{ IN MEDIA RES }

Rock music as a model for life

Posted in Original, Thoughts, Writing by netscheri on April 6, 2008

It’s unintentional, but I always seem to vanish for prolonged periods of time after telling everyone that I won’t be vanishing for a prolonged period of time again. I’ll make it different this time. I’m here to tell everyone that I will be vanishing for a prolonged period of time. And I have an exact date as well – two weeks, from now until the 18th of April.

Today, though – in another change to the usual – I have something else to offer, rather than little comments and apologies. I wrote this column-article a few weeks ago, and I thought that the regular and accidental readers of this blog might be interested in it. It’s not as good or as well written as it could be, but all the main ideas are there. So, enjoy, and thank you for the few minutes of your time that you have spared in looking at this humble blog.

———

There’s a band that I like. I like them a lot. I think their music is timeless and transcendent while their lyrics are poetic and insightful. The members are passionate, dedicated, enigmatic and at the same time, technically brilliant. So when a friend of mine told me that in addition to thinking that the lead singer should stop dancing – now – she thought all their songs sounded the same, I quickly leapt to their defense. Having to cede the first point as the lead singer’s dancing was truly terrible and really should be stopped now, I was determined to convince her otherwise on the second point. Yes, some of their songs did sound similar. However, I felt that it was mainly due to an emphasis on a particular style and sound for their songs rather than a lack of originality.

 My friend didn’t look very convinced, and so as I made my way home, I thought upon other ways to show her the light, so to speak. While I was walking, a t-shirt that someone was wearing caught my eye. ‘MADE IN THE 90s’ it said. The reason – aside from the too bold, too bright type – that I had noticed it was because I had seen that t-shirt on someone else a few days ago, and then a week earlier, in the actual shop where it was sold: stacks of this t-shirt and then next to it, ‘LOVE CHILD OF THE 80s’.

 With this talk of ‘Made in the 90s’ and so on comes the phrase ‘product of the generation’. We hear it often about individuals or groups – a recent example being the chorus of websites and magazines naming My Chemical Romance as the voice of the current teenage generation. It has perhaps become an easy catch phrase, rattled off by media, slotted into our vocabulary – but what are the kinds of products that our generation has produced?

 The characteristics of a generation are often reflected in the media and pop culture of that time period. However, the situation today is dramatically different from the situation fifty or more years ago. Now it seems that sometimes, as we’re going through our day that we’re walking through a miniature Times Square. Television, radio, internet, magazines, advertisements, billboards, campaigns, often with many different groups each holding up a different model of what they consider to be worth striving for, a different set of values, or a different set of beliefs, yet all of these carry the same imperatives, crying out for people to listen, to adhere. At times, it all seems a bit too much, and not altogether welcome. Unconsciously, our first instinct is fight or flight – we try to block it all out, or take it all in at once, but we soon learn how to absorb it selectively. Even so, it still seems incredibly easy to get lost in this great mass of bold words and bright pictures.  

 Finding a place in the world difficult enough. We are faced with the questions of how to be the ‘same’ and fit in yet different, how far do we conform? Indeed, it is very similar to the challenge faced by a band, of standing out from the crowd, of being individual and innovative, as well as the challenge of musical integrity vs. sales. The bombardment of the media as made possible by the many different mediums nowadays, however, makes it a whole different ball game. It comes back to the point of selectively absorbing. It is the natural reaction to this information overload – but the issue is, what do we selectively absorb, what do we emulate, what is right? For a large number, the response is to listen to the loudest voice amongst the cacophony. And then, for others, the response is just bewilderment as they are stuck at the question of who to listen to, who to emulate. Perhaps they end up listening to the loudest voice. Perhaps they try to listen to all at once. Or perhaps they just don’t listen at all.

 This is not to say that internet, TV and so on have made us robot clones, or that we’ve been bashed about so much by the media that we’ve become either Personality A, B or C. But there seems to be an increasing amount of blankness and sameness: the sameness of the children and teenagers are growing up listening to those voices that are the loudest – the same voices, the same influences, the same results or the blankness of those who have either been overwhelmed, or have, as many do, shut themselves away in their own niche of modern music, internet, cell phones and so on. Furthermore, this idea of the mass in ‘mass media’ also seems to have manifested in other areas as well – mass consumerism, mass production…mass products of our generation.

 It will be yet a while before we can see what ‘MADE IN THE 90s’ truly means. But for those of us who are still setting out, there is perhaps a lesson that can be taken from my favourite band. They have taken from their influences, but they have also developed their own style, and have been innovative both within and out of that style. This is what we, as individuals in this age, need to do as well. To absorb our influences, but not be controlled by them. Like a band developing their own style, we should find things within the media that we would like to emulate, but innovate and not be restricted by a need to conform exactly to what is presented to us by the media. We should aim to be part of this 20th century crowd, but as distinct individuals. We should draw from this wealth of information that we are presented with, but not be overwhelmed or smothered by it. A balance.

 

For those curious, the repeatedly aforementioned band is L’Arc~en~Ciel, who I’ve been truly, madly, deeply in love with since Dec. 17th.

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