Thursday, April 23, 2009

I'm a music snob

Have you seen that e-surance commercial with the guy singing and playing guitar? Well, I've seen it one time too many, and I've decided I'm never EVER going to buy anything from that company, and here's why:

So, the commercial starts with the cartoon guy on a stage, and he starts singing. Next to him is that pink-haired cartoon lady playing the tambourine. In the middle of the commercial, the tambourine goes away for a period of time, and when it comes back, it comes back ON THE WRONG BEATS!!!

By wrong beats, I mean one and three, as opposed to two and four. A jazz drummer mixing up two and four with one and three is enough to turn John Coltrane into Barney the dinosaur. Two and four makes for an uptempo swing. One and three- a polka. Most people might not notice these things, but it drives me crazy.

I once saw a performance on TV of a Bernstein piece titled "Prelude, Fugue, and Rifts" played by some famous European orchestra and conducted by the great Simon Rattle. What I managed to catch while flipping through channels was the "Rifts" section, which was obviously a classical composer's attempt at writing a jazz piece for orchestra. I hated it.

Here's why: What was supposed to be a major orchestra's attempt at playing swing really just turned out to be a bunch of old stodgy Europeans playing triplet rhythms. So whats the difference?... Two and four. Not even Simon Rattle got it right.

Of course, I don't mean that jazz influences don't work in classical music. I think Gershwin was a genius in finding that sweet spot where they blend in just the right way.

I know that I tend to be opinionated on certain matters and that people often disagree with me. I don't like to flaunt my ideas, but I do find a source of pride in having opinions that differ from the mainstream.

For example- I hate Brahms. I don't like to listen to him, nor do I think he's the musical genius that most who study music will say he is. Yes, he has written things that are quite pretty- I would recommend the German Requiem. I just don't think that he has contributed anything groundbreaking; his symphonies are insufferable, and to top it off- his orchestration is appalling. Just listen to some of his contemporaries- like Tchaikovsky, whose music is better in every way. Tchaikovsky was dramatic and original. Brahms was just Beethoven all over again.

I understand that Mozart was a genius, but don't know why anyone would actually enjoy his music today. Mozart's music is leagues ahead of what came before him, but there is music that came after him that sounds so much better.

So, maybe you don't enjoy Stravinsky quite as much as I do. I know that the music I listen to isn't for everyone (maybe just the better ones).

But of course, I'm not the only snob out there when it comes to music. We all think that we could be judges on American Idol. We sit in front of our TV screens in pleasure, watching a group of monkeys perform and beg for the votes that we're not going to give them. We all have our favorites- we cheer them on until the show ends and we don't buy their albums.

But what I love most about music opinions is the fact that we're still allowed to have them and disagree. These days, you can still name off your favorite bands without the fear of someone snapping at your throat. They might disagree or call you a dork, but they still won't angrily recount your conversation to like-minded friends afterward.

But when it comes to politics....

I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make here.

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