Leftism in music

Discussing art and media trends and organisations generally

Leftism in music

Postby Gavin » 19 May 2012, 13:00

The issue of the leftism commonly found in actors has arisen on the forum before. Regular visitors will know that I like to post pieces of music from time to time in the off topic section. I often find myself in something of a dilemma when doing this, and I thought I would raise the reason why here.

Unfortunately, and for no good reason, music is infested with naive, liberal leftism throughout. As in the rest of the media, what is not left wing is is immediately equated with "bad" and "evil", without any thought at all. (I spent a little time locating this excellent article by Ed West which discusses this ignorant and intolerant attitude.)

Music is, I believe, a language of the emotions, and argued this citing Peter Kivy in my aesthetics course at university. It can bring solace, it can bring joy - not only classical music can do this, I think, but so can the best music of most genres. That's great.

But far too often this is accompanied by a lack of intellectual rigour or maturity in the lyrics and associated behaviour. I think this is a shame, and just so readers know, I distinguish clearly between emotional content and musical merit on the one hand, and ideological message on the the other. Sometimes the ideological message is so bad that I will not post the track, even if I like it (I suppose music by a band like Oasis falls into this bracket). They've struck themselves off, as it were. In other cases the message of the song is just the standard liberal left one, so I post the track and ignore the lyrical content.

The unfortunate thing is that the message of so much music, and good popular music, is so often left - I like the music, disagree with the naive message.

Time for an example - have a look at this:



I wouldn't even like to be in the crowd at events such as this - I've never much liked that at gigs - but of course I'm as moved as the next person by the energy, pace and euphoric style of the music. It is infested throughout, however, with a deeply naive leftism, and some of the comments are just embarrassingly stupid, such as:

"My philosophy in life [from what sounds like a 16 year old] is don't regret anything you do.. because in the end it makes you who you are."


Right...

What is motivating this post is my view that the Left should not be allowed a monopoly on great, uplifting music (I am not saying this track is the greatest ever written, but I'm sure you get my point). Most people starting out making music like this are young, and that that time they are inexperienced and unrealistic. They cannot grasp subtleties or economic realities. They literally have a lot to learn. But the melodies, the positivity, in such music should not be allowed only for the Left.

I make music, actually. I've always loved it, a wide variety, but now I'm older I don't listen to it as dependently as I once did. I still like it though and I have invested time and money over the years in developing ability with all of the software required to arrange and produce music. I'll be doing more of that in the future, I'll write upbeat songs and downbeat songs, depending on what I'm writing about, but they will not have this naive simplicity which we see in so much pop music. I guess we know how far they will get in the charts then ;)

Anyway, if anybody else would like to comment on the phenomenon of leftism in music, please do so here.
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Rachel » 19 May 2012, 21:45

Has music always been a leftie establishment?
It would be interesting to go into the history of it - if I knew enough about it.

I remember a Peter Hitchen's article pointing out that music in the 60's had more marriage ideals in it
"I'm Hers, She's mine
Wedding bells are gonna chime"
Doo wah diddy - Manfred Mann
or
"Chapel of Love" by The Dixie cups



If you want something with a different world view you have to look at old Gospel music. Like Belshazzar by Johnny Cash.


I discovered this song from an old Ed West link from this site :) It's my favourite Johnny Cash song now.

Some poster said that the lyrics reminded them of the EU and/or the Western Civilisation.

The current Ed West article you have posted is not specifically on music. It just points out domination of certain "correct" views in the education system, media, libraries and wider political culture. It only implicates music too.

The unfortunate thing is that the message of so much music, and good popular music, is so often left - I like the music, disagree with the naive message.



There's a kind of dimness in a lot of modern music lyrics generally. That song you posted is a prime example.


There is an article by John Derbyshire about Cole Porter here
http://www.johnderbyshire.com/Reviews/M ... orter.html
that I'm reminded of. Now it doesn't matter whther you like/hate or know who Cole Porter is, but one thing about him is that his lyrics of all his hits are of a sophisticated kind that you would never ever get today in popular song.
The nearest in modern sophisticated lyrics is Jarvis Cocker and even he is pretty basic in comparison.

