Of all the farces that pours out of the USA's media on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis, the manufactured polarity of good and bad music is by far the most laughable collective reality our culture plops out. The quantity of music critics who banter about their endless streams of word salads about music expression sends a slip of confusion into any music consumer. Yes, sarcasm rules this essay, for the lonely American music critic (in the context of our friendly American Music Industry) is what I shall rant about hereafter my blinking cursor.
In my life time as a composer of 51 years, as if I was born a composer, every once and a while I will attract a musician to play my music, like a spider waiting for a bug, I spin my web as best I can making it as sticky as possible to keep this bug of a non-composing musician in my realm, a musician who is skilled enough to play my music, yet does not have the personal strength to proclaim his or her commitment to my web spinning. There have been three times in my lifetime where I have heard the phrase, "Your music is so good, how do you do it... but I don't know what is good or bad music... I am not a critic...". Now this vague phrase contains many meanings, some of which don't bode well for me, like going out a seventh date with a woman, proposing to advance the relationship to a higher level, and she says, "I just don't know...". But, this musician's comment is so packed with a culture of lost mindset. The musician stated above understands the music, but cannot assess personal or emotional value to it, therefor he or she begins to look for an monetary value, or perhaps a good old American Music Industry critic's popularity value. Then, there is no responsibility. Yes, orchestral musicians maintain a boon on this topic, we can just sit there behind our stands, play the same music (historically), get paid a salary (ever shrinking), and the conductor takes all the fallout if the "magic" does not happen.
So, in a culture where personal, emotional, and social development have taken a back seat to economic and monetary development, we need someone to tell us what to do. It is our marketing propaganda system who tells us what to do with our money, because personally, emotionally, and socially we don't know what the hell to do with our money. Enter the American Music Industry and you have the recipe for propaganda (the opposite of culture). We are endlessly barraged with mindless music critics on the radio, especially NPR, the TV shows cool celebrities as part-time music critics, movies even show good and evil characters in stories with their music choices (my personal favorite propaganda - cause it works so damn well - you vilify a character in a story and then put them in a scene listening to x type of music). And the list could go on and on about what the American Music Industry does to create the illusion of the "must and need to have" music.
Then something happened in the late 1990's and early 2000's- the whole internet thing. And people began to share electronic music files, and the music industry could not figure out why people were not downloading all of the same music. The public did not have a single taste for music. In fact it was extremely varied. Record stores closed by the thousands. And the downloads continue. I find free music on the internet constantly. I haven't paid to listen to music for years, I say happily. Yet, I guarantee that the American Music Industry is working their butts off in an attempt to get everyone to like that single hit again, because on NPR there are radio hosts who tell us about their and others music downloads, the "must have" downloads. They need a song that has the same effect as fast food French Fries. And, yes, they work our children really hard with this on the Disney Channel- cool wealthy young characters who have everything, including the good music.
But, above all else, the hardest reality I (or we) face is the reality that our public school music education system is not working. I wish it was working. It simply isn't creating an educated consumer, one that can comprehend the music he or she is listening to and then subsequently making a choice to purchase.