The Social Cost of Pop Music

Builds Upon: The Pitfalls of Micro-specialization in Mass Societies

In the earlier half of the 20th century there were men such as Bela Bartok and Allen Lomax who traveled around the world recording folk songs using early recording technology. No fools, they saw that folk music was rapidly disappearing under the influence of industrialization. Men like them stored away thousands of these folk songs before they disappeared forever.

I’ve listened to a very few of their recordings and they sounded nothing like music as we now know it. There was something very ordinary and everyday about it. There was no obsession with perfect pitch, no reading music off of a sheet, no horrible sense of pressure in front of a mass audience.
Whether from Appalachia or Algeria, the music was spontaneous, natural, and leisurely. No thousands of hours of deliberate isolated practice had gone into a single song. Instead, each song had been practiced thousands of times in the normal course of events.
The singers of the songs were clearly not professionals. Their voices had not been painstakingly polished in a sound studio. Through the scratchiness of the phonograph I could hear every unmasked vocal imperfection.
Some of these singers were hard for me to sit and listen to. It seemed many of them might have been elders without heirs. Their voices were often creaky, sad, and tired.

It later occurred to me:
If many of these people attempted to sing their songs in a modern day home or public place, they might very well be attacked and ridiculed. If they kept it up for long, they might even have the cops called on them.

Modern mass societies have just a few professional singers who take care of all the singing. These pros are the most naturally talented people to begin with and their entire profession and way of life is to sing.

They sing until they’re sick and tired of singing while many a person on the street hasn’t truly sung a song in years. They’re milked for profit until empty of passion while the commoners beneath their feet burst with the need to know their feelings.
What once was everyone’s pleasure now pleasures no one.

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4 responses to “The Social Cost of Pop Music

  1. This is why my taste in indigenous music has grown. Initially it grated my ears a bit, but I’ve thankfully re-acclimated my senses. Music is a divine art that system clods can never capture. I feel sorry for all beings who are, drop by drop, losing the very things that have enlarged the heart of humanity for so many generations.

  2. I saw a bit of a dancing reality show tonight. All of the dancers featured were prodigiously skilled while the average laborer only gets to dance while drunk at noisy bars to the music of corporate owned outsiders.
    The dancers all had incredibly healthy developed physiques and extraordinary coordination while the rest of humanity either atrophies in an office or is worked to death by repetitive physical labor.
    Meanwhile, the dazzling dancers only become as they are through brutal training regimens that consume their youth and leave them used up and broken as their twenties wane. Really, they are not so far removed from factory workers.

    Relegating our universal heritage to a few super-skilled super-specialists repeats through all of our civilization. More often than not, to distract us from realizing just
    how impoverished we have become.

  3. It’s a double edged sword, in my opinion. Workers who take a moment to view and celebrate ancient art forms (theatre, dance, singing) from their culture, that have been maintained for so many years. During those brief moments of the performance, the spectators are reminded of life’s beauty; if only briefly. I’m thinking of old dance forms of India or China or Africa that are still practiced and enjoyed.

  4. Could phenomena like YouTube performances and game console and pub Karaoke be alternatives in our society? Or are these too parasitical on professionalism? That is, compliant to its standards, music and aspirations?

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