The Big Hurt: Reconstructive criticism

How music can be better
By DAVID THORPE  |  August 19, 2008


The job of any great music critic (e.g., me) is to provide useful suggestions to musicians, thus advancing the art. Critics have always been the guiding force behind music; calling us “muses” might be going a little far, but I think everyone would agree that we’re a million times more important than musicians.

Here’s an illustration of how it works. Imagine it’s 1915 or so, and a critic is at some classical-music waltz concert or something. He hears an okay song, but he has the distinct sense that it could be better, so he writes a review saying that they should add more trumpets and shit and maybe start calling it “jazz” instead of “classical,” because that sounds more hip and modern. Upon reading this review, some musician (whose name is lost to history) decides to take the critic’s advice and invents jazz.

These major upheavals have occurred three times throughout the history of music: from classical to jazz, from jazz to rock, and from rock to rap. What with all the flagging record sales and overall music boringness lately, I propose that it’s time for another one, and I now proudly take my place in history as the critic who instigates it. Musicians, please consider these suggestions for making music better:

How about some new instruments? We’ve been stuck with the same basic crap for centuries: guitars, pianos, harps, etc. Maybe a combination of two instruments would be good, like a pianjo, or a guitar you can blow into to make extra bonus notes. Also, it should be like a video game, where if you play a bunch of notes really fast, you unlock some sort of high-score “achievement” and the blowtar company sends you a special pin you can wear.

Or, we could invent a completely new and better type of instrument. I’m not exactly sure what it should sound like (that’s for the musicians to figure out), but you should be able to play it with one hand so you can wave at the audience while you play, or simulate sex acts. Virtuoso types could even impress everyone by playing two at once. An important aspect of this instrument is that it should be relatively simple but extremely difficult to play, so the operator can make wild, sexual grimaces of effort while performing. Maybe the instrument would just be a sort of lever, and you’d have to pull it really hard to make a sound.

I’m also thinking there should be a sort of whistle that makes people have orgasms, and the singer could blow it at the end of the song to create a memorable experience for the audience. During live concerts, it should work only on girls, so the singer doesn’t seem too gay, but the album version would work on everyone — who cares, nobody’s watching. But maybe we should limit its use, so artists don’t pander to the lowest common denominator by building whole songs around the orgasm whistle.

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