The belief or doctrine that inherent differences in musical genre and style determine cultural or individual worth (coolness), usually involving the idea that one’s personal genre preference is superior.
I just made up the above term and definition, but I think it really exists. To be clear, it has nothing to do with race. I’m not talking about the fact that female country singers are mostly white-skinned, or that gospel drummers are mostly black-skinned, or that sitar players (that are actually any good) are mostly Indian. “Genre-ism” has to do with how music fans feel about genres/styles other than their personal favorite.
Genre-ism, like Racism, thrives on ignorance and unfamiliarity. A Genre-ist will say things like, “Pop music sucks… I only listen to metal.” “I like anything but rap” is another mark of a Genre-ist. Music that falls under the blanket term “Country” has undergone years and years of Genre-ism from fans of music described with the blanket term “Rock.” A particularly snooty form of Genre-ism would be Jazz/Classical musicians looking with disdain upon the idea of performing any other kind of music besides Jazz/Classical.
So that’s my new word “Genre-ism,” and that’s what I think it is… and I’m bringing it up because I think it’s an absolute no no for anyone who wants to be a good musician. Well, my experience suggests this at least. Genre-ism is probably a negative thing in any instance, but I’m singling out musicians because we are the ones who carry the torch and advance the art form. Analogy: Racism is a bad deal no matter where you find it, but you DEFINITELY don’t want lawmakers and government to be racist.
And I should clarify – I don’t mean to suggest that musicians should like all genres equally. Of course we all have our preferences. My background and culture leave me leaning toward jazz, avant-garde, and arsty-indie rock… and that’s not a problem. A musician who overcomes the Genre-ist tendency is simply acknowledging that any/every genre of music can have something cool to offer. Although I prefer Radiohead, I really dig Keith Urban. Although I am VERY inspired by the Branford Marsalis’ music, I am also inspired by The Roots, Rush, and those ripping players from Nickel Creek.
Back to the point – Genre-ism is something musicians should avoid at all costs. I say this because I’m pretty sure there’s no faster way to pigeon-hole yourself into regurgitating the same music that everyone else makes than listening to only one style and surrounding yourself by other people who only listen to that style. This is true for all the great musicians in history. Imagine what the second half of Miles Davis’ career would have been like if he hadn’t started listening to James Brown and Hendrix. Imagine the Beatles without their Ravi Shankar phase. Imagine The Police without Summers’ classical background mixed with Sting’s punk and Copeland’s reggae.
The theory is this: creativity flourishes with exposure to multiple ideas. Art is the fuel for art, almost like the “you are what you eat” principle. I’ve personally been fortunate to play music with a lot of different people who have tons of different tastes in what they listen to, and I’ve learned a lot. The times that musicians I respect have shown me cool qualities in music that I had previously thought to be lame… those times have been MAJORLY influential in my development as a player. (That, by the way, is why I started the AEDSK. I’m sharing the albums that have really influenced me in hopes of maybe turning other drummers who read this blog toward music that they haven’t considered in the past.)
Another clarification is important at this point. I certainly understand that not all music is good music. There are crappy bands all over the place. What I’m saying is that there is no such thing as a GENRE of music that, as a whole, is always crappy. You might have to dig a little bit, but you will find something cool in any style of music that can be imagined.
SUMMARY: Genre-ism is the notion that your personal preference should be the determining factor on whether a given style is cool or not. Genre-ism is a bad thing for musicians, because it suffocates creativity. Genre-ism is overcome when one realizes that all genres offer cool music (more on that in The Subconscious List post).