We—that is, we young people, we, the whippersnappers of the hour—often complain amongst ourselves at young-people meetings, over craft beers and fried okra atop bars made of reclaimed wood in establishments where overalls are considered cool again, that they—that is, the old ones, the elders, the crotchety and outdated, the human portable DVD-players of the world—don’t understand “our” music.
This is true, to an extent. There is a generational gap between the young and the old when it comes to music—certain beautiful and talented editorial writers for online blogs have even written about such a gap at an unidentified point in the past, *coughs, winks, points to self, coughs again.* But are we really so different from our predecessors? What we perceive as “our” music had to come from somewhere, it did not simply rise from the primordial musical ooze, sprout legs, and start writing sonnets without any help from and completely independent of the genres and artists that evolved before it. As supposedly conceited and self-centered as we are as a generation, even we cannot believe we are truly original.
New we may be, but original we most certainly are not. Every supposedly “new wave” genre, every original and celebrated single of the contemporary age can be traced back in some way, shape, or form to a predecessor, a musical grandparent either retro or ancient. So why do we, the us and them, the younger and older generations, stand on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to music? Certainly part of it is pre-existing prejudice, which exists in abundance on both sides. The younger ones see the older generation’s music as dated, done, and tired. The older generation often similarly sees contemporary music as foreign, unpleasantly diverging from the familiar sound of their own youth. But with all these similarities and hereditary connections between the music of now and the music of then, why does this separation persist?
Chiefly, because we perpetuate it. And from what I can tell, it’s mostly our fault (our here referring to the whippersnappers again.) Sure, we want to enjoy the advantages of youth while they last—mainly, rubbing our perceived coolness and sense of superiority in the faces of those too young or, conversely, too old to be considered automatic authorities on all things “in”—but in doing so we often shut out those who might otherwise grow to appreciate the music of the current youth culture. Whether unknowingly or on purpose depending on the case, we have created a culture of exclusion which applies strictly to certain age groups.
But why should it? My parents have been listening to the same hundred-odd songs since I was born as far as I can tell, and to sit around as a designated authority on what’s cool at this moment and let that kind of mind-numbing repetition continue has to be some kind of sin. So the next time you have on some glitch hop and your mom walks in, don’t hastily change the song—wait a beat and experiment a little. Your parents just might be cooler than you think.