Music Has the Right to Children

Last week, I blazed a testy tirade objecting to what I saw as the haughty condescension of one of my favorite psytrance party promoters (here I am referring to all-night electronic music dance parties of the post-hippie variety). The bulletin I replied to proclaimed that the vast majority of psytrance made in 2007 was crap, with the exception being, of course, the EPs they themselves released. There were also claims to the very depths of the “underground”- coming from people seeking to capitalize on selling the notion (and all the apparel, albums, and $20 tickets that come with it). While the scene is indeed “underground,” no scene ever remains there once money and “quality control” become the mantras of those throwing the parties.

Pointing the way to quality music is one thing, and indeed these cats rightly earn the title of “experts” of this particular genre of music. However, when said “experts” begin to propagate exclusivity and ridicule the efforts of well-meaning, passionate new producers of the very content we rely on experts to help us discover, they take on the form of the lowly critic. “To define is to kill, to suggest is to create,” wrote French poet Stephane Mallarme. To define a genre through criticism does little other than highlight pretension and shatter the confidence of the artists who, particularly in this field, create out of love and thrive off of support by others.

I would know; I’m friends with more than a few such musicians and producers. The critics destroy an unconfident new artist; what keeps any anyone going is inspiration, in its myriad forms. The energized dancing of the partygoers, the feeling of synergetic zen, the comment of a fan on MySpace, the spark of appreciation in the eyes of a hard-to-please friend. To say, “that, there, that was excellent!” in the midst of a frenzied crescendo will propel one to seek that moment again and again. My high school English teacher is my greatest hero, as she lauded me with such praise and support of my writing (“that, there, that was good!”;) that I began to write furiously, fueled by the twin fires of confidence and passion.

By all means, I fully support relying on experts’ opinions to guide us toward quality music, but we are all our own best critics. We would certainly do well to experience, appreciate, and share what we know to be good; better still to spot what could be good and suggest how it could be improved; and finally to simply make what you like to hear yourself, if you’re so picky!

I’ll leave you with the wise words of my favorite poet, e.e. cummings: “I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing, then teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.”