Monday, November 26, 2012

A Quick Jolt of Nostalgia or Sentimentality

Jordan Bloom, commenting on other writers thoughts of "upper middlebrow art" (think Wes Anderson), asks:
Is there a music “ultimately designed to flatter its audience, approving our feelings and reinforcing our prejudices”? Or how about one that “stays within the bounds of what we already believe, affirms the enlightened opinions we absorb every day in the quality media, the educated bromides we trade on Facebook”?
And points to Mumford and Sons as an indie folk representative of this idea. While I don't disagree with him (that style of music doesn't speak to me), I don't believe i'd be so harsh. He concludes, however, that
In music, I wonder how much of this has to do with the expectation, especially among young people, that every moment of their waking lives be soundtracked. Though we spend more time listening to music than at any time before, that rarely leads to listening to longer compositions or a broadening of one’s musical horizons. If you have time to listen to a few tracks on the way to work, this kind of indie folk suits your purposes well. I’ve heard people defend this music as “life-affirming.” I have no idea what that means, but it sounds like nonsense. Functionally, the music is life-distracting. It’s like emotional crack; a quick jolt of nostalgia or sentimentality to get you through the day. Some throwaway lines about mountains or trains to consume on the subway before sitting at a computer for eight hours. It seems like most people don’t expect anything more out of music than this, and that’s tragic.
It's a thought that haunts me in my darker moments: is my love of music shallow? I've moved more recently to listening more and more to wordless electronic music, most of which serves both as background music as well as something I can listen to more deeply as the situation arises. Or can I? Is the meaning I'm getting from these songs merely because I've listened to them so many times at work or during dinner with the kids? Am I using music to control the mood rather than to challenge, move me, or even entertain? Is it, god forbid, a "a quick jolt of nostalgia or sentimentality"?

I don't think it is, although my listening habits are certainly more lazy then they were before my kids came along. But they're already grooving to Ulrich Schnauss at the dinner table, an accomplishment i'm proud of. If my kids are going to see music as a soundtrack, at least it will be a damned good soundtrack. 

1 comment:

BobbyWinter said...

Wow. There is a lot to think about there.

A few things I've learned about myself: I don't need to have music all the time, and nowadays listening is an activity unto itself. I'm multitasking averse, so I have a hard time concentrating on anything more complicated that emptying the dishwasher or driving when music is on.

I don't worry about my taste in music, if what I'm listening to is cool or highbrow or whatever, or how it influences the kids.

I do think it's important that the kids have at least passing familiarity with what I think is "important," but that is going to be totally different from what other parents emphasize and mostly different from what is in the "canon" of music.

I try not too think too much when I select music to actively listen to. I'm not afraid to like a Kesha song to death; I am unabashed about listenng to the same album 1000x; and I'm unconcerned about spending my 40s listening mostly to gangster rap.