The Music Of JC Harris

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

JCHRants

Beatles Rock Band

I actually started this post back in August. So the immediacy has worn off. But, like world hunger, the war in Iraq and my various ex-wives, it’s an issue that just won’t seem to go away. 😀

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/gamesblog/2009/aug/14/beatles-rock-band-videogame-preview

I have rarely had such a combination of out and out fear, revulsion and lust as when I first saw this. And both times, the lawyers got the lion’s share of the leavings. 😀

Look, you know I’m totally with the arriere garde (I do prog rock fer cryin’ out loud!) But, this, like nuclear science, begs the question that even Einstein couldn’t figure out: just because we can do a technology, does it really mean we should? Are there not some machines that ought not be built?

Does the need to have a machine that women in bikinis will ride in the water merit something as loud as a Waverunner? Is it really crucial to mankind to develop a strain of marijuana that doesn’t cause cancer? A microwave-able pizza with a genuinely crispy crust?

Like all the above, Rock Band is fun. But like each of the above there is a price to be paid for fun that requires so little investment.

When I was a parent I ‘made’ the kids study a musical instrument. I read Plato and Socrates and Aristotle. All those guys believed that a study of music has a civilizing effect on citizens (I’d love to find out if there’s an inverse relationship between criminal behaviour and the amount of formal musical training.) ‘Enjoyment’ was about fourth down the list of reasons to do this. I mean, it is completely fun to play music, of course, but I have no illusions that this is what a nine year old is doing for the first few years on a clarinet—actually it’s more like a couple of years of trans-familial torture until the kid(s) can learn to play ‘Boureé’ in tune.

There’s just so much good that comes from learning an instrument and then playing with others. Teamwork. Listening. Responding. Improvisation. Self-confidence. It’s all good. Rock Band and Guitar Hero take a lot of that away. Sure you can ‘play’ with your friends, but since one can participate with little or no effort and since what you can really contribute is very limited, I can’t see one getting much sense of accomplishment out of it.

“A sense of accomplishment?” I hear you laugh. “Get that stick out of yer arse you educational-TV-watching prat. Sometimes fun should be about fun; not about ‘enrichment’.” Maybe so. Maybe so.

I’m all about pure fun. But to me, that means undisguised idiocy—like jumping off the shed roof or watching The Three Stooges. Rock Band feels more like playing with a chemistry set, most of which is also fannying about with only the thinnest disguise of doing something useful. But the great thing about playing with an old school chemistry set was the genuine danger. I mean, you knew you could kill yourself and that created at least a little motivation for learning something; or at least not kidding yourself that you were learning anything.

Rock Band creates the illusion of learning and teamwork. That’s what bugs me. To me, it feels like it is to music what aspartame is to sugar. It makes your brain believe it’s ‘OK’ for you—maybe even doing you some real good! But here’s the thing about stuff like aspartame… Usually 20 or 30 years down the road the big brains finally find out that it makes your bollocks shrink or gives you ADHD and two flavours of cancer. It’s pretty much like that for anything that tries to give all gain with no pain. (My current issue with aspartame is that drinking Coke Zero seems to increase my appetite for other foods. The net effect? I’m eating more.)

I’ll bet real money that sooner, rather than later we’ll realize that Rock Band has a weakening effect on the human spirit&#8212l;like many modern conveniences. Aren’t there already enough things to keep us from actually learning to do anything that doesn’t require an AC adapter to make some fun?

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