"Good Taste"

How many kinds of singing are there in this world? Do we really know?

How many kinds of singing are available to the average person who wants to listen? How about how many are available if you want to sing them yourself?

The truth is there are so many kinds of singing and so many kinds of music, it’s hard to know about them all. In addition to all the American styles there are world styles and many variation of all of them. If you include recorded music, going back about 100 years, there are historical recordings to hear, too. With all this diversity you would think you could find a wide range of vocal music 24/7 on mainstream TV and radio. You would be wrong.

In American popular culture on TV there are two styles: country and pop. You hardly ever hear folk music, or classical vocal music of any kind (including legit music theater), you don’t hear much by way of other styles except maybe R&B, or gospel music on religious programs. Contemporary Christian Music is a big genre and has millions of fans, but there is no special TV show that promotes it that on mainstream TV. Still, even there it is the same styles, over and over.

Who decided to narrow the field so much? Who was in charge of promoting only these styles? Where was it written that the people on American Idol, X Factor, The Voice and the other shows are the ones who have the right to decide what singing is? Where are all the other styles?

It is irking to think that the musical taste of American listeners is fed a steady diet of these narrow views of singing and music. Since some school systems have absolutely no music training at all and others have very little, kids learn about music by listening to the radio and watching TV. In the 50s, even cartoons had classical music. I remember a cartoon of cats singing on a fence that used the sextet from Lucia as the music. I didn’t know it, of course, as a kid, but I recognized it immediately when I heard it as an adult. The Lone Ranger’s theme song was the William Tell Overture. Mighty Mouse’s voice (on the theme song) was that of a classical tenor.

We live in a time when our popular culture has sunk about as low as it can go. It is nearly impossible to find decent drama on TV, to watch shows not permeated with horrible violence as a matter of course. Even “Law and Order SVW” had an episode in recent years about a serial killer of woman that showed such a graphic scene that was so upsetting I had to turn it off. All of the “Crime Scene” investigation shows are extremely violent. This in early evening, while kids could watch. Why?

It is easy to watch “reality TV” about the inside of prisons, prostitutes (Bad Girls), “low-lifes” of all kinds including mafiosi and crooks, and things like “Raw” which I think is about unrestricted fighting. The violence in football leaves many permanently injured, boxing sometimes kills people. We call this “sports”. We pay money to watch. Remind anyone else of the Colosseum in Rome?

If you complain, you are a prude. If you say nothing and allow it all, you are “supporting first amendment rights”, if you object, you are accused of encouraging censorship.

That’s not true. People can do whatever they want creatively, but that doesn’t mean all kinds of content  should be treated with equanimity, regardless. If you are getting rich from making shows about cooking, that’s a bit different than getting it from making shows about how the mob lives day to day.

Music, too, is the same. If all you can give the world is more of the same old thing, if you have no taste yourself and you enforce the same lack of taste of others because you can, what does that say about you? That you are ignorant, not sophisticated. That you don’t help the culture, you just ride on it. Yes, you are getting very rich, but, honestly, so what?

I don’t see any of this changing any time soon. The more disgusting, gross, disturbing, violent, dark, revolting something is, the more people promote it so they can make money from it. That’s possible because the public actually likes it and is willing to pay money for it. Those of us who turn it off, walk away and hope for something better are in the minority and no one is going to cater to us any time soon. It remains a personal statement. That which is beneath me does not deserve my attention.

The possibility that there will be a mainstream TV show that allows singers to sing in virtually any style is very very small. Too bad. We could use one. We are all guilty of fostering the shows that would be better off going away.

How about you? Are you watching Honey Boo Boo?

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