ITHINK: The Canon of 21st Century Music

Manila Bulletin, September 28, 2010 | Go to article overview

ITHINK: The Canon of 21st Century Music


MANILA, Philippines - I'm the kind of person who's painfully meticulous about maintaining my iTunes Music Library. I set aside some time every month to see whether my tracks are in order, making sure that they contain the correct information on everything from track title to the date of release. I'm very particular about albums: I can have as many as three copies of the same track, but coming from different recordings. I'm also very particular about whether a track is an original, a remix, a cover, or a radio edit. Simply speaking, I can get pretty anal about my music.

But if there's anything I'm particular about, it's genre. I consider myself a bit of a pretentious genre snob: I despise teen pop acts like Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, and I scorn bands who sell out and become commercially 'indie' such as Paramore and Panic at the Disco, which used to have an excellent sound before they removed the tacky exclamation point. On the other hand, like any self-proclaimed music geek, I listen to indietronica, jazz fusion, and post rock. Lately I've been getting a kick out of The New Pornographers and Sonic Youth, two amazingly late rediscoveries, and bands like Sequence Pulse and

The Mars Volta, which lean heavily towards the progressive and experimental.But subjectivities aside, and genres are probably the most arbitrary things yet (I mean really, what separates power pop from pop punk? And when is anything ever really 'alternative'?), good music is good music, and that's my way of explaining how I can like Rey Valera without liking Sharon Cuneta, or enjoy Alison Krauss even if I hate all things bluegrass. It explains how I can enjoy Boyz II Men alongside 2pac, Daft Punk and Take That, at least as far as songs with vocal parts are concerned.

This is why I propose that there must be a Canon of 20th-21st century music, much like there is a canon of World, Western, or even Philippine literature. The works and performers included in the canon must necessarily transcend generations and standards, both sublimely original and yet all-encompassing when it comes to their influence, as if every succeeding generation of singer-songwriters have simply been singing or writing them, in the same way that Shakespeare wrote - even invented - all of us, and all we could ever read or write in English. …

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