Sunday, March 29, 2009

Aesthetic Torture in the Land of Possible Delight

Stores featuring used recorded music--whether albums, CDs, or cassettes--are usually seedy places. I don't mind the funkiness, but I do mind the kinkiness. One can find real treasures there--rare recordings and new releases barely used for good prices. So, I haunt them once in a while. Today, while looking for used jazz CDs in a store with a large and varied collection, I had to endure some of the worst so-called music imaginable. Let us call it sickening sounds or distilled hideousness, not music.

The worst audio assault a sex-saturated, no-melody, no harmony, swaggering hip-hop eruption or idiocy. I was subjected to two selections by the same savage (whose name I do not know), who intoned, "You call me a philosopher, but I just want to..." You get the (non)idea. It had all the subtlety of a bulldozer gone berserk--although that would have sounded better. It was crude, rude, and lewd. Not all hip-hop spews these kinds of lyrics, of course; but the best-selling stuff does. What a sad commentary on our view of humanity, sexuality, and relationality. America is further east of Eden in this area than in probably any other dimension in life. Collectively--and not just in hip-hop--we are sexually insane. See Romans, chapter one, for the whole story and explanation.

Yet, while I was amidst hundreds of jazz CDs, no jazz was being played. Was it worth the torture of the sonic environment? It certainly made concentrating difficult.

There were also horrible noises made by some synthetically-twisted voice that sounded robotic and thoroughly ugly. I have no idea was genre of noise it was, but it was pointless and hopeless.

Thirty years ago, in his famous Harvard address Solzhenitsyn chastised America for the crassness of its popular culture, including music. But nothing then was a soul-shriveling, abrasive, abusive, and disgusting as what I heard today. The coarsening of culture means the corruption of souls. You are known by the company you keep and the music that buzzes in your ears and in your mind.

I detoxified upon returning home through prayer, Bible reading, and listening to Coltrane, Monk, Kenny Garrett, and Joshua Redman. And I did manage to purchase a two-disk CD from Stan Getz for only $2.00. I'm sure what I heard on the sound system would sell for far more...


Christoph said...

I found that, among modern Christian music, hip hop is one of the most theologically sound and deep.
The Cross Movement and others like it are not wishy washy love-song-turned-Christian, but put great emphasis on theology, doctrine, and Scripture.

While I agree that the topics of secular hip hop are pathetically vain, the association doesn't carry over to the Christian realm. Musical tastes aside, I am thankful I can listen to God honoring and edifying music whose sole focus is not I and a God whose only attribute appears to be love.

Doug Groothuis said...

I heard a piece of hip hop in which the lyrics engaged in apologetic argument. But I still did not like the form of music.

Christoph said...

I understand. I merely tried to address the possible misconception that hip hop in general was ungodly, whereas some of the lyrics clearly show otherwise.

Thank you for your blog sir, it's a pleasure to read.