Who Shapes Our Culture’s Tastes?


It was a sad experience when I decided to use the gift I have inside to create and offer music to the world and to turn it into an occupation (albeit a pleasant one). I learned the lay of the land pretty quickly, although I decided to reside in it for years … the problem was a simple one. If a musician/band did not play recognizable songs, the listeners weren’t happy; an unhappy group of listeners didn’t drink; if they didn’t drink, the bar owners didn’t make any money.

And so, like wise musicians Herbie Hancock and George Benson, just to name two, I separated my more personal music from the music I played for a living … as one musician once said, “I’m a businessman. I just carry a guitar case rather than a briefcase.”

NOTE: this is not much different than the evolution of “classical music” during its heyday.  A composer was usually in the orbit of the King of the country in which he resided, and composed for the pleasure of the King and his court when presenting his inspirations. Regardless of what pleased a composer aesthetically, the composer would divine what sounds most pleased, and what sounds most offended, the monarchy. In this manner, the “great classical works” that endure still today were composed and performed often at the whim of a ruler.

Does this seem familiar? Literal royalty or today’s music moguls … who shapes our culture’s tastes?

After all, a musical gesture called “the Napoleonic 6th” still endures; it’s the basis of John Coltrane’s blues piece, “Equinox”. I hope the musical gestures of Justin Bieber won’t endure anywhere near as long.