Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Music and French Fries? Let me explain...

I've been around the Web ever since it was just the Internet, and I've read a few blogs here and there. I never figured I'd write one because I just didn't feel like I had anything all that unique to say. That's changed recently, and I've decided to use this space to discuss that most temporary of art forms... music. I'll get to the french fries later.

I'll introduce myself a little more fully in a future blog posting. For now, I'm an active musician and music teacher, with a University degree in music and music education, and a masters of education. I play saxophone and bass, and my name is Ron. I'd rather use the bulk of today's post to explain why I've started this thing and tell you what you can expect. (Don't worry, I'm not forgetting the fries.)

Recently I've noticed how often people take an elitist approach to telling others what music they like, as if your choice of what gets played on your iPod somehow makes them better than someone else because of their music choice. Even worse, some people will claim to be die-hard fans of a band or singer, not because that singer is popular, but because they're not popular. You like Top 40? You have no taste. You like (insert obscure band name here)? You are so totally cool.

I think people should just listen to music they like, and not worry about whether someone else likes that music too. In fact, most people probably have a song or two in their collection that they don't talk about, the "guilty pleasure" track. You listen to it in your car by yourself, right? Maybe I'll tell you mine someday, but we need to get to know each other a little first. See, I don't really worry about what's "good" music or not, because I'm not really sure I'm qualified to judge that. Scratch that. I know I'm not qualified. I'm certainly qualified to tell you what I like and don't like, but not what is objectively "good" or "bad". Music is too personal for that. It has the ability to bypass your brain and go straight to your heart, or your feet, or your hips. Who cares if anyone else likes it? Do you? Yes? Then celebrate! Stop listening with your head.

I think I'll need many posts to explain that idea right, but it's a start. Let's move on to the french fries, shall we?

I teach music to junior high students. Sometimes I'll play a piece of music that's outside their normal musical diet. I actually think that's an important part of my job, to expose them to more than just the music they are force fed on Top 40 radio (not that there's anything wrong with those songs, of course). Whenever I play something really different, like East Indian music, or something classical, or something really experimental, they all resist. That's when I ask them the big question. My hook. "Do you like french fries?"

They stare at me blankly, the sudden shift in topic throwing them off. "If you like french fries, put up your hand." It's over 90% of every single class (but you already knew that). Then I ask who likes another food, maybe lasagna or lettuce, bacon or broccoli. The number of hands in the air changes with each item. And nobody judges anyone else for their food tastes. If a student asks another "You really like broccoli?", the answer is usually a shrug, like it's no big deal. I remind them that most of them like french fries, and ask if they would like to eat only french fries for the rest of their lives. They answer no, they want other foods too. So I say "Think of Top 40 music as french fries. I'm just introducing you to some other flavours*, and who knows, you might like a few of them. Later you can choose what you want to listen to all on your own. (*Canadian spelling, get used to it).

TL;DR Yeah, right. Go read it. I'd love to hear your feedback, as long as it's not just about some song you think is stupid.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Ron!
    Keith Warren here!
    That post puts into words what I've been trying to get across perfectly for years. I believe music is a subjective experience as much as you do. In my honest opinion I don't think I've listened to a song in my life and have not been able to find at least one little thing I like about it.

    Very refreshing to know I'm not alone in this struggle ;)