John Derbyshire wrote:
The world those songs conjure up is the one encompassed by the word "sophistication," now a term with no referent. They are songs for adults who know all about love and sex, but who live in a society in which those things are hedged about closely with conventions, prohibitions, and understood necessary hypocrisies. For adults, too, who know something about literature, who have studied some actual poetry and actual history in their schooldays. Listen to the intro to "Just One of Those Things":

As Dorothy Parker once said
To her boyfriend: "fare thee well."
As Columbus announced
When he knew he was bounced:
"It was swell, Isabel, swell."
As Abelard said to Eloise:
"Don't forget to drop a line to me, please."
As Juliet cried in her Romeo's ear:
"Romeo, why not face the fact, my dear"…

How many Americans under fifty would get all those allusions?
...This kind of smoky, jazzy, grown-up sophistication seems a world away now. Our own popular culture is targeted mostly at illiterate teenagers;....

John Derbyshire then goes on about Noel Coward, who I am not so keen on.

I enjoy music with stupid wording sometimes. We can't be serious all the time. I am just pointing out the almost total disapearence of inteligent lyrics of that standard.
Does that have something to do with it leftism in music or is it something separate?
I suspect it's connected too...but I don't know how.
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Gavin » 19 May 2012, 22:20

That first track you posted is certainly an old classic, Rachel! You would not often hear mention of marriage now in the charts unless you were talking about the American country music charts, as I have mentioned before. (True enough, they may not live up to it, but a very conservative message is still there, fuelled by religion.)

I will have to try to keep on topic here, because this thread is not about the outright depravity of the music pumped out by today's conglomerates, but rather about its general leftism.

I agree that virtually all pop music lyrics are just not very profound, with many not even making any sense at all, but again I think this need not necessarily be the case. One of my favourite melody makers, Stephen Jones of Babybird, is quite obviously a Leftist, and he seems to take a pride in writing lyrics which will be almost unintelligible to anyone but, perhaps, himself. It always strikes me as a severely missed opportunity when they do this - but perhaps they just have nothing to say.

Actually I have heard musicians say this - they are capable of writing good melodies, constructing the music and so on, and then they say they just have to "find some words to fill it in". But for me the music, the harmonies, come from the message. Likewise I doubt that Gavin Thorpe (though he is probably as left wing as the next singer songwriter) had to "fill the songs in" with lyrics.
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Gavin » 19 May 2012, 22:23

Prior to seeing your reply, I had also written this follow up:

Thinking a little more about this, the whole thing is related to the mugged by reality thread. As I mentioned, youngsters are not acquainted with the complexities of life (or having to earn a living) and a simple sense of "Let's all be nice" is all they have. This can be good, but very often it is naive and damaging - to those around them, to those they profess to be helping, and to themselves. Their fully laissez-faire attitude can lead of course to drug overdoses, unwanted pregnancies and more. Their simplistic "smash the system" ideas are just that - simplistic.

In its most charitable interpretation, this liberalism is positive and optimistic (though I believe it should be judged more by its effects than by its motives). Here we get to see why it matches well with a euphoric kind of music.

Young people are also going through an emotional time when music can be a companion to them on their emotional travels.

There is also the idea of rebellion that the young have. I suppose I had it myself to some degree, but I was never attracted to thuggish behaviour and knew, ultimately, that conservatism was the path of sense. The young want to be countercultural, do what they shouldn't do, test limits. In the current Leftist establishment, then, perhaps one might expect to start to see more conservative countercultural movements among young people.

I still maintain, though, that there is not a necessary connection between liberal naiveté and popular music, and it would be nice to see more acts (i.e. one or two) who do not adhere to this so predictably. After all, some more lines from the youngsters in the video were just not very profound. For example, the lad with the lip ring who had tattooed himself all over and who said that music makes the world go round and is everything to him. Never mind the taxes people pay, then, engineering, the police, the medical profession. Music's great, I love it, but it is not the most important thing in society. It is, however, quite powerful, by virtue of the fact that it can mix messages with emotion - thus it is a shame that all bands seem to put out one political message - the leftist one.
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Mike » 20 May 2012, 01:08

There's quite a lot I could say on this topic, having been involved in the music biz for quite a while on and off, but I'll try to be concise...

