Those who say “I love art” will know it includes everything framed as art, and even unframed, like children’s scribblings, which they might elevate by saying “Now that’s a real work of art.” But the commonly expressed “I love all music” does not include everything so framed; the love of music is not expansive but protective against what is outside. Music is more meaningful than the other arts, not just to people’s lives but to their hearts. It is not a decoration or a signal to others that one is a liberal, magnanimous, trustworthy person. In fact there is distrust for those who love music that falls outside the bounds of “all music.”

This is not distaste, a private judgment of tasting a dish and preferring others, something a friend might easily like. Rather, what is music but not within “all music” is a poison not to be ingested by any human. It is dangerous and requires a warning label, something that should be banned: noise pollution. Those who do include it within “all music” are somewhat alien, incomprehensible as human beings, in the world but not of it. They and those who create such music tend to create a shell around themselves, so as to ignore what the world thinks of them and what they are willing to take into their bodies, which reaches their hearts. While the world seeks to protect itself from noise, these alien beings protect themselves from the world.

For those who pride themselves on being tolerant, however, nothing can be banned, at least nothing framed as music. Urban liberal meets neoliberal: be generous, give everything a chance, as I do. These are the hypocrites. They will say that anything framed as music is a matter of taste, even what evokes in some a gut reaction to avoid as harmful to their psyche. Liberals don’t acknowledge gut reactions, it’s “I just don’t have the taste for that.” This enables them to have their cake and still toss it in the garbage without tasting it.

This situation poses a problem for musicians of such truly “outside” music who want to grow an audience for it. To seduce people to swallow it the pill must be sugar-coated, made palatable. Hopefully they will act as if it is merely a matter of taste, a new dish served in a decent restaurant–hey, check this out. So the frame must be gilded, and there are many strategies for doing so. Imply that it is art, sanctioned by those who know authentic art, and prospective audience would be marked as philistines for rejecting it. Show institutional credentials, or indicate that it is popular among a significant number of audience. Say it is an extension of jazz, and it’s almost racist to deny that jazz is America’s music, only good can come from it. Another strategy is to say it is somehow radical, part of the counterculture, an alternative that is neither high art or commercial music. Unwittingly these promotional strategies influence the music itself, such that music called “edgy” has no edge at all, and slips easily down the gullet. A performance will be “delightful” and “compelling.”

A strategy proven to be ineffective is to say, just listen to this and clear your mind of judgment. Let down your guard, it’s only sound, how can it hurt you? This music has been created for you and not for the anxious mind.

Advertisements