Check out the animated show Bat out of Hell on Kickstarter!

Lo, I am become Hipster, the destroyer of worlds…

Saw Wilco last night at San Diego State’s Open Air Theater. Oh, my. I don’t think they were terribly impressed with the crowd, but they still put on a hell of a show. Easily one of my top three concerts ever. Loved the way they could pull sounds from Pink Floyd, the Allman Brothers, Squeeze, REM, Skynerd, They Might Be Giants (!), Hendrix, et. al., and make it all their own. A very happy birthday present.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Make your descent to hipsterdom complete and post the set list. They are a terrific live band — which is sort of hard to tell by their albums, given the heavy production.


  2. hey there, d said just the other day, hey let’s go see wilco. my response was something along the lines of my response when he wanted to go see pans labrynth, why don’t you just divorce me honey and find a girl who will go see wilco with yah? well, yes, i did suffer through pans labrynth in the theaters no less, however, i draw the line in the sand at wilco. he said divorce would be too expensive, so, i suggested why doesn’t he just spike my coffee with some rat poison?he said, do we have any? i said i didn’t think so. he said, next time your at the market honey, could you pick some up?!!!!! sure dear….i’ll get right on that.;-))) i think d may be seeing wilco, alone.

  3. Matthew Lickona says:

    That’s a touching story; thanks so much for sharing. You’re a good wife for buying the rat poison your husband will use to dispatch you.
    Oh, sure, expose my gross ignorance here on the blog. I recognized a lot of the songs, even sang along with a few, but couldn’t tell you the names of a lot of them. But I did buy the tote bag for The Wife.

  4. Who the hell is Wilco? And when was the last time you went and saw live classical music, Lickona? It’s time to begin the Reinvention of Matthew: From Aging Alternative Rocker to Connoiseur of Classical Music. You’re already a lover of fine wine, fine food, fine painting, fine film, fine writing. Yet you’re still devouring the musical equivalent of Charles Shaw, Twinkies, Thomas Kinkade, Adam Sandler movies, and Dan Brown. Let the Reinvention begin? And, with the foresight of the Numenoreans, I predict the journey from (almost)middle aged rocker to lover of the classics will make a great memoir book for you some day.

  5. MCM,

    That’s the funniest bit I’ve read in a long time.

  6. Matthew Lickona says:

    Partial list:
    Misunderstood, California Stars, Hesitating Beauty, I am trying to break your heart, Kamera, Jesus Etc., Heavy Metal Drummer, Sky Blue Sky, War on War, You Are My Face, Shake it Off, Hate it Here, Walken, Too Far Apart, Via Chicago. More as they come to me. They played for about two hours.

  7. notrelatedtoted says:

    Wilco melted my brain it was so good.

    My wife kindly joined me and suffered in silence. I think that was so I wouldn’t take my girlfriend.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Not Ted: nice. I took my wife (then fiancee) to one show in the Dirty Jerze (which melted her brain a little too much — they are much noisier live than on disk), and then I went with a summer associate to the second one in the city. Ernie, the choice isn’t classical music over alt rock (or alt country, or whatever Wilco is). How about a bit of both? Not everyone is in the mood to kick back and watch MacBeth on a Friday night after a hard week of work. Sometimes, Knocked Up will do. Likewise with music.


  9. Anonymous says:

    Oh Matt, I didn’t mean to shame you. I should have been clear: let some hipster (wearing fab shades and a Bjorn Borg head band) do the work for you. When he uploads the set list on his myspace page, you can can post a link.


  10. ML,
    The answer to the “why not both” question is “Because one is good music and the other is musical twinkies.” Matthew has displayed on this blog a love for the good things that educated adults ought to seek — especially with regard to art. Thus it seems incongruous to me that he still loves rock music enough to pay money to see a rock show.

    I occasionally listen to Aretha Franklin or Bob Marley as a guilty pleasure, just as I eat a Snickers every now and then. Still, I would argue, rock music is something for educated adults to grow out of. Listening to it is like reading grocery store romance novels instead of Jane Austen.

  11. Anonymous says:


    Or like watching Fargo instead of watching MacBeth? And isn’t there a fair amount of real estate between a grocery store romance and Jane Austen? Likewise, there’s a lot of real estate btw Britney and Mozart, or a twinkie and a gourmet meal? I’d like to think that Wilco (along with a lot of other bands) occupy that middle ground. Think of it like a delicious slice of pizza, or a good burger.


  12. In light of today’s memorial, I would point out that it was Augustine who said, “Give me Tchaikovsky and cantatas, but not yet.”

  13. ML,

    I disagree with your middle ground assessment. The middle ground between Britney and Mozart is NOT occupied by Wilco or any other rock band.If Bach/Mozart/Beethoven are the stratosphere and Britney is the dirt, the best rock band imaginable is about only about four feet off the ground. The middle of the musical atmosphere is occupied by the lesser classical composers (Puccini, Strauss, Handel, Bizet, Schubert etc) below them are the folk composers. Further down are theater composers such as Gilbert and Sullivan and even Rogers and Hammerstein. Below them are the jazz composers and musicians. (BTW, on the food scale, I’d say pizza and burgers would be jazz.) Second to bottom comes the authentic, organic, semi-ethnic music such blues, reggae, and mariachi. The top of the bottom tier is occupied by decent rock bands, and the bottom of the bottom by crap such as Britney Spears and her ilk.

