All new music sucks

All new music sucksI’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about how all new music sucks. “Skrillex is a hack with no musical talent.” “A kid can’t make a great sounding album with GarageBand.” “Nobody knows how to play an instrument anymore.”

Maybe it’s a fear of change? Maybe new music doesn’t have the same nostalgia of music you listened to when you were younger? Maybe it’s a fear of technology in music? Maybe we’re worried that old skills will be lost to new methods of creation? Maybe we’re jealous that a kid CAN make a great sounding song with GarageBand instead of spending years learning an instrument? Maybe older or more traditional musicians are upset that the barrier to entry to create music is much lower now?

I don’t think it’s a great idea to ignore the past or ignore how past creators built the framework for where music is today. But the death of music has been predicted for centuries, and it’s all a bunch of bullshit:

“Music was chaste and modest so long as it was played on simpler instruments, but since it has come to be played in a variety of manners and confusedly, it has lost the mode of gravity and virtue and fallen almost to baseness.”
— Boethius (c. 480-524)

“Music was originally discreet, seemly, simple, masculine, and of good morals. Have not the moderns rendered it lascivious beyond measure?”
— Jacob of Liège (c. 1425)

“They are so enamored of themselves as to think it within their power to corrupt, spoil, and ruin the good old rules handed down in former times by so many theorists and most excellent musicians, the very men from whom these moderns have learned to string together a few notes with little grace. For them it is enough to create a tumult of sounds, a confusion of absurdities, an assemblage of imperfections.”
— G. M. Artusi (1600)

“The Overture to Beethoven’s opera Fidelio was performed recently, and all impartial musicians and music lovers were in complete agreement that never was anything written in music so incoherent, shrill, muddled, and utterly shocking to the ear.”
— August von Kotzebue (1806)

“Serious music is a dead art. The vein for which three hundred years has offered a seemingly inexhaustible yield of beautiful music has run out. What we know as modern music is the noise made by deluded speculators picking through the slagpile.”
— Henry Pleasants: The Agony of Modern Music (1955) 

“When I listen to music these days, and I hear Pro Tools and drums that sound like a machine – it kinda sucks the life out of music.”
— Dave Grohl (2011)

(Ok, the Dave Grohl quote wasn’t completely fair— it’s more of a personal opinion and not a wholesale disregard of all new music. I take that one back.)

And somehow with each new generation, new methods of creativity become accepted. In 2050, will we all be lamenting about how “nobody makes music like Skrillex anymore?”

What do you think?

2 Comments

  1. stateshirt

    Credit due to Anu Kirk who had originally compiled some of these quotes on the Pho mailing list.

  2. I think there are compelling reasons to believe that Most new music, like the stuff you generally hear on the radio or seemingly anywhere you go to shop or eat fast food, absolutely does completely suck. And it seems the goal in recent years has been to further homogenize each individual pop sub-genre. We thought ten years ago that all pop music sounded virtually the same, but we really just didn’t know how far it could go. That said, I do agree with the sentiment you’ve expressed here. There have always been people who seem to feel that newer music ‘just isn’t the same’ and I think you’ve rightly attributed that to components of nostalgia, jealousy and fear. This makes it all the more exciting to live in a time when the entry barrier you mentioned is lower, and any kid with a computer can create freely what would have cost tons of money thirty years ago. The challenge in this cultural climate of immediacy then becomes to wade through the knee-deep pool of garbage we’re commercially bombarded with to mine out the truly golden nuggets out there, like yourself and other independently creative souls who share their light with the world. Thanks for posting this and allowing comment, you’ve out into words something I’ve felt for a good while and afforded me the opportunity to express my feelings of both sorrow toward the industry and optimism for these amazing times of sharing we’re in. Respect

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