Firstly, I don't think there's anything that surprising about those who produce most of today's disposable and not-so-disposable pop being largely left/liberal in their attitudes. They are overwhelmingly young, and youth is generally (not in all cases, of course) resistant to conservative ideas. Given that record companies are cynical enough never to take a risk on putting their weight behind an older "new" artist, this is much as expected. The only thing that irks me a little in these cases is when the celebrity-obsessed media put undue value on the soundbite opinions of these people. Often the most facile and superficial statements are mistaken for deep insights.

Just below the surface, though, in the world of session players and other professional musicians, you actually find more of a divergence of opinion. These people have experienced a few of the world's buffets, they have shed much of their naivety, and they often have families (in my view, the one thing more likely than anything else in the world to bring out the latent conservative in a person is having a child...or perhaps I should say having a child and being prepared to bring it up decently).

Then there's the jazz world, which I've again seen a fair bit of. Here I always think of a line from one of my favourite films, The Russia House. The main character (played brilliantly by Sean Connery) is a publisher and jazz musician who inadvertently becomes responsible for a politically sensitive manuscript, and at one point in the film the CIA are giving him a sort of ideological screening. One of the questions he is asked is "Are there any jazz musicians who you fraternised with whom you would describe as anarchists?". He thinks for a moment, and replies "Well...there was a trombone player. WIlfred Baker was his name. Yes, he's the only jazz musician I can remember who was completely devoid of anarchist tendencies." Even now that line makes me laugh like an idiot, because it's very close to the truth.
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Elliott » 20 May 2012, 01:14

Well there's a lot to say about this topic.

The kind of music we're discussing - correct me if I'm wrong, Gavin, but you're talking about pop music, hip-hop and rave; everything that has been popular since about 1950? - has been created in the context of peace and rising living standards. This gives rise to a naivety in the culture, an instinctive assumption that life is easy. Then, anything which makes life hard - work, for example - seems like an aberration rather than a necessity.

You see this assumption in all fields of art but music has a special "communal" aspect. It is very easy for a crowd of people in a room to feel that they are making a stand against the status quo that reigns outside the room. Nobody wants to be the party-pooper who says "actually I'm really quite comfortable with the status quo - capitalism, monoculturalism and the Western canon". So these things don't get defended. Artists play to this, understanding their role as being to feed the audience's rebellion.

Nobody in pop has rebelled against left-wing ideas because, hitherto, left-wing ideas simply haven't been worth rebelling against. They have never been important or dominant enough to warrant mass complaint. The West is right-wing. It relies on capitalism, pragmatism, elitism and a relentless desire to make things better, to improve life in every way. Whatever fluffy left-wing ideas we entertain in our culture (or mistakenly implement in our social policies), the West will always be right-wing at its base.

Within the context of the individual, he may listen to the Manic Street Preachers but in the end he will go and work a job for some company, get paid, and use his money to do things which please him and which no bureaucrat prescribed for him. He may indulge in left-wing posturing but in the end he will accept that money makes him free, and work makes him money. The Right prevails.

This constancy is what makes the Right the natural enemy.

1. We all need it - so it is easy to resent
2. Like a punchbag, it seems to withstand any assault - so we assault it

What we're seeing now is that a large segment of the Left have "accepted" capitalism. They accept that it gives people financial freedom and that almost everyone wants financial freedom, so it is pointless to campaign against it. But of course, what they have done is turn their attention to other aspects of the West that they can attack - marriage, class, morality, elitism, hierarchy, prejudice, cultural hegemony, etc. And those things are much more fragile than capitalism. If this has been happening in the political realm since 1989, it was happening decades before in the cultural and intellectual realm. You could make an argument that capitalism was always just a proxy through which people campaigned for other types of cultural change, hence it has been fairly easy for Leftists to surrender that ground now that they are winning elsewhere.

On a personal note, Gavin, I know what you mean about having to distinguish between "emotional content and musical merit on the one hand, and ideological message on the the other".

I find this difficult to do because I always think "I like this song, but the person who made it would probably hate me for my beliefs".

