Persona Digital Persona Digital



Music Styles

Humans like to categorize everything. The history of music follows the same path as the history of all art and science. Categories emerge as cognitive boxes, aka musical styles, which contain and restrain composers, players and audiences. Often a music style is fiercely defended and innovators suffer a great deal when they attempt to lead others out the box. A dialectic is a work since humans are restless, migratory creatures who have always traded with others and copied styles and inventions that were not available at home. Exotic innovations are attractive to some and resisted by others.

In my book Neuroscience Notes, I introduce the concept of cognitive boxes: "To make sense of how humans operate, you have to look closely about how individuals learn, how they depend on local groups for guidance and support and how they organize cognitive structures. You have to understand the differences among cognitive categories such as knowledge, facts, opinions and beliefs. Another construct, cognitive boxes, makes sense when you look closely at yourself and others around you is that each person acquires cognitive containers that permit learning but also limit what is learned and understood. Intelligence is an important variable in determining the size and variety of cognitive boxes. Some smart people acquire a lot of knowledge and skills and can move easily from one cognitive contained to another. Others have a limited number of containers and have difficulty moving from one to another. " See Neuroscience Notes

See Cabaret & American Songbook

See Chamber Music

Many music categories became obsolete by the end of the 20th century. Music styles interbred and proliferated beyond anyone's ability to classify and defend musical styles in a meaningful way. You could argue that this is good -- musical styles should be proliferating and evolving. Or you might value tradition over innovation and argue that styles should have well defined boundaries that players respect and audiences rely on. The proliferation of styles is supported by the internet and unprecedented music distribution network that erases many boundaries and permits aspiring musician to seek direct access to audiences. The most lucrative popular music involve products manufactured by groups of business people. It is an industrial activity that turns a very small number of specially compliant musicians and a few formula-produced songs into products that will be mass-marketed and bought by millions of highly programmed people. If you have a touch of artistic integrity or a taste of personal freedom, you should probably stay far away.

Jon Pareles described some of 1,100 bands that performed in Manhattan and Brooklyn during CMJ’s 2008 version of their annual showcase of independent music. He suggested that the music business was in bewilderment and disarray while musicians’ compulsion to create and perform was alive and well, despite no assurance of a career. “It’s a great moment for musicians who want to be heard and a difficult one for musicians who need to be paid.” The CMJ event was created in 1980 by the weekly college-radio newsletter, College Music Journal, now known as CMJ New Music Report. Parele stated: "This year’s marathon was as fragmentary and niche-happy as the online realm of blogs and Internet radio. It’s perpetually amazing how many collegians are eager to relive their parents’ musical childhoods. Perhaps, during an intractable war and an economic decline, both the psychedelic late-1960s and the punk and disco 1970s don’t seem so distant. (See CMJ Marathon. Fame, Yes; Fortune, Not So Much. New York Times October 27, 2008)

Music, journalist, Adrian Mack, had this to say: " We all have our crosses to bear. When you're in a band (and who isn't these days?) dealing with the classification of your music becomes a full-time pain in the arse. People, and journalists, and music journalists especially, require shortcuts in their thinking, and as the band member, you have to provide those for them. That's not a complaint; it's just the way it is. When you're a journalist writing about music for a limited amount of print space or a limited amount of reader patience, the model is to apply a quick classification to your subject, whip up a good comparison or two (I tend to stick to the '70s), and then top it off with a bunch of hooey designed to persuade the reader that not only have you developed a profound sensitivity to the endless mysteries of popular music, but you are also on drugs. When you're both musician and a music journalist, the strain of dealing with this nonsense really starts to show."

Adrian Mack. Music writing is a crazy game. How they're winning.; March 2008;