The Sound of Music

The sound of music today is… not so musical.

The manufactured sounds of contemporary rock, hip-hop, country and etc., are stale, boring, and often completely UNmusical. So-called “artists” who can neither find nor maintain pitch (admittedly those who pass as “country music singers” nowadays usually have a BIG edge over most in other genres in at least finding pitches) seem to dominate the manufactured music market.

Of course they do. Most people nowadays can’t hear thunder. Data point: anyone reading this who can discern pitches need only think back to the first few weeks of any season of American Idol. Think of all the completely clueless, tone-deaf aspirants who auditioned. They are among the best of the population in general.

Yes, most people in our society today are tone deaf. And I lay the “blame”–such as it is–at the feet of lazy generations of folks who have let the radio (and the technologies that followed it) make their music for them, instead of making their own music. You see, true tone deafness is extremely rare, but most folks nowadays have never bothered to learn to sing, play an instrument or even whistle a tune. Oh, as American Idol evidences, many folks think they can sing, but obviously cannot.

Heck, I spent more than a few years teaching music (both vocal and instrumental) in various settings and venues. Even kids who self-select to be in band or orchestra far, far more often than not came to the classes–in fifth or sixth grade… and even more sadly after several years of “instruction” by others–with only the vaguest idea of pitch differentiation. And I have heard “award-winning” high school bands that have never been introduced to that old Chinese gentleman, Tun-ing.

Go to a church, once one of the cultural bastions of vocal/choral music, and simply listen (if you’re one of the minority of those who can differentiate pitches). Horrible. Listless voices. Tuneless congregational singing. A far cry from the days of my youth (and even then it was not rare to find pockets of poor singing. The slide into musical illiteracy has been long).

My dad belongs to a church that has such congregational singing. It tries to make up for it by having a “praise band” and singers up front to “lead” the singing. Interesting thing: most of the instrumentalists in the band are in their 60s, 70s and even, like my dad, 80s. They come from generations when making their own music was still a common thing. (In his youth, for example, my dad and a bunch of his buddies bought a HUGE repertoire of charts of the swing music that was then popular and drove all over their home state playing gigs. As a real band, not some five-piece small ensemble that passes for bands nowadays.)

The musical illiteracy and lack of tone perception that is rampant nowadays is appalling.

For those few who can sing along without having some mindless drone from an electronic crutch, let me offer these chilling (yes, chilling) words from The Sound of Music:

When you know the notes to sing
You can sing most any thing.

Now, that’s a depressing thought in the face of American lack of musicality.

(Lest you think me some sort of pseudo-intellectual musical snob, academic/”serious” music nowadays is often worse thasn any of the pop genres. Heck, there’s more–much more–to appreciate in the musical wasteland of manufactured country, hip-hop, etc., than in the land of contemporary “serious” music. *sigh*)

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