How my brother died and went to heaven
My brother‘s a snob. It’s OK, we’re all snobs about something or other, right? (Don’t even try to talk to me about coffee or operating systems, you’ll just get nowhere.)
But my brother, now, he’s a snob about music. I don’t mean one band or another, one genre or another. He has “taste” in these areas, some of it good, but he’s not a snob about it. What he’s a snob about is “real music.” And by “real,” I mean “Not Guitar Hero. Not Rock Band.” Music that you actually, you, yourself produce.
Which is why I immediately called my former sister-in-law, to commiserate and make funeral arrangements, when I saw “Why Rock Band Is Better Than Actual Music.” I knew his head had exploded, messily and extravagantly. Imagine my surprise, when even as I was dialing, I received a tweet from … my brother … actually soliciting opinions on the whole “Better” business! And hardly even incoherent! I am so proud!
So here’s what I think: I think “the fake plastic Fisher Price musical instrument fad” is a bad thing. It’s not very much worse than what came immediately before (which would be: recorded music), but it’s a teensy step down “the path of least resistance, which leads forever downward.” What these toys should be compared to is something actually outside most people’s experience, these days: once upon a time, people learned to actually play music so they could play for each other at parties. There weren’t records or radio or TVs or iPods, there was only us. And when you heard music, it was either hirelings (and you were one of the unimaginably few elite), or it was your actual friends, who had spent their actual time actually learning to play actual music. For you.
Real musicians still have that experience (though they tell their wives they’re “practicing,” but domestic tranquility management is a topic for another post). Hardly anyone else does, any more. Which is why hardly anyone understands when real musicians deplore Rock Band: the one-eyed man may be king in the kingdom of the blind … but no one beholds his glory.
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