Bad Music

When the list takes on a life of its own.

There is no such thing as bad music.


Let that sentence trigger a response.

Make a list of all of the bad music you can think of. Think about the list itself. Give it a physical form. Start writing it down. Watch it get longer and think about how happy it makes you to fill the list. Yes, keep adding names and fill your lungs. Cut and paste it. Mash it into a papier-mâché talisman.

I’m sure there’s a learned article about this somewhere: what happens when you hit a saturation point with music, and especially pop music, when the shit you can’t stand starts to take on its own personality? Like looking at the same word occur too many times, except with songs.

There was a moment when I couldn’t hear new music anymore. I don’t mean that I wasn’t listening to the radio anymore or whatever. I mean I was experiencing existential tinnitus. Everything sounded the same. To break out, I tried going back in time to eras that resonated with me, until those playlists turned to a dead channel, too.

Until the feedback becomes the thing you listen for, and then you become someone who sits in a park and listens only to the wind at the top of the tree canopy. I am sometimes that person, but would really need to embrace myself to stay there.

I liken “bad music” to the fashion industry touting “ugly shoes.” We all love ugly shoes, therefore there is no such thing as ugly shoes. Just shoes that serve us, that happen to be, well…ugly. So I also love bad music. It signals a self-awareness of the anthropocene.

Several weeks ago, I had the extraordinarily strange privilege of playing music with the Philadelphia Orchestra (albeit for like, three minutes). The Orchestra: a state of the art group of professionally trained classical musicians. In my building to make site-specific videos.

A piccolo player led the rehearsal of a 24 measure musical phrase of music by a local composer. I tapped my hands on a conga drum and just thought:

Jeez. I’m playing with professional musicians.

After the shoot, one of the grizzly young camera operators went around fixing lighting issues, and came up to the (attractive female) piccolo player to say, “that is the smallest flute I’ve ever seen!” She patiently explained it was a piccolo, to which he burst out with a guffaw:

Oh I’m just joshing you. I know that’s a piccolo.

Dude. Just look her up on bumble like a normal person for fu*k’s sake…is what I thought. I don’t know how he thought that interaction was supposed to go but it was really bad.

I’m just joshing ya!

I sorta feel bad for The Orchestra. They exist in such a forced environment. Everything has to be a way. Everything has to be excellent. Everything has to be notated (or at least it had to be in our project). Everything has to be expired before it exists. Classical music is a genetically engineered plant. It has to be developed alongside the herbicide which protects it. Which means even the new stuff sounds dead. They’re the verdigris of sound. But like verdigris, there’s an awareness of its left spirit. But like verdigris, it’s used to appraise a crown for having held the head of a monarch, while expositing on the ethical ambiguity of inherited power.

As long as it is played, music has inherent value. I decided I don’t want to elaborate on why. Just assume it is true. Maybe bad music is just the shit that isn’t played but manufactured. (Inside the Hit Machine etc). Mmm but even AI-generated speculative music can be interesting. (Voyager, George Lewis)

I guess I’m just saying I want to either stop judging fans of U2 or surrender to the tinnitus of my judgement.

[Let’s keep adding to our lists of bad music.]