Saturday, May 27, 2006

Why Genres are Crap

9 days ago, at about 4:30 in the afternoon, my thesis topic suddenly and irrevocably changed. I was planning to write something about improvisation in renaissance or baroque keyboard music, but was struggling to find a reason to research and write about that. As a joke I said maybe I should write a thesis entitled "Why Genres are Crap", and my excellent and insightful supervisor (yes, I know you're reading this!) suggested that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all.

So for the last few days I've been thinking about the idea of genre in music, and the seemingly great rift between classical and popular music. At this point I have no idea how I am going to tackle this gigantic topic, and what will be my specific argument, but I am really interested in questions like:
Is genre useful or restrictive?
Does it mean that people focus more on the type of music rather than the artistry or merit or value or any of those things that make music beautiful?
Do we concentrate on the style at the expense of the substance?
Why do people listen to the music that they listen to?

Basically, I think that the division between 'popular' and 'art' (classical) music is pretty ridiculous. Musicians are constantly put in little genre pigeon-holes: classical, early music, country, pop, hip-hop, fusion... even 'cross-genre' is almost a genre in itself.

Obviously I have to come up with some swanky, uber-intelligent argument at some stage, but in the meantime I'm going to ramble and see what happens.

Stay tuned for some slightly more coherent and incisive... stuff...

In the meantime, I am glad that there are other people that are thinking along the same lines, though :)