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Dionysus vs Apollo or Modern Music's Rock vs Pop Debate

There are really two kinds of modern music popular in the world today.

One kind is about the wild Id, the Dionysian, the challenge to conformity or tradition, banging on the eardrums themselves, bursts of libido, confrontations to the listener's comfort, an insistence on appreciating forces of nature, the thrust of a threat, a blast of energy to endure or engage, a point of view extolling liberation. That's rock and roll.

The other kind called Pop is about soothing sounds. There's nothing wrong with those either. Fun summer tunes, bouncy roller skating rap, ditties and chants and little bits of nursery rhyme to hum while you do the dishes. This is the stuff most musicians speak as a casual language and dream about when they sleep. Soul snaps its fingers and scats. People want delight as well as dirge, Apollonian purity that harmonizes the world.

Modern rock and roll, of course, was birthed in rebellion --both racial and melodic-- because it bubbled up in the 1950's post war cauldron of integrationist American radio culture. It was no doubt divisive for some at first but surely exciting to all. It originated from the blues (which borrowed from the earlier Protestant church hymns), then it exploded into soul and RnB music which travelled across the tracks by train, truck and radio transmitter. It was applauded and amped by Les Paul and Fender and the Boomin Babies until it was full of distortion and abandonment and overt rebellion and smirking righteousness, drugs and sex and shouting as a form of legitimate expression.

Meanwhile, above ground in the dance halls the Glenn Miller Orchestra (for example) was not out to surprise or shock. Pop offered songs made to make you sway and swoon. Pop was a lullaby for lovers and some songs for the Lindy sock hop, not a shock to the system. And that is fine and good, sometimes a simple tune is all humans need to feel happy. Having some fun, dancing to a tune, doing Allright, getting moved by the sprit, those are wonderful emotions just short of the truly sublime. We're not always ready for a beauty so deep it's terrifying. Why would we when we got corn candy to munch?

Heck, just check out Wanda Jackson!

She wants to be moved and it's gotta be right! Simple, seductive. She's not angry, she's agreeable in her challenge to please please her. And it's all good, she really just wants to wink wonders and get you to clap with her. She isn't telling you what's wrong, she's saying let's jam along with that monster double-neck guitar and mandolin! In the end, the purpose is not to challenge so much as to soothe you and encourage you to enjoy the juissance of life.


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