    Why do you think rock music has boiled down to a bass, a guitar, a drum set? It’s because after 10 lessons each on those instruments, you, Lickona, and I could pass ourselves off as a rock band and play a creditable Smoke on the Water at the local bar. All you need is three chords, baby. Listen to a U2 song some time. Their guitarist can’t even manage the three chords. One of their big early songs, I Will Follow, has two chords.

    Rock is musical candy, even the best of it. It tastes good at first, but ultimately leaves you unsatisfied and malnourished. But if you keep giving a kid candy, it’s all he’ll ever want to eat.

  14. BTW, ML,

    Your Fargo/Macbeth bit makes me think you view all classical music as extremely tough and unapproachable as the heaviest of Shakespeare plays. And that’s not the case. Yes, there are great masterworks that demand attention and focus, but most classical music is lighter, more approachable. Try Bach’s cello suites, Beethoven or Mozart piano sonatas. Try classical guitar. Listen to Strauss waltzes. Like the Psalms, there is classical music for every situation.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Ernie —

    What if we just don’t call it music? You seem a little heated up on this one, but not necessarily so on other pop culture fronts. Extending your argument, I guess we pretty much better bag the local movie theater, tv (obviously), and probably this blog, never mind Cheetos, Capn Crunch and non-organic soymilk. I mean isn’t their a little wiggle room out there? File under “mere entertainment” or “sociology”?

  16. Matthew Lickona says:

    Definitely this blog.

  17. Anonymous says:


  18. notrelatedtoted says:

    Ernie –

    Impressive hierarchy, but I think it needs something. Facts, maybe?

    Seems to me that if the distinctions between bad-good-better-best are based on the complexity of the art, there should be some equally compelling empirical evidence that bears this out.

    Is a simple, unadorned melody less artistically valid than Beethoven’s Seventh?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Woops, Not Ted, now you’ve got me arguing for Ernie. Of course B’s 7th is more of an artistic accomplishment, a greater work, more valuable artistically than, say, “Simple Gifts”, never mind “Eleanor Rigby”. It’s more ambitious, comprehensive, complex, and yields more insight, and that’s just for starters. Obviously, that’s not to demean the unadorned melody; Beethoven draws upon them constantly within the symphony, folk tunes, in fact.
    My question was whether there really isn’t time for a little of the goofy stuff.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Then again, maybe Ernie is a bit more familiar than we are with just how much time Mr. Lickona is spending playing air guitar.

  21. notrelatedtoted says:

    Anon – I don’t think I would disagree that the 7th isn’t more artistically valuable than something more simple. I am curious as to why, and I think you touched on that. But to say one thing is more artistically valuable is not to say another is without merit. And “artistically valuable” means something different to me than good/bad etc. Clearly, there are masterpieces that rise above your average run-of-the-mill stuff, even within the Classical genre.

    Is Fur Elise really better than say, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry?” (Not the best example, I admit, but the best I can come up with at the moment.)

  22. notrelatedtoted says:

    Ok, I need to edit that last comment, because Fur Elise probably is better, artistically speaking, than Hank Williams. My point is that simply because Fur Elise is a gem, doesn’t mean everything else is a turd.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Ted — Yes, exactly. I get Ernie’s point, of course, but if he gets all hot and bothered by Matt’s head-banging, I get a more than a little nervous by the purity police (There you go, Matt, on platter, forget about MY LIFE WITH POULENC, just go with THE DANGERS OF PURITY.)I’m probably more in line with Ernie on a philosophical level, and certainly think living without knowing great music is a lesser life, but my kids have actually eaten a Twinkie and survived (maybe because it was given to them by their very holy priest-uncle, but…) and gone on to choose some naturally-occurring antioxidants.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Ernie, not to belabor the point (although it might be too late for that), there’s a big difference between Lickona and me getting boozed up and covering smoke on the water at the local tavern and Wilco. Tweedy writes great songs (but sometimes impenetrable lyrics). That there is a three chord progression to some (but not all) of them doesn’t mean the songs are facile or that Lickona could just crank one out on his acoustic, or even if he could, it somehow detracts from Tweedy’s talent as a songwriter (after all, my niece (14) can play Fur Elise on the piano, but that doesn’t mean that Beethoven is a hack — indeed, recitals at elementary schools, where kid bands play classical music, are commonplace). Also, if you listen to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or A Ghost Is Born (both of them Wilco albums), the amount of studio wizardry/complexity of the songs on those albums is something to marvel at (on a related note, the continuity of both of those albums from top to bottom is incredible, so that the albums themselves make sense as a whole and are greater than the individual songs that make up the albums). So if complexity is the touchstone, there is plenty of it out there in pop/rock (so long as you don’t reject studio tricks as legitimately artistic). See, e.g., the Beatles, Radiohead, Wilco, and plenty of hip hop (I just watched Do The Right Thing again on cable — it hasn’t aged well, but “Fight The Power” by PE certainly has — I’m not sure a person has a pulse if the song doesn’t put goose pimples on your arms). At some level, I’m conceding your basic point on the difference btw Mozart and Wilco (and other great pop/rock), but I think we disagree on the degree of difference.


