The BBC published this article by Roger Scruton – Why it’s time to turn the music off
It is almost impossible to go anywhere these days without background music. It permeates everything, fills every space, enters your mind, but leaves nothing. Music that leaves nothing, is in my view nothing, because in leaving nothing it has created no response. Music that creates no response is essentially just sound, or noise depending on personal taste. So I am with Roger on this.
What I disagree with, is the view than any one kind of music is better than any other. I can appreciate both Classical and Heavy Metal. There is a lot of Heavy Metal I do not like, and equally Classical I do not like. It is a matter of personal taste, and that some music touches that spot in your heart and brain that perks the soul up, distracts you from what you are doing and makes you listen. Soaring violin solo, or heavy guitar riff, it is the same spot. Not everything will touch it no matter how you may try. To write Pop off without acknowledging its contribution to musical wealth has a whiff of musical snobbery.
Comparing pop and classical music is a bit like comparing pavement art with Rembrandt. We can appreciate pavement art. It can enter our life, occupy our attention, but nobody would suggest prising the paving slabs up to keep it. At the end of the day it gets washed away, and nobody sheds a tear. Equally, contemporary art leaves me cold. Despite the psychobabble, the contents of the Tate Modern do not touch me, and appear to me to be a con trick. It seems to me that it is all Emperor’s new clothes, nobody seems prepared to say “this is shit”. To some, it is of course great art. While modern art leaves me stone cold, I have to accept that is stirs others, makes them think, and touches the soul. Their life is enriched.
Pop music on the other hand starts out from the perspective “this is shit”. It is transient, easily forgotten and popular, in the same way that chips are popular. It requires no effort to consume, it is predictable, and it sells easily. There is no concern we are being sold shit, or are consuming shit. There is only one objective of the pop business, to sell large volumes as profitably as possible. You would be wasting your time to try and find a serious intent that it is anything else other than easy to consume. The lexicon of pop music is filled with the banal, predictable, formulaic, and derivative. Easily forgotten, sold to the un-descerning, the only criteria is to sell in volume. Pop music does not pretend to be great music, but some becomes great music.
In among the dross, lie the gems. Shining brightly, being discovered by new generations. The fact that the back catalogue of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Neil Young and countless others attracts the attention of the young gives me hope. They are looking for something better, something that touches that spot and stirs the soul. Something that isn’t just noise. But to hear it, the noise has to be turned off. In silence the soul can be heard, and the myriad tunes and songs that it has heard and remembered burst forth.
Turn the music off, save us from the tsh tsh tak of forgettable and banal piped music that provides a soundtrack to life.