This is going to be ugly. I’m in a bad mood, and I have a bunch of judgments built up about my roommate. I know venting them here will be back-sliding in terms of getting over being so judgmental, and by extension, fearing the judgement of others, but I can really only be as good as I am on my worst days. Well, here it is, my worst day in quite a while.
The thing my roommate seems most driven by is his absolute obsession with his own image. It could be said that my own obsession with not thinking about image leads us to act in similar ways, but let me first explain what an insufferable poseur this guy is before we make any unfair comparisons. Literally everything about this guy sucks, but I think the thing that best represents why I am so bothered by this guy is his attitude about music.
Let me preface this by saying that I know some incredibly pretentious people when it comes to music. I went to a conservatory, where if you weren’t a dick about music, it’s probably because you were in the wrong program (or, you know, were actually good). My roommate smokes them all in the pretension department, which is a feat, given that he knows next to nothing about music. Hearing him talk about music with such an unearned air of superiority reminds me of Louis CK’s three-year-old daughter insisting that they’re called “pig newtons.”
I didn’t even have a handle on just how insufferable he was until this past week, when I heard him speak derisively of “mainstream music.” Now, I think the contempt is implied anytime anyone uses a bullshit phrase like “mainstream music,” but you have to imagine an extra sneering contempt laid on top of that. Two of the most common complaints lodged against pop music is that it’s predictable, leading everything to sound the same, and that pop music tends to be over-produced. What does my roommate prefer? House music. House music. The most repetitive, predictable, samey-sounding schlock that is essentially 100% production. The only difference between the two genres, really, is that one is more popular. My roommate picks up the other one, dubs it “underground,” and fancies himself really edgy for liking it.
It doesn’t stop there, though. He’s quick to point out that the house music (house music) he likes isn’t the stuff you’ve likely heard — he prefers European imports. Seriously. The thought of someone preferring the European version of something is such a classic poseurism that I can’t help but laugh. Actually, I find it hard to believe people could say something like that and not be kidding (or I would, if I didn’t know my roommate). It’s been mocked so many times, in fact, that I had a hard time picking out a single example, but this old Mr. Show sketch wins for getting some specific music pretension in there.
If you pump him for more specifics, he says he likes “dark” house music (house music), which he then clarifies to mean “minor.” Really, though, the thing that he’s looking for most in music is whether or not he can use it in his amateur DJ sets. I’ve pretended to act interested when he talks about DJing, but he’s made it clear that the only skill involved is beat matching, the skill all of us were honing when we first learned pat-a-cake. Beat matching is something scientists have demonstrated both monkeys and birds to be capable of, so as a skill, it’s up there with cracking open nuts and shitting in public. My roommate has even acknowledged that there are computer programs that handle beat matching as well, if not better than he does…so why does he do it?
It’s certainly not to interact with audiences. He talks with absolute contempt about people who request songs, as if he wasn’t hired specifically to play music that people want to dance to. He’s an artist (with the skill of a parrot) — he can’t be bothered with what people want. That’s a pretty shitty attitude even if people had actually come to see you, specifically, but is downright unacceptable when you’re just there to please the masses. I’m sure that attitude has and will cost him some jobs, but since he’s only doing this for fun, that won’t actually deter him from acting like a dick.
Honestly, if he wanted to stroke his own ego without concern for the interests of others, dance music, as one of the few places in society where music has an objective function, was perhaps the worst choice for doing so. Music has long suffered from a pure form vs. pure function dichotomy, and while it’s best to acknowledge that there are whole worlds of grey in between, one of the most venerable methods for legitimizing a style of music is to move it out of the dance-hall. That tradition extends at least as far back as baroque dance forms, but may be more familiar to us as the routes Jazz and Rock music took in order to become the “legitimate,” scholarly subjects they are today. The same could be said of the maturation of country music or hip-hop. Part of what makes these genres exciting is that they often walk the line (ha!) of form and function, usually because their dance-hall roots are more apparent to us than, say, a gigue.
Dance music kind of subverts this idea by never having really traipsed across the form-function divide. It operates in all kinds of grey areas in terms of artistry, but it always has had the function of being danceable (okay, my definitions my be confounding things a bit — if it wasn’t danceable, it would cease to be dance music — but do a quick search of scholarly articles about disco, and you’ll understand what I mean). This isn’t to say that dance music isn’t capable of supporting artistic vision, just that its functionality is a big part of the equation. Nobody should be surprised, and certainly nobody should be a dick, when someone asks that a DJ play a song that they want to dance to. That’s the fucking point.
Anyway, he came home last night and started blasting this shit after my girlfriend and I were already in bed. Did I mention that he kind of sucks in general? Don’t worry, I’ll talk about this with him later today, but I really needed to vent so I’m not blind with rage when that happens.