Sunday, September 11, 2011

Can any music be really bad?

I have a broad musical taste and there is no music that I entirely dislike.  Often I have wondered whether there is any really bad, irredeemably bad music. Particularly when I found myself watching Last Night of the Proms yesterday evening.  But even there, is it irredeemable?

Remember that music exists to create certain thoughts and emotions in us, thoughts and emotions that would not necessarily be there without it.  Just as sexual desire is in some way beyond our control, in the way that Augustine complained about, so is the emotion created by music.  I cannot listen to this, for example, without emotion.  Yet what is it saying?  That God once visited England, and that we should fight both mentally and physically, with a sword, to establish some weird vision of England in this country? The thoughts are strange, but the music conspires with the words to make them temporarily acceptable.  (Also disturbing is the sight of Victoria Beckham struggling with the words, but that is something else).  If we have a problem with this, we have a problem with all music.  And since we don't have a problem with all music, clearly not, we don't have a problem with this.  Ergo, no music is totally problematic.

Last week I was wondering whether Mickey Gilley's version of "It wasn't God who made honky tonk angels" had finally got us there.  It is exceptionally bad, in fact so bad that there is no version of it on YouTube (ponder that for a moment).  But then the original version by Kitty Wells is tolerable, and the version by Patsy Cline brings us close to the sublime.

So forget the words - songs are just bad poetry redeemed by music.  Is there any music that is simply too bad to be saved?


Anonymous said...

What about this?

Great blogpost, thank you!

Edward Ockham said...

Thank you blindehund - I rather enjoyed that! However, we are not considering good music played badly (or pretendedly badly, I am not sure about that link), we considering music that would be bad, however well it was played. This is somewhat more difficult.

I will also rule out anything that was composed by the musically illiterate. The rules are that the music must have enjoyed some degree of popularity at some time now or in the past, but is clearly unredeemable. Something like this perhaps, but I think even that one is interesting in its own way.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the composers of this song are musically illiterate, but this is what comes to my mind: In my personal view there is no aspect of this song which is not bad.

And here's another suggestion:

Edward Ockham said...

Ah yes the force is strong with that one, thank you for that I may feature it next week. At 46s it gets particularly entertaining.

Edward Ockham said...

The second even more so. The first is simply and obviously and painfully bad. But My Hump has a whopping 65m views. We need to look more carefully at this. Thank for that.

Michael Sullivan said...

If you're considering whether "My Humps" is absolutely irredeemable, you might want to take this into consideration:

Edward Ockham said...

With the Alanis we now have the difficult question of whether a parody of something bad (if that is what it is) is no better than what it is a parody of. If it is not a parody, I don't know what to say.