My friend Gavin noted to me yesterday that he couldn't easily pin down the kind of music that I enjoy. Of course, I responded with the inevitable, "I like any music that's good music." But I would like to refine that idea a bit within the ghostly space of the online realm.
I tend to despise genres. I think that they are necessary, but still evil, in that people decide to define their own personality and taste with respect to these artificial formal definitions of style. It's useful to label something as "Jazz," "Blues," or "Kraut Rock." But when someone decides definitively that "I only like House Music," or "Nu Metal is the only good music," they are slinking up into a really tall tree without many low branches; it's hard to climb down and open up to new experiences.
To be dichotomous about things, I will offer up an adage:
There are two kinds of artists: Those who define a style, and those
who mimic one.
The perpetuation of creative ideas within the iron walls of genre tends to result in artistic incest, and we all know that inbreeding, while wonderful for exaggerating form, results in serious defects otherwise. Like with natural selection, exogamous pairings will create more robust progeny. Bringing in from the outside is the healthiest thing that can be done with a genre.
I read a nice article about Kieran Hebden, also known as Four Tet. I offer a snippet to support my own thoughts.
The current climate of pop music doesn't sit well with Hebden. For the past two years, one band after another has got huge by rehashing the classic rock sounds of the 1960s and 70s, and the tide doesn't look as though it's going to turn for some time yet. The Australian retro-rock band Jet, in particular, inspire Hebden's wrath.
"I'd rather listen to 15 Emma Bunton albums than a single song by Jet, who I think are the most offensive band in the world right now. They are militantly retro, combined with this ugly arrogance. Jet say that they want to be like the Rolling Stones, who are, they claim, the only good band in the world. But when the Stones made their great albums, that wasn't their attitude at all - their ears were open to so much."
Hebden recounts a Miles Davis story to reflect the difference between the originators and bands that idolise them. "He was at a concert, a few years after doing Kind of Blue, and there was a straight jazz band doing Kind of Blue-era music. They know that he's in the crowd, and they go up to him afterwards and ask him what he thought. He said, 'Didn't we do it right the first time?' Maybe the ultimate respect to show the music you love is never to try to emulate it."