Wednesday, December 9, 2009

In Offense of Christmas Music

At the risk of being labeled the world's biggest Scrooge, I will come right out and say that I don't like Christmas music.* Sure, Trans-Siberian Orchestra is good, and anything Frank Sinatra ever touched turned to gold, but that's about as far as I'll take it. It's not the repetition or mass appeal of Christmas music that bothers me. It annoys me, but I fancy myself enough a populist to not make a value judgement about the music in that way.

My problem with the music is the way that I typically consume it- unwillingly. Starting at Thanksgiving (and earlier every year, it seems), the airwaves and shopping centers play Christmas music constantly. I know that when I go "home for the holidays" (which was on the N*SYNC Christmas album, I believe), it will be a ubiquitous fixture of the house, almost as much as the trees or lights. My objection finally got a voice yesterday, when we were discussing the music and ideas of Canadian environmental composer R. Murray Schafer. His philosophy is that music can be any sound, but that sound/music become "noise" when they are unwanted, like the sound of someone opening a candy at a "classical" concert, or the sound of an airplane in the woods. To me, who genuinely does not want to listen to Christmas music, the genre becomes noise. While I agree with Brian that serious study can occur about the subject (and while I am equally surprised that it hasn't, perhaps because of its pervasive nature in our culture today?), it won't be undertaken by me.

* As much as I would like to make a distinction between Christmas carols, popular Christmas songs, and newly composed songs with Christmas themes, I don't often see such a distinction being made by those who play or sell or program Christmas music.