  25. Anonymous says:

    BTW Ernie, I chose Macbeth just b/c I wanted to pick a piece of art that no one would dispute as great and I picked Fargo b/c it is an indisputably great movie, but pales in comparison to Macbeth). You can pick a more accessible piece of fiction and less accessible movie (e.g., For Whom the Bell Tolls and Citizen Kane) and come up w/ the same outcome: Citizen Kane, while a great movie (and although a fun movie to watch, is certainly no Die Hard), pales in comparison to For Whom the Bell Tolls, yet sometimes, after work, you are going to flop in front of the tube and watch the piece of art (Citizen Kane) that is a little easier to digest. Same w/ music. After work on a Friday, I don’t see myself kicking back and listening to Glenn Gould. Maybe Sunday morning over breakfast, but not Friday night.


  26. cubeland mystic says:

    Is this a TAC only inside baseball ball-breaking session or can anyone get in on this fight?

    “BTW, on the food scale, I’d say pizza and burgers would be jazz”

    You have no idea how completely ignorant that sounds. In some cases jazz surpasses a lot of classical music in complexity, and I think qualifies as high art. A lot of classically trained musicians would falter trying to play jazz. You have to compose on the fly after all.

  27. Matthew Lickona says:

    Nothing on this blog is TAC-only, pray God.

  28. notrelatedtoted says:

    CL – it does help, however, to be able to pull a page or two from the TAC playbook. I’ll just go ahead and toss this out there right now…

    “Because the curved is more beautiful than the straight….”

    QED, etc. and like that.

  29. All:

    I thought TAC from the very first.

    Thank you Ernie for the trip down that cigarette-smoke-thick post pit spitting-nails all night dorm session (Ramen anyone?).

    For my two cents on the whole affair: being one who cannot not eat Twinkies (Carbon Leaf esp.), but who recognizes the Italian Two Course Meal (Corelli and Vivaldi) as vastly superior in all ways… Yes, I assume someday we’ll all grow up and either finally admit we’ve been audially masturbating (to borrow obliquely from Allan Bloom) or stop listening to music altogether.

    Its wierd to think I might still be rocking out to Led Zep when my grandchildren are around.

    Also: Wagner excepted, I can’t think of too many classical composers that attracted funny smelling, drug-induced crazies to gyrate wildly during a performance.

    Put that in your bong and smoke it.

    “When we argue from effect to cause…hm…hm… we call that induction… hm….hm….”

    “I think that’s right. Yes. I think that’s right.”

    Ahh.. Youth.

    A leaf. A door. O Loss…


  30. isn’t it the case that there is really good and bad within each genre? i mean i would have to argue that Led Zepplin is vastly superior to wilco (lord what a dumb name)……..(okay, of course as names go, Led Zepplin may not be much better….), mozart may be argued to be oh so much better than vivaldi. i have even heard mathmatical arguements to this affect.
    (is barry manilow considered jazz?) maybe a better example would be manhime steamroller (not exactly sure of the spelling) compared to louis armstrong,
    bill evans? miles davis?, tomasz stanko? ella fiztgerald? diana krall? john coltrane? (that list could just keep going.)
    i mean finally people (ahem, men) isn’t art really essentially subjective? how can you actually argue that one is better than the other? please try to give me an actual nature based argument to this fact. even if you try to give me an argument based on order. and order being beauty, rock music, the beatles for example, you cannot get more simple and more ordered than that. and yet i know some of you would reject that as good art. there is just too much subtlety involved for a person to argue that there is an objective standard to which all good art should conform.

  31. Matthew Lickona says:

    [bangs head, powers down on air guitar]

    On the waaaater.
    Fire in the sky-yyy!

    Thank you, La Mesa!

  32. notrelatedtoted says:


    I’m thinking that maybe the distinctions within a particular art have to do with it’s object or purpose. For example, one could say that Folk Music tells a story or passes on collective wisdom, while the purpose of liturgical music is to inspire and elevate the soul (supposedly). The two purposes are not mutually exclusive, but one form does not easily serve both purposes. Now we could argue that one form is higher or more worthy than another based on the higher purpose, but that does not mean that one form cannot demonstrate artistic worth simply because it doesn’t serve the highest possible purpose.

    By the way, I have to congratulate ML. First, because he just got married. Second, because he used Public Enemy as a counter example to Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. YEAH, BOYEEEE!

  33. Cubland Mystic says:


    There is no such thing as a straight line.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Ted, thanks. I’ll have to send you a wedding picture. Your post on distinctions based on the purpose of the music makes a lot of sense to me. And I thank you for (perhaps inadvertently) defending my PE reference. Running with your point on the purpose or goal of a particular piece of music, in the PE case, there’s nothing wrong with firing up the people up to fight racism — which is certainly the purpose of Fight the Power (and I think it’s effective). As Flavor Flav said, “Mother—- him [Elvis] and John Wayne.”

