What is Real Music?
I wrote this February 19, 2004…not long after I “got off the boat” and landed in WV. It’s weird how time seems so compressed sometimes. Anyway, here it is. Enjoy.
What is good music? I guess there are two ideas:
1) Whatever sells the most records. This has led to most of the “pop” musicians, including Britney, Christina, NSync, Backstreet Boys, etc. Generally speaking, this is all fluff, and no substance.
2) Whatever pushes the artistic envelope. This has led to a lot of “underground” bands and musicians. Generally speaking, this stuff disregards what normal people “like” to hear, and tells them what they “need” to hear.
I don’t really like either of these. The whole “pop” thing is rather sickening, like eating too much icing. But the whole “underground” thing is often just poor taste shrouded in artistic snobbery.
Both of these groups of people need to come down off their “high horses” and mingle with the people. That’s where I believe the real music is at.
Real music, in my opinion, is folk music. I don’t mean the “folk” style of music, I mean the “folk” approach to music. Folk music historically originated as common people wrote songs that dealt with subjects that they understood. Then they rewrote them and revised them, changed them for their moods and environments, until the songs came to belong to the community, rather than to any individual. People would sing these songs as they worked, when they felt deep feelings of love or loneliness, or when they were feeling playful and wanted to relax.
I value folk music for that reason, because there is something much more “real” in it than there is anywhere else. But I also value the music that is similar to folk music in spirit, if not in style.
The modern equivalent of folk music is everywhere, in every genre. It appears whenever a song is picked up by the people, sung and hummed while people are working, and worked into the background of people’s lives. It appears whenever people of different generations and social classes can spontaneously burst into singing the same song. It appears whenever it becomes obvious that a song has transcended our particular situation and touched something a little deeper in our humanity.
Fifty years from now, I won’t care whether artistic critics lauded my music or not. I won’t care whether my music was a “pop” success.
What I want, fifty years from now, is to walk down the streets and pass an open window, and hear someone singing one of my songs.
That will be real satisfaction for me.