overground scene

Do you feel like you’ve been cheated, punk?

I should have done some studying before I start writing this post. If I face difficulties down the way I will probably do. Anyway, a while ago I wrote a post on different music preferences and about each one having a different opinion and taste in music and that all these are perfectly normal, although I could not understand why some people do not like some perfectly great albums. Yes I know it sounds stupid. In this post I will argue that, in fact, people do not have so much different preferences and that it is not normal for each one to have a different opinion and taste in music.

First of all, of course there are different preferences in music because other people like listening to punk, other to death, other to pop. The root of my argument however rests in this sentence. There has been created for each one of us a pop scene, a punk scene, etc. We might differ on the scene we like with other people, but we agree with equally many people on the scene we do like. And with these latter people we tend to have some small differences in the bands of that scene, but correcting mechanisms come on the way to reduce these differences. Music magazines, music tv shows, music managers want us to focus on certain groups and forget others. In addition, there is another stronger and less tangible mechanism that makes us like the same stuff. I will refer to that now.

The foundations of the scenes we like and so proudly believe we discovered have been set a long time ago. Do we have the right to say that WE, on our own, make our choices about the music we listen to? I doubt it. The genres we have access have been chosen for us. Lets take the example of punk or for that matter, anything rock oriented. Its existence is it or is it not based on the success of groups like the Beatles or Elvis Presley, or other english speaking individuals? Yes it does. And where do these individuals come from? The countries that ruled and continue to rule the world. I don’t see many people admiring chinese or ethiopian or pakistani music. These musics sound so peculiar and boring to the western post-industrialised world. And of course, as we all know, the western world goes hand in hand with progress, rationality-science and civilisation. All others are, by definition, “lower” cultures. If history had taken a different turn, then today we youngsters would want to play japanese music and would undergo plastic surgery operations to look like japanese people. Of course today the opposite happens. Japanese people play rock music and want to look like americans.

And of course this story goes further back in time. Why do we consider Bach, or Mozart or Bethoven to be musical geniuses? Of course they are brilliant in an obvious way. However, “serious” musicians and scientists assess their genious based on mathematical criteria. As western as it gets! Of course this is more apparent in more contemporary music, and composers like “Xenakis” and that twelve tone music (which I personally think is silly and I refuse trying to understand it). Why don’t I know any Chinese or African genious composers? Because, based on western criteria, they are unimportant. The relation with the above is that rock music is connected with classical music and its laws.

As I said in the beginning I should have studied before so that I would be more consistent, secure about stuff I said and enhance my argumentation. Maybe I will do it another time and then edit this post. The bottom line is that we punks or rockers or metalheads, who think ourselves as revolutionaries, are really following trends and in fact one of the bigger trends of all time. Western rock music. We think we are beyond the capitalist music industry’s reach and dont’t belong in the mass. But we listen to english speaking bands, playing western oriented music. Really revolutionary!


2 Comments so far
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how do you say the japanese want to look like americans? these is an overgeneralisation and in fact rather untrue. Perhaps not in music, but do the words Anime and Manga means something to you? Also, I think that if you want to make a marxist anti-colonial critic or whatever you should go ahead and do it, but it is another thing to choose not to see that there are people in fact not listening to rock, punk or metal, people that actually listen to pakistani music. It is also unfair to say that, Papakonstantinou and a number of mucisians in greece are tracing roots of ethnic music, contrary to western assimilating trends and you should aknowledge that. That said, you cannot expect english speaking people to listen to ethic music rather than western music, even if they do this is always an ‘otherness’ they are exoticising and you still would not find that revolutionary.
In other words, ‘we’ is a heavy word, as you have already said in your post and it is also rather fluid.

Comment by japanese reader

First of all I wanna say that, now it’s on! …
And now seriously. Of course I am making overgeneralisations! This is not a scientific journal where I have to be careful. Also, I made myself clear that I have not done my homework. I could be wrong. I know that there are always exceptions to the rule. But the general image is this one. Finally, it is clear that I do refer mostly to people listening to rock and its subgenres. My point is that in almost every place on earth you will find a lot of people knowing the beatles. But outside india, it is unlikely that people will know the instrument in the photo (ok some will know it!).

Comment by lentil81

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