Sunday, January 29, 2012

Killing the Muse in Music

Unless you're lactose intolerant, like me, you probably like ice cream. We may have flavors, chocolate chip or mocha swirl, we like more than others, and perhaps a few we're not enthused about, pistachio, I'm talking about you, but when asked we plead guilty to liking ice cream.

I'm the same way about music. I just like it-and I don't spend a lot of time labeling it though sometimes that does help, I suppose. I will admit I'm not a big fan of Rastafarian Country and Western and genres like crunk and death-metal don't do much for me (each sounds like a cat dropped in a blender, but I'm showing my age).

When I worked in broadcast radio I was always impressed by how many different idioms we could create to explain separate nuances of the same expression, all the different charts ranking song popularity in Billboard Magazine-while at the same time, the speaker in the car dashboard or sitting on the book shelf let the music flow.

Before any of us, okay, most of us, walked the earth, people figured out how to attract more ears to their respective radio stations, by playing music more, not fewer, people liked. This attracted audience, in turn, was delivered to advertisers who bought air time on those radio stations to sell us products. It stood to reason some of us would really like some of what we heard on the radio and would go to a brick and mortar shop to buy it to play at home (remember, this was a long time ago; if you're under thirty: think downloads but without a mouse or double clicking).

We had other people who would count how many of which songs sold, per week, per day, per hour in some cases, as if that meant anything and from all of that evolved the various charts, trend trackers, and other measurement devices that now allow us to do just about everything imaginable these days with music except enjoy it.

We have a variety of awards programs for different musics, though my genre, the 'dumb white guy with the bald spot, sliding his feet a little bit arrhythmical and humming off key' doesn't yet have a show (a boy can dream) but the Really Big Show is the Grammys (are the Grammys?) coming on 12 February. Maybe.

Starting this year the show will be streamlined as The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (thank goodness pomposity isn't a crime, eh?) slimmed and trimmed the multitudinous plethora of categories to a not-quite-so-large number. Fewer categories means fewer winners, and less exposure (in theory) and fewer opportunities to slap stickers on CD's that say "Grammy Nominated." Oh, you just said, this is about commercial advantage. Yeah, actually it is.Oh, I forgot to mention-they did this pruning back in April of last year. Check the calendar and now practice your look of surprise.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson's olfactory sense has detected injustice and perhaps oppression and he's decided to weigh in on this whole abridgment of expression of individual rights. My gratitude knows no bounds . I keep praying, play on words, Kirk Franklin intercedes and persuades him to turn his time and talents to something more in need of Divine Intervention. Otherwise, how long before the folks from the other side of the ideological swamp show up and there's so much yellin' and screamin', we'll have lost sight of the music we wanted to honor in the first place.

It'll be a miracle, another play on words (I am so on a roll!), if we get to hear any music at all on the night of the awards over the politics and posturing. Music, like other forms of expression, can build bridges between dissimilar people and bring them closer together. Or it can used to build walls to keep them apart. One note  at a time.
-bill kenny          

No comments: