Letters to the Editor:

From: "SAKman" SAKman
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 2004 2:47 AM
Subject: regarding Why Do So Many Smart People Listen to Such Terrible Music?

Dear Dr. Willis,

I find it very intriguing that you have pinpointed something that I have wondered myself for a long time. I, being a college student, ponder why so many people (especially my age) in the world listen to blatantly mind numbing noise that they refer to as music. I do, although, believe that you have overlooked several important aspects when regarding this subject. I realize I'm not familiar with the motive of this article, but based upon the content I find it interesting that you yourself seem to stereotype quite often.

I believe that you have overlooked the fact that not all rock-n-roll and pop music is unsophisticated and dull - even though there is definitely a large presence of this. I am good friends with several people who are formally trained in music - including my father. Their abilities may not be that of your or your colleagues, but musical degrees from various universities like William & Mary and West Virginia University do not deem them to be average "musical dim-wits". The interesting aspect I find is that these individuals not only enjoy "pop" music, but are fans. I think the stereotypical pop or rock genre can be definitely criticized for its lack of meaningful, musical content - but what anyone must consider is the fact that the majority all talented musicians haven't signed a multimillion dollar contract with Sony BMG. Being in a university setting myself, I am familiar with many music majors and avid music lovers who really enjoy trying to take simplistic tones that are displayed in stereotypical pop/rock music and add an educated musical flair. I should ask the question of which pop/rock radio station have you been listening to?

Overall, I believe your ideal tastes of what is sophisticated may definitely be lacking in open-mindedness I would have expected from someone with your education. I think you must certainly consider that despite the fact that music has become more complex and sophisticated, appreciation for less complex music is almost necessary to enjoy music at all. The pure underpinnings of what we call music today have all derived from very simplistic but world-changing rhythms and tones that were created in the earliest development of music. I support this by all of the studies that have been done regarding African tribal music. This, by your definition, seems to be unsophisticated. I think it should be noted that in many aspects simplicity is the absolute level of complexity and sophistication. I have never heard of anyone criticizing the sky being blue - but rather it being pure and in the sense of perfection. Just because you desire complex classical and jazz that I often enjoy myself, doesn't mean inspiring "unsophisticated" music should be deemed as doing an injustice to the musical society. It seems to me that individuals who are not formally trained in music still have the almost genetic-driven desire as those who are trained. I would think that despite years of training (which could be considered nearly brainwashing into enjoying more sophisticated music), the fiber and drive of wanting to appreciate music for what it is would not limit you to only your trained beliefs rather than your purer musical instinct. I especially find it ironic that musicianship is considered a talent when often it seems that if you are not well trained you are considered to be inferior.

The sole purpose of writing you is because your essay/article is meant to try to persuade. I believe that you are not completely incorrect and have some very valid arguments, but you are lacking in appreciation for simplicity and the need for it. Your personal opinion of what you consider sophisticated music is nothing but an opinion and one that I believe many people other than myself would have a hard time swallowing without raising similar points. If you actually spend the time to read this, I appreciate your time and sincere attempt to be open-minded and decent.

-An Intrigued University Student

----------note from the editor------------

Dear Intrigued...

We appreciate your taking time out from your musical studies to write such a long, well thought-out letter concerning Dr. Willis' article.

We thoroughly agree with your observation that much music education is "conditioning" to accept current standards of what is "good" or "bad" music. We would add that the music education provided by disc jockeys does pretty much the same.

Most telling of your comments, in our opinion, is that regarding simplicity vs. sophistication. If we compare music to language and primitive music to primitive language, we would have to admit that most primitive languages are much more complicated than their highly developed counterparts. In the case of language, sophistication results in analysis, application of standards, and relative simplification. The aspects of language that are essentially complicated and irregular are those that have grown out of pure usage without the benefit of grammarians. The most highly developed languages are the most simple if regularity is deemed simplicity.

If the rule were to be applied to music, serious music...and even rock and roll...music is evolving backwards from relative simplicity toward complication, "sophistication." Musical grammarians, whoever they are, apparently are not fulfilling their proper function.


----- Original Message -----
From: Richard Wayland rwayland@pon.net
Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2003 5:32 PM
Subject: Re: terrible music


I have just read you article on people listening to trashy music. The question has long troubled me. There is one aspect that might shed some light on the situation. Most of the music played on the radio is strictly controlled by the few corporations that own most of the radio stations. They will only allow what they consider "with it" music, and that excludes pop music from an earlier era as well as classic. People have not much choice about what to listen to, it is nearly all rotten. They are bombarded with the stuff. It is nearly impossible to hear anything else. If you factor in Billboard's policies on what constitutes a number one song, the matter becomes a litter clearer. For instance, they refer to such things as the biggest hit of all time, meaning since 1954, since they refuse to consider anything else.

