Scenario: You’re talking to someone about likes and dislikes in music. The person gets on their high horse
and says Popular music is garbage because it’s musically simplistic. It has so little harmonic complexity. It’s clearly inferior to jazz which has much harmonic sophistication. Which of the following responses best exemplifies a person-focussed or sociological approach to music and counters the other person’s work-focused approach?
A) According to research in psychology, the single most effective way of proving the superiority of one thing over another is to indignantly, loudly, and repeatedly use the phrase ‘In this day and age…’ So with that in mind, I would offer that anyone who prefers jazz over popular music is ignoring what music has become in this day and age! In this day and age, popular music is the dominant style of music because it has taken over the internet. And internet presence—in this day and age—is THE defining factor in determining the quality of anything.
B) By defining musical quality by harmonic sophistication, you are taking the value system of one musical style and applying it to another musical style. It’s apples to oranges. Good popular musicians don’t aspire suit the values of jazz. The value system of popular music includes using lyrics, performer image and visual effects to make maximum impact on an audience; and by this definition of musical quality, most jazz would amount to garbage.
C) In live performance of, our perception of what we hear in the music is affected by what we see. Fans of jazz music are mistaken when they assert that the music is more complex than pop and rock styles. What’s really happening is a mixing up of the two senses of hearing and sight. Because jazz musicians act sophisticated and complex on stage, audience members end up thinking their music sounds that way too. The only way to objectively compare the merits of popular music and jazz is through a blind-fold listening test.
D) Popular musicians can be just as sophisticated as jazz musicians, but they usually choose to be simplistic with their music because the emotions they wish to express are basic human emotions like love and anger. When a popular musicians wants to express something more complex like forbidden love or repressed anger, their music does show the harmonic sophistication that is more characteristic of jazz or classical music.