September 4, 2009

Musically Open Minded

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I was not thrilled last semester when I heard that The Pussycat Dolls would be performing on Slope Day. I have no desire, however, to resurrect the long and painful battle that ensued prior to the performance between the Doll lovers and haters. I simply want to use this scuffle as a basis to lay out my intentions. Or, more precisely, to explain what my intentions are not.
I do not intend to convert you from a student who cried with joy when learning that the Pussycat Dolls were going to perform on Slope Day, to a student who cried from pain and reminisced about the days when Cornellians jammed to the tunes of the Grateful Dead (during the four years my dad was at Cornell, they played a total of TWO TIMES). Yes, I would have preferred a myriad of other bands. But preferring one band over another doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remain open to all different genres of music. Every type of music (and every type of book, and every type of movie) has something to offer. Okay, maybe not every type. I don’t want to dig myself into a hole here. But most types.
Look, maybe the Grateful Dead don’t say “Let’s get smashed” like The Pussycat Dolls do — so really, who would make a better performer for Slope Day? The Pussycat Dolls also wear significantly less clothing than the Grateful Dead did — an obvious bonus for half the population. Music is music. It can make you dance, cry, relax, zone out — there’s a different type of music for every mood. If some types are not for you, it does not mean they have nothing to offer.
Of course, you have the right to prefer a particular type. I definitely prefer indie or rap, for instance. My point is, though, that it is okay to prefer indie over rap, as long as you don’t decide arbitrarily that rap is bad.
So how can we begin practicing this “openness” that I speak of? I would recommend exploring music genres you’ve never considered, or even giving the music genre you’ve always shunned a second chance. You may be surprised and discover that it actually has something to offer, or you may realize that there is a smaller genre within the genre that you admire. I was recently fortunate, for instance, to come across Wyclef Jean. Although he may not be consistently categorized as a rap artist, he is definitely more “rap” like than any musician I listened to at the time of this discovery. My discovery of Wyclef led me to better appreciate other, more run-of-the-mill rap artists. Although I still most likely couldn’t tell Lil’ Wayne from Jay-Z, I can at least say that I have a better appreciation for the genre as a whole.
Another example: I wrote a scathing music review for the Sun a year or so ago of Coheed and Cambria’s album, No Word for Tomorrow. Of course, I had a right to express my views. However, a Coheed and Cambria lover later commented that the album was actually the continuation of an entire story that began on a previous album. I still am not Coheed and Cambria’s biggest fan. But I do think that telling a continuous story through so many tracks is an incredible feat, and I admire the group for that.
Another way to practice openness is to simply be aware of what’s going on around you. Last year, at Cornell, I went to a concert by renowned latin jazz artist, Eddie Palmieri. This concert did not convert me into a full-fledged Latin jazz fanatic, or anything close to it. However, if another Latin jazz artist were to come to Cornell, I would be the first one to buy a ticket. Why? Because the concert was enjoyable. It’s as simple as that. I’m not asking you to completely adopt a new music genre as your favorite, just to experience new things as often as you can.
So let’s all try to look at art the way that we look at food. We don’t judge people by their food preferences; so let’s try to judge people a little less frequently by their art preferences. This doesn’t mean you have to act as though you like The Pussycat Dolls, just that maybe you don’t have to completely shun those who do like them. I don’t reject friendship with a person who likes tomatoes just because I despise tomatoes (although I can’t say the same about tomato lovers — I am actually frequently judged, especially as a vegetarian, for disliking such a staple vegetable). I am not placing any blame, however. I will admit that I am definitely not open, at the moment, to giving tomatoes another chance, and that I have been known among some to judge a person if he or she does not like chocolate. Clearly, I have some issues to work through. I am certainly not proclaiming perfection at this “let’s not judge people” thing, or anything close to it.
I’m simply suggesting that we can make an attempt to treat all “art” equally, or at least approach it with an open mind. It’s not a change that can happen overnight, but more an idea that I think would benefit us to consider. There are definitely times when I would enjoy listening to The Dolls over The Grateful Dead. Those times may not be many, but they exist. If you don’t feel this way, I am sorry. I guess I just have a soft spot for “Jai Ho.”