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Don’t love the band, or even the genre. Just love the song

April 4, 2010
anonymous scriber mysteriously sends this to ftittaimu. it’s really rather good. feedback is a must here readers.
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When I first started music lessons at school aged 11, rather than let us smash the keys on the piano or twang the violin strings, our teacher had us open our notebooks and take dictation about the history of music – the emergence of orchestra, the ‘great’ composers, the meanings of ‘lento’ and ‘crescendo’. For most of us this was dull and dreary stuff and I quickly turned away from music as an academic subject. I can still remember the first thing he said though: “Music can simply be described as organised sound”. I still disagree with this. By that logic every time Gordon Brown presents a speech we would all be dancing a jig saying “this organised sound has such good bass”. Do we? No, we sit and scowl at the overweight dunce trying to conduct the nation, and that’s pretty much the face I had sitting in those music lessons. But the whole idea of “organised sound” got me thinking about how we write music.
My brother once said to me that there must surely come a time when music would be exhausted and any song you could create would already be in existence. I forgive him this rashness of thought because I suppose one could argue that in the simplest terms there are only seven notes, which indeed was his argument. I reminded him that there are only nine numbers, but infinite combinations thereafter and he nearly conceded. “But if someone writes the song 555 [using my numbers analogy against me], no one will write the song 5555 because it’s just exactly the same song but just a bit longer” he argued. “I’m afraid they already have, and will continue to do so” I despondently replied. I explained that it is not so much about the song as it is the writer and producer, who have control over exactly how that ‘5’ sounds and whether to make the song a free-flowing ‘555’ or quirky, jerky ‘55.5’. It is the organisation and composition of the few notes and the almost limitless array of sounds at mankind’s disposal that means music is a bottomless well of any type of song you can think of just waiting to be scooped out and splodged onto our plates. So why is it that so many of us become fans and followers of the those who merely ladle out this musical stew?
I don’t believe in a good or bad band, only a good or bad song. To me, all songs are written by anonymous and performed by unknown artist. I couldn’t care less about the image or agenda of the people who front them. However, there are those who take to bands like supporting a football team; goading and berating supporters of other bands as if music were a competition, and following blindly the direction of their team safe in the knowledge that their pack gained three vital points in the race for social acceptance. Therein lies the problem: as humans we are eager to categorize and define ourselves so that we feel part of a social group who believe in the same things as us. Instinct tells us it is safer to be part of the pack. The music industry has learnt this and plays to it.
Music, like all art, is a sensual expression of our inner selves and (usually) tries to communicate a message. It seems that this message is the hook that modern music followers cling to as their creed and the music industry uses to fish for profit. This message may be conveyed by the lyrics in each song, the type of music, the image of the band, or a combination of all three. If a band or artist labels themselves (and the pressure is always there to do so by the music industry) there is a silent, almost imperceptible rallying call to the public to join their way of thinking. Whether a band is telling you there is a God, or there isn’t a God, or a band is being an advert for Gap, or a band is showing you that wearing odd coloured socks is cool, or a band is showing you that you have to be thin and pretty to be a success, there are just too many extra factors to become emotionally attached to nowadays. So much so that people start to forget about the songs themselves and get fixated on the band. People become defensive – all of a sudden it becomes personal when others say they don’t like the latest release by your favourite band. And why not, as you have invested a lot of time, money and emotion in supporting them – not liking the new single is not liking you. Music has been cruelly puppeteered to be divisive to make money from an image you want to be part of.
That is why we should all be thankful that the internet now plays such a huge role in music. The emergence of the online market and such sites as Myspace and Youtube has given all artists a level playing field. Everyone now has the chance on an individual basis to release singles or albums without the financial backing of a record label. This means, amongst other things, that all the egos, wardrobes, and looks of our musicians are obsolete when deciding whether or not to like a song. It also means that there is far less media propaganda which promotes subordination and rivalry. The internet can be the catalyst for us to love songs again rather than bands or genres. We can finally stop pigeon-holing ourselves. Music can once again be an art rather than a fashion accessory.
“Don’t think we’re so mysterious. Don’t take us all too serious. Be original”
– Aqua, Cartoon Heroes.
Written by anonymous
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From → General Interest

11 Comments
  1. Dave Yarwood permalink

    I like this! Never have Aqua been so profound!

    I am inclined to disagree with the idea of the internet as this all liberating tool – in the way it is currently used.

    Sites such as Myspace – in my opinion – do exactly what you are decrying by over-encouraging bands to get more friends, more members, listens, downloads and forum comments. People can become part of a scene without even having to see a band: I know it because I did it myself, and a group mentality is created that ‘you can’t be a proper enjoyer of the music without being a registered fan on the myspace site.
    The Arctic Monkeys created history when they were the first true breakthrough from internet popularity but I argue that it was at least half down to the publicity created from sheer weight of numbers and friends of the scene (who were coerced or felt they had to be members) than the overall quality of the music.
    Yes the internet does provide an outlet for all music to be heard – but in a more and more convoluted environment in which only the most popular will out. We can’t really stop fads and people wanting to be associated with popularity trends but since the internet began it only seems to have swelled this.
    What do you reckon?