    CL, remember, when trying understand Aristotle’s definition of motion, don’t analyze a remote, difficult example, like throwing a baseball. Instead, go for an easier example, one that’s rooted in our experience: talk about angels.


  35. Hooray to Job for his manly admission that he’s been “audially” masturbating by hanging on to Led Zep.

    Scripture says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things.

    When Lickona was young, he had a mullit, and he broke his Dad’s heart by telling him High Noon was “kinda boring.” He saw it again as a man (see California Catholic Daily’s Talk About Movies archives) and lovee it.

    As Job’s comment above, my vignette about young Lickona, and the passage from Corinthians indicate, one’s thinking about everything ought to mature. ML and Not-Ted, admit to this blogging community that you still speak, think, and feel like a child when it comes to music. Who knows, your admission may help a 30something rock music addict who still suffers in silence.

    And remember, “9-1-1 is joke!”

  36. apologies to Flavor Flave, I meant “9-1-1 is a joke.”

  37. Anonymous says:

    Ernie, I wasn’t as impressed with JOB’s analysis as you were. He might be mentally masturbating, but that doesn’t mean I am. It sounds like the crux of the Ernie/JOB argument is essentially a fact-free attack (it’s childish! hippies like it!) because you don’t like rock/pop. That’s fine, but as Not Ted admonished, some evidence would help (and not the JOB evidence of people rolling in mud (presumably at Woodstock), but excludes US Marines bombing Iraqis to Wagner because …, well, because that deplorable fact doesn’t fit the argument, although kudos to JOB for at least acknowledging the bad fact). And maybe when I hear that argument and it’s persuasive, I’ll make the admission you recommend.


  38. notrelatedtoted says:

    ML – I’m not sure I was defending your use of PE, as much as I was admiring you boldness. The rest of us counter, perhaps sidestep, Ernhat with folk and jazz, while you go right for the jugular with the rap music. Impressive.

    Ernie – Why do you hate America?

  39. notrelatedtoted says:

    Friends, Wilco Fans:

    Tonight, whilst being subjected to Redskins preseason football (courtesy of the wife) I saw a Volkswagen commercial. Wilco provided the soundtrack. They have sold out to the demons of crass commercialism.

    It’s over. Cue up the funeral march from Beethoven’s Seventh (Karajan version, please). It’s over, stick a fork in it.

    You win, Ernhat.

    Hugs and kisses,


  40. ML:

    That was audially masturbating, by the way… (cf. Allan Bloom, “Closing of the American Mind”)

    Mentally masturbating is when you start trying to read something really deep into, say, Pink Floyd lyrics…

    Either my mind is going, or I just can’t make out what you’re saying about Wagner, or what you’re saying I’m saying about Wagner.

    Here’s what I tried to say: Wagner and rock have a lot in common. (cf. E. Michael Jones’ Dionysos Rising; Ignatius Press). Therefore I think Wagner, like rock, is to be excepted from the classical music Great Chain of Being.

    As for fact-laden arguments – I don’t know if you can necessarily make arguments for music the way you can, say, for whether King Lear or Catcher in the Rye is a better work of literature or whether Plato’s Forms or Aristotle’s Universals are contradictory or complementary.

    I mean you CAN make an argument for music written on certain musical scales being superior to others, but it requires dragging out, say, the 5th and 6th Books of Euclid, Boethius’s work on music, and a whole mess of other things about tones, measures, proportions, etc.

    Not exactly the best line to take in the venue of a blog response area (BRA).

    Rhetorically, the best strategy is rather inductive: look to the fruits to know the roots.

    You see, the hope is that at some point whether you LIKE rock or not won’t be your only point of defense.

    I can like a lot of things, as Ernie pointed out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best things for me. There is nothing inherently evil about a Twinkie, but a Twinkie is not going to nourish you; likewise, there’s nothing inherently evil about Rock; but, I think Ernie’s claim is, and I would subscribe to the same, that Rock is not going to nourish your soul (howsoever you think about Freebird) and that the soul is meant to be nourished, meant to “grow up” as Ernie pointed out.

    At any rate, I say all this, and deny that I do not like rock. I do. I have an iPod full of the stuff. But that’s the problem. And at some point, as I said in other words previously, I can’t see myself bouncing my granddaughter on my knee to Whole Lotta Love.

    Something about it would just smack of ick.

    Back to you…


  41. Anonymous says:


    Regarding Wagner, what I’m saying is that you can judge Wagner by its fruits (the soundtrack to bombing people — from what I understand, it’s not just from a movie, but that our armed forces bomb Iraqis to Wagner) in the same way that you can judge rock and roll by its fruits (people frolicking in the mud). Thus, the argument that by examing the fruit of both classical music and rock music, one can fairly judge classical superior to rock, is weakened significantly when you consider, for example, that Wagner is the sound track for killing people (which, on the scale of horrible things, is significantly more horrible than frolicking in the mud).

