Classical music and Tool

A while ago I got into a fight with some wise men. The fight was about music.

‘Obviously,’ they said, ‘classical music is the music of the huwhite man.’ To which I replied: ‘I think classical music is overrated. In fact, I think Tool is just as good as classical music, if not better.’ Naturally, shock and horror followed, and after being ridiculed for my bad taste in music I went with the Trump defense and informed them that I have great taste in music, the best. I still stand behind that defense. I have great taste in music, just great.

Classical music isn’t bad. It’s actually pretty good. Better than most pop music made nowadays. But classical music is… I dunno… Music from a dead era. It doesn’t ‘fit’ in our modern society. It’s out of sync.

I like classical music from Vivaldi and Debussy, whose pieces I can accurately attribute to their unique styles. I also like Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, but in my mind they are so alike that I don’t know which song belongs to which artist. Für Elise is by Mozart right?

(I’m not kidding.)

The big advantage classical music has over its modern successor is that in the period of classical music, the patriarchy was alive, kicking and proud. All the instruments were played by white men, the music was played by white men, the orchestras were directed by white men… All the music of that era has a quality of mass cooperation, of harmony and pride that has since been lost. Radio music is almost without exception music of pain, music that signals frustration or escapism or failure or just plain bullshit. So in that sense I like classical music. I often prefer classical music radio to other radio.

But classical music is also a product of its time. It gets old, boring. There is a staccato quality to classical music that has always kept me from really enjoying it the way I enjoy some obscure modern music. The instruments are too recognizable. At a certain point I know all the sounds a violin or a piano can make. I want to hear something new. New music has all kinds of surprising sounds which classical music does not offer.

Of course, conservatory students instinctively know this, which is why they’re so unhappy. It’s similar to guys investing hours to learn the electrical guitar only to later learn that rock music died a while ago.

As society changes, so does our art change. Just because society is changing for the worse does not mean we can copy-paste old music and call it a day. More specifically: it may be better to copy-paste old music than listen to top 50 music, but it is still a sub-optimal solution. We want new 21st century music that is on par with what classical music was to a 17th century crowd.

We have that music, if you look for it. It represents the current peak of humanity, even if that peak is a lesser peak than in the time of Mozart.

What do you mean by peak?

Classical societies functioned better. They had better Assabiyah. Assabiyah is a vague term, but it is easily observed: average socio-economic position has worsened. I know this because I observe crappy socio-economic positions around me: even for all traditional high-status socio-economic positions such as lawyer, doctor and pilot, socio-economic position has worsened over the years. A doctor 50 years ago walked around with straight back, had pride, a doctor nowadays is bent under the weight of bureaucratic tape and fear of patient lawsuits. I know it used to be better because everywhere around me I see memories of such times, most notably in architecture.

As is often said, our ancestors have invented electricity, industry and mass transportation, but we don’t really know what to do with it. We are squandering it.

So it makes sense that classical music, like classical architecture, is better than its modern counterpart. But I don’t live in a Parthenon. I live in a place which has been so thoroughly infected with leftism eating in-groups that there are few in-groups left.

(Boomers don’t get this; they act as if we are still one big in-group and their boomer money shields them from learning the real score, which millenials know: everyone is in competition with everyone.)

Luckily, music can be made in a much smaller group than architecture. Hence, the existence of good contemporary music.

As said, my nomination for Peak Modern Music goes to Tool. I’m bad at labeling music like hipsters do, but I guess the were an LA based progressive rock band with some metal. I was really into them as a teenager and I still sort of am. All music gets old, I try not to listen to the same songs too often.

But yeah, Tool. I feel silly explaining why I like them, I know the wise men didn’t like me more for explaining my reasons. I guess… Their music is leftism at its peak, at its best; Tool’s music is about conflict, finding harmony in conflict, but in the end only conflict. It’s about schisms, about unresolved desire for unity or enlightenment that is never achieved, or only grasped temporarily, then lost. You could say that is a metaphor for life and perhaps that is how Maynard/the band intend it, but its more about leftism, but that’s OK, because in the end that is what 20th century Western society was, after all. Take the prophet hate in Eulogy: it is directed at Jesus, and implicitly towards all forms of religion. So, leftist boilerplate you’d say.

