Sunday, November 6, 2011

On the Subject of Evolution

With the seemingly endless debate over evolution of species, it is not surprising that a similar debate permeates the music world. The fundamental problem with this debate is that it threatens each side’s belief systems. In the case of evolution of species it is thought to undermine the existence of a single powerful architect of the universe whereas evolution’s model is more akin to a line of dominos that keep splitting into more complicated designs. The dominos start somewhere but every subsequent domino falling is a result of the initial one, that is to say every creature is descendant of the creature that came before it.

When it comes to music, the same complications exist. What music came first? Where did it come from? For many in the classical and jazz world, pop music is threatening. It doesn’t observe many conventions of pure jazz and classical forms. If it isn’t readily recognized by musicians in classical or jazz then what is it and where are its origins?

To find possible leads to these questions, I made a map using the slightly modified concept of Rhizomes from A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guatarri. The map map finaldoesn’t imply that connections are parents or children of one another. It instead represents influence. I started at the end of the map with Justin Bieber and found some illuminating connections. Even if you aren’t a fan of his music, the line connecting his influences speaks for itself.

Probably the only time classical or jazz has to feel threatened is when their scenes reject new music and young musicians. While it is agreed by most that Justin Bieber is certainly not jazz, the roots are strong and deep with the musicians he found influential and inspirational. By proxy, today’s pop music can be connected back to early jazz with relative ease. Musicians can either accept it or reject it but the truth is they partially responsible for the synthesis and proliferation of pop music.

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