    To avoid the Wagner problem, you define Wagner out of his proper realm (i.e., classical music) and into rock and roll. That’s one way to handle the Wagner problem, but I’m not buying it. I don’t think many (or even anyone other than Marcus Berquist — who, if memory serves me, is on the record that saxophones are evil b/c they sound to his ear like a poor imitation of the human voice) would characterize Wagner as rock and roll. And while Marcus Berquist is a genius on many levels, on this point, he’s not exactly great company.

    Further, your twinkies/nourishment argument has you falling into the Ernie “all or nothing” trap. I said earlier, and I think I’m right (although I have no proof, it’s just my sense of things), that there is a lot of real estate between Mozart and Spears, so why lump certain rock (e.g., Wilco (Not Ted, they may have sold out, but they are still excellent), the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, etc.) with the Twinkies? Is there really no difference between quality pop and Spears? And to be clear, as I said early here, I don’t really disagree that Mozart and the other classical greats are better. What I reject is the notion that, because the classics are better, the rest (to quote Not Ted) are turds.

    I am dubious of the notion that mathematics is a valid way of judging art (the greater the complexity, the greater the art). But even if it was, you have, as CL pointed out, all of that pesky, highly sophisticated jazz (which, I might add, is the soundtrack of many sultry sins, which by the “judge the fruits” arguments, contaminates jazz as a great art form).

    On the liking/not liking rock ‘n roll, I confess to completely misunderstanding you, and so I retract my prior comments on that score. I thought you were mocking the notion of an adult rocking out to Led Zeppelin, not yourself. But I could see myself listening to plenty of rock music with my (at this point, notional) kid with no sense of ick. I bet you could identify a couple of artists on your i-pod that are OK for the kids.


  42. ML:

    A few thoughts about your position:

    1) I point up Wagner as another example of music to be judged by its fruits. Is it in fact all those sixteenth notes jammed together that led to Germans going wacky over the stuff? I don’t know. And I don’t know about Americans shooting up their enemy because Ride of the Valkeries has that just something that makes me want to pull a trigger. I do know that Plato, among others, speaks to the immediacy of music – that is, it doesn’t take the scenic route through the brain, but takes the express lane to the spirit-part of the soul. Thus, the notion of music taming the savage beast is more true than might appear. Thus, too, it is why Plato considers poetry (a species of music) the most dangerous of all the arts.

    As for judging music by its fruits – for every drug-free Ted Nugent there’s a million Jim Morrisons. You suppose it to be accidental, I don’t. Would you want your kids living the rock’n’roll lifestyle? Would you want your daugther going out with Ted Nugent, for that matter? (Even so-called Christian Rock: singing about virtue to a strong sexual beat – I always found that somewhat curious.)

    2) I would at least give Wagner the credit of NOT being Rock and Roll. What he is, in fact, may be more dangerous than even the most Marylin of Mansons. But that’s for another discussion.

    3) I believe that real estate you speak of between Mozart and Madonna is where I would begin to reach for my Euclid and Boethius…

    4) Finally speaking, since music is applied mathematics – one MUST judge it FIRST by the science of quantity. I am not as acquainted with the principles of Jazz as I’d like to be – I only know its cool stuff to smoke lots of cigarettes and drink lots of whisky to. But I suspect its complexity (doesn’t its complexity come from variation (vs. progression)?) is far inferior to the complexity of Mozart et al.


  43. notrelatedtoted says:


    Are you saying that Beethoven and other classical composers do not rouse any sort of passionate response? That you appreciate them on a purely intellectual level? I sincerely doubt it.

    As to judging the tree by its fruits, I think there are many, many causes as to why an audience at a recital might react differently from a crowd at a rock concert.

  44. Cubeland Mystic says:


    “But I suspect its complexity (doesn’t its complexity come from variation (vs. progression)?) is far inferior to the complexity of Mozart et al.”

    Could you please explain what you mean by “progression”?

    Why wouldn’t there be a “progression” in Jazz? How is a classical composer’s variations on a theme (e.g.Dvorak’s New World) any more superior and complex than a Jazz musician’s variation on a theme (e.g. Keith Jarrett’s Basin Street Blues)?

    Syncopate Tchaikovsky just a little bit in some movements from the Nutcracker and you have jazz. Analyze Bach or Mozart, and you find systematic repetition within the context of a rigid symphonic structure. In other words, they had boundaries, and they lived within in them. You can train a monkey to play Mozart. Jazz in a lot of cases is completely improvised. Now if you want to consider Jazz=Pizza or banal, what was a polka in the 19th century. I think it was the equivalent of hip-hop in the 19th. So what does that make Chopin? A gangsta?

    If you guys are having trouble with jazz, you should admit your ignorance and study up a bit. As far as picking on Matt’s taste in music you should really pick on his drinking. If you all drink as much as you imply, you ought to consider giving that up instead of giving up rock music.

    Here is some Jarrett. He is not my favorite jazz musician because of his vocalizations, but he is a genius.


