A gob of years ago, I was on a school bus on my way to another day of 3rd grade. I was thinking about some song or another that I really liked–“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul and Linda McCartney possibly–and I wondered what kind of music I would be reacting to in the same way that people of my parents’ generation reacted so negatively against but that I loved so much. I took it for granted that in spite of my best efforts to stay “with it,” the generation gap would slowly slide so that I became the old fogey, complained that all this new music sounds the same, and would you please turn it down.
That day didn’t happen for many, many years.
That was then.
I like a lot of David Bowie’s repertoire, but I don’t think he is/was a musical genius. In spite of this, there is at least one spot in Nicholas Roeg’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth” where someones genius was showing. The spot I have in mind starts with Thomas Newton (Bowie’s character) nuzzled up against a spheroid device listening to some really inane music. We are lead to think that he’s listening to the very linear, scalar, repetitive, oscillator-driven stuff because it reminds him of home–at least until he removes the sphere from the device (stopping the music) and says something like, “I hate this shit that Farnsworth sends me.” It’s genius because of the way it plays on a number of the viewer’s expectations–both about Newton’s character and about what we are “supposed to” think space music/music-of-the-future sounds like.
It’s also genius because that very linear, scalar, repetitive, oscillator-driven, inane shit is what I am now hearing in a lot of places. Case in point: the music in the supermarket I was in yesterday. God, I wanted to run screaming from the place by the time I was done with my shopping. The same moronic thing, over and over and over and over again for 10 or more minutes. In this case it was a disquieting hybrid of a Latin beat and some Germanic melody. It was like salty chocolate, rammed into your mouth over and over again for ten agonizing minutes. Not want.