Pass the Mic

From an article in the “Home” section of the January 11 Washington Post:

“A lot of songs you hear now on the radio are not created or produced by musicians,” [this one dude who owns a home studio] said. “They are created by someone with a computer.”

I guess you can’t be a musician if all you have is a computer.

I don’t listen to the radio, I don’t purchase Top-40 albums, and I don’t watch MTV. I would never assert, however, that even the crassest, money-grubbingest, flavor-of-the-week-concoctingest record producer in New York, L.A., or Nashville is not a musician. After I read this quote and choked down my initial apoplexy, I began to wonder whether this terminological distinction may be indicative of a larger and (to me) quite unexpected difference between new music specialists and the laity.

We like to think that our criteria for classifying, evaluating, and analyzing music are, by virtue of our training, more specific than some guy off the street’s, that our critical net is somehow finer than the national average. But if we’re so discerning, why is it the dude who owns a home studio (and not us) who doesn’t consider computer musicians, of whom there are many, to be musicians? Wouldn’t it be ironic if our study of music with an eye toward the elevation of critical standards is leading us to accept more music (and more musicians), not less?

As rapper, actor, and not-untalented multi-instrumentalist Mos Def’s MySpace page proclaims, “love ‘em all, trust a few, and fear none.” Is it possible for a musician to love all music, prize some music, and not be intimidated by any music? The elimination of a one-dimensional evaluatory continuum is the first step. And when in doubt, call the producer a musician.

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