    Jarrett & Corea Classical

  45. Dorian Speed says:

    So…wait. Happy Birthday, Matthew Lickona? Or Happy Birthday, Mrs. Lickona?

    Or Happy Birthday, Wilco?

    Or it was all ironic?

  46. Matthew Lickona says:

    Thank you kindly. No irony – my birthday was June 27, and I got the tickets for this show back then.

  47. Cubeland Mystic,
    Jazz I think is a higher plain of music than rock, though not the equal of classical music. It takes years to become half the trumpet or saxophone player that Chet Baker and Charlie Parker were, while 10 lessons and a fuzz box make anyone a passable rock musician. And jazz requires a lo more knowledge of music theory than does rock. Still, as JOB says above, the tree bears bad fruit. Baker and Parker did an awful lot of heroin, as did almost all jazz musicians of the era. There’s got to be a reason Playboy sponsors the biggest jazz festival out there. And I’ve heard the word jazz comes from slang meaning sex (and not the kind between man and wife.) There’s a rock-esque unwholesome vibe to the whole jazz scene.

  48. ML: “Wagner is the sound track for killing people (which, on the scale of horrible things, is significantly more horrible than frolicking in the mud).”

    This is rhetorical smoke, ML. Do you think the guys dropping the bombs were all Wagnerians? I don’t. More likely, their iPods are filled with more rock than JOB’s.

    I don’t really think the burden of proof is on me when it comes to the question of whether rock is crumby music. Ask anybody who has studied music theory. It’s the stuff of simpletons. But you asked for facts. I’ll give you some. You may remember reading them in earlier posts. To answer one of your questions, I think these facts apply to both Britney and Wilco:

    Rock musicians are mostly unschooled in music theory and lightly schooled in their instruments.

    Almost all rock songs are composed of three revolving chords. (A simple mozart piano Sonata uses several dozen.) The simpletons who write generally aren’t even knowledgeable enough to figure out a way to put a stop to the loop. Hence the three-minute fade out.

    Rock musicians tend to be drug addicts and womanizers and all-around horrible people

    It’s the favored music of the immature. I’d venture to guess your tastes in almost everything have matured since you were a teenager why not this?

  49. Matthew Lickona says:

    Okay, I’ve stayed out of this one, but Ernie’s last question has led me to venture an answer:

    “I’d venture to guess your tastes in almost everything have matured since you were a teenager why not this?”

    My own answer: because it still gives me pleasure. The sweet foodstuffs of my youth, the simple storylines of cartoons, the thrill of amusement park rides – these no longer appeal to me. But I enjoyed pizza then, and I enjoy it now. Ditto some flavors of rock and/or roll.

  50. I don’t have a lot of time, but I want to respond to some points Ernie made.

    “Rock musicians tend to be drug addicts and womanizers and all-around horrible people.”

    Is that unique to rock, or unique to artists? Schubert died of syphilis. Mozart was a booze hound and an adulterer (so I’ve heard). I’ve read somewhere that the entire Romantic movement was pushed by a tidal wave of champagne and absynthe (I think that’s the exact quote from someone brighter than me). On the assumption that we can agree that Schubert, Mozart, and the art of the Romantic era is worthwhile high art, how do you explain it away? How come these guys get a pass but Mick Jagger doesn’t? I think I can listen to the Trout Quintet and not feel the urge to womanize. Likewise with rock. Just like one can listen to Schubert and not contract VD (or STD, or whatever venereal diseases are going by these days), I think I can listen to the Doors and not turn into Jim Morrison. It appears that Ernie thinks that the dissolute living of artists was invented in the 60s. I highly doubt it.

    Re Lickona’s taste, I’m sure Matt Lickona can defend himself here, but Ernie wonders how it’s possible that a guy like Matt, who has great taste in all manner of things (food, art, literature) can have such crappy taste in music. Perhaps we can approach this question a different way, and say, “b/c Matt Lickona appears to have refined taste in all sorts of things, perhaps the pop music Matt likes is pretty good and I’m missing something ….” Just a thought.

    One last thought: on the burden of proof here, it’s squarely on Ernie. I don’t think Matt, Not Ted, me, or anyone else was slagging classical music. It was Ernie who brought into question the value of Wilco (and other pop artists). By raising the issue, it’s up to Ernie to defend, I think. As for the complexity of music, etc., I don’t know how to respond, other than to agree to disagree. My three chord rock progression is different than Bob Dylan’s or Jeff Tweedy’s. That’s why people separate themselves from their hard earned cash to listen to those artists, and not me noodling on an acoustic. And don’t forget the point I made about all the little gromits out there who can crank out Bach and Beethoven on a piano. One of my favorite pieces of music (it’s a little piano piece by Bach) is so easy that I can play it on the piano (if you gave me the music and a day of practice, I certainly could play it). That doesn’t mean that the piece of music is childish.

    Re the favored music of the immature, that’s crazy. Ernie, I suspect that in your professional life (like mine) you run into very stable, mature people who hold down jobs and provide for their families and listen to pop/rock ‘n roll. That’s not exactly the profile of the immature.

