“Says Nothing to Me About My Life”: Dissatisfaction as Progress

Thrash metal as a response to hair metal.

Grunge as a response to arena rock.

Minimalism as a response to serialism.

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn talks about how novel scientific theories spring from a dissatisfaction with the set paradigms of a field. While the Ptloemaic system did its share of astrological work, there was still a lot of problems with it. Many astronomers could only get accurate predictions and readings through heavy manipulation of the system. The Ptolemaic system was little good on its own. This dissatisfaction with the set system led to centuries of research and development until Copernicus laid the groundwork for a new paradigm: that of the heliocentric universe.

A dissatisfaction with the set musical paradigms is one of the important factors by which musical change can occur. Take one of the aforementioned examples: in a documentary Steve Reich talked about growing up in New York. Coltrane was playing, life was good, and there was all of the hustle and bustle and energy. To him, this was a far cry from the war torn dread of WWII that serialism and twelve tone stemmed from. This distance from serialism made him want to explore further musical possibilities, becoming a staple of the minimalist movement.

To me it can be summed up by lyrics from The Smith’s…

“Burn down the Discos/ Hang the blessed DJ/ because the music that they constantly play/ says nothing to me about my life”


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