I apologize for the slowness in the appearance of this third battle, but I have just been released from the sanitarium where it was necessary for me to spend over two weeks recovering (in glorious silence) after I was nearly fatally exposed to today’s musical challenger. I am happy to report that my new eardrums, replacements forged of stretched sheep’s bladder, are performing well (the originals, I stabbed with an ice pick when I was unable to mute the computer’s speakers).
I have only myself to blame. I was warned not to try to listen to more than thirty seconds at any one sitting, but you know me—I scoff at danger, I love a shortcut—and in my brazen cockiness, I experienced over one full minute! of the thing called “House music.”
You will forgive the awful pun, but not in my house, never again. And you will be just as charitable to re-listen to the old joke, suitably applied: How do you teach someone to play House music? Stop the lessons early!
For there is no musical goal in House, other than to serve a beat and prolong it as long as possible before its victim becomes comatose. Too, a great deal of House is produced by a computerized machine called a synthesizer. Judging from what I heard, these machines have already been hacked, probably by the Chinese military, in what will undoubtedly be a successful campaign to render listeners unable to form coherent thoughts.
(Click on either picture to search for representative music.)
And then there is Benny Goodman, about whom how much do I have to say? Carnegie Hall? Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson when no white band would have them—and not just that—but that every band should have snatched them up? Gene Krupa? Harry James? Classical, Small Band, Big Band, and straight Jazz?
I recall reading (but can’t remember where) of a man who was once interviewed Goodman. They were to leave Goodman’s apartment, and upon exiting Goodman said, to the effect, “Just a second.” He disappeared back into his apartment, where the reporter heard him diddle-diddle-toot trying to work out some short phrase. After a few seconds, Goodman returned as said, “Ready to go.” That was the kind of thing that got Goodman into Carnegie Hall, and what kept him in our view for so long. Hard work, incessant practice, and devotion to the music. Music that was created to be beautiful and lasting, not just functional or ephemeral.
So let the battle commence! (Low blows welcome.)
In anticipation, and to save us time, I answer possible arguments:
“Why all this jazz? Most jazz stinks. And there’s classical you know, which is much better.”
I do know. And we’ll hear some in the next battle. Remember, though, we’re talking about popular music and its decline; 60-70 years ago, (certain) Jazz was popular music. To really show the retrograde, we’ll have to go back to a time when classical was popular—and it wasn’t called classical, just music.
“How come you’re always picking something that everybody knows is good, against music that is obviously poor? You’re stacking the card!”
(In a whisper) You know, of course, by admitting that, you’re admitting that the decline of which we speak is real.
“Say, Briggs. I heard ‘Techno’ was better than ‘House’. Why not play some of that?”
You heard wrong. It’s worse—rumor is, they’re banning it and “Trance” next Geneva Convention. Truly, I was charitable in picking what I did.
“But you can’t dance to big band!”
Which is why they called them “dance bands”? If you like a beat, may I suggest Sing, Sing, Sing? If you want it to mimic House, take a ball and peen hammer and smack yourself with it just off the beat: you’ll get the same effect.
“You’re a snob, Briggs. I likes what I likes.”
Amen, brother. On both counts. But I prefer the term elitist; and nowhere do I argue that you don’t like what you like. Having granted that, now tell me why any particular piece of House music is better than, say, the Carnegie Hall recordings—scratchy and limited as they are—of Benny Goodman.
“But if Benny Goodman is better, and I still like House, then that means I don’t like what’s better. It means I like what is worse, maybe even bad.”
You said it.
“What does that say about me? Tell the truth.”
How the hell should I know? I’m no psychologist.
“I’ll stick to calling you a snob, then.”
It’s still a free country, bub.
“And ‘free’ is exactly what this discussion is worth.”
Now you’re just trying to hurt my feelings.