BrokenI’m amazed at the differences that music, books, and movies have from each other, at least from my perspective.  Aside from the very evident aging aspects that can be seen and heard in these things, there seems to be a bit of a psychological approach these things bring to you.  Confused?  Me too.  But let’s try this:

Books have an ability to show their age in writing style.  Often, they are books that you’ve read when you were younger.   They have their meaning in your life, but they’re usually not something that you get back to again so they retain a nostalgic value.  And there is no disconnect.  Chances are a really great, satisfying story is in your future.

Movies also shows their age.  Often, they do so more than books but, for the most part, a film is deeply appreciated and highly respected for the legend that it has become, or the personal favorite it shows itself to be in your life.  It too has a nostalgic value.  And, like books, but generally much more often, you can revisit a film to scratch an itch.  And there is no disconnect.  Chances are quite high that you will see many more great movies in your future.

Film and books have a shared unique experience.  They continue to be created and enjoyed by us.  We continue to attach ourselves to favorites as they release.  It seems to be an ongoing process.  There will always be a bunch of satisfying books being written, now and into the future.  Somewhere, a few of those will become some of my most favorite stories.  The same with film.  Technology improves, and movies get better and better.  Somewhere, a few are going into my All Time favorite lists.

But music.  Well, there’s something for you.  It readily shows its age, sure enough.  But something happens with music that usually does not happen with movies and books.  A disconnect forms.

As we age, the music that we grew up with stays with us.  It’s a small, compact form of recognition.  You will revisit a song in your lifetime many times.  On the radio, in collected media (DD, CD, LP), as acquired ‘best of’ packages, in reissued and remastered packages, and in the happenstance of life, as sound-perfect memories.

But a strange disconnect forms.  As we age, the music that comes after should be developed and continually rewarding experiences, like films and books.  But it doesn’t really happen that way.  Instead, we lose our grasp on a very important part of our life that no longer reflects us.  The music we grew up become very ancient.  Loved and respected, to be sure.  Familiar and comforting, absolutely.  But ancient.

Here’s the hard part to explain.  As you grew up, you anticipated the progressions of your favorite bands.  As your life progressed, the music went with you.  You had an anticipation.  You had an in-place connection.  The next new album from Led Zeppelin, or The Beatles, or the Stones, or whoever, served to satisfy you, even if the album wasn’t what you expected.  You felt it would last forever.  And it didn’t.

Bands ceased because of deaths, or disagreements in directions.  They left behind monumental classics.  Some even continued to exist.  But most lost their way as well.  And the new music, unlike books and movies, failed to capture too much of your attention.

Why?  Because the compactness of music changes too much.  We can’t keep up. You feel a huge sense of loss because you know inside of you that the album you loved thirty or forty years ago is that old.  You know that an album of that quality is not forthcoming anymore.  Not by that band, and likely not by a new band.  The gap is far too wide.  In a way, there is a sense of emptiness.

This is how I feel, how I look at things.  It’s how I mourn the loss of something very important to me.  Yes, I can sometimes find something very pleasant to enjoy in this day and age, but it doesn’t carry the weight that the earlier music did.  Now, I just feel like an historian, carrying the music of a lost time, and unable to keep current because the craft has changed that dramatically.

This is the way I feel about this thing.  And chances are I have failed miserably at ably communicating my feelings on this.  How do you feel? (Should I see a shrink?)

By MARowe

17 thoughts on “The Disconnect Of Music”
  1. Music changes like fashion. At one time hard rock, blues based bands filled the airwaves and that connected with a generation (ours). But like fashion, music changes. Now the scene is dominated by pop crap (IMO) and that is what the current generation is wearing. As for movies and books, a good story is a good story. But music creates an emotional connection. A feeling you get when you listen. It has little to do with the lyrics which, may or may not tell a story that resonates with an individual. If Lady Gaga put out a song that had the lyrics from Rush’s Hemispheres word for word, with no musical relationship melody-wise to the original whatsoever, it would still sound like crap in my ears (assuming it is modeled after the rest of her music). On the other hand a song like “Jump” by Van Halen may be loved but lyrically has little relevance to anything. It’s a song I like because it makes me feel good, not because the lyrics have touched me and made me think.

