Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I Can't Hear You, David
Is American music really more segmented that it was twenty years ago, as David Brooks maintains? And is that a reflection of the increasing segmentation of society in general? If that's so, then the segmentation he describes allows for an enormous amount of cross-pollenization. Most of the music I hear these days is the outcome of such a complicated ancestry that it would take ten or twelve hyphens to accurately describe it. That it might have its own name and audience is more a reflection of sophisticated marketing techniques than the music itself, whose audience overlaps the marketing frontiers anyway.
Brooks seems overly concerned by the fact that it's increasingly rare to see any single group develop the kind of overwhelming popularity of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, U2 or Bruce Springsteen. But that's a result of the enormously increased offer, and the evolution in music and pop culture's influence on society. Songs and books no longer change us, like "Hound Dog" and "On The Road" did fifty years ago. They accompany us.
It's also unrealistic to expect music to have the same impact on our lives at the age of forty, fifty and sixty years old as it did when we were teenagers. There are still songs changing kids' lives the way The Beatles changed Steven Van Zandt's forty-odd years ago. We just can't hear them anymore.