Sunday, September 26, 2010

While reading this weekend...

Hello Everyone,

While I was reading "Music: A Very Short Introduction" by Nicholas Cook, and it really made me think about pop music's and classical music's lasting qualities. Thinking about most popular music, a song will be listened to and spoken about for certain amount of time, but all of a sudden, no one will ever speak about it after a few months or a year at best. If you think about Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Mozart, and any of these "classical" geniuses, you realize we are still talking about their music almost 300 years later. Even if you think about certain jazz musicians such as John Coltrane, people might say that he is a "legend" or a "genius," and he died over 40 years ago.

I don't want to say in this post that classical music or jazz music is "real" music and all others have no lasting qualities, but I just want ones reading this post to think about how we treat music. Do we listen to something like we are reading a book, and never read it again? Do we treat it like a movie, where we watch it once, might watch it again because it was so deep that we missed a few things so we rewind and replay the scenes? Do we treat music like text books, to sort of "show" that we are educated - like certain pieces we have heard or studied show a right of passage in a way? Sometimes if I'm learning a piece of music or studying/transcribing a solo - another fellow colleague or one of my teachers will be impressed by this "work" that I did, almost showing an accomplishment instead of just an enjoyment of diving deeper into the music by just understanding. Also the way we may play a concert, we may never look at the piece/sonata/symphony again after a one time performance - either because we are sick of the piece, or because the audience that listens to us doesn't demand of it.

The common listener who might not know much about music does not have to necessarily hear a piece and think about all these things, but I just want everyone to realize and be aware of the evolution of music, of how we think about it and how we treat music and their musicians. Look at our public schools for instance, it is not important I guess to have music or art in a child's life because the schools don't want to spend the money because they can't afford it, and it is the first program to cut because it is considered the least important and just an extracurricular activity. There are many talented musicians out there, but they don't receive the great recognition they deserve, many musicians out there are poor, and part of the reason for this is because our society places it as a low point to other things in the world. Music has been an important part of my life, and I want others to experience this joy that I have received through music.

Is it a big deal that we think of music differently today and we treat music as a "one-hit wonder" or talk about an artist's music hundreds of years after they die because we realize how important these composers are to music history? I also want to pose the question of how we will think of the popular artists today 50 or 100 years later, and will certain history books speak about how Eminem, Lady Gaga, or Jessica Simpson were powerful figures in the early 2000s and late 1990s. I was listening to Jamin' 9.45 one early afternoon, and heard "Back in the day Buffet," and they played a Ludicris song from 2000, and said that this was "old school." I feel definitely feel old, and when I think of old school I think of Mozart symphonies or even John Coltrane's Giant Steps not Ludicris' "What's your Fantasy."

These are just some things I thought about when reading about popular music and classical music in this week's reading. I hope some of you guys can build upon this thought or agree/disagree with what I am saying.

Matthew's Link from the Previous Post


1 comment:

Dave B. said...

Hi Matthew,

I think you bring up some really interesting points and food for thought!

I wanted to add some additional conversational fuel to the fire by both agreeing and disagreeing with one of your points. You state that most popular music is quickly forgotten while the music of Beethoven, Mozart, etc. has lasted for hundreds of years. This is true. However, I would argue that the longevity of musical works has not changed drastically from several hundred years ago, and that the "one-hit wonder" phenomenon does not really exist after all.

What I'm trying to say is that we have to be aware of our perspective in history. During Mozart's and Beethoven's era, there were many other composers, both good and bad, whose works have been lost to history for whatever reason. Today, we only have the works of Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and a handful of other composers. It is easy to say, "Music was just better quality then, and the people of the day took care to preserve it." A statement like this promotes a mythical view of a past that never really existed. Looking back at that era, we have the benefit of time to sift out a lot of the "bad" music (and unfortunately, probably some lost good works as well).

Today, we have tons of new popular music works coming out every day. A lot of them really aren't very good or memorable. But some of them are. I would argue that in 100 years, 99% of what is on the radio today will be forgotten. But I'm sure that a few artist's works will survive: Eminem, Madonna, Green Day, Pearl Jam, perhaps? We have already witnessed this phenomenon with '60s rock bands. Most are gone, but the music of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles will probably be around until the end of time.

So, in summation, I'd just like to say it's all about perspective. There's "bad" music today, but I think that has always been the case. The more time goes by, the fewer works remain (and hopefully, the few that are left are good!).