Over the past few years, I’ve gradually changed the way I look at music. (At all art, really, but let’s not go there. Yet.) I’ve finally come to a conclusion, a definition of my perspective, you could say. And I’ve decided to share it with you, if you care to listen. Perhaps you’ll even agree … ?
Duke Ellington is credited with having said some variation of, “There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.” I don’t disagree, but that kind of categorization leaves a lot up to interpretation. My conclusion is similar, sort of.
I believe, also, that music (and life, if we’re being frank) falls into one of two categories: sincere or manufactured.
Explanation? Sincere music is an expression. It is a feeling that starts somewhere in the heart area, and is then translated into audible form. It can be lyrical or instrumental. Please note that I’m not trying to pinpoint a specific purpose. The purpose of a musical expression can be to woo an object of affection; to connect with others; to combat depression; to encourage or motivate, etc … Manufactured music, as I see it, is created to imitate the “sincere” music that by chance became popular.
Tom is sad. He doesn’t know how to express his sadness, but he knows how to play piano. He creates a beautiful piano piece that touches listeners’ hearts everywhere. Bob sees Tom’s success. He, too, creates a song like Tom’s because “that sad song was really popular.” See? Sincere vs. Manufactured.
I feel like this ought to be obvious, and maybe you already think so, too. But I feel like it’s important to articulate because it should be obvious.
Now, I do understand that this viewpoint is only relevant in terms of modern society. Years ago, there was no manufactured music. Music connected people and expressed feelings. Period. I also understand that the two categories CAN overlap. I am certainly not implying that popular musicians are sell-outs because they got popular. As a matter of fact, I hate it when people say that.
I can hear you saying, “What the heck is your point, Ali?”
1.) Unfortunately, the manufactured music is at the forefront of each genre. Because that’s what sells, for some reason. Manufactured country music has given a bad name to sincere country music. That’s why many people dislike it. Manufactured rap music has given a bad name to sincere rap music. That’s why many people dislike it. Same goes for punk. Same goes for rock. And so on. Unfortunately, most people don’t get to hear the amazing, sincere artists at the center of those genres. Those sincere people have a lot to say, and you’re missing out, man.
And most importantly…
2.) BE sincere! Bob doesn’t suck because he stole Tom’s idea. He sucks because I’ll bet he had something of his own to say, which was probably awesome, and which will forever remain unsaid. So whether you’re a musician or not… teachers, artists, writers, parents, entrepreneurs, friends…. What do you really want to say? Say it. Most of the greats were never popular, but they were also never manufactured.