    Re the fade out on pop tunes, that’s a studio trick that really can’t be pulled off live, and the fade out is a way to do something in the studio that can’t be replicated live. Also, a fade out creates a certain effect on the listener. I suspect it’s not that the artist can’t figure out how to end a song (e.g., not all pop songs end w/ a fade out).

    I have to start billing clients, but I’m still very unconvinced by what I’ve seen here. Except for CL, who’s defense of jazz is inspiring.


  51. Oh ML,

    I’d venture to guess that addiction among classical music composers is more the exception than the rule. While it’s just the opposite with rock.

    Regarding the burden of proof, I may still have to prove it to you (though I begin to despair of the task,) but not to the academic music community which has always recognized rock, even at it’s best, to be musical pablum.

    I think Lickona is being a lot more honest about this than you are. By saying it’s something of his youth that he still enjoys, he’s at least acknowledging the element of arrested development involved when adults listen to rock music. I can respect that. I still enjoy the occasional rcok/pop tune myself, again, just as I enjoy the occasional Snickers bar.

    As for you, ML, the irony is the more you type about this, the more I think, “I can’t believe a guy capable of this kind of clear, cogent argumentation is still listening a devotee of rock.” (sigh)

    In love,friendship, and fun.

    (late) Congratuations on your recent Sacrament.

  52. Cubland Mystic says:


    The key word in “music theory” is “theory“. Art is not an academic undertaking, it belongs more in the realm of the soul. A few years back, I had an email correspondence with a woman named Stefania de Kenessey. She is a classically trained composer and musician. As I recall, she probably would argue that the academics are ruining /have ruined “classical” music. The same people trained in music theory are the ones destroying it. I would agree with her. Ives, Rachmaninoff, and de Kenessey are the only 20thC composers that I have in my collection. I only purchased an Ives CD because of the unanswered question, the rest is just atonal crap. The only thing that will save 20thC classical music outside of the big Rock is movie music. The rest of the music from the 20thC’s classically trained is abusive. Okay perhaps I am generalizing too much. It is really hard for me to think of any great 20th composers, since typically when I hear that style of “music” played on the radio I turn it off. So I seldom get to the part where they tell you the composer’s name. I am not going to tolerate the aural abuse to find out either. Nirvana is much more tolerable and a much higher art form than Schoenberg. The S in Schoenberg stands for “SUCKS”!

    I don’t have a lot of trouble with your arguments other than you place all classical music on a higher plane than Jazz. As an addition to your argument, I would argue that there is a lot of “classical music” that is not on the same plane as classical music. I’ll say it again, I would argue that there is a lot of “classical music” that is not on the same plane as classical music. Excluding jazz like the kind I linked to above from the ranking of high art is unfair and narrow minded.

    I don’t know if it is even fair to compare rock to classical. Wouldn’t you agree that Rock is more of a vehicle to deliver a poem to the listener than about the music itself? It seems to me that it is more about the written word than the music. Classical and Jazz is all about the music. There is no doubt that there is bad jazz. But rock vs. classical, might be apples to oranges–perhaps more Chaucer than Chopin.

    What does the moral state of the jazz composer have to do with the art? A lot of them were addicted to heroin. So what? I wonder how many classical musicians were addicted to opium? I don’t know of any but it would not surprise me. Does alcohol come into play in your argument? Can you make the argument that heroin addicted womanizing Miles Davis is less of an artist than an alcoholic womanizing 18th or 19th century composer?

    Miles went to Juilliard does that cancel out his heroin addiction since he was classically trained? Wynton Marsalis went to Juilliard too, and I don’t think he is a heroin addict. I’ve listened to his work, and you know it’s got that academic feel to it–it lacks soul. Probably because he went to Juilliard and the professors loosed the academic critic into his being. This certainly would have murdered his spark. I much prefer his father’s music to his or his brothers‘.

    When you say Jazz, I hope you are generalizing to encompass the whole body of jazz. When you say classical you mean the full body of all music from Palestrina to Prokofiev, no? Like classical, there are many styles, not all of them are great. Orchestral jazz defeats the intent, large groups do too. For me the best art comes out of the smaller groups, solo, trios, quartets, and just maybe perhaps the quintet. There is a pianist/composer called Marcus Roberts, he is an absolute genius. Most of his work is solo piano, and I would categorize it as high art. I would put him right up there with any classical composer.

    I am very sympathetic to what you are saying. I don’t want to leave on a sour note. I own very little rock, I own some jazz, but the largest part of my collection is classical. Of the jazz albums I own, most of them are marginal, but there are some that are absolutely transcendent. I also agree that there is a very unwholesome aspect to jazz, but then one could say the same thing about classical music too. You will not find me at the Playboy jazz festival either. I am sure there is quite a bit of forgotten marginal to bad classical music too.

    Please consider this. A lot of movie scores are wonderful. I purchased the complete recordings from the Fellowship of the Ring. This year I will do the same for the Two Towers. I think they are magnificent works. Thank you Howard Shore. In addition I would claim the music from Chocolat and the music from Gladiator are quite good too. Do we mention the Star Wars music here? To me these are wonderful works, and much worthy of our praise than our disdain.