I recently discovered the indie label Ghost Box, whose music is right up my street, but there seems to be a far-left bent to their stuff. Their music is partly a paean to the idyllic left-wing Britain of the mid-20th century, with every aspect of life overseen by an obscure government department, sun shining off concrete block buildings that organise our lives and keep us safe with public information films and free services offered by the council, every local thing a branch of some central parent power, a wonder of logistics and organisation. Here's a track which I think evokes all of that quite beautifully:



Sunshine, bureaucrats and rainbows!

The Ghost Box label organises musical events. Interspersed with the live music, a Marxist art college lecturer called Mark Fisher gives protracted speeches about the decline of the post-war welfare consensus (the audiences at these events must be quite dedicated, or else drugged up to the nines). Listen to the "quiet" sections of that recording to hear Mr Fisher in action.

All of this, while I still love the music of Ghost Box, disappoints me because I am far more on the side of the eccentric tinkering in his shed, than the sinister state bureaucrats who want to brainwash him and take his work away from him and bulldoze his shed to build an outreach centre for the victim group of the month.

But of course it's not just Ghost Box. You could pick virtually any pop artist and find that they are left-wing. I can hardly think of any conservatives except Gary Numan, whom I don't particularly like! Adele was caught moaning about the amount of tax she has to pay, but that doesn't necessarily mean she is a conservative and in any case I would be loathe to celebrate her.

Similarly, if I may venture from music into television, I have always been a great fan of the BBC sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf. The other day I listened to an interview with one of the main actors. He was almost a caricature of the guilt-ridden middle-class lefty. At times I actually wondered if he was doing it deliberately. Take this snippet for example:

Robert Llewellyn wrote:Unfortunately I've had quite a lot of contact with a lot of upper-middle-class mothers who drive SUVs. And I've said, "why do you drive that ridiculous car?" And they've said "I feel safer in it, and my husband thinks I'm safer in it." And she is safer in it, but I've said "what about the people that your car drives into? Say there's an immigrant family from Asia in their little Toyota and you smash into them, and kill them, and all their children, do you still feel safe?"


I was stunned by that. As I said, it's as if he is trying to be as left-wing as possible. His words stereotype Asians (with "their little Toyota") in a way that any leftist would relish berating a conservative for, but more importantly, he seems to think it would be more tragic if an immigrant family was killed than another well-to-do English family. Why else did he choose that example? And what better demonstration could there be of the Leftist's love of the Other?

The new series of Red Dwarf will be broadcast later this year and I'm going to find it a struggle to put out of my mind the fact that I would probably be despised by the people who made it. This is the plight of the conservative who enjoys anything modern!

Mr Llewellyn has just published a novel about a utopian Britain in the future, in which there is "there's no management, no economy, no bankers, no military regime or anything, there's no government, no private property" yet everything just works and everyone has everything they need and want. It may be a really good novel for all I know but it just sounds like the epitome of Baby Boomer wishful thinking.

Intellectual life has just been too easy, in that we haven't had to risk, justify, defend or live without the tenets of our culture since 1945. It's quite amazing how little time it has taken for us to entirely lose sight of what is necessary to keep a culture and society going.

Pop culture has been the voice of that increasing moral dislocation. It rebelled against money for a few decades but has now settled on a compromise: you're allowed to celebrate money (this way you avoid becoming a sell-out, because you were blinging up from the start), but you must also celebrate sheer degeneracy. So we have the worst of capitalism and the worst of socialism!
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Gavin » 20 May 2012, 10:24

Thank you for the replies - what interesting analyses.

Mike, I will have to PM you some time about what you did in the music biz (not much of a biz left now, I think). I bought Cubase in about 1999 then became familiar with sequencers. Then I had to earn a living ;) Late last year I decided if I was going to do this I had to really go for it and I moved and the Mac bought the full install of Logic Pro. This is powerful software and I'll see what I can do with it. It's great the power a person can have at their fingertips now to realise their ideas, so a shame the bottom has fallen out of the market.

Elliott, looking at your music taste I would say you might well like some of Babybird's stuff as it is very quirky - have a look through his back catalogue. Also Goldfrapp.

With regard to the analyses, I agree that Leftism is common across all art. As I think Elliott said before somewhere, the Left can always get some milage by appearing to be the ones who "see more". By constantly questioning the status quo (even if they are wrong) they can "push boundaries" and so on and say new things. Sometimes what they are saying is just stupid, or empty, but they're still saying something. So we see their absurd modern art, devoid of talent, and we see their leftie messages in music.

