Music Paupers

I'm not usually one to whine about "kids these days", but I have noticed that this year's group of students (whom I dearly, dearly, love) are deficient when it comes to knowledge of, and appreciation for, music.  Frankly, I think it might be a crisis. It's one thing for a room full of AP-level seniors to balk when I play "The Smiths" (it's sad, but it's not completely surprising), but when every genre outside of Top 100 is attempted and dismissed by the same group of students, I think we have a problem.  Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Chopin, Hot Chip....nothing seems to make an impression any more significant than "Ewww.  Play more Rihanna".

This is not to suggest that I have any huge problem with modern pop music.  Well, that's not entirely true.  On the whole, I find modern pop music to be somewhat lacking in structure, and woefully anodyne in content.  Aren't the youth supposed to enjoy music that I find too edgy for my aging ears?  Edgy, it seems, has disappeared entirely from the musical vocabulary of the teenage population.  I mean, there was a distinct period of time in my youth when this was the most popular music around:

Somehow, I don't envision Taylor Swift singing about nature's harlot ways any time soon.

I don't think my own experience was all that singular growing up, and I extend this sentiment to my listening patterns as a teenager.  I wanted to listen to as much of everything that I could get my hands on (back when music had to be bought from physical stores).  Why don't my students want to do the same?  Is it possible to enjoy the music we like as much as we might without any understanding of its historical development?

I don't pretend to have the answers to any of these questions.  But I am displeased with the overall trend in student music appreciation that I am witnessing.  Music, and a passionate embrace of all of its forms, is one of the major pleasures available to us.  To ignore all of the music that has resonated with the youth of days past seems like a tremendous poverty to me.


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