Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Kids' Music

I hate it--I hate it. On Monday, a holiday, I spent the entire day driving around my No. 2 son, whose motorcycle was in the shop after another crack-up, and my daughter, home from college on a mini-vacation.

As soon as each of them got into the car they plugged their iPods into the dashboard (I don't even understand how this works). Paul goes for rap, including a rapper who is apparently an Orthodox Jew but sounds for all the world like a West Indian, as well as more eclectic contemporary fare; Elizabeth favors music she describes as "techno-ey."

I hate it all and after a day of driving them around--and spending lots of money on Van's shoes, expensive underwear and groceries for Elizabeth to stock the mini-fridge I bought for her dorm room--I was exhausted. Yes, I can recognize the difference in styles, but all this music occurs within a range of 3 notes with heavy precussion in the instrumental. Most of it seems to be modal. I tried extrapolating from the 3 notes and some of the passages could be construed as minor, but there really wasn't enough to extrapolate from and most of the time after about 3 bars they would throw in alien tones or modulate in crazy ways. Nothing was even by a stretch major. The lyrics, insofar as I could catch them, were largely surreal and depressing. The only lyrics I liked were in the chorus of one of Paul's songs which was a litany of random noun phrases followed by "fuck, yeah!" Most of the singers were out of tune by conventional standards and, at best, only slipped into key (what key?) after mini-glissandos and waffling.

It struck me that I must be getting old. But then it struck me that I didn't even like popular music from the time that I was in college--though it wasn't nearly this awful. I also don't like the contemporary high art music my husband likes either--he's just gotten some CD by some Arlo Pert. I am shallow. I like Vivaldi--as I child in musical training I participated in about 30 performances of his Gloria, singing soprano, alto and tenor parts, and playing violin, viola, cello and flute at one time or another. And I can listen to the Four Seasons over and over and over again without getting sick. Vivaldi--fuck, yeah! Mozart--fuck, yeah! Haydn--I kind of like his string quartets even better: he created the form--fuck, yeah. Bach--fuck, yeah, yeah, yeah!!! I once tried to have sex while listening to the Bach b minor mass but couldn't because I understand the Latin without trying to translate and it was distracting.

Maybe part of it is just a preference for tone color. I like every string quartet. The real yummy kick is Dvorak New World--lush, self-indulgent and melodious. What I don't get is that "classical" music--the 500 greatest hits of the last 500 years that XLNC plays is yummy, obvious and pleasing--it's easy. It feels good. Why would anyone want to listen to music that's stressful and makes you angry or depressed? More grandly, I don't get the interest in the dark side of life: we run 2 sections of one of my colleague's courses on Death and Dying. Why on earth would anyone want to take a course on such a depressing topic? Elizabeth is taking a course in biomedical ethics. Again, why? I hate the dark side: "choose life." Truth is I don't believe that there's anything deep about darkness--or that sweetness and light are superficial. Vivaldi is good.

Anyway, I hate this bad, mad, rough, dark, kid music. Hate, hate, hate. I don't have much of a CD collection (and what I have consists entirely in string quartets and Russian church music) but by Christ I'm going to get one of these iPods and download every fucking string quartet I can find, also the Schubert quintet that isn't the Trout and the Brahms Triple, and plug this thing into my dashboard and blast it out next time these kids want to to out to get shoes.


Boofykatz said...

You should worry. My son has a band called, dyslexically, le petty mor. (He did German and Spanish, but that is no excuse.) His rhythm guitar is actually rather good, with an understanding of open tunings I was never able to achieve, and his punkadelic friends are all rather sweet and well mannered. And he has been exposed to Bach and Vivaldi and Albinoni and so on, but it never stuck. I don't quite understand why. Perhaps in a few more years he will find himself listening post-coitally to The Rite of Spring or Peer Gynt; who knows? It is all too easy to assume that teenage rebellion leads to a diverging path, when in actual fact it may well be just a necessary rebellion before a more independent exploration of classical themes. I must confess an abiding weakness for von Suppe's Light cavalry Overture, a record my father played when I was about twelve. I don't know if that is sad or encourging.

H. E. said...

Wow I've just gone done the primrose path--just bought the Dvorak "American" string quartet for 99 cents a movement from the Apple iTunes store: my first music download. I'm now happly listening to the first movement ("On the Levee" and other American folk favorite themes) though the speakers on my Mac don't do it justice. So you can see how expenditures will cascade: next, speakers; then the iPod. And it's all one-click immediate gratification. So Hadyn's Kaiser (second movement variations on "Austria") next. I wonder if there's some way to disable access to the Apple store if I have a few drinks--this arrangement could really be dangerous.

John Wilkins said...

I think its Arvo Part ["Part" with oomlauts]. Lovely stuff.

What about chant to a beat. Like enigma.

H. E. said...

Ouch, yeah. My husband who despises my musical tastes corrected me on the Arvo/Arlo business.

I don't know what "enigma" is but I do like chant--particularly Anglican Chant and Russian church music. I suppose I like the thick texture. Maybe I just don't like beat or at least the predominance of rhythm because it imposes on the listener, dominates the intellectual landscape and interferes with discursive thought, because it's compelling.

I think it's a preference for detachment and control. I have my stream of consciousness, I'm thinking about the paper I'm writing or the war in Iraq or what kind of fabric I want to reupolster my couch and I don't want this beat interfering. I want music, like natural scenery and architecture, to be background to my intellectual life--not to dominate it or interfere with it. So, phenomenologically, I'm now listening to Dvorak's New World. Nice but I can think and write while listening and come out and pay attention when I need a rest or when something interesting in the music comes up.

This is the pre-romantic idea of art I think. The Esterhazys have bucks so they hire Haydn and his crew to play background music while they stuff their faces with sausages. It's music as furniture. I like good furniture and I want the best furniture possible but I'm not going to sit on the floor admiring my chairs.

Boofykatz said...

Not Bauhaus then? Sorry but Enigma is a cliche here. On the chant front, would I be wide of the mark if I suggested that you might be wild about Carmina Burana? Personally I find 'fortuna imperatrix mundi' to be just about the best potted philosophy for which one could wish - but I'm a determinist.

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