What amazes me is the assumption they have of their right to do all this - on government money! In an interview I listened to last night, Stephen Jones of Babybird (just one example, I am sure) mentioned that Sheffield had a Labour council, which was great, as they would put up money for people to go and play around with music. I thought: why should they? Why shouldn't people pay their own way if they want to do that? While other people are building roads and delivering post, them playing music is, I think, a luxury.

Mr Jones went on to produce some quite self-indulgent, inaccessible, music (a bit like Radiohead did) and then seemed bitter that it didn't receive wide recognition. As I say, I like his melodies, but that's about it when I think about it. Music doesn't have to be either superficial rubbish or totally obscure.

Elliott wrote:"I like this song, but the person who made it would probably hate me for my beliefs."


Elliott, I share your feeling that, were some of my favourite artists to notice I had posted their songs on this site, they would immediately disassociate themselves from it and want nothing to do with me. I guess that's the famous left-wing tolerance! But then I have always thought this: I remember when INXS were popular (and I was quite young and impressionable then) thinking to myself what would I ask Michael Hutchence if I met him? And I knew then: nothing really. He wasn't really someone I really wanted to ask things, I just liked the music (well, some of it).

Likewise, somebody like Nick Bracegirdle, whose music I have posted a fair bit. He's someone who I would ask a lot technically. I would want to spend hours discussing sound synthesis, mixing, effects, and maybe some things about his experience of the music business. He is really an audio engineer, with a strong sense of melody. But I doubt we could discuss much else, sadly, and I presume he is as much of a leftie as other musicians.

It's not mandatory though, in my view. We can't be the only "fans" who like the music, but not the message (when there is one).

I agree with the rest of your analysis too, Elliott, and I do think the naivete of youth comes largely from not having to earn a living. As for going forwards, as it were, I see no reason why we cannot continue to enjoy the emotional aspects of music we like while ignoring the leftie messages. The two can be easily separated. I'm just pleased to make it clear that this is how I see it. Also, if so inclined, we can make our own music to buck the trend! ;)

This discussion reminds me something else: what happens when the left get their way. What if they weren't indulging within the infrastructure of capitalism? We see socialist countries across the world and they are not a pretty sight. Also, when the lefties form these communes, a command structure always evolves, they never stay flat. When you have a leftie in a revolution, they kill a king then always go on to appoint themselves "Lord Protector" or something like that, and the gold taps follow... Amazing people believe them in the first place, really!
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Elliott » 20 May 2012, 14:47

Just a small point, Gavin, about bands that are talented musically but lazy with their lyrics. I can never understand this. If you've made something good, why would you mess it up at the last hurdle?!

This is one of the reasons I can't stand the Killers. Their lyrics are quite deliberately meaningless and I think they intend it as a kind of "quirk" but for me it's just intensely annoying.

It's the one thing that annoys me about Erasure, a band I love. Even their best album, self-titled from 1996, has the most appalling lyrics. I give you:

My chakra wheels are turning like a love train.


Aaarrrgh!!!
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Caleb » 21 May 2012, 02:16

As others have brought up, music is made for young people. From my understanding of the industry, the majority of the money spent is by people under the age of 25. Then there's a segment in their fifties. Those in their thirties and forties don't spend much on music generally because they have less disposable income. As others have brought up, there's a youthful naivete in the whole thing. In the case of the older people (such as my father), there's a massive nostalgia trip, but they don't exactly get into new pop music. If they get into new music, it generally tends to be stuff from their youth that they didn't know about before, or it's often instrumental (classical, jazz, maybe some blues, various forms of world music). I just couldn't imagine my father ever getting into pop music beyond about 1965, despite the fact that the actual song structures may even be very similar (just with different instrumentation and a different overall sound). There's an occasional song or group he kind of likes, but still not to the same extent as the things from the mid-sixties. It would be laughable, for instance, if you did encounter a guy who was in his sixties who liked Bon Jovi, let alone Lady Gaga. Why is that? It's all the same thing as far as I can see.

