Rhythmical slippery slope:

Is Modern Music Dumbing Us Down?

October 25, 2013  |  By Bogdan Zaharia, Romania

Rhythmical slippery slope:

Photo : The 'Quantiq' band

Ever since man grabbed the nearest stick that was at his disposal and hit the rock next to him, his destiny would be stitched tightly to what will be later known as music. Since its inception this medium has evolved into something that has shaped generations and ultimately left a mark on the core of humanity. Whether we are sad or happy, whether we are at work or on the bus we all listen to music one way or another. It has become a must in our day to day lives. However the passing of time has allowed this art form to become more diverse and thus evolve into something entirely new. From the complex works of Beethoven to the hypnotic tunes of the Beatles, music has come a long way since its birth. Some might say that this is in fact regression. If we were to track the history of music to present times we would have to name all the men and women who revolutionized the industry and had something to say. But what if in fact the dumbing down of music that is occurring right now is a sign that we have said it all? Or is it mere sluggishness?

Nowadays, complexity is frowned upon mainly due to the age we live in. Simple is faster and thus better. We no longer stop and smell the roses, we are always on the run, for time is money and money is earned. So our lifestyles had to change and music had to be reinvented once more. Now all we hear and feel is beats and rhythms that have nothing to tell us, radios that play empty songs that try too hard to appeal and lyrics that are just ornamental. High end technology has allowed us to strip a song down and leave it with its bare essentials and by today’s standards that means the rhythm and the beat. Like a car that only has the motor and the wheels. It is still working and that is enough. Today, a song’s success is based on its “catchiness”. Smashing Pumpkin’s front man Billy Corgan said in an interview that "it's incredible to me how sophisticated people really are when you give them the opportunity to be sophisticated. The music business essentially operates on a dumbing down principle. How dumb do we have to go to sell this record to the most amounts of people?"

Every genre of music has its share of hits and misses flooding its respective market. As electronic/dance music finds its way to the mainstream, however, our culture is seeing an unprecedented flood of sophomoric tunes unlike any other genre of music. Naturally there are many factors for this. Music creation has never been as easy, cheap, or convenient as it is today. Anyone with a computer and a little technological savvy can find the software to make a rudimentary piece. With the plethora of musical templates out there, making a “song” can be as easy as selecting which preselected sounds you want to plug in, sometimes even easier than that. Further, once your song is finished, it doesn’t take much effort to find a label to get your song up on music distribution sites, or even do it yourself. Music has become a volume business and the industry favors quantity over quality.

Romania is no stranger to this phenomenon; however the future of music is not as bleak as we think it is. There are genres that still push the envelopes and artists that stay true to themselves even if that means sacrificing a large number of potential fans. Horia Gheorghe, lead singer of Brasov based progressive rock band Quantiq had this to say regarding the current state of music in Romania: ”It’s true, we are outnumbered but as long as I have my trusty guitar and my friends playing beside me, everything else might as well stop existing. We became relatively popular at first by word of mouth and then by releasing our album so yes I think there’s still hope out there.” Similar words were said by drum and bass mixer Dorin Mandache who goes by the stage name of Seth: “I’m not really interested in listening to Radio Zu’s summer hits or UTV’s fresh talents when I already know that the true artists don’t need recognition. If you make good music fame is usually the byproduct”. Nevertheless, Romania has its fair share of “mass appealers” and some are even talented enough to break the mold. Some listeners don’t mind this new wave of beats and rhythms but instead accept it with open arms. Lucacs Mihai, a student who has just finished high school is not interested in what is currently going on in the music industry: ”If I can hum along the song  in the car or dance to it at a party, then it’s alright in my book.”

There is a noticeable switching of roles that is occurring now and that is between the talented and the ones who lack vision. If we are to go back in time during the 60’s or up until the 90’s we can see lots of musicians and bands who became famous because of their talent of writing lyrics, singing and playing instruments. Lots of the artists from these eras have become internationally famous mainly due to these factors, notable examples being The Rolling Stones, Nirvana, Bob Marley etc. It is true that today’s music lacks depth but that does not mean that there aren’t any diamonds in the rough.

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