I have to get this off my chest. I have had a roiling dislike and mistrust for the game Guitar Hero(XBox 360—I think that’s what’s downstairs) ever since my son started playing it. He knows, and has kind of enjoyed tweaking me about it; I don’t prevent him from playing it, but it really rubs me the wrong way. Only yesterday did I finally figure it out:
I would rather he play aggressive (meaning, like Halo; nothing worse) games than this. His sole comment: “That’s really weird, Dad. Everyone will find that odd.” I gave him to understand how much I cared about what his friends thought, which didn’t surprise him. But: for a psychologically healthy person to play aggressive video games is a kind of play-acting, a way of gettin’ yer ya-yas out in a controlled and safe atmosphere. It defuses the violent impulse, I’m guessing, by enabling one to play at it. Team play: stylized war, right? Like, frankly, football or soccer or any other sport. The only thing that differs is the stylization.
Cut to the music. The very last thing I want is to short-circuit the musical impulse, to enable people to play at playing music. What is this, an Eminee chord-organ? (Does anyone remember those?) Look: you want to play? Great. Practice an instrument, sing in a choir. Is that too much discipline? T.S.! You can buy your music, then; you get to be a pure consumer—that’s your choice. There’s some kind of bizarre, practicing-is-its-own-reward puritanical streak in me that believes that make-believe music-making past the age of young childhood…’tain’t fitten, an illegal shortcut. You want to thrash? Figure out how to make the guitar do that, and go do it—or, better, thrash and figure out how to make the guitar do something else also. Time with the instrument, whatever instrument that is. No shortcuts. Shut up and stop whining. It’s music. This is what it takes.
Don’t ask me how I feel about karaoke. I have no opinion, and stay as far away from it as possible.
Not to mention that the Guitar Hero version of “Jessica” is presented, scandalously, without the piano solo…
It has been explained to me: the game not playing at playing music, it’s playing at being a rock star. This was not an argument I found persuasive. I can only echo the statement I heard Dr. John make on a radio interview in recent years: It’s about the music. So: open the piano, take a guitar pick out of your pocket, moisten the reed, warm up the horn. OK, all together now, with feeling!*
*I guess I concluded like this once before. No apologies; it can’t be said often enough.