Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Music Appreciation

There are no longer classical music performances at the Grammys.   In earlier years, there were a wide variety of musical styles represented, and the show, to me, was much more entertaining. 

Witness this blockbuster performance by Wynton Marsalis in 1983.  He plays both a classical and a jazz piece because he was nominated for each that year.  As he is set to begin the jazz number, his third valve appears to stick and need valve grease.  But it's live television.  He signals to his bandmates to begin and plays anyway - without using the third valve.  This meant he had to do a lot of alternate fingerings on the fly.  It takes incredible talent to be able to pull that off. 

In his acceptance speech at the end of the video, Wynton thanks the great masters of jazz music.

. . .all the guys who set a precedent in Western art, and gave an art form to the American people that can not be limited by enforced trends or bad taste.

Well said.

The faddish nature of the current Grammys was driven home to me by the sad collection of twitter posts from young people asking "Who the heck is Paul McCartney?"

Have people lost all sense of musical history and appreciation of musical styles?  Did my generation learn more about this from our homes, or education programs that didn't cut music?

The Washington Post did an interesting experiment back in 2007.  They placed a violinist in a DC metro station and set up a camera to see how many people would stop to listen.  In the course of an hour, with over 1000 people passing through the station, only 6 stopped.  He made $32.17 in bills and coins thrown into his violin case.

The violinist was Joshua Bell, who that year won the Avery Fisher prize as the best classical musician in America.  He was playing some of the most beautiful and difficult music ever written on a 3.5 million dollar violin.  Three days earlier, people had paid $100 each to hear him perform in Boston.

Parents felt cheated when it was determined that all those "Mozart for babies" CDs weren't really making babies any smarter.  As if they had wasted their time playing Mozart. 

Mozart isn't just for babies.  Music is for a lifetime.  Tweens should listen to Chopin along with their Taylor Swift.  Teenagers should listen to Sinatra as well as Bon Iver.  Moms should listen to Latin jazz (which, unfortunately, is no longer even recognized as a category by the Grammys).  Old people should listen to bluegrass.  Really, there is so much great timeless music out there that we should all be listening and learning our whole lives.

Let's remind our kids to keep open minds and ears.  And always listen to and tip the live musician!

2 people stopped folding laundry to write:

Lily Boot said...

totally agree - great post! The Grammy's really are a bit of a joke aren't they - so often pandering to the most banal (and that's completely aside from all the other "issues"!) We've been doing a bit of long distance driving lately, and it struck me that I know the words to so many songs from so many different genres and eras - Abby knows so few! She did remind me that I clearly heard all this music somewhere - i.e. my family - and she's right to a degree (must include more Jazz) but we also sang so much at primary and secondary school - and not just children's music or pop music - we had access to huge repertoires. Yes, another area in which society continues to be dumbed down :-( I'm going to put on some good music.

Anonymous said...

Can I just say, well said!!! Thanks for reminding me to start again listening to other genres as I just started with Pandora. And as far as the teenagers and the mysterious roses -- "Tell me?" works very well... one of my 20-somethings just let me know that she thought I wasn't interested because I didn't ask... and she was the hostile private one that I thought asking would have been too invasive... sad day. But "tell me?" worked pretty well with the others now and then! (and now also with her!)

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