This is a pretty simple complaint: traditionalists are precisely those
who want to define their genres completely, to categorize all music as to
whether it falls in one genre or another.
But, music is an art form that arises from the creative inspirations and
direction of individual artists or groups. Each song or composition has
its own set of influences that may or may not come from the "genre" in
which the work is intended to be included. Most musicians listen to a
wider variety of music than they perform, and those influences sometimes
encroach on their own composition and performance.
Thus, the very institutions that we create to propagate the art form
(from classical "conservatory-type" schools to studio/jazz programs to
music reviewers who write in magazines and newspapers), tend towards the
well-defined categorization of music. You can't teach or evaluate music
without imposing some after-the-fact analysis upon it, but that very act
of deciding what is important about some music is beyond the intent of
the composers and performers themselves. The analytical process is an
artificial construction that may satisfy some sociological quest, but is
often unrelated to the process by which the music was itself created.
So, I have an aversion to the very concept of musicology and/or music
criticism. Like literary criticism, it often gets lost in its own
commentaries upon commentaries, losing sight of the actual subject it is
supposed to be illuminating. It begins to satisfy the interests of the
reviewer/musicologist instead of the interests of the artist and the work
itself, and that's just perverse.
Trouble is, those radio formats that are used to market music through
radio to consumers fit in very well with the whole process of defining
genres and traditions. They're all related forms of categorization, which
imposes a sort of "average" or "majority rules" on the perception -- and
thus the evaluation -- of music, rather than addressing individual works
on their own terms, which all music deserves.
The intermingling of musicological and commercial interests really packs
a powerful punch, in combination. Get a bunch of marketers together with
a bunch of traditionalists, and you have the makings of a juggernaut of
undeserved influence on the content of the art form itself. No wonder the
music world is so stunted and inflexible when it comes to dealing with
novelty. I can only speak for myself, but the unusual is what really
grabs me in music, when it is internally coherent. The commercial
marketplace has got less and less individual, original work having any
success, and the traditionalists aren't helping to counteract this
tendency -- just the opposite.
Then, the Darwinian process weeds out those who aren't making any
profit, and the majority of the audience gets less to choose from.
-- Dan Krimm, 3/96