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
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.
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."