JUNK

Militants who espouse political correctness and healthy lifestyle and green energy, and who repudiate obesity and pollution and global warming, also repudiate junk food (aka fast food). They know and advocate the wholesome alternative: fresh food and a balanced diet and good cuisine (aka slow food). But the same militants are perfectly satisfied with the cultural pollution that is junk music (aka rock music) and are mostly ignorant of the wholesome alternative, which they dismiss contemptuously as "longhair classical." It surprises and saddens me that the militants -- and indeed the general public -- do not recognize the obvious parallel between these two scourges. Junk music is toxic in much the same way that junk food is toxic.

Both have spread like the plague. Burger King operates over 12000 branches worldwide; Macdonald's has over 31000; Subway has over 34000. In Manhattan there are, on the average, four Macdonald's restaurants per square mile. One third of the children in the USA aged 4-19 eat fast food daily.
     Most of the world's junk music is produced and sold by four giant international cartels: Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment,,Warner Music Group, and Electric and Musical Industries (EMI). Each controls hundreds of record labels. The music is broadcast non-stop on hundreds of radio statons and TV channels (in the USA alone there are 22 such TV channels)..

Mass-produced products on such a scale must be standardized and conveniently packaged. The food served in a fast-food outlet is similar to the convenience foods sold in stores. It is processed food in single-portion throwaway packaging. The menu is standard: fries with everything, and heavily sugared drinks. Everything is prepared in central factories, and shipped to the outlets ready to be cooked and served. The pressure the cartels exert on their agricultural suppliers causes a loss of biodiversity. For example, the massive demand for standard potatoes for French fries has caused the loss of local potato varieties.
     Rock music is processed sound served in the standard three-minute format of a CD track or a video. Almost everything is in the simplest verse-chorus form, in a primordial 4/4 meter with an endless relentless beat. The omnipresent components of the ensemble are the twanging electric guitar, the banging jangling set of drums, and the vocalist with a microphone jammed into his or her face. The role each of them plays is fixed. The merchandise is universally available on radio and TV, on disks, or through unlimited downloads, legal or illegal. On the contrary, it is difficult to escape its vexatious ubiquity.

The employees in the fast-food industry are cogs in the machine. They labor in production-line packing plants and kitchens where automatic machinery ensures the standardization of every detail. Those in the meat-packing plants are mostly illegal immigrants; those in the restaurants are mostly underage. All are underpaid, with no benefits, expected to perform with mindless regularity. (Jay Leno said that, when he requested an order of French fries, the clerk automatically asked: "Would you like fries with that?")
     The performers of rock music are cogs in the machine, expected to produce the standard performance. Most of the guitarists seem to have no conception of what can be done with a stringed instrument. (Cliff Richard admitted that, at the time of his first huge success, he knew only 3 chords on the guitar.) They simply flick a hand back and forth across the strings, in a motion similar to that of a dog scratching itself. Most of the vocalists seem to have no conception of voice production. Without their amplifiers and samplers, they would not be heard in the fifth row. They make up for their inability to sing by their conventional posturing, as though they were in the throes of an orgasm, or suffering the tortures of the damned, or both.

Where the products are all the same, it is necessary to generate a fake variety. There are approximately 66 international chains of fast-food restaurants, and approximately 150 fast-food restaurants specific to individual countries -- each claiming a unique character.
     Wikipedia lists 226 genres of rock music, each with dozens of sub-genres -- each claiming a unique character. (Can you tell the difference between Death Metal, Doom Metal, Extreme Metal, Funk Metal, Glam Metal, Heavy Metal, Horror Metal, Industrial Metal, Nazi Metal, Pagan Metal, Pirate Metal, Power Metal, Punk Metal, Red Dirt Metal, Sludge Metal, Slash Metal, and Viking Metal?)

The products are not only uniform; they are uniformly valueless. Junk food is notoriously over-salted, over-sweetened, replete with saturated fats. It provides little nutritional value, just "empty calories." The hamburgers are often not made of real meat but "lean finely textured beef" -- which means fatty beef trimmings (treated with ammonia to neutralize the pathogens) and soybean flour.
     Junk music consistently provides the same ear-splitting electronic blast, the same monotonous repetitions of musical banalities, the same endless mindless merciless beat. There are even genres that, strictly speaking, are not music at all. "Rap" and "hip-hop" consist of speaking accompanied by noises. "Techno" consists only of noises.