    However if a writer by any name wrote “The Davinci Code” I would still like the book. Likewise with movies. I’d like The Terminator regardless of who directed/wrote it. Granted they could do a better or worse job with the same material but the story itself intrigues me and therefore I’d enjoy reading or watching it. Music is a totally different animal. It has to FEEL good, it has to connect on totally emotional level. Movies and books connect more on an intellectual level albeit there is certainly an emotional connection that determines how much you revere them on the grand scheme of things.

  2. They say that the kind of music you listened to when you were 20 years old is the kind of music you’ll listen to for the rest of your life. 28 years later, I’m still listening to New Wave, Hair Metal and ’80s AOR.

  3. I do tend to listen to, and collect, music from the days when the music being released and created was new. New in the sense that it seemed to have some new elements, new approaches, new in some way that was a jump from what came before. I discovering Rock music in the 60s coincided with the cultural revolution that was taking place. Many people even thought that there was an evolutionary leap for our generation, and of course, there was the Vietnam War to protest, the surge in freer social norms and women’s rights, as well as the entire equality for all colours of people. Music at this time seemed to match, event by event, what was going on. As I went through my teen years during this time, music became part of this new world. It may be that the first music that you discovered stays with you forever, but I think for people of my generation, experiencing historical events that was reflected in the music left indelible marks. The immense importance of that music, they way we listened to it, collected it, discussed it slowly died as causes slowly died – there is indeed a parallel. How can music today even think of comparing to that?

    1. Very good point Bob. Rock started out as both a form of art and a pulpit from which to bring about change or call attention to injustice. But by the early 70’s someone realized you could make a ton of money. At that point it became a product as a means to wealth and strictly entertainment. The result being less art and less social messaging. Funny how large sums of money can change everything (usually for the worse when it comes to something pure).

  4. I agree with you Matt, that after listening to music in a serious way for about 45 years, what I love and listen to more is now in the “rear view mirror.” When I first got into music, rock n’ roll, it was very light – in pursuit of the next 45 record. After a while it got more involved and 45s led to LPs and Bands led to other Bands. Then a genre led to another genre. Robbie Robertson mentioned MIles Davis and Gil Evans and I went down that road and got into first orchestratal jazz which led to Coltrane, etc. The same when Dylan started talking about the blues.That led to Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, et al. I kept on following the thread backwards, getting into Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett and Billie Holiday.

    While I still pursue new music, its not the same anymore. My enjoyment for music is still as strong but not the same. Yes it is strange,


  5. I have been thinking about this exact idea for the past few days, so I was pleasantly surprised to see your post! To me, it is very disappointing that music today has lost so much relevance. I personally think it is because the music of today has so little substance. Remember when a song had actual verses, a chorus, and a bridge? Nowadays, I find myself hearing a song and I ask “How is this a song?” Most of them are just hooks repeated over and over. And where are the artists who make political and/or social statements? There are a few of them, but they have all but disappeared from the public’s consciousness. What was the last political statement made by Britney Spears or Nicki Minaj? Everything they do is fluff–meaningless crap. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pop song as much as anyone, and there are some artists who do pop music quite well (Pet Shop Boys, for instance). Anyway, I fear I have gone off on a rant. My apologies. I must be getting old, but there you have it…

    1. For some reason, that feeling of “nothing new” really bothers me. It goes to show how deep music goes into your life. Deeper than books; deeper than movies. And don’t get me wrong. There are great books and movies. But there will always be another. I get the feeling that’s not so with music.

      1. I agree that the music that gets forced down our throats by the industry is pulp fluff. I agree that the music that appeals to most of today’s reality tv raised, tabloid minded, social network saturated youth is crap.

        However there is always something new. You just have to dig deeper for it and be OK with being part of a minority that gets little mainstream coverage or airplay.