But at the same time Eulogy could just be about false prophets. It’s never specifically progressive music, it’s timeless leftist music.

All the instruments in Tool are in harmony with one another, the same kind of harmony an orchestra was able to pull off in the time of classical music, harmony which is now lost on a larger scale and thus confined to small groups of people.

So that’s my case for Tool.

12 thoughts on “Classical music and Tool

  1. I wouldn’t say classical music is good or bad; like anything else, much of it is crap and you have to find the good stuff. (Sturgeon’s Law.) I agree with you about Beethoven, Vivaldi, and Mozart, don’t know the other two well enough. Fur Elise is Beethoven’s.
    Also, since it’s the season: there’s so much beautiful Christmas music.

  2. A very nice, traditional performance of Silent Night.
    I do get weary of “innovative” performances of Christmas carols, which come from a misunderstanding of the point of religious music.
    So it’s nice to hear it performed simply and traditionally.

  3. A lot of what you call classical music isn’t classical. Vivaldi is baroque. Mozart is classic. Debussy is impressionism. Society changes, so does music. People want to hear something new. That’s why baroque was followed by classic. Then came Romantic, Impressionism, Experessions etc.

    I agree to your point that 21st century music is not on a par with 17th century music. I’m just saying we lost it much later, in my opinion in the second half of the 20 century.

    Older European music is much more varied than your post suggests, but from Bach to Bartok composers produced music for an audience willing to concentrate for quite a while. In contrast, most contemporary music is just a few minutes. Maybe a modern audience can’t concentrate to hear anything much longer.

    1. Part of this is lack of concentration, part of this is too much ego on the part of the composers. Same thing for old books: I read.. Ah what’s the name, ‘England in the West Indies’ or sth. It was good, but it could’ve conveyed the same message with 25% of the words. Thus I stopped after reading 40% of the book or so.

      But I don’t mean to demean your point, which is fair. Personally I like Thomas Tallis, which I think is Gregorian.

      (Not that the Tool songs I link are in the range of 8-10 minutes each. This I think is better than 3-4 minutes. The same goes for writing; 20 words on Twitter are too little, 5000 words on blogs are tldr.)

  4. Remember the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World? When the officers and the travelling gentlemen play the violin and other musical instruments, and the lower-class, dirty sailor is like “Bah, why can’t these gentlemen ever play something one could dance to?” I am very much like that. I really don’t get any music that actually tries to tell you something. I mostly just want some rythm. Like the kind of techno Dave Clark is playing.

  5. Man who spent many hours learning to play guitar only to learn that not just rock but most instrumental music is dead here….

    Tool is not that good. Sure, they had some good songs, but they are ultimately pop rock music. If you truly want an elitist cultural movement and aesthetic you can’t rely on shitty pop rock music. It is not built for elitism, it is built to get thousands of people in an arena moving and to occupy the time of rando stoners. Not saying we have to go back to “staccato” (not sure you know what that word means btw) classical music, but some things about the aesthetic and the approach, who it was meant to appeal to etc, need to be kept in mind. Imo there are a few “avante garde” composers who use written scores and demand virtuosity, and who are basically elitists but will never admit it. Brian Ferneyhough is one who comes to mind, he’s ancient now but still interesting if you’ve never heard of him. I’ve got a long list of such composers if you’re interested in hearing “new sounds”.

    1. On second thought I just listened to Brian Ferneyhough for the first time and I hated it so I do not expect our music taste to match.

  6. You can like Tool; I don’t care. In fact, I listen to Tool as well but your opinion is not any better than anyone else’s. Your musical tastes aren’t better than anyone else’s on earth and everyone’s musical tastes can’t be ranked since they are opinions; NOT facts. That being said, I find this to be very well written. Good job.

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