The Problem with Artificial Music

The Problem with Artificial Music February 23, 2024

This is a picture of someone actually playing an instrument and singing. This is what I call non-artificial music.  Let me be clear that though I was raised in classical music and played that sort of music on violin with orchestras and quartets right through the beginnings of my college education, I am not a classical snob.  I love folk, folk rock, classic rock, soul (r and b) jazz, Gospel, some country, bluegrass, some contemporary Christian as my big ole CD collection will attest.  And there is actually some hip hop and rap that is creative and alright.

By artificial music I mean music that amounts to sampling, not original material, fronted by someone standing in front of the electronic playing of such samples, repeating the same banal phrases over and over again like ‘oh yeah’  ‘come on’ frequently intermingled with four letter words.  Sometimes rap can involve interesting and interactive poetry, but all too often it does not.

In fact basically rap, if there is no singing involved, is rhythmic talking usually with a back beat, sometimes in poetic form by someone who has no musical talent at all– can’t write music, can’t sing music, can’t play any instruments.  This is not a musician, this is a spoken word person, and if he’s good at it, a spoken word artist.  And this brings me to the Grammys, which like ‘popular’ pop music has degenerated into a display of mostly pop drivel usually without any redeeming message or features and also without any real musical talent.   I realize the Grammys should not degenerate into the Grannys– featuring only old school rock n’ roll and old school country and old school r and b, but there is a reason why artists like my homeboy Chris Stapleton, or a band like Rival Sons  or even Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak stand out from the crowd, and blow the trivia off the stage. It’s because they are real musicians, writing and playing real songs that are not electronically generated and do not involve loops and samples.  Thank goodness the Stones just came out with a new lp with Mick at the age of 80 sounding like he did when he was 30.  Otherwise, we might have forgotten what real rock music played and sung by real musicians sounds like.

And while we are on the artificial music subject– auto-tuning!!  Crosby, Stills, and Nash never had nor needed auto-tuning to sing their incredible harmonies.  If you need auto-tuning to prevent you from singing sharp or flat or in general off key, then you have a tin ear, and need some lessons in musical listening to the other artists and instruments playing the song.   Some of the blame for these trends must be laid at the doorstep of American Idol, America’s Got Talent etc.  The good news of some of those shows is they feature singers, but notice how the audience responds– they respond to screaming on key, or holding a note too long, or bellowing with no nuanced use of the dynamic range of loud or soft.  In short, no one has trained them how to respond to actual music and not just showmanship, or bombast.   And when you finally have someone like Adele who can actually sing, you will notice that she is not in a rush to produce endless pop tunes quickly.  She’d rather write songs about real love not teenage break up songs.  Even the most popular artist on the planet, Taylor Swift, doesn’t just write those kind of songs anymore as she has aged and matured.   She’s actually a good song writer. So it’s about time that we say to the hit maker machinery ‘Shake it Off’ and get back to producing real music by real artists who can not only sing but play real instruments.   Enough Said.

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