  6. Even the word “music” is derived from “muse” that indicates inspiration of the soul. I believe that it has to do with longing for simpler times. The film American Graffiti was made 40 years ago and it reached back just 12 years to a simpler time. The film was FULL of the music of the day (which had all become oldies by 1973). Try going back 12 years today and looking for a musical change of that sort. I would not be able to tell you a single song that was popular in 2001. But I can recognize the opening guitar riff of The Eagles “Victim of Love” in a split second. Or Ringo’s drum solo from the Abbey Road “B” side. These songs were the soundtrack to growing up and by the time Nirvana came along in the early 90’s, I had become a thirty something and didn’t really inspire me. This led the way to a more “stripped” down form of rock. You didn’t need a stadium, a garage would do.

  7. Some of the responses to your article, Matt, are freaking me out. There’s a saying “If it’s to loud, you’re too old”. I think that applies here. I’ve been listening to music since the 60’s. I discovered the same bands everyone else did by listening to the radio, which was the only way to hear new music. I discovered the blues, proto heavy metal and pop. I found I really enjoyed the hard rock genre the best so I gravitated to that sound but all the while keeping an ear out for other types of music that may have interested me. The 60’s and until the mid 70’s music was about experimentation and the record labels supported this experimentation because they never knew what might be the next best thing.
    Let’s roll forward to now. Record labels only want sure things. No support of bands that aren’t going to sell a million copies so what happens? Artists take it upon themselves to start small labels to promote new bands and new sounds. Also because of social media, internet etc the artists that have no where to go label-wise are still able to promote themselves on their own. You see this on Youtube and other websites. When I was listening and keeping a record on the turntable for a week and eagerly anticipating the next release of my favorite bands, I was not satisfied. I bought newspapers such as Rolling Stone, Melody Maker to find bands that weren’t in the mainstream that could satisfy my lust for new and unusual music preferably bands with lots of guitar. But the point is I searched out music that interested me and I still do. Just because a band isn’t around anymore doesn’t mean that their musical type has died – you have to get off your butt and look for it. You can still have the feeling of being fulfilled musically.
    I’ve discovered a multitude of bands that for the most part fill all my musical needs from yesteryear till today. I still love Metal – Doom, Psychedelic, Stoner – but I’ve found progressive rock bands that bring me back to center much as Rush, Yes and others did back in the 70’s.
    So I guess I don’t know why everyone is complaining – it’s out there for you – all you have to do is look.

    1. Steve, I do unsterstand what you’re saying. And a lot of us, including you DO search for something great. And there are great works out there. BUT, the thing we’re largely concerned with here is a feeling of displacement. Great movies come to you, and, if you’re a reader, great books as well. But music seems to often leave a sadness behind. Favorites from the past feel their age. We get a feeling (inherently) that we have little to look forward to. I think it’s all about investment. Just my thought.

  8. But I guess what I don’t understand, Matt, is why there’s this feeling of age and sadness. We listen to Mozart – do we feel the age of the work or feel sad because we know he’ll never write another symphony again. I’ve always thought if you like a tune, band, album 25 years ago, why wouldn’t you like it as much now. Is it because of the people feeling old and the music brings them down? Or it brings back memories of better times when you were younger? Great movies are always great movies and the same with great books – these don’t leave the same “feeling of sadness behind”?
    I look forward to new music with as much anticipation as I did years ago. And why shouldn’t hearing new music rid you of the blues of times past? Actually if you think about it there’s more music available to us than ever before. As a person listening to music for many years I’ve never thought about not investing more time into the pursuit of the next great album. I love music that much.

    1. It’s hard for me to explain. I’ve actually been (slightly) bothered by this for more than a few years. It could be related to growing older, but I think the real issue is that there was a complete stream of satisfying works ALWAYS around the corner. You didn’t even have to look far. But these days, (and you’re right, there is far more music these days than ever before), there just seems to be a harder search for it. Still, there are many bands I like these days. Call me a problem child, but I feel a bit of a gap.

  9. There has never been another Mozart – and we still listen to his genius compositions! And there hasn’t been another Rolling Stones or Beatles or Kinks either. Most bands today emulate someone in the past. There are exceptions, but they are very few and therefore can be hidden in the hundreds of new releases all the time. So when you have listened to Rock music from its early incarnations with a critical and enthusiastic ear, how can you be satisfied with more of the same iterations over and over again? I think there is very good reason to feel what you do Matt, and it is because it is reflecting reality. Mozart lovers love his music because it stands the test of time. How many bands in whatever style have managed that? Look at the years of recordings of the ones that have, and it tells the story very clearly. I think we like to hunt for new stuff, because collecting and discovery is in our blood as music lovers. I also think we turn, too often, a blind eye to the creativity of the “new” and not accept the fact that we are living a dream and wish we could have a musical movement like we had in the 60s and 70s. Maybe we are too accepting because we have nothing else.

