"And precisely where do you stand to have any idea of what pressures Lanza endured, or what what 'greater" pressures your rock and rollers faced? Lanza was not "defeated."Those who have only angst and rage to express are the defeated ones. Lanza never let pain corrupt his music, and it is difficult to imagine a greater triumph."
First, I don't think that Barbara is saying that all rock is angst and rage, and I think she is right when she says that those with only those emotions to convey are "the defeated ones." I do think it needs to be said, however, that rock and roll as a form of teenage rebellion needs to be distinguished from what became 'rock" in the 60's, which, whether or not you agree with the values, started as an "honest" expression of the anger against the war and the establishment. (How honest is open to debate, I know...) The problem nowadays is that the record companies pre-package angst and rage, and it's hard for me to take most bands seriously as rebels when CBS/SONY is backing them with millions of dollars. Most of these bands and fans wouldn't know true reasons for angst beyond "daddy took the T-Bird away" if it bit them in the neck...(sorry, that was a slam at the goth rockers.) Rock music IS capable of exploring a wide range of emotions as well as philosophic lyrical content when artists are allowed to express themselves. Progressive rock is a prime example of this. Unfortunately,
record companies go where the money grows, and the majority of fans seemed to want to keep music at the juvenile level of sex, drugs, and having a good time. Rock was not supposed to progress. And God forbid it was sensitive! Most rock fans are male, so the range of emotions in rock are usually limited to "masculine ones" (you don't want your sit with your buddies in a bar discussing the lyrical content of Yes's "And You and I" while wiping away a tear during the beautiful acoustic passage; what are you, some kind of sissy? [Surely I am sterotying, as I am when I think of the Irishman in the pub crying to "Danny Boy"). This attitude surely plays into matters of class and education as well as the culture...And so, concept albums and beautiful music gave way to the nihilism of the Sex Pistols, and the dumbness of the Ramones, or the empty style over substance of New Wave and the MTV generation. The Free Market allowed these genres to flourish. And yet, the nihilism forever,and even punk bands had to evolve, such as the Clash, who took up political themes, and even progressed musically, the MTV video format has yielded some interesting videos which are nothing short of cinematic.
Does that mean rock itself is flawed, or is it the psychology and philosophy of the fans in any given generation? I don't think it's the music, though I do believe the form will be influenced by the attitude. But I have seen music change several times in my limited timespan, from disco to punk, to heavy metal to Christian metal, from acoustic to electronic, from message oriented to music focused...and not one of these genres can be said to encapsulate the entire rock experience, for rock music is not fixed, is is ever changing, dynamic, and evolving.
There is also the issue of the lyrical content versus the music. Most "rock&roll" music is basic blues song structure.
"Rock", on the other hand, is a wide umbrella term, that encapsulates hard rock, heavy metal, and punk, as well as "soft rock," "jazz rock, "art rock," etc., not to mention R&B, funk, disco, techno, etc. And of course, instrumental rock, which is rarely 3 chords and a beat, but hosts a wide array of instrumentation, tonal and rhytmic variation, and
a wide range of emotion. There is even operatic rock, such as PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI, who could probably incorporate Mario Lanza into their work!
On the issue of lyrics versus the music, and it's relation...There is the saying that "the medium is the message." The lyrics are not always the message, as Rand herself pointed out in WE THE LIVING, referring to Kira's reaction towards the NATIONALE (?). While she abhorred the words and their meaning, she fell in love with the music itself.
I don't think rock music as a rule is nihilistic; much of it is life affirming, and just as beautiful as a Beethoven symphony. For example, there are moments on Yes's TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS that are bursts of undiluted beauty. And then there is the "rock" band RENAISSANCE, which is more orchestral than rock, and features the beautiful vocals of Annie Haslam. This band has achieved musical nirvana for me with their arrangements and harmonies and melodies. Then their is King Crimson, who run from Jazz to Baroque to Gamelan minimalism and world music rhythms, to industrial! Their music can bring one from the pits of hell, to the gate s of heaven, and other places not even conceived of before!
Yes, there are the cacophonic moments, as well, which make those joyous moments that much more joyous. But even if that weren't the case, well. there is ugliness in life. And I believe music is a great way to address it, not to celebrate it, but to face it and grow beyond it. Rand wrote much about her "tiddlywink" music, and condemned work that had "malevolence, " yet ATLAS SHRUGGED, that ode to happiness on Earth, contains some of the most bitter, angry writing ever.But she had to do it, and I certainly don't condemn her for that. So if it's ok for fiction writing, why not for music, especially since many songs tell a story? The problem is that people seem to be more able to recognize that a novel is fiction, but a song must mean that the artist truly lives a certain way, that it's autobiographical. So, I wonder, is there is a double standard in play when one criticizes unpleasant music without considering the context?