However, the production and sale of this junk is highly lucrative, reaping revenues in billions of dollars. The commercial success of the junk is due, first of all, to its employment of supernormal stimuli. Humans, no less than other creatures, tend to favor artificially exaggerated versions of natural stimuli over the normal versions. (Nikolaas Tinberger's experiments demonstrated that certain songbirds, whose eggs are light blue flecked with grey, prefer to try to incubate a dummy egg, bright blue with black polka-dots, so large that they repeatedly slide off.)
     Junk food constitutes an exaggerated stimulus directed at our natural craving for salt, sugar, and fat. Customers order more Big Macs than ordinary hamburgers, and the menu also offers the Mega Mac and the Monster Mac. (The film about the pernicious effect of Macdonald's was aptly named "Supersize Me.") A super-size meal consisting of a Big Mac, a large order of fries, and a large coke, contains 1430 calories, over 70% of the normal daily intake.
     Rock music is an exaggerated stimulus directed at our natural craving for pleasure. It presents no challenge to the listener, no demand for focused attention. The loud insistent beat evokes an infantile instinctive physical response. The deafening loudness drowns out mental activity. Rock groups employ literally tons of electronic equipment. They use "overproduction": reverb delay, dynamic range compression, multitracking, chorused vocals. (Kathleen Lacher and Richard Mizeski created the "hedonic music consumption model" in their 1994 article in the Journal of Consumer Research. Deirdre Barrett examined "the entertainment industry's hijacking of our social instincts." in her 2010 book Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose.)

The commercial success of the junk is also due to aggressive marketing. Macdonald's studied and copied the methods of the Disney Corporation, targeting children with "happy meals" and Ronald Macdonald. The cartels take advantage of the chronic lack of funds for education, offering their products in cafeterias and vending machines in schools, and "sponsorship" of schools.
     MTV targets teenagers and, by its own admission, "studies the teenagers the way anthropologists study African savages." The numerous TV music channels show the results of such market research, broadcasting a steady diet of performing rock groups illustrated with surreal hallucinations and sado-masochistic pornography.

Consumption of junk food causes health problems. It increases the incidence of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure The beef used in fast food comes from cattle whose feed includes dead pigs and horses, and chicken manure. (It is believed that the use of such cattle feed led to the outbreak of mad cow disease.)
     Consumption of rock music causes health problems. It increases the incidence of hearing impairment. The music companies and the rock groups are engaged in a constant loudness war. In 2009, the band called KISS won (probably only temporarily) with a volume of 136 decibels. (The loudest level considered safe is 85.) It is predicted that exposure to loud music will cause as many as 50 million Americans to suffer hearing loss by 2050.

In a grotesque travesty of Gresham's law, fast food and hard rock drive out authentic cuisine and music. Fast-food outlets elbow out the diverse cafeterias, diners, lunch counters, and greasy spoons, and even the bona fide restaurants.
     Rock bands elbow out the orchestras and choirs and chamber groups. If a record shop sells any CDs of "classical" art music, they are relegated to a remote corner. (Even the branch of Tower Records at Lincoln Center in New York, whose clientele was mostly Juilliard students and culture vultures, was forced to close down.)

I have often been confronted with young people's conviction that whenever or wherever more than three people are present, there must be loud amplified rock music. A request to turn down the volume is often met with resentment, even with angry refusal.. A request to turn it off altogether is met with disbelief, or with a blank look as though the request had been couched in a foreign language.

When I was a working pianist, the grand piano on which I practiced six hours a day stood in a room in the kibbutz cultural center. Once a week some young woman who had been assigned to clean the place would arrive and set to work. In many cases, she would bring along her portable radio, and would turn on the raucous rock and roll. It was impossible to reason with some of them. They would insist that they were within their rights, and moreover, how did I expect them to get through a day of scrubbing and mopping without the consolation of music? If I was foolish enough to point out that I was right there playing Beethoven and Chopin, the scornful reply would be: "Not that kind of stuff!"

Several generations have been imprinted with these kinds of junk.
     Instead of the flavors and textures of real cooking, their norm is the standard hamburger and fries and the over-sweet candy taste of everything else. Instead of something like a family dinner, or a clambake, or a potlatch, their norm is the artificial plastic socially-engineered ambience that camouflages the worthlessness of the food.
     Instead of the timbres of various instruments, their norm is the standard inhuman whanging electric guitar and the aggressive drums, preferably with a psychedelic video that camouflages the worlthlessness of the music. Instead of something like a sing-along with songs learned from family or friends, their norm is a disco with flashing lights and ear-slitting junk music for a mob most of whom are drunk or drugged or both -- or participation in a mass audience screaming like stuck pigs, or swaying with raised arms like an illustration for Dante's Inferno.

Socrates was condemned to death on a trumped-up charge of corrupting the youth of Athens. What, then, should be the fate of those who have peddled the above atrocities to the youth of the world, and have become filthy rich thereby?