Thinking of music from an ecological perspective
I've recently been discussing my conversion to some current BrazilianPopulistMusics : Axe, Pagode and Funk.
My friends were finding these musics apallingly simplistic and in bad taste. I started thinking about two kinds of biological analogy.
The Evolutionary Analogy
"Low" or popular musics are interesting because all our sophisticated music evolves from them. Compare the many species of jazz, rock and techno which are highly sophisticated. But in all cases the orginal vesions were simplistic and populist.
On the other hand, sophisticated musics seem to be dead ends. Once a genre is sophisticated, it doesn't evolve anywhere else much.
One possible reason why is that the populist musics are generally also popular. Having a wider distribution means more opportunities to mutate.
See also this discussion on ILM: http://www.ilxor.com/thread.php?msgid=3466804
The Ecological Analogy
This analogy finds the low musics interesting because they are necessary to support the musical ecosystem. Just as it's becoming clear that life on earth is swimming in a soup of organic molecules and bacteria, without which, larger animals, further up the FoodWeb would be unsustainable; so maybe "high" or "art" musics would be unsustainable away from a soup of low musics.
How might this work? Well, the low music might provide a basic musical education. Most people listen to it, and learn some musical sensibility from it. Some then develop this sensibility into listening to more sophisticated musics. But without a general background of low music this sensibility would be harder to discover and less likely to develop.
Similarly, the low musics may keep a wider pool of musicians. Once again, many people learn to play the popular music. Some of these will teach those who develop more sophisticated musicianship. But if there was no general popular music, only a few would become musicians.
Again, mutatis mutandis for the network of shops selling music on CD and employing musicians.
Or for broadcast networks
These genres are actually degenerate versions of earlier more sophisticated genres (Pagode is debased samba, current Axe and Funk are debasements of earlier versions) This proves music can devolve as well as evolve.
And anyway, just because there's a relation between low and high music doesn't mean we should actually listen to the low stuff.
Simon Reynolds compares the models (including web of influences) for analysing music : http://blissout.blogspot.com/#95796929
It seems counterintuitive and perverse to eliminate a whole set of prisms or angles that are all still capable of producing insights. One of the most interesting things about pop is that it isnt any one thing: its radically hybrid, not just about sonics, or futurity, or innovation: rather, its a dense, rich confusion of lyrics, image, personality/backstory, gestures, theatrics, and amy given pop object is inseparable from the wider meta-musical discourse, from its scene with its rituals and behavioral codes, and from broader social-political currents. Part of the meta-discourse involves looking back and looking forwards: myths of origin and fantasies of destiny/destination.