  53. Ernie, many thanks. I think I first called rock a pizza (as opposed to a twinkie. I’m more w/ Not Ted, meaning “not as good as Mozart” does not equal “turd.” So, I sort of agree w/ you. It’s just a matter of degree. CL rocks the house, though: contemporary classical stinks.

  54. Ernie, et al.

    I throw this out as perhaps helpful. It is from Paul Fussell’s “Poetic Meter & Poetic Form.” He is speaking, of course, about the pleasure derived from rhythms in poetry, but I think it equally applicable to those we find in music.

    “The pleasure which universally results from foot tappin and musical time beating does suggest taht the plesures of meter are essentially physical and as intimately connected with the rhythmic quality of our total experience as the similarly alternating and recurring phenomena of breathing, walking, or love making. But the quality of the apprehender of meter determins the kindso pleasure availbe from it: chldren and the unsophisticated recieve from meter almost wholly physical pleasure, manifesting itself in foot tapping and head nodding. On the other hand, more experienced and sensitive readers [or listeners] probably derive much of their metircal pleasure from teh high degree of rhetorical attention which meter demands…or from the intellectual and humanistic delight of witnessing order and containment being born out of chaos and flux. Medieval theories of meter, in fact, frequently assume that the pleasure man takes in meter is a simulcrum of the pleasure he takes in the principle of order and recurrence in a universe which itself would seem to be will and order incarnate.”

    I give this out as fodder for either side, although I particularly like the suggestion of rock concertgoers’ headswaying being connected to more childish things, as Ernie points out.

    But I think either side can make a point if not a case with Fussell.


  55. Job,

    Love the quotation from Fussell. And I think the word music can be substituted nicely for meter.

    Cubeland Mystic,

    I hear your point about the academic-ization of music. I sing with a bunch of people in the opera chorus in my town who think they’re going to become great opera singers because they majored in vocal performance in college. The fact that they don’t have great voices doesn’t figure into their thinking. Mozart didn’t become Mozart because he studied hard. Or, more accurately, I can’t become mozart by studying theory. Because 95% of his genius was God-given. However, make no mistake about it, Mozart knew his his music theory.

    20th century classical music is by-and-large a bunch of nonsense born out of a diabolical nihilism and relativism that swept through the arts in the 20th century. I wasn’t really thinking about modern classical in my diatribes above.

    Re: Jazz, I claim no qualifications to comment on it. That said, I like a lot of it. Chet Baker’s 1955 sessions in Paris are stunning. I love Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto’s bossa nova stuff. Louis Armstrong was a genius. I appreciate the mastery of their genre and their instruments that those three dudes, and others, displayed. Vocally, Nat King Cole, Sinatra, and Billie Holliday also displayed a lot of mastery. I don’t think any of them are the equal of Mozart or Itzakh Perlman. And like modern classical, I think a lot of jazz, even celebrated jazz, is intenionally ugly. Charlie Parker’s improv stuff is hell to listen to. A lot of Myles Davis I find intentionally ugly too. And, yes, I’m leery of jazz culture. There may have been alcoholic composers in the romantic period, but there wasn’t and isn’t a whole culture of libertinism surrounding classical music like there is with jazz and rock.

    I share your views about movie composers. John Williams is amazing, and LOTR did have a nice soundtrack. The movies were crap, but the soundtrack was well done.

  56. notrelatedtoted says:

    “It seems to me that it is more about the written word than the music. Classical and Jazz is all about the music. There is no doubt that there is bad jazz. But rock vs. classical, might be apples to oranges–perhaps more Chaucer than Chopin.”

    Excellent point. It is a difficult comparison on many levels. I think the same could be said of folk music. The purpose is not the same.

    “On the other hand, more experienced and sensitive readers [or listeners] probably derive much of their metircal pleasure from teh high degree of rhetorical attention which meter demands…or from the intellectual and humanistic delight of witnessing order and containment being born out of chaos and flux.” (JOB quoting Fussell)

    I find this to be very true. But, can’t we also appreciate poets who eschew rhyme and/or meter? At times, I find Yeats to be more moving than the rigidity of Blake. Perhaps one can be said to be a master of the form, while the other is less so. But that does not mean that there is nothing of value in Yeats simply because he does not strictly adhere to the principles of the form.

    I will readily grant that much of popular music is childish, empty and of very little value whatsoever. There are many reasons for this (marketing, economics, the way music is consumed today as opposed to 200 years ago)but that doesn’t mean the form itself is worthless.

    No fans of Arvo Part in here?

  57. notrelatedoted says:

    mcm – I think Lucas cites Joseph Campbell as one of the primary influences in the series. I believe Campbell wrote extensively about the recurring themes found in mythology: good v. evil, the hero’s journey, redemption, etc. So there is quite a bit of mythology packed in the movies, albeit from a humanistic perspective.

  58. notrelatedtoted says:

    Woops, disregard that last one. I suck at the internets.

  59. Melody and rhythm are everything. No matter your form. If it doesn’t make you hum and bounce, it’s nothing. If it does, it’s gold.

Speak Your Mind