Last week, the Washington Post reported that a “high profile coalition of artists demanded that the government release the names of all the songs that were blasted since 2002 at prisoners for hours, even days, on end, to try to coerce cooperation or as a method of punishment.” Together with that report, the Post published a list of names of artists whose music might have been used for said purpose, a list encompassing a wide stylistic array that not only includes heavy metal and rap but also the theme song of Barney the dinosaur and the Meow Mix jingle.
Since for me music is primarily a cause for good in this world, something that can potentially erode barriers between us and ultimately bring us closer to together, I find this entire episode in our recent history extremely disturbing and also somehow surreal. At the same time I also feel a freaky sense of relief that the music I most closely treasure—music that falls under the rubrics of “contemporary classical,” “avant-garde jazz,” and “experimental music”—is totally absent from this list. For years I’ve had to suffer snide comments from new music detractors claiming that listening to things like the endless repetitions of hard core minimalism, gnarly angular atonality, or out-of-tune skronking saxophones is a form of torture. And yet this music was assiduously avoided when someone got the bright idea that music could actually be used for such a purpose.
Admittedly, the real reason such new music was not used this way was that it was likely not on the radar of the programmers coming up with the playlist. As much as I want the music I love to reach as broad an audience as possible, for once I’m actually content that it remains marginal. Once we have a guarantee that such an application of any music will never again be considered by anyone, perhaps then we could again start worrying about maximizing our audience.