The Best of Andy Rooney
(This classic Andy Rooney column was originally published March 1, 2003.)
Nothing divides one generation from another so definitely as its popular music. Those who grew up listening to the Beatles are either not interested in, or actively dislike, the sound of rap, hip-hop or heavy metal.
One night, I had a lot of time to think about music while I forced myself to stay up through four hours of Grammy Awards. I don't want to be left out of what's going on even if what's going on doesn't appeal to me.
The music of the youth of people my age was jazz and you'd have a hard time convincing any of us that Eminem, Bono or even the appealing multiple-Grammy-winner Norah Jones can match the musical talent of the great jazz musicians. It seems certain to us that people like Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie or Charlie Parker have a better chance of achieving a permanent place in the history of music than The Dixie Chicks. To prove I'm fair, I wouldn't give much chance to the other music of my youth known as "swing," played by good but forgettable orchestras like Guy Lombardo's.
Only occasionally does a musician's popularity span several generations. Frank Sinatra's did and so does that of Tony Bennett. (In spite of his limited talent, I'm soft on Tony because more than 40 years ago I wrote a television show he did.)
The appreciation of music doesn't come naturally to me. My hearing is perfect. My shortcoming is listening. I hear better than I listen. My brain doesn't have whatever faculty it needs to understand carefully arranged sound. I want music to mean something that can be expressed with words, and music doesn't do that. It's hard for me to believe there are any ideas expressed in the music of the Grammy Awards -- or even in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, for that matter.
Maybe I'm asking something of music it isn't meant to provide. I accept that, but I don't accept the suggestion that there's something profound in the caterwauling of a rock group. Some of the appeal of music is the predictability and anticipation of rhythm and too much modern popular music doesn't even have that.
If art of any kind doesn't have an idea behind it, I'm not interested. I can do without artificially induced emotion. It accounts for my apathy toward the paintings of so many modern artists. I don't understand their work and if there isn't anything there to understand, I don't want to waste my time looking at it.
I remember reading once that Beethoven said music is a higher revelation than philosophy. I don't doubt Beethoven's genius with music but I don't agree with that.
The intellectual pleasure of listening to a symphony concert or an opera escapes me and, while I recognize this as my shortcoming, not the music's, it doesn't make it any easier for me to sit through a concert. My ability to appreciate music is limited to my recognition that consonance is soothing and dissonance is irritating.
My idea of a good evening of music is a virtuoso performance by one talented singer or player of an instrument like a piano, guitar, saxophone, trombone or violin. There's something about the solitary sound that appeals to me more than a blend of many sounds from a hundred instruments. I keep trying to isolate one sound and cannot so it's cacophony to my ears, the audio entry to my brain.
It isn't clear how the brain makes sense of music so there's no way we're ever going to explain why some of us like some music that others do not like.
I do know one thing. Next year, when the Grammys are on television, for entertainment I'll just have a toothache and go to bed early.
- There's No Joy in Junking Your Christmas Tree
- Food for Holiday Thoughts
- Warning: Antiques are Addictive
- Make Christmas More Like Christmas
- Christmas: Fugeddaboutit!
- Hard Choices in Store
- Try Some of Andy's Christmas Tidbits
- A Homemade Thanksgiving
- The Junk Building Boom
- Vive La French Food
- Is It Music or Noise?
- Presidential Debates Reveal More About the Candidates and Less
- Forget the Birthday Greetings
- Sort Well-Aged from Old
- Silence is a Wonderful Sound
- Politicians Have It Hard
- Time on My Mind
- Police Report
- We're Doing Too Much Kissing
- Home is Always The Best Place to Be
- The Glories of Maturity
- The White House? No Thank You
- An Appreciative Husband's Gratitude
Humor & Funny Stories - Is It Music or Noise? | Andy Rooney
Article: Copyright © Tribune Media Services