Another problem is that people will not consider anything older than last week as having any value. How many times I have heard "why should I listen to music by dead (white) composers.?" Or, why must I listen to music that is a couple of centuries old? Meaning of course, that no one is currently composing. sometimes I rattle off a list of this century's composers, but no one cares to hear about Scriabin, Szymanowski, Godowski, Ravel, and usually here I run out of breath and give up!

The matter somehow is typified by me in an experience of twenty or so years ago, when I did an emergency tuning while the audience waited, thus making it convenient for me to be backstage at the start of the "concert". The representative of the Bill Graham agency said to me, "you know , these people can just barely manage their instruments." And this was a internationally famous group.

Another thought, if I have not bored you to tears already. Most pop groups are successful and listened to because of things other than music skills, of which they have none. I mean, such as the current version of sexy, or good looking, or originality . Once at a TV studio, I listened to a terrible singer performing "Stardust", which I did not recognize by the music, but she managed to get most of the words right. I commented on this to someone else in the booth and he said she was expressing artistic interpretation. I believe she was tone deaf, had no concept of music, and had no idea of artistic interpretation. However, she was young and pretty, and that is what was important.

Richard Wayland

----------note from the editor------------

The above comments refer to an article by Mickie Willis on the Unconservatory web site. Mickie Willis published a similar article in Living Music Journal, Vol. 15, No. 4, summer 1998. We thought, at first, that the reader's comment referred to the current feature article in our hard copy journal, "Opinion" by Karl Korte, dealing with the recent demise of CRI and the cultural wasteland we call home.

From: "Alberto Han" Alberto_Han@excite.com
Sent: Friday, March 01, 2002 9:32 PM
Subject: Boola Boola Revisited

Dear Editor:
I can sincerely say that Orlando Garcia's "Boola-Boola revisisted" is the most terrible article(in every sense)I've ever come across. Not only does Garcia make use of poor grammar, misspellings!, and non-sense but also, in the philosophical territory, his comments are subversive, destructive, offensive to the composer community. All this wrapped by a language impregnated with disgusting arrogance. It is a shame that individuals with such negative vision even consider themselves pedagogues... it gives me goose bumps to think that an individual with such subversive ideas could be responsible for educating our future generation of composers. Even worse is to agree to publish such a destructive, musically irrelevant third-class prose... please be careful. This type of manifesto-style articles are poison for the musical future of America.

---------- LMF Editor's reply ------------

Dear Dr. Han...
     Living Music thanks you very much for your opinion. It should not be necessary for us to say that we do not totally endorse the opinions of all our members or contributors.
      We are happy to publish differing opinions and will as quickly publish your opinion as we have that of Dr. Garcia. We would go so far as to say that America was built on controversy and compromise. As a student of American history, you will have to agree. As a student of musical history, you will also agree that manifestos have formed the basis of many legitimate movements, and, rather than poisoning the musical environment, they have enriched it.
      Your comments will soon be posted to our Letters to the Editor.
      Thank you for your interest in music by living artists.

Sincerely yours,
Dwight Winenger
The Living Music Foundation, Inc.

Note: Our reply to Alberto_Han came back with the following comment...

    SMTP error from remote mailer after RCPT TO::
    host xmxpita.excite.com []: 550 :
    User unknown


Dear Dr. Garcia,
      I know that I am included among the targets of your article, and it does not bother me much. Because of your accent on self-criticism, I feel that you may, yourself, be included among the targets.
      I feel that the real problem is that there is really no rigorous standard for self-criticism. If our standard is to "say something." We probably all pass on some level.
      My music tends to be a bit sarcastic, so some may feel that what I say is not saying much of anything.
      I feel that when we get into the field of non-technical or "reduced technical" or "no single technology" artistic expression, standards must of necessity be very broad.
      The reason so many American males prefer sports to art is because it is not so difficult to discern when someone has struck out in baseball. And their scoring methods are rigorous enough that it is not usually too difficult to decide which team won.
      Perhaps you could work out a similar system for the arts. It would certainly improve the popularity of the arts in the US.

--Dwight Winenger

-------------- reply ----------------

thanks for your comments - I don't really know your work or your history of performances, etc..so I don't know if I am refering to you - actually each reader will have to decide whether I am refering to them and go from there...I wish that there was some objective standard like in baseball but there isn't - however just like in philosphy there are things that are closer to the truth (just not the ultimate truth since this is very difficult to find) - my aim is not to come up with answers but to make people question themselves what they are doing, etc...

in any case I very much appreciate your interest and support in having the article published...

hope you are well...




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