  2. Dave Yarwood permalink

    Oh – and I’m not slagging the Arctic Monkeys – the point being similarly talented artists of the time may not have been given the same opportunities without the ‘scene’s’ backing

  3. anonymous permalink

    Yes I do agree with you in part Mr Yarwood. People who always just wanted to belong to a scene will find that scene with or without music, be it on the internet or otherwise. Likewise, bands who just want screaming hordes of fans can do the same. I just feel the internet is safeguarded from the greedy eyes of the music industry – it isn’t screened and groomed and manufactured so that we only hear what they want us to hear. It is so much more free.

  4. i was only talking to someone recently how much i’d like to do mckevvitt’s lessons again. the story behind danse macabre was pretty good i seem to remember.

    in terms of the musical well running dry, it is something i worry about too. what will happen when a postmodern approach to music is no longer selling records? what will happen when there is no previous musical deacde to re-hash to the youth? it is already weird enough that i go to a club where songs i nervously roller-skated to at the age of 11 are reworked and repackaged for ‘the nineties Version 2.0, now with added Hadouken!/Dizzee/Florence and the Bloody Machine’.

    as far as good/bad bands, there are some bands in my view that simply release/released constant, tune after tune tripe. i am not going to name names, but there are a lot. good bands are bands that in 90% of their recorded output, you like/love.

    the internet idea is an interesting one. some artists have managed to allow the music alone do the talking (e.g. burial), but the internet has also meant advertising is targeted specifically at you and your preferences (like the paddingtons? then you will love this manchester four piece the scruffy tw#ts etc.). it means that there can be more artist-fan interaction, to the extent where your favourite band/artist may tweet about the quality of bulgarian service stations. the level playing field also means that it is increasingly difficult to succeed without the backing of a major label to put you in the right clothes, give you gigs in the ‘scene’ venues of the UK and make sure you are on the new American shitting Apparel advert.

    music and commercialism have always gone hand in hand. from the first moment man had to pay for an instrument/pay to see a concert, music has been affected for one reason or another by finance. and that is what throws a wrench into the works. should an artform be controlled/dictated by a parameter that seeks to exploit it?

    one hugely positive thing the internet can do is create a groundswell of reaction. whether it be putting joy division oven gloves into the charts or getting rage to number one, like minded people can now unite and take back music from bogbrushbouffantmanboobsman.

    one last thing about the internet is this thing amazon/spotify do is if you like hot chip then you’ll like….. NO. Please do not do this. I don’t mind a trusted friend doing it, but not you. This is because I usually already know who they will suggest and also it is not ‘Genius’. It is simply using other purchaser’s buying habits. But do I really want to buy The High School Musical Soundtrack if I am buying MIley Cyrus’ ‘Party in the USA’? No I don’t. So leave me the hell alone!

  5. Philonymous permalink

    Im afraid I have to disagree with several points being made against music on the internet. I believe that it has made music incredibly accessible to every generation of music lovers (and haters) currently out there. Some may argue that it is not accessible to those without computer and internet…to those some, I suggest you join last weeks Radio 2 phone in with Jeremy Vine to air your views.

    I digress….who is to say that only those willing/able to spend their coins on music may be the only ones able to have that experience; who is to say that the only bands fortunate enough to be picked up by a label following years upon years of gigging may be the only ones to be mass lauded by people who have to like their music as there are few other choices out there.

    What is wrong with instant recognition, or word of mouth fame, or being prodded in the direction of a band whom are of a similar vain and genre to others you enjoy. On the whole do music fans not generally follow the same ilk of music, do they not have a certain taste which is replicated to extents by other bands who are influenced by this genre…whether it be classical, death metal, shoegaze, surf punk, generic indie, tweeny pop. Last FM is one of the best music sites ever for discovering new and old bands relevant to the style and genre you follow.

    The more discerning music fan may argue that they have a totally ecleptic taste and never follow one particular style. To you i say ‘hurrah’, does this mean that others cannot?

    I agree that it is worrying as to how bands are going to support the lavish millionaire lifesyles some have been fortunate enough to have had off the back of cd sales. It means that bands are going to have to tour more and work slightly harder for their money. Oh well. This results in people being able to see bands more often, which is only a good thing.

    Bottom of the line, the internet opens more doors to prospective musicians, allows music fans to listen to a greater variety of music than before and maybe results in a bit more advertising.
    I know you enjoy an ice cold glass of Fosters anyway Mr Yarwood, listening to music on the internet won’t make you enjoy it even more….or will it.

  6. David Yarwood permalink

    I’m getting angry. Stinky fart angry!

    First of all – is this what we call music journalism? Some fancy arse and non-sensical linguitics and name dropping. To be a success in Journalism is it now a pre-requisite to make absolutely no fucking point at all? Or perhaps the key to success is to write as many rhetroical questions as you can!?! You see what I did there… or did you. ;-}

    The point of this article by the distinguished ‘anonymous’ was entitled “Love the song – not the band”. This is what we are supposed to be commenting upon. My footnote was simply that – a footnote.
    I couldn’t agree more with this mysterious faceless prophet but wanted to point out that as well as avenues for free sharing and development of talent, internet sites such as myspace also seem to propagate the loving of ands and scene-ism rather than the songs themselves.

