The Quincy Jones interviews that went up a few weeks ago really got me thinking. They were all over the internet and were noted for killing a few sacred cows. Sacred cows that I think a lot of us never thought would get torn down. Reading his story and the ease with which he refers to all of the famous people who he has interacted with over his many years I really got to thinking about what he stands for as an artist and the era which he represents, even as it rapidly fades into being nothing more than a memory. There is something incredibly fascinating about the world he seemed to inhabit and the way that he could become such an incredibly influential player on the global music scene. This seemed directly contradictory to my week the interview that came out, running around with a thrash metal band who broke up twenty five years ago but have come back to be bigger than ever. It got me thinking about fractalization and how folks like Quincy Jones will become relics to a beautiful past.

Something Quincy Jones really focuses on in both interviews is the fact that musicians these days have nowhere near the talent they did in his day. Now this might seem like some tired old man bullshit, but in all honesty he is right. The big thing, in my eyes, is that nowadays guitarists learn how to play guitar from tab, whereas when he was coming up, and really until fairly recently people would learn how to play guitar by ear and from jazz books. This was a key difference that really impacted why old records sound the way they do and why songwriting feels so limited these days. (That along with the fact that a lot of songs are written by the same small group of writers) this is having a huge impact and a big part of why beat centric music is a lot bigger now – it’s easier to write. Simultaneously, the die hard musicians who write super technical works have been increasingly sequestered in their own dorky worlds, severely limiting their songwriting at the expense of technicality.

This is the world that Quincy Jones and those liked him inadvertently created. Because the bar has been lowered there are what feels like thousands of more genres to dig into and this has led to a sense of fractalization that means there can be no modern Quincy Jones. So much stuff is coming out in this world of dumbed down music and infinite recording studios that you can barely hope to dominate one genre, much less multiple. The twenty eight time Grammy winner has been involved in more projects than you realize, and even if you don’t like pop music I can pretty much guarantee he has had some impact on your musical tastes. Yet now children are getting raised perpetually connected to the internet, and most of their parents have been hyper connected for most of their lives as well. This means that not only are the youth more capable of discovering their own little rabbit holes than ever, but their parents don’t really have a shared culture of hit songs that EVERYONE knew either, and that’s going to keep diminishing. Think about that. Holy shit.

So suddenly we are in a world where quasi-mythic Quincy Jones type figures can’t exist and even if they did I don’t think anyone would care because the subcultures are so divided that it wouldn’t really matter. This is going to have some serious long term affects on how music works. I think that we are moving away from a period where you could pretty effectively sort music by decade and movement and instead are going to be facing a mishmash of genres that are complex and terrifying. This veritable mishmash, sometimes noted as the ‘genre free music fan’ is going to be both a blessing and a curse in the long run. While on the one hand it will mean that even more obscure subgenres will get the love they deserve, simultaneously with no prevailing music culture a lot of things will feel directionless and end up turning into confused messes that leave everyone frustrated and wondering what happened to songwriting and passion.

Simultaneously – the nihilist in me has to wonder if this is instead just going to lead to the birth of a new level of megastar. In a world where everything is broken apart and requires even a little bit of digging it might stand to reason that only the most obvious and facile music stays on top. Simultaneously, the few remaining artists from the old model are going to stay on top. There is no moving aside anymore. You simply can’t break through with what’s going on these days. The world is probably going to wind up broken into music fans and people who like music. The fans are actively fighting to grow and get deeper into it, the people who like it just turn on the radio. This has been the norm for a few years now, but it’s going to only get worse I think in an age where we don’t have Quincy Jones to bring the best new music to the fore. Instead we are going to be forced to embrace this brutal unreality and go from there.

In some ways this is freeing, you can embrace your own side of the music scene and let that define you. Simultaneously you can dip from genre to genre and bring your unique base of knowledge to different fans in order to help grow the entire thing. Whatever you do, it’s a weird and wild world out there, but one that’s going to be split up and stranger than ever. Look at it this way, at one point, Isaac Newton basically knew ALL of Western science, now the smartest people in the world hope to know a fraction of a fraction. Quincy Jones impacted basically ALL of Western music, in this next generation, let’s just hope to impact a fraction.


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