Contemporary Music Has No Artistic Value, Is This a Fair Comment?

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‘Contemporary music has no artistic value.’ Is this a fair comment? (2008)

An oft heard criticism of contemporary music today is that they are more “noise” than “music”. Be it hip-hop, rock, heavy metal, Rhythm-and-Blues (R&B) or any of its likes, cultural snobs have dismissed them as unworthy in comparison to the classical music from masters like Beethoven, Bach, or Strauss. These critics often see contemporary music having no artistic value as these music genres are often considered to be outside the traditional and accepted cultural canon of artistic works. Such works are also considered to be “meaningless” as contemporary music are seen to be more of works of commercialism rather than art, and hence culturally “meaningless”. Nevertheless, one might successfully argue that such criticisms of contemporary music are often unfounded as contemporary music is as culturally meaningful as classical music. Contemporary music is often seen as anthems of today’s society, as identity markers for social groups and in some cases, even agents of change. Despite the charges that they are commercially crass, contemporary music today do have artistic values.

Traditional or classical music are often held up as the paragons of culture as they are seen to be “meaningful”. More often than not, traditional music of the Western canon was composed for religious purposes, as it was usually the Church who commissioned such works, like Handel’s “Messiah”. Even in the Eastern tradition, music was often associated with worship of deities or kings and rulers. As such, music was often written in traditional music meter with regular rhythm. If lyrics were included, the words were often written in praise and adoration of gods. Hence, they are seen to be artistically more valuable as they are seen to be more “meaningful”. By this measure, contemporary music was often considered to be artistically meaningless as it was, as critics charged, a cacophony of sounds with illegible lyrics. Such...
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