Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Friday, June 24, 2011

Idiot Music

So this guy named Virgil Griffith at CalTech has this website he developed called Musicthatmakesyoudumb, where he has collated rather unscientifically a tongue-in-cheek statistical list of what is the favourite music of students at various American colleges versus what their grade averages are, and using those results, he is able to figure out what all the dummies are listening to, and so from this we can draw conclusions as to what kind of music will make you stupid (or, what kind of music is attractive to people who already ARE stupid). He did a similar study of 'Books that make you stupid' also.

Results aside, he raises an interesting point: Does the music you listen to affect the way you think? Most of us have already heard bandied about the notion (that some regard as absolute fact) that "classical music is good for your brain", whether as a brain-boosting office soundtrack or as something that mums should be doing for their developing fetuses or toddling terrors (Baby Mozart) or even "sound as audio therapy" (those kind of CDs you find in places like The Discovery Store or Shared Earth or even shoe stores such as Shoon - you know, where there is a huge amount of CDs on a rack with a little sampler machine that plays snatches of the tracks when you press the pretty button - CDs like 'Latin Jazz Moods' or 'Frog Chorus' or 'Mountain Brook'). For many, it may feel intuitive that listening to complex classical music pieces must somehow be better for one's brain than listening to, say, a simplistic three-chord rock anthem or a Rap track featuring a single looping drum beat with repetitive vocal (or many other genres of current pop/rock/rap music).

Does that truly depend on the song in question, or one's world view, or one's attention to complex subtle nuances that may lie just below the surface of a seemingly trite piece of Pop?

Well, readers, I know you know me. You know pretty much my feeling on the whole thing. And that is that some music will definitely make you stupid. Some of it requires you to be stupid already. And some of it requires a level of dumbness that makes other people wonder how you even make it out the front door in the morning without hurting yourself. And this music is not death metal, not rap, grime, dubstep, not even hair metal or Jessie J. Not Lady Gaga or Beyonce. Not even New Country or The Gilmer Sisters (not familiar? Trust me. They're ex-cousins-in-law, and they think they can sing).

It is the Great British Novelty Record.

From Cockerel Chorus' "Blue Is The Colour" and Brian and Michael's "Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs" to Renee and Renato's diabolical "Save Your Love", the record-buying public of this great nation are suckers when it comes to one-off daft tunes, whether the attraction be scarf-waving football chants, stupid dances ("Agadoo", anyone?), heartstring-tugging cutesy children ("There's No-One Quite Like Grandma") or just plain silly ("The Oldest Swinger In Town"), the British charts have long contained at least one bloody idiotic tune, sung by some twat you'll at least take comfort in the knowledge that you'll never hear of again. The prime example of this is when, back in 1981, Ultravox's "Vienna", a track that I think most people can agree is a pretty damn fine piece of work, was kept off the top spot for weeks by the moronic "Shaddap You Face" by Joe Dolce.

So, I think we can draw a conclusion from this, only I'm not sure what it is. It's either that (a) there are loads of dumb people in this country, or (b) something else. Which is weird, because this country has produced some of the finest musicians in history. The Beatles, The Stones, David Bowie, Cliff Richard, Free, The Stranglers, Madness, The Specials, the list is endless. So why should a country full of fine musicians have such weird tastes in music? Search me. I'm gonna dig out my copy of 'Captain Beaky' by Keith Michell and give it a whirl for old times' sake...

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