Monday, March 9, 2009

Can Music Stupefy, Can Commercialization Kill Culture

Recently a friend forwarded me a news-story from the Wall Street journal about music and books that “make you dumb”. In this story a Caltech graduate by the name of Virgil Griffith managed to make a statistical comparison, through the use of Facebook, of the average SAT scores of given universities and the musical preference prevalent at such institutions. In his findings he found that students on the higher end of the SAT range listened to music like Beethoven and Counting Crows, above 1200. Where as, music like Ludacris and Jay-Z scored on the lower range, below 1000.


In seeing this statistic it got me wondering what the actual causation of these results could be. After all, the numbers mean nothing without knowing why the numbers exist in such a way.

My first conclusion of these results would be that there were several demographical reasons attributed from say the late 90’s to the early 2000’s. Statistically, African Americans and Other minorities score lower on SAT than their Caucasian and Asian counterparts. (via Department of education) In 2005, African Americans scored an average of 865, Hispanic Americans scored an average of 932, Caucasian Americans scored an average of 1052, Asian Americans scored 1091, and the overall average of all students was 1028 out of a maximum score of 1600. It is easy to believe that African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and other minorities tend to listen to more ethnic music like Hip-Hop, and from that you could correlate that the lower scores of music preference is linked to the consistent lower scoring of those ethnic groups which have a high frequency of listening to more ethnic music.

One thing that bugged me about that thought process was the fact brought up by an article from the Boston Globe in 2003. The article called “Hip-Hop Setting the Beat in First, Black Artists Hold Billboard’s Top 10” where; if their facts are correct, stated that approximately 70% of Caucasian youth buy Hip-Hop albums. Also it should be considered that approximately 31% of college students enrolled in 2005 was minority students as well.

So the correlations between race based SAT scores, race based music preferences, and the correlation between those two and SAT scores and music preferences are somewhat distorted.

Instead, I think it is the inner mechanisms, that enable students to enhance SAT scores to get into universities, that makes them “smarter” are the same mechanisms that persuade them towards music artists like Beethoven or Counting Crows. I have found that the same upper middle class to upper class that provide their youth with the tools necessary to excel in the SAT and go to “smarter” universities are the same class of people who throughout time have possessed the musical preference for music types like Beethoven. This class generally is composed of the majority populous of America, Caucasian, and although they buy 70% of Hip-Hop, they also buy into an even larger percent of Beethoven’s and Counting Crow’s type music. So fortunately I see the statistically correlation of music and intelligence for the most part void of any racial implications.

That satisfied me to that point, but led me to a second conclusion, which sides more on culture then of statistics. Intelligence is a part of evolution whether it is biological evolution, intellectual evolution, or spiritual evolution. Evolution is a survival mechanism which allows for corporeal beings to live longer and stronger with each generation. Those who cease to evolve, die off out of existence. Applying this to culture, culture that ceases to evolve and grow will also fade away in the wake of cultures that continue to grow.

Bringing me to my final and most irritating issue, POP RAP MUSIC, its is painful to see where Hip-Hop has come to presently. When people say Hip-Hop is dead the reason why I believe them is that when a cultural artifact like music, is taken and commercialized to the extreme, culture dies.

Hip-hop started in a cipher, a circle of minds exchanging ideas via lyrics, growing day-by-day intellectually. I understand that talent that can make money should be used to make a good living, especially for those in poverty, from which many Hip-Hop artists descend. The line is drawn when the priority for making money out weighs the priority of making a cultural impact through good music. Taking the profit driven course kills Hip-Hop as a culture, it dumbs it down with mind-numbing beats and a dreary concept of the world.

Music for years has helped explain the world and the human condition and there is no reason that for four to five years songs from one genre of music should sound exactly the same. It kills the culture, but also deep down inside kills the soul of the accultured and the encultured recipients as well.

People have a right to grow and evolve throughout their life times, and when you corner such a large culture as Hip-Hop and you devolve it for profit sake, you steal away peoples right to grow and evolve as cultural beings, as human beings. Maybe it might be taking it a little too far, but think about those upper middle class and upper class students who were groomed in households with cultured music it is not unreasonable that they are given the privilege to have minds groomed for future success. On the other-side, look at the lower class students who listen to music that denies them the insight of growing culture, growing minds, the privilege of future success, and only provides them dead music / dead culture. Music that ceases to evolve is dead. Hip-Hop in its truest form is about evolving and not about the next dance to do in a club.

fast forward to time: 1:15 thats what a true Cypher and true Hip-Hop is like