The Collapse of Music (and the education system’s failure)

“There is a lot of beautiful, new music being made all the time”

Simon Cowell is a very clever man. He lives in a multi-million-dollar mansion in a gated community and super-fly area of LA – or rather, this is one of his houses. His fortune was born from his incredible business mind; like all entrepreneurs he locates talent and potential, works on it, transforms it into something that can make money, and then sells it. However, Simon Cowell is also the anthropomorphism of Satan.

The argument I am about to present is not new; from Bill Hicks ranting about the authenticity (or lack thereof) in music in the late 80s to Bach writing his 17th century banging tunes for the Church: music is art, and should not be exploited.

Art is synonymous with beauty – in music this may be evident in a piece so heart-wrenching that it makes you cry, it may be a song so fervently exciting that it makes you want to dance, or it may be a trippy haze of nonsensical lyrics and reverberating guitars so bizarre that you get genuinely scared. The aim of music is to elicit emotion, and that is what makes it beautiful. That fact that a demon such as Cowell has combined art with the disgusting corporate consumerism that has enveloped Western television (especially talent shows) is obvious – and this should offend anyone with a reasonable level of intelligence and respect for the world we inhabit. And yet, it does not.

The X Factor final achieves the highest ratings for any British TV channel and is watched by a phenomenally large number of people from different backgrounds, classes, religious dispositions – including top tier University students. Durham University only accepts people who are “clever”, however the definition of this word has been bastardised by those who create the syllabuses in our education system. In order to pass exams with a good mark, a certain degree of intelligence is required, but there was not one point during my secondary school education in which I was encouraged to actually think for myself and form my own opinions. In truth, the opposite was often encouraged. The fact that in secondary schools some teachers believe (undoubtedly due to a downstairs proportionality issue) that if you disagree then you are therefore wrong (and should be sent out of the class – even in sixth form, I was eighteen!), is the very antithesis of education.

Facts are there to be learnt and at school all that is required to pass exams is the knowledge of facts and the application thereof. Clearly, what we learn at school through lessons and general experience is integral to the personality that we end up with later in life – well then, should we not be encouraged to think twice about what we are told every day? Because otherwise we watch television or listen to the radio, subconsciously being affected by the sneaky and exploitative advertisers and marketers, and accept whatever comes our way. If there was one compulsory class each week at secondary school in which we were taught not to accept everything we are told (obviously there are problems with this idea – but have you got a better one?), but instead think for ourselves then the herds of immoral advertisers wouldn’t have their way and we’d be living in the free world that most people seem to think we’re already in.

Don’t just accept X Factor and all the other moneymaking, beauty-destroying machines. Surely no intelligent Westerner would actively fight for the destruction of the rain forest? Then why would anyone really enjoy X Factor or talent shows controlled by puppet-faced Andrew Lloyd Webber (who is supposed to be a classical musician) – two examples of the kind of robots that exploit the lack of imagination in the idiots of the world in order to take their money. They achieve this by dressing up a pretty girl and making her sing a bad, bad song written by two 45-year old men who have a formula which is something like:

Tune involving three notes + simple beat + nothing remotely original or innovative = £££

These people have exploited art by making the main attraction the financial gain created by the marketing that they are so gifted at – the music itself is incidental.

I realise that there are many Durham University students who would commit Hara-kiri should Studio start playing good music – but then I’m sure these are the kind of soulless people who will end up as advertising executives. I implore you, try listening to something that has love and soul in its roots and origins, something that has been made by artists who are in this profession because the love music. The Beatles, Aerosmith, Radiohead, Foals – 60s, 80s, 90s, 00s – are all examples of bands who wrote (or still write) music that they were passionate about. Many of these bands, whose processes of music making I would term “authentic”, went on to make a lot of money. However, many remained penniless as a sacrifice to the validity of their art. One example is the fairly unknown 1980s punk band Fugazi: these guys never sold posters or badges and refused to charge anyone upwards of 5 for a ticket to one of their shows, such was their dedication to the independence of the music world from the fiscal. There is a lot of beautiful, new music being made all the time, but we must unfortunately siphon away the bile and garbage of the world to get to it.

Please Mr Cowell, turn your talents to something else, don’t destroy an art that can be so great and don’t tell ignorant people that “bad” music is good. Art is beauty, and you are destroying the metaphorical rain forest. To quote the great Bill Hicks himself: “Since when did mediocrity and banality become things to look up to and strive for?”

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