I think that pop music is more than just the emotionality of the music itself. I think it's associated with a whole set of memories and experiences, hence the nostalgia trip. Discovering other music of the same period is acceptable because the "sound" is familiar, and brings back those memories.

I even notice this with myself. When I was young, I wasn't particularly into a lot of contemporary music (though some, a little), but I did get very much into classic rock from before my time (e.g. Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath). To this day, I can still go back to that stuff time and again. Maybe it is actually really great music, but I don't know. However, I couldn't even name a band that has come out in the past five years. I had to struggle to come up with Lady Gaga in the above example. Maybe that's because I don't live in the West, and so the only contemporary stuff I know is the very limited range of Western music my students know (e.g. Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber), though I don't know if I've even heard their songs. Never the less, I couldn't name a single famous band now.

The "new" stuff I listen to now is either not new at all (e.g. 70s soul/funk), or it's contemporary jazz acts (which are, in many ways, often doing the same thing that's been done for the past several decades).

I can't relate to modern pop music and I'm generally not into lyrical music for the reason that it is so often very political. It just makes me cringe. So I am left with either instrumental stuff or things that don't have great lyrical content but relate to an overall sound that I latched onto in my youth.

As for why so much music (and culture generally) is of a leftist bent, I think that's actually fairly obvious, and I'm surprised it's only been hinted at here. The kind of person who has a conservative bent (even if they don't realise it) doesn't bum around for a few years starting a band. That kind of person doesn't go to art college or get a degree in anthropology. People of conservative bent, even by the time they're fifteen or sixteen, set themselves on a track to ultimately become an engineer, accountant or dentist. If you went and polled engineers, accountants or dentists, they'd probably be extremely conservative. Those guys build bridges, crunch numbers or fix people's teeth. They don't write songs, by and large. This is partly because such conservative people are attracted to such professions in and of themselves, but it's also because such people are extremely conservative in every way, including how they regard money. They realise that sure, if you become a musician, actor or athlete, you can really become rich (though you can as an engineer or accountant also if you go on to be a CEO, for instance, and to a lesser extent if you have your own dental practice). Yet the chances of that are pretty slim. They know that the average engineer is going to be much more financially stable than the average musician. The average musician actually doesn't earn money from music, but has a pretty bad day job as a result of pursuing music in his youth and dabbles in music on the side (but may still call himself a musician).
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Gavin » 21 May 2012, 09:42

I think you probably have the core point there, Caleb. As I mentioned a couple of times, it's easy for the youths to be leftie while they do not have to face the realities of earning a living. It's not that more conservative people are less less moved by or interested in music, but that they are more responsible. They weigh up the probabilities of success and also have music in its place, as good fun, but not, actually, the most important thing, nor (perhaps more to the point) the most stable profession, in the world. That's why they don't do into it, that's why we're left mostly with the few successful lefties in it. They're not usually successful for very long, either.

This is a good enough explanation for me, and it explains the leftism of actors too. One other factor possibly of note too, is that successful people are often leftie, I think, due to a kind of guilt. They don't often come into contact with the underclass, they themselves have often made it not only due to some talent but also due to a large dose of luck, and they are are aware of this, so want to appear to be charitable to everybody. In a way that seems a decent enough motive, but it can lead to an unrealistically rosy view of human beings, I think, a perpetual sympathy for the lazy and the criminal, which is the hallmark of leftie ideology.
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Mike » 21 May 2012, 12:21

A lot of truth to your comments Caleb. But let me just pick up on one point:

Caleb wrote:The average musician actually doesn't earn money from music, but has a pretty bad day job as a result of pursuing music in his youth and dabbles in music on the side (but may still call himself a musician).


It depends what you mean by an "average musician" though. What many people outside the biz don't realise is that there's actually a very large gulf between the actual professional musicians (those who do wedding and corporate gigs, sessions for jingles and soundtracks, occasional tours in backing bands, the odd stint in the pit for a musical, and often plenty of teaching to plug any financial gaps) and those who want to be stars, or at least "artists" in the modern sense of the word. The former, as I mentioned in that earlier post, are often more conservative than you would think. The latter tend to be left-leaning largely for the reasons that Caleb, Elliott and Gavin mentioned above. And those of them who hold on to their fading dreams even into their 30s and 40s do often take on dead-end day jobs, but often such people call themselves musicians under false pretences, as it were.

