“If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the noise, noise, noise, noise!” Now, was that a quote from The Grinch or simply musings on modern media? The answer is yes.
I know I sound like an old geezer if I say that today’s music sucks, but A) I’m 26, B) if you look at music across the ages, classical, big band, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, rap, etc., you’ll see that, vast as the differences may be, it’s all music. It all adheres to the same rules that make music, well, music. Melody, rhythm, tempo, dynamics, timing, mood, etc. The emphasis on one or the other may vary (rap leans heavily on rhythm whereas jazz has a far looser structure), but all those rules are still there.
Not so much today. Now, people don’t make music so much as they make appropriate sounds. Rhythm, melody, lyrics, all that can go by the wayside as long as they give you a sound that strikes a certain feeling. You could argue that music is both a science and an art, but modern music makers have taken the art out of the equation and broken music down into a series of tricks to play on the brain.
Let me give some examples. Screamo didn’t care if it was comprehensible, it just wanted to stir up aggression. A lot of techno isn’t music, it’s just random noises that sound close enough and make you think, “That’s interesting!” Pop music isn’t good, it’s just catchy. That’s all the industry wants: attractive-sounding songs that you can dance to so that everybody buys them. When they forget, make another that’s slightly different. Shoot, I’ll even target my own people. Christian media doesn’t usually care about good music as long as it has a reverent tone.
We don’t make music. We make noise, noise, noise, noise!
It’s not limited to music. Michael Bay makes way too much money making crappy movies. The Transformers series alone has received so much hatred that we all know they’re terrible, yet Transformers 4 made nearly a billion dollars worldwide according to IMDB with a 5th on the way! Why? Because we don’t care if the images we see on the screen have any quality as long as they’re pleasant to the senses. Explosions, sleek cars, curvy girls, those stimulate something in the brain of the target audience and create a positive association. Science without the art.
Film have rules, too. Plot, direction, camerawork, visual design, music, pacing, acting, etc. But no one cares anymore. Film studios make sequels whether they have a good idea for one or not. Cheap, terrible horror movies overstuff the shelves every year because they strike a chord. So many straight-to-DVD children’s movies suck so bad because they’re only interested in pandering to kids, not making an actual movie. Porn. Enough said.
We don’t make movies. We make a collection of pleasing images. Noise, noise, noise, noise!
Pretty much all modern media does this. Video games just have to go “BOOM!” Comic books need to be pretty and stylistic, not necessarily smart. Reality TV makes scandals. Dance is only “cool” if it’s sexual. We’re not actually absorbing artistic content; we’re just responding to a stimulus.
Why does this happen? Because this is how we live our lives.
The Instagram culture takes pictures without making memories to go with them. Smart phones are more important than anything around us. We eat without knowing or caring what we put in our mouths as long as it tastes good. We’ll talk forever about fandom relationships without putting a thought into our own. And we avoid growth because it involves pain, which doesn’t feel good.
We don’t have experiences. We have pleasant sensations. Noise, noise, noise, noise!
We’re on autopilot, allowing our brains to be stirred by sensations and nothing else. Whatever feels good, we do. Whatever doesn’t, we don’t. There’s little to no thought of right and wrong, of long-term results, of the impact we have on the world and on ourselves. And it bleeds into the arts. Could we say that the crappy arts also fuel this? Sure, but we can’t change them. We CAN change us.
So what’s the cure? It’s actually quite simple. Live. Live life, real life. Look around. Don’t just document; experience the world. Pay attention to where you are when you are there. Enjoy life. Feel joy, not just happiness. Feel pain, too. That’s part of life. And it’s okay because pain can bring learning and growth. Dream instead of daydreaming. Look at life through your eyes, not your lens. Get out of the computer world.
Turn off the noise, noise, noise, noise. Go find real life. Where? Everywhere. Your living room, your backyard, the museum, the bus stop, at a restaurant, in the mountains, on the sidewalk, in the rain, in the drought, in a good book, in a film that makes you think, in music that makes you cry. Turn off all the noise and you’ll hear the real music. Maybe you’ll make some, too.