    I regret making such a point as it has misdirected the discussion of this thread -if you can call it that – as ‘Dingledodie’ – your comment is full of plain inaccuracies and Philonymous – yours is a misguided snipe.

    Can someone please reread the article and say something that actually befits this glorious digital manuscript or otherwise be quiet.

  7. simmer down yardy it isn’t about name-dropping here. it’s just using examples to back up a point. by hosting you articles, i’m not trying to push a genre specific blog here that worships at the feet of bands wearing the right clothes/drinking in the right bars.

    check spelling of linguistics too.

    so getting back to the TITLE of the article in question, sure most music fans like a song that is outside what they usually might like (i was going to say ambit there but was afraid yardy might think that ‘fancy-arsed’). these are usually labelled guilty pleasures. i think anon is trying to say that musically speaking, no pleasure should be guilty. is this so anon?

  8. Philonymous permalink

    Calm down you angry young man and read over the comments below the article and view how it has become a fairly interesting discussion on the problems, or otherwise, of the current availability of music on the internet and the way in which this effects the industry from bands to fans and beyond.

    Did you not write ask our opinions at the bottom of your footnote Mr Yarwood? Or was that a rhetorical question, meaning ‘don’t you agree with what i say?’

    Also….the paragraphs I have written are not meant to be journalism, simply someones untrained perspective…

  9. David Yarwood permalink

    haha – now that’s a bit more worthwhile and point noted! It just appears to have skewed the point of the article – not necessarily what I meant to provoke nor add any personal opinions to bands or scenes with significant internet popularity. But of course debate what you like.

    The fact our authorial internet gatekeeper had stated “feedback is a must” – I felt it proper to bring it back to a journalistic review of the actual points being made. Mine being:
    ANON
    “sites as Myspace and Youtube has given all artists a level playing field… This means, amongst other things, that all the egos, wardrobes, and looks of our musicians are obsolete when deciding whether or not to like a song.”
    MYSELF
    “Its no all liberating tool – in the way it is currently used…
    Sites such as Myspace over-encourage bands to get more friends, more members, listens, downloads and forum comments”
    Therefore creating a love of the band and not the song.

    I have never been one for interactivity though!

  10. anonymous permalink

    what have I done? (I think this proves my point about music being divisive. lol).

    When I wrote the piece I had in mind the “extremists” of the music world: Goths, Emos, etc. They seem to be the people most affected by music rather than inspired by it. It is almost a life choice fuelled by bands and their songs. All the time I was thinking about the character Ellie in ‘About A Boy’ by Nick Hornby. She is a teenage Goth so obsessed with Kurt Cobain (or Kirk O’Bane if you’ve read the book) that she has a bout of depression and madness and nearly kills herself when the news of his suicide is revealed.

    My article was an honest attempt to try to ween suggestable people away from that which might suddenly skew their own beliefs and originality. Don’t let bands tell you how to act, or how to dress, etc. Just like the music.

    As for the internet – that’s sort of a side issue. Still scratching my noodle (not that one!) trying to work out where all these emotions that have spilled out on to this page have come from. I take everyone’s points on board. Everyone has the right to their own opinion and the right to agree or disagree with anything I’ve mentioned. In truth I only put the last paragraph about the online music phenomenon there because I felt I had been so damning and scathing on music beforehand. It seemed nicer to look at a more positive aspect of the future of music (in my opinion). That it has been the main point for discussion is great – any sort of discussion over anything I’ve written is fantastic. I know I’ve done a job when people start to discuss; I have provoked and promoted free thinking.

    I like your point, Phil, that should I be an eclectic music lover, must everyone else be the same? No. Of course not. I wouldn’t tell anyone to not have a favourite band or stop going to gigs and concerts for the sake of originality. What I would do is ask why is X, Y, or Z your favourite band? If it is because you like all of their songs then just be content in liking all of their songs. Don’t put their poster up on your wall, don’t get the same tattoo as the lead guitarist, and don’t read magazines that tell you what Madonna’s favourite colours are. (By the way, this isn’t levelled at you Phil – your point was one I liked and I could just make an easier rebuttal by using it and by using the word ‘you’ to make it seem more poignant to the reader).

    By all means carry on talking about the internet involvement within music as well. The more discussion we have just fleshes out our true feelings on why we love, loathe, and listen to music. It is what you wanted Dom, no?

  11. yes thankyou anonymous that is exactly what i think this should be about.

    a single/ep/lp/live review or an interview can offer interesting, fresh perspectives on music but the thing is there is so much of that going on already.

    i’m going to keep on doing those but i think articles like yours are what gets people reacting and discussing. features offer the possibility to the author to really personalise their writing.

    but well done chaps for chipping in. i’d like to see chapettes involved as well haha!

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