I mention all this because the former type (the real professionals), with whom I've spent countless enjoyable hours over the years, often get unfairly conflated with the latter.
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Gavin » 21 May 2012, 13:21

A sound point there, Mike, the distinction between professional musicians and "stars". Most professional musicians are unknown, yet do a fine job. They might have the musical talent, but just not the vulgarity, leftism or sheer luck it often takes to become stars. Maybe also they are content with their lot. I know a classical guitarist who fits this description. She teaches people for half the time. Hundreds of others are producing music for soundtracks (or for the very loops I use in Logic), playing as session musicians or playing on cruises. Good for them. I remember being in Harrods a while ago and there was the beautiful sound of a woman just standing there in one of the balconies by a stairwell, singing opera. I doubt she was being paid much or will ever become famous, but it's music nonethless and it's earning a living.
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Michael » 22 May 2012, 00:24

As for why so much music (and culture generally) is of a leftist bent, I think that's actually fairly obvious, and I'm surprised it's only been hinted at here. The kind of person who has a conservative bent (even if they don't realise it) doesn't bum around for a few years starting a band. That kind of person doesn't go to art college or get a degree in anthropology. People of conservative bent, even by the time they're fifteen or sixteen, set themselves on a track to ultimately become an engineer, accountant or dentist. If you went and polled engineers, accountants or dentists, they'd probably be extremely conservative.


A very good point, Caleb. I wonder whether conservatives have a more realistic appreciation of probabilities and success rates than others. Nassim Taleb, in his book Fooled By Randomness, discusses advanced methods for thinking about probability. One of them is possible world analysis - when you judge the lucrativeness of a career, do not judge just the average salary, but how often that salary could be attained across a range of circumstances.

Taleb gives the example of two people who live in a wealthy neighbourhood. One, a dentist in his mid-50s, has a net wealth of about $2 million, built by constant application. His neighbour, also in his mid 50's, has a net worth of $50 million, having won the lottery. Taleb says that a truly deep analysis of their wealth would take into account the odds of them. Start where the dentist graduated by school and began his practice, and where the lottery winner started buying tickets, then follow them up to the present day across a range of possible worlds. In most of those worlds the dentist is earning a decent living, while the former janitor lottery player is still a janitor. Substitute lottery ticket player for aspiring musical star and the example still holds.

It would be interesting to conduct a wide ranging survey of people divided by political beliefs and see how good their innate understanding of probabilities is, though I think that might be hard to test. Probably neither the dentist nor the lottery player could pass a college final in probability, but their choices show an understanding (or lack of understanding) of risk and which things are secure against the shocks of life.

Upbringing has a part to play, and as we've noted so does later life experience (see our Mugged By Reality. The vast wealth of our society allows more and more parents to coddle their children and protect them from life's ups and downs. They encounter the harsh side of life only through carefully selected (by their professors) literature, and begin to think inside a bubble. Immigrants I have met from the third world and former Soviet bloc countries all are deeply conservative, knowing from hard experience that the foundations of life are never so secure one can live in a dream world.
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Caleb » 22 May 2012, 03:56

Mike: That's an important distinction. I was talking about the group of people who aspire to be in an original band and become famous like that.

Michael: I'm glad you brought Taleb up. I really like that guy and the way he looks at things. That said, he's also quite unorthodox in his approaches to all sorts of things. It's interesting to look at how he is regarded by the mainstream media and finance professions. It's very much a love-hate relationship from both sides.

I think people are actually very bad at assessing risk and success, but that would become a whole other topic, so I won't go there. I've also noticed that immigrants are generally a lot more conservative. Politically, they may even profess to be left wing, but when it comes to their own social and financial actions, they're actually pretty conservative, probably for the reasons you've described. It's interesting to note what happens to their children or grandchildren, and it's also interesting to note the progress of people back in the old country. I find Taiwanese in Taiwan to be far less conservative than Taiwanese in Australia, for instance.
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Re: Leftism in music

Postby Elliott » 07 Aug 2012, 08:41

Morrissey has said another silly thing. However, he does take a stab at the chav celeb culture ("the 2013 grotesque inevitability of Lord and Lady Beckham"), which is welcome.
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