I think that what people have deemed to be a musical snob has changed over the years. Deborah909 started it out when she said that music today is geared towards the mid-teens. Think about how music has changed over time. We started with simple Gregorian Chants that were blissfully simplistic, predictable and pure. Basically, music simply progressed through time to be more and more complex; more rich. It moved to Renaissance, Romantic, Classical, comprising more and more instruments, more complexity, higher levels of dissonance, multiple time structures interleaved, harmonies dancing against melodies, emotion charging through pieces like Beethoven's Fifth. Of course you had simpler pieces as well, but they still moved you. A great example of this is the Moonlight Sonata. Not ridiculously complex but each step in the progression moves you higher and higher. Bolero is the ultimate in repetition but it works because of the building intensity and the added instruments.

But then we hit the 20th century when music made a lot of radical changes. Jazz came on the scene, but let's skip that for the time being and look at Rock. Rock isn't about complex chord structure or depth of harmony, melody or about a large personnel; it's about raw power. It's about screaming guitars, pounding drums, sweat, drug-induced imagination and lyrics that fit the ideas, needs and wants of the generations that listen(ed) to it. Rock left the realm of what elitists call "music" and appealed on an entirely new level. Rock is, 90% of the time, composed of a slightly modified blues pattern with neat lyrics. The Beatles made a career from this; and it just goes to show that it wasn't about the "music" per se, but about the message in the music. Kids adored this stuff, and the adults of today adore it too. They're still huge.

Disclaimer: When I'm talking about music for the rest of this little node/rant, let's just assume I'm sticking to these highly prevalent, video, visual, sex-driven, teen-targeted forms of music like Britney Spears. She's going to be the embodiment of this stuff for me. I felt I needed to wire that down because I obviously can't be talking about all of modern music; just the stuff that hits me in the face all the time.

But who are The Beatles of today? I don't think we have them. Nobody has maintained that sort of religious following in massive quantities, or survived as long in people's minds and in their CD players... but if we had to pick, who would it be? Britney Spears? 'N Sync? The Backstreat Boys? These are (or were?) definitely some popular groups that make a lot of money. But why do they make money and why are they popular? It's not the music... it's the video. I think Britney Spears is one horrible musician. I think she has a horrid voice that belongs on radio commercials for Pizza Hut; but what a body! Holy crap it's amazing and she can move it like she's spent her life practicing tantric sex techniques!

But is that music? What's the message? Sex. That's it... and it's not delivered well. It's cookie-cutter music. Everyone sounds the same. But they don't look or move like she does, and the aren't marketed the same. So they lose. The music isn't played by people, it's played by computers. There's no intensity, no heart or soul. Steppenwolf had power. Magic Carpet Ride is wicked! And when you're high, it's all the better because you're in the state that the song was written and played in. Britney lets computers do her work for her, lets them filter, alter, and manipulate her voice so it sounds great on the CD and on the video. She doesn't sing live. Anyone who sees her jump around and not hear her voice bounce has got to realize that. The computers play the music, synthesizers pound out beat after beat in the same monotonous way, but you don't notice because you're too busy watching the hottie on stage or on the TV and all you want to do is grab that chick and show her what sex is all about. And that ain't music.

And what about this: haven't you noticed that "great" musicians have gotten younger and younger? Throughout history, the great musicians have been old for the most part. Or if they weren't old then they didn't spend all their time making videos and traveling around the world, going to parties, doing commercials, etc etc... no. They studied music. Music is not a simple thing. It is complex, difficult, and a bigger subject than most have ever encountered before in their lives. It takes time to master. And this is where I come to Jazz. I told you I'd get back to it. This is my choice for musical snobbery. I am a Jazz musician and I listen to it all the time. I am not a great musician but I know many who are and they're not 18 years old. They have studied for decades to get where they are and these people truly understand what music is. They understand complex chord progressions. They know how to create music in the most demanding ways. It's not pieced together from loops and tracks that already exist. The drum machine isn't turned on to pattern number 12 and bass pattern 16. Rap isn't blown out of the radio to the same chord change, and the same beat constantly. Rap isn't music either. It's a poem with a musical background. There's nothing wrong with that, but I can't consider it to be music when I also consider Bach to be music. The music is created from the person's mind, not from the brain of a synthesizer. Does this apply to all popular music? No it doesn't. There are actual popular musicians out there but they don't get the same acclaim that the Britney's do. Dave Mathews is outstanding, Sting is slipping but is still one of the greats, and there are others. But that's not what I'm talking about... they're not directly in the mainstream anymore. They're still popular but it's on the fringe.

So I'm an elitist. But I am an elitist because I am not a 14 year old kid trying to find myself and my sexuality. I'm a guy who demands a lot from music. I believe Jazz to be one of the most complex and beautiful art forms ever created. And that's really saying a lot in todays world where you can sequence down a new hit single in an hour and just wait for the hot chickie to come buy to sing the words. I'm sorry but I don't call that Art -- that's commercialism. I know... I'm an elitist. But look where we've come from. We've left the world where popular music was the perfection of Bach and moved into a world where the popular music is whatever music goes along with the sexiest video. Yes it's a bit of a generalization but that generalization couldn't even be made in Bach's time. In Bach's time it was about the music or it was about nothing at all. It wasn't about the video, or the commercials, or the outrageous stage visuals; it was about closing your eyes and letting the music take you wherever it wanted to go. And don't kid yourself; Bach tunes make absolutely wicked Jazz tunes!

That's why I love spending my time in a smokey Jazz bar on Queen Street in Toronto listening to the power and precision of a great Jazz Quintet, dressed in ratty clothes, playing beat-up old instruments, and barely moving a muscle. I guess that makes me an elitist. And I guess I'm proud of it, if that's the case.