The decline of music culture in the digital age.
That's really interesting...I think about this a lot. I like the description of the buildings of Communism vs Ancient Greece, and the stark contrast of those 2 fountains 😱- we are becoming totally infantilizedand dumbed-down deliberately in all areas it seems. I work in a ( national) opera company as a musician ( 25 years) and we are now in consultation to lose 40% or our salary and only to have half a year's work; whilst the "product" ie the brand WE as musicians/ singers/all techies etc built dwindles, the managers keep hiring new office employees and our theatre home is ( led by the board) moving towards commercial shows instead ..(££). They don't seek work for us as an opera company it seems. So yes the musicians are being binned for profit i guess. Having spent our lives training for it. I feel we are right in the middle of what you describe.
btw I have recently been listening to and downloading parts for Beethoven 9 because I'm doing it soon. (is ths AI related coincidence?! it happens ALL rhe time, even emails/ substacks will reflect specifically what I've been reading, interacting with or even just discussing...)
Good essay! You’re right on the mark. We are now living within the culture of the most common denominator. We’re dragging the bottom, so there’s nowhere to go but up 😊
Don't forget about classical music before Bach! Most people know about Gregorian chant, but far too few have explored the Renaissance masters. Check out this Josquin motet. --
There is no better antidote to modern degeneracy.
I was privileged to hear Vivaldi Four Seasons at St Charles church in Vienna a few years ago. The venue and the music combined to make it a deeply moving experience. Contrast that to having to endure a pop concert in Las Vegas with my wife illustrated to me the collapse of sophistication and good taste.
I actually quit my gym over their selection of piped in ambient "music", hideous techno-pop with no discernable melody or musical content. How bad does someone have to be in order for them to think it necessary to run their own voice through a synthesizer?
Of course I have no issue with good use of a synthesizer, Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman did it well.
I have always lives complexity in music. My grandfather taught to love Beethoven at a young age. The advent of progressive rock took me by the heart and never let go.
Ian Anderson does marvelous blending of traditional classical with folk and ballads. The edgy tones of Spartacus by Triumvirate or the tales of life in Illusions on a Double Dimple still raises gooseflesh.
These works are rich in nuance and layered with melody and even harmony at times.
A word on digital. A well mastered CD is actually pretty good but there is a purity to analog that can never by reproduced. I was a CD early adopter I have CD in my stack I purchased over 40 years ago, but when I want a real treat I pull out the LP.
MP3s in my opinion sound hideous, but today, in my car or my portable player, I take it because it allows me to enjoy my songs wherever I go.
Thank you for this wonderful post GC. Essays like this are worth the subscription costs alone.
What a great article, GC! IMO music sucks now because it is no longer transcendent. It began to fade in the 80s. The deep lyrics of Metallica and Iron Maiden were replaced with the decadent nonsense of the likes of Poison and Guns n Roses. Rap was amazing social commentary and peaked with "Straight Out of Compton" then subsumed by the likes of 2LiveCrew. The Blob has control now and nothing truly creative and transcendent will be allowed to emerge until that system is broken.
The Listening parties are an awesome idea btw. That must have been amazing to attend.
Three never-to-be-forgotten profound music experiences in my life:
1) An All Soul’s Day Mass in Mississauga, ON over two decades ago. A well-trained choir and a small orchestra incorporated Mozart’s Requiem into the liturgy. Bells and smells, the incense so thick we could barely see the altar. It is the closest we came to a taste of heaven.
2) A stellar outdoor performance of Beethoven’s 9th, in, of all places, a tennis court. It was as if all our lives were suspended in time, hanging on to every savoured note.
3) Four decades ago, a Neil Diamond concert at Maple Leaf Gardens - with his superb sound system filling the arena . The first note reverberated through our bodies, evoking tears. Most of us stood for the entire concert singing along at the top of our lungs. Yes, the power of that shared experience.
