You are here

Sounding Off: What Is Real Music?

Jyoti Mishra By Jyoti Mishra
Published April 2003

The argument over what's considered to be real music goes on and on (and on and on).

How many times have you been in a pub/club/brothel and heard someone start up the same old speech, pointing at some trance act or garage crew and going, "See that? That's not real music! They can't even play their instruments! You just push a few buttons and it's all done for you." The best reply for this I've found is to simply agree. But occasionally I'll suggest if it really is that easy, why don't they go and have their own hit record? After all, they just need to buy the right bit of gear and push some buttons. Simple, innit?

Jyoti Mishra.This war will run and run, and it will always be part of Sound On Sound's letter pages and forum. It was fought before synthesizers ever existed, and it will be fought after they become classical instruments. While this may seem like a bold statement, thanks to my recent experiments in twistor field theory, I can now prove my assertion. So if you'd like to stand back a bit, I'll dial in the hypertesseract coordinates...

An Epistle to Paul White, Esq., Editor of the Mayfair Musical Memorandum, 1777

Dear Sir, I wish to complain in the strongest possible terms about a recent performance of 'contemporary' music by a certain Johann Christian Bach, and the subsequent coverage given by your august organ. We must not let this devilish invention by Cristofori, this so-called 'pianoforte', to be held up alongside proper Christian instruments such as the harpsichord and contrabassoon.

Will any works performed on the 'pianoforte' ever be absorbed into the shining canon of true music? Never, I say! This contraption of Satan obviously requires no talent to play whatsoever! Any person may issue noise from it!

SOS Letters 1923

And the latest reefer-madness to obsess our youth: JASS! It is a proven medical fact that exposure to 'jass' destroys the nervous system and leads to an increase in masturbation. The very term 'jass' is a slang that may not be explained in mixed company.

This is not music! These 'musicians' don't even know the works of the great composers, and some can't even read music! Where is the solid core of true musicianship, built on the classical foundations of masters such as Bach and Beethoven? Will anyone care about Louis Armstrong or Jelly Roll Morton in the future? Unlikely in the extreme!

What is more, it's rumoured that these 'jass musicians' improvise — they aren't even playing the same piece of music twice! That is not music! Anyone can do that!

SOS Letters 1959

What the hell is this Rock & Roll? This isn't music! These so-called musicians can't even play the trumpet! They just plug in their damned electric guitars and hit them — that isn't music! Nobody will give a damn about these prancing monkeys like Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly in the future! Why don't you cover real music like swing and jazz, and real musicians like Sinatra and Benny Goodman? A real musician needs no amplifier — music isn't just jungle drums and on-heat yodelling! Anyone can do that!

SOS Letters 1983

Why are you stuffing the magazine with people who can't even play? Nobody will care who the Human League, Depeche Mode or Soft Cell are 20 years from now! Whereas Fred Weatherby and the Sock Drawer have been gigging in Nether Heage for the last 20 years, to crowds of 10 and more people!

How can you ignore real music in favour of these fly-by-night knob-twiddlers?! Who will care about Minimoogs in 20 years' time? No one! Why don't you concentrate on real instruments like washboards and ukeleles? Why don't you cover Rock & Roll?

Electronic music? That's not music! Anyone can do that!

SOS Interstellar, 4256

Ka'plagh! I'm mind-thralling to complain about the excess of sheets about the Unwin 4000. That's no real instro! SOS has gone downway since cephalopods replaced all the old honks... I miss them humans. I thought SOS was meant to be about musetech: plugs, slimysynths and frondglands, not about telepathic recombooberators? Where's the talent there, ey, squidbwoy?

You don't even have to noogle any buttons on your samploid or groovetrunk, you just think it and it comes out! That's not real music! Look back at real classical music, gurty blings like Gareth Gates and the Teletubbies. Those honks actually had physical bodies that interacted with matter, not like these new-fangled Avatar Idols!

About The Author

Jyoti Mishra has been DIY recording since 1983. His main interests are independent music and arguing on net forums.