On Jazz Snobbery: Letting Go of Rock Star Status

“You rock.”

“She’s a rock star in our industry.”

Rock schmock.

I have an appreciation for rock music. I grew up with it. I bought my first Beatles LP when I was five. Went to see Jethro Tull at the L.A. Forum when I was 11. Played rock music in bands throughout junior high, senior high, and college. I lived rock music for a while.

But here’s the thing: rock musicians are pretty crappy musicians. Rock music is on par with nursery songs. There’s very little difference between most rock songs and, say, Baa Baa Black Sheep. Rock songs are just choppier, heavier, with some distortion thrown in. And sometimes less farm animal imagery.

My wife tells me I’ve become a jazz snob. And she may be right. I do love jazz. However, I still appreciate pop and rock music too. It just doesn’t signal the epitome of musical prowess for me. Even jazz is pretty tame, compared to some classical compositions. But at least jazz isn’t bound to pentatonic scales, based on four or five chords.

Okay: I am a jazz snob.

Maybe that’s why I cringe when someone says that so-and-so is a rock star or that what’s-her-face rocks. You mean they barely know their craft? Or do you mean they look the part, even if they are crappy at their profession? Rock stars preen, dress to look rock-ish, and try to make playing an open G chord look difficult or vicious or painful.

A jazz musician doesn’t need to prance around the stage or look the part. A jazz musician communicates with his music. She lets her instrument speak for itself. You don’t need to see a video of Mimi Fox speeding down the road with a boa constrictor in the passenger seat to appreciate her guitar chops.

No writer should have rock star status, unless said status is used as an indictment on the writer’s inability to communicate well.

So, what do you call someone great in their field? How about a great composer? Or a real good Them What Writes. Anything but rock star.

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About scotmarvin

Scot is a writer for Oracle. He's a slacker and smartass involved in content strategy, content architecture, big data, cloud computing, and other buzzwords related to technical stuff. He loves his family, history books, jazz guitar, and the Minnesota Vikings. Scot is a proud father, so don't make the mistake of asking about his family unless you have four hours to listen to him ramble on about his kids.
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6 Responses to On Jazz Snobbery: Letting Go of Rock Star Status

  1. David Cramer says:

    All attempts to indicate that someone is exceptionally competent at a role (rock star, guru, ninja, jedi, whatever) inevitably end up sounding trite and stupid. People who use hyperbole should be shot.

  2. scotmarvin says:

    I’m going to start printing up the t-shirts: “People who use hyperbole should be shot.”

  3. ScottB says:

    You’re just not listening to the *right* rock music.

  4. scotmarvin says:

    Either that, or I’m not listening to the LPs, right?

  5. astroscoper says:

    Interesting point! Could this be because any attempt to use more appropriate description–virtuoso, maestro, artist, genius–ends up sounding… uh, snobby? I propose: ace.

    I must say, I also love “People who use hyperbole should be shot.”

  6. scotmarvin says:

    Good gravy, I suck as a moderator. Sorry, astroscoper. I just saw (and approved) your comment. I like your distinctions and your proposal.

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