  10. I think of myself as having some sponge-like characteristics. When I was young, I was dry and ready to soak up anything that got within reach. As my capacity for absorbing new things was used up, I find myself feeling as if I will have to displace something to make room, sort of like getting squeezed out to make room for something new. I think this works as an analogy in a couple of ways. One is about the styles and types of music I truly find inspiring, the other just a matter of memory and recent experience. In the first way, I still find those early Rock and Roll songs resonating whenever I hear them. I grew up listening to AM radio, especially at the end of the day, alone in my room falling asleep. I remember the Supremes, the Four Seasons, Dave Clark, and those ‘types’ of music still hold a lot of power over me. I also remember waking up to Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Mozart on Sunday mornings. My parents used to let us sleep, and they’d start listening to those types of music while we kids were still sleeping. Listening to those pieces as I slowly woke embedded them in me. One of the effects of absorbing those types of music early in my life is that I seem to gravitate toward new music that aligns with them. For example, the Black Keys really appeal to me because of their primal Rock’n’Roll style. I think there is a melancholy in realizing that I just can’t as fully grasp and appreciate newer styles. I do like, and listen to, bands like Disturbed and Five Finger Death Punch, but they don’t inspire me like those with roots “in my rear view mirror”. I also don’t think there’s a line drawn, it’s been a gradual change. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, lots of bands from the 60’s and 70’s are firmly embedded in my soul. As the 80’s and 90’s went by, I absorbed the likes of Peter Gabriel and then Nirvana; even Nine Inch Nails and others. But it wasn’t like those earlier bands and earlier sounds. The second way the analogy works is that sometimes I just can’t remember all of those sounds and bands. I look through my collection and it’ll bring it back though! So I just need to wring out a little of my sponge and listen to something new. It’s sad that I don’t believe anything will ever root itself in my soul like those earlier sounds did, but I can always squeeze out a little room for something new! (I gotta thank you again for the Smoke Fairies Matt! they’re as close as anything in recent memory to finding a way into the deep places of my muse! There’s still hope!!!!)

  11. What really gets to me is the way the BBC in the UK seem to completely neglect some types of music. For example Prog Rock. They seem to think it died out in the 70’s. You never here it on any radio station. Its not that they don’t play music from that era, they do. But massive bands like Yes, Genesis etc don’t get a mention unless its in a BBC documentary that looks at Prog with a slightly piss-take attitude and the “old dinosaurs” view. I do think there is an attitude nowadays that everything produced now is a classic and music of the past is somehow superceded – my view is that all music of all types and eras contribute to the whole body of music and that no particular genre should be sidelined.

  12. I agree with David P’s last sentiment here. Films and books get categorised in virtual layers, largely, and age is not very relevant, whereas in music, age seems to be the prime categorisation. I view music as a huge well for me to dip in to, and pick out what I like. I now have much better resources, so am able to discover music I was isolated from all those years ago. When I find new music, the only relevant factor is “do I like it”. So I have in recent years discovered Pearl Jam, Tom Waits, Manic Street Preachers, Alter Bridge, Keane, Porcupine Tree, Storm Corrossion, Blackfield, Joe Bonamassa, Gary Moore, Elvis Costello, Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Marillion and never have to worry which decade they came from. Let alone Shostakovich, Schumann, Bach and thousands of Classical records!
    I grew up with the Band, Jimi Hendrix, Scott Walker, Genesis, the Beatles, Stones, Elton John, Steely Dan, Van Morrison, Family, Neil Young, CSN, Beethoven and others and was helped by guys in record stores, but certainly feel that I was limited then. I use Last.FM and Spotify now, and find more new bands than I can afford. I will only mention Marillion’s Marbles and Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing as classics up there with the best.
    If you like Blues, listen to the Union for a new experience!
    Take Care and keep the music rolling.

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