Thank you for this excellent substack, and especially the story of passing the keyboard and sharing our favourites. I will be suggesting this to our family as an excellent idea for our next gathering. What a brilliant way to cross the generations!
I love this piece.
I'm 62 with a 19 year old daughter in college. My wife and I are both musically gifted and have a love for all sorts of music. As a lead trumpet player, I have played all sorts of styles. In our house, one never knew what sort of music might be playing, but the best bet was the 60 -70's rock and roll, 60's Motown, or perhaps some of the Big Band music I played a lot of. In my quiet times, I play the classics and she would sit with me and listen.
When the daughter was about 6, she played piano and we were told that she is a phenom, however, she grew tired of it and quit. Fast forward to when she was 17 and she started playing again. We quickly found out that the first teacher was correct, she really is that good.
She is now a piano major in college with scholarships and is doing what she LOVES to do.
And to think my fondness for Lynyrd Skynyrd might have done the trick (I use them because she also taught herself guitar and can play Sweet Home Alabama, several Pink Floyd songs, and a whole bunch of other 70's rock and roll). She even makes a few extra dollars teaching guitar.
But her specialty? Baroque style piano with an emphasis on Bach. But she has mastered Clair de Lune and other classical pieces, as well. She is 19 and LOVES the classics.
As a lover of music this really hit home. I've never been into classical music at all, but after listening to that perfor,ance I now want to delve into it a bit. I also want to watch the movie which I never heard of. I recently have been listening to alot of older jazz and decided i'm gonna buy a record player so i can listen to some older vinyl. Digital music is nice only because every song you can think of is at your fingertips, but there was something to it back in the day when you would wait at the record store of the newest release to go on sale. As a 50 something now, me and the better half always seek out live music in our local bar scene, mostly just guys or bands doing covers, the crowds are all people our age and the bands like you say are playing songs from the 70's-90's, before the spigot turned off. Doesnt seem to be a live music scene for the younger crowd anywhere, even in my old college town, where my son is now. There was live music every night when i was there in the 80's. Now its just dj's and rap blaring in all the bars there.
In the digital age, anyone can be a music maker. The music of the last 25-30 years makes me wanna puke. The Beatles ruined everything.
The music industry is a totally closed, contrived system. All of its mega stars are pre-selected and groomed for their roles as fame and fortune icons. They are first and foremost the product of blood-line, connected families and second to that, secret societies. There is nothing natural or organic about it. The music is written by in-house, professional song writers and recorded by professional studio/session musicians. The stars just do the singing and very often, only the lead vocals as the back-up singing is done by professional vocalists as well. Not just music, but the entire so-called entertainment business has always been created and controlled by military and civilian Intel agencies and sorcerer occultists, of which there are plenty within said agencies. It has been employed since its inception as a major vehicle to influence, manipulate, and steer the herd whichever direction they want it to go, using the clay idols of the masses to promote their nefarious agendas.. Along the way, inadvertently or not, some great music has been made. Excellent article, GC.
This unfortunately is why Taylor Swift is now a billionaire with song after song about a break-up with a boyfriend. 😩 Just songs with catchy beats and no class or culture.
There’s surely great music out there being created and hope would be to see a new wave of artists rebelling against the system that regurgitates a Beetles track which would have Lennon turning in his grave. The problem lies in finding new ways to connect with the music we crave, faced with almost infinite choice discerning human filters are needed not a Simon Cowell AI. Rekindling the shared experience of discovering a new tune is key, something that can only happen offline? Over a nice sundowner… https://open.spotify.com/track/6HsUIbJFOJzuWgNNWVDHtV?si=rWJ0RXqjQzyhHWfnbGmBsw
Nicely done! Commercial music is Groundhog's Day on steroids.
That scene from Immortal Beloved is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in a film. Astonishing combination of cinematography and one of the greatest pieces of music ever written.
I contend that progress ends and regression begins with the recording of . . . anything.
Thank heavens for the music that is and always will be immortal.