Music is Wallpaper

The always articulate and insightful fourstones has an interesting blog entry to kick off 2009, entitled: Music Doesn’t Matter, where he describes some of the fundamental generational shift from the boomer generation to generation Y in their relationship to music and musicians. It’s a good read and I fundamentally agree with what he’s saying and maybe put my little “spin” on it.

Music is more omnipresent today. Maybe the Walkman, and later the iPod are to blame. Or maybe that the boomers fundamentally got their way and their revolution became the new standard. Maybe it’s that Rock’n Roll died after all. But the “why” probably doesn’t matter that much. What matters is – as fourstones points out – music is something totally different to the post 80s set than it was to the boomers.

Maybe these days music is just wall paper. Sure, you have some interest in whether it’s dark or light – or if it’s floral or striped or plain. But it’s not like a painting or a piece of sculpture. Music has become background which underlines, supports and contrasts other stuff. I find amongst Gen Y even if they are quite avid and excellent music makers themselves, favorite bands are changed much more frequently, while for the boomer generation a favorite musician or band ended up becoming enshrined in sort of a personal “hall of fame” with often a life long emotional attachment.

Also, I don’t find music is really significant as cornerstone of a generational rebellion anymore. It still may provide some sort of a soundtrack (video games, advertising, movies, videos), but it’s not even close to the core. Arguably things like bodily modifications from piercings to tattoo’s represent more of a kind of rebellion. Or the fact that today’s younger set seems to be multi-tasking all the time. Having a conversation while listening to an mp3 player and texting all at the same time. Boomers think they aren’t paying attention, but they are – to several things simultaneously.

If indeed music has become wallpaper, it has significant implications in many dimensions: there are business model implications, but also artistic one’s. It’s different to design a good background compared to designing a good piece of art.

It’s kind of strange coming to this conclusion, because as a music maker myself, I still think of my music as paintings rather than wallpaper. And I think there’s someone that needs chasing off my lawn. Oh – it’s just a Raccoon. I call him “Rocky”…

2 Replies to “Music is Wallpaper”

  1. this is good, you’re a really good writer and you make some great observations that had my head nodding several times. I refined my post in the comments section but you nailed it.

  2. I agree that it’s different to create a music which is the backdrop to daily life rather than the water-cooler obsession of daily life.

    I believe that this new way of music–an “ambient” music–is a worthy thing to create.

    “Wallpaper” may be a bit value-laden.
    “Soundtrack” is closer, but a bit grandiose.
    “Ambient” has the double meaning.

    The old term “furniture music” may be closer to it.

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