Tropical House and Rodger Scruton

A match as seamless as my photoshop.

Tropical House, with its saxaphones and electro synths, is light, relaxing, and full of summery vibes. Rodger Scruton is a philosopher of the conservative persuasion, someone who is heavy, far from relaxing, and wintery cold. You would be forgiven for thinking that one was the antithesis of the other. Although I doubt Rodger Scruton knows of Tropical House and Tropical House certainly doesn’t know of Rodger Scruton, they both strike the same alluring pose (see photo), and they might each have something constructive to say about the other…

Rodger Scruton hates pop music. He hates that he cannot go out in public, to a pub or a restaurant, without being assaulted by “inaccessible speakers that cannot be punished for their impertinence.” Lady Gaga suffocates conversation; commercialised background noise to our everyday consumer lives. “The worst form of this music – sometimes known after the trade name as muscak – is produced without the intervention of musicians, being put together on a computer from a repertoire of standard effects.” Scruton, therefore, distinguishes between types of pop. For him, if he knew its name, House would be the worst type, one which, to borrow his words, “thrusts its booming bass notes into the very bones of its victim.”

Here we turn to Tropical House. Firstly, it should be noted that Tropical House (and House in general) is not generally played in the public venues Scruton complains about. General pop, yes. Tropical House, no. This does not excuse it from the accusation that it dulls musical appreciation. The repetitive beats of Tropical House are often listened to on i-pods, on long journeys, sat at a computer, and at more private social occasions or gigs. Secondly, though, if the day ever came when Tropical House was played at the venues Scrunton frequents then he would find out it so much worse then he originally thought. Tropical House fulfils all the loathsome criteria of standard pop music, and then some.

I like Tropical House. Tropical House is a middle-finger to Scruton. It doesn’t care that it’s vacuous – it fully embraces it. Every track should remind you of the last one. In fact, an hour or a days worth of listening to one syncretic synthetic symphony almost has something (dare I say) classical about it, only this is a playlist that can be added to, subtracted from, combined and recombined, exactly as a listener fancies. It is entirely innovative. Admittedly it sometimes relies on remixing originals, but when it does this it does so in the spirit of the original artist: reintroducing Bob Marley to a new generation. And not all the tracks are remixes. While at first the original tracks might seem to be hold the same problems as Rihanna’s latest song – limited words on repeat – they are also entirely different because, unlike Rihanna, they were not produced by a team of ten songwriters coming up with  collaborative monsters such as “work, work, work, work, work, work.” Instead, somebody is messing around on a computer in a basement.

It is produced, largely, for the pleasure of producing it. And what is vacuous about that? There is nothing vacuous about art for arts sake. There are very few big names on the Tropical House scene. The majority do not sell their wares on i-tunes and fewer still are packing out stadiums; they produce their stuff for free on Youtube and their content fully embraces the new demand for ‘background noise’ as created by pop, but it turns it into something new and original. It is an apolitical dadaism that this time does not reject capitalism but somehow find its own cubby-hole in which to make itself a success in spite of capitalism.

If, Rodger, you want the lyrics of Springsteen, or the cadences of Mozart, then you’ve come to the wrong place. Those things in themselves are only diminished by the existence of Tropical House in the number of listeners, and, presumably, as a free-market trumpeter, Scruton respects the wishes of consumers to listen to whatever they like. Music is no longer appreciated in arm-chairs and with a cigar. That still exists, but now there exists a listenership who like music as background noise. Scruton says that this effect “signifies the eclipse of the musical ear” with music less listened to than it is overheard. Maybe he’s right, and the consequence will be that less and less people can fall in love with classical music. But to hold Tropical House responsible, as he would if he knew its name, for collaborating in the killing of our ability to hold interesting conversations or produce thoughts of value; that has hopefully been disproved by this very piece which was written with a not unpleasant tropical verve in the background…

Professor Michael Trimble has argued that appreciating music delivers to humans an emotional response unmatched by even the greatest works of fiction or the most sublime stretches of landscape. If this it true, then I am surely damaged. I don’t listen to classical music. But I can still make cultural distinctions: I prefer R&B to Tropical House. However Christopher Edwin Breaux, Chancellor Jonathan Bennett and Donald Glover all deal in funk and electronics too and so presumably fall under The Scruton Dictionary’s pejorative monolith that is ‘pop’. I’m sure there are many like me who accept that Rodger’s musical ear is far better than ours and, as a representative for the small persecuted community of Tropical House listeners, I ask that he let us console ourselves with the one genre which fully understands our fully limited musical ear. There is nothing relative about culture. I fully accept some people’s tastes are better than others, but I also accept that it is far too late for me. Save yourself.

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