain-dead listeners by using any of them? I don’t know.
I wouldn’t single out any of the artists on bandcamp or soundcloud, because they’re mostly amateurs. But when I flip open this month’s Electronic Musician and find record reviews of new CDs by Olafur Arnalds, William Tyler, and Tricky (no, I’ve never heard of any of them), I figure, hey, these people are professionals. They must have something to say.
But no. I seek them out on the Web. I listen to tracks. I recoil. I cringe. Has it come to this? Evidently it has. The pod people have won.