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Re-investigating home base

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  • Citizen creative placemaking: my personal backstory November 20, 2017
    When I was an undergraduate college student, I took a class that changed the focus of my life. This is a pretty broad brush to paint on a set of morphing decisions I’d been making for years, but bear with me – I’ve got a point to make. I started out my college career as … Continue reading →
  • Thinking about the role of music October 24, 2017
    So I haven’t posted in a while. Okay, since March (!). But it’s been a busy busy time – I started a new position a year and a half ago and we’ve been developing a new office. It’s taken more time than even I would have anticipated. Great times! I may at some point blog … Continue reading →
  • Chuck Berry -curating sounds and memories March 20, 2017
    Update: (okay, it took less than a couple of hours to get to this, but you knew I would). I have to include this wonderful retrospective by Peter Guralnick about his interview with Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Fats Domino in New Orleans in 2011. (You think of trying to interview them as … Continue reading →
  • Total randomness – how else to deal with this year’s Oscars? February 28, 2017
    I’m a fairly rabid reader of The New Yorker, for what it’s worth. And today’s article on the glitch in the Best Picture Awards at the Oscars this year struck me as one of those moments where we create our own soundtrack. Since I’ve been posting on this blog more regularly lately, I thought I’d share … Continue reading →
  • RIP Clyde Stubblefield February 21, 2017
    There are far too many losses to the music world, this year, and every year – maybe last year just sensitized me to it or maybe we’re getting to that generational shift? Either way, today I’m sharing the soundtrack that’s guiding my morning and a brief obit from Digital Music News. Let the Funky Drummer … Continue reading →
  • Remembering Al Jarreau February 13, 2017
    Just a quick post today. Al Jarreau was one of the voices of my childhood and teen years – one of the happy, beautiful voices that countermanded all the emotional art rock I consumed at the same time. This tribute was put together by Wisconsin Public Radio – there’s a request by his family to … Continue reading →
  • Thinking about protest music, the Women’s March, and Joan Baez February 7, 2017
    Rolling Stone published an interview with Joan Baez yesterday about the Women’s March and protest music. While I strongly recommend reading it, there are a couple of highlights I’m thinking about. There’s a lack of music as a positive, uplifting (Baez’s word) force right now – protests are focused on anger. This movement needs an … Continue reading → […]
  • On protest music in the current age 1.28.17 January 28, 2017
    I’ve renewed an old research interest – protest music. Not terribly a shocking interest for an ethnomusicologist in the crazy times we’re seeing, but it’s been a recurring theme in my toolkit of research subjects. John Mellencamp (whose work I don’t normally look at) just released a really interesting song that takes on inequality, protest … Continue reading […]
  • Mourning 2016 Musicians – Glenn Frey January 18, 2017
    This is just a brief post but I anticipate more of these to follow – every one of the artists I miss deserves a post of his/her own. So I’m still not over last year’s losses. And by that I mean the musicians lost to the world when they died last year. For me this … Continue reading →
  • A guest blog from my new housemates August 5, 2016
    I broke down this week and did something I avoid – I went to the local animal shelter (because I can’t go without bringing home new friends). Even worse, I went into the kitten room and was immediately accosted by two small feline persons who informed me in no uncertain terms that I was taking … Continue reading →

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For those of you who do not know me in “real” life, I was trained as an art music musician (what most folks call classical music, which I have issues with, which will likely be the topic of another post on another day…). Recently, as in about three weeks ago, I took a new job that has brought me back to that world. Funny enough, in my head I never left it. I always saw myself as trained from that particular perspective.

Now the anthropologist/ethnomusicologist steps in.

Perspective IMHO predisposes me to consider the daily grind of practicing and interpretation of another’s ideas as my two basic premises.

But I live in the contemporary world, just like all the other currently living, currently practicing, art music musicians.

So why is it that the music we who make it all love and perform is considered so disconnected with contemporary popular culture?

Here is the article from Greg Sandow from last week that got me started. In this particular post, he reflects on a performance of Wagner’s Ring cycle in DC recently, which leads to a revisiting of a consistent theme in his blog on how art music is/is not maintaining its audience and hence relevancy to our contemporary world, as measured by audience attendance and participation in art music performances.

Sandow comments mourn what is to my eyes a disconnecting from tradition in favor of current cultural connections and values in the ways contemporary art music (again, I hate the word classical music – it’s so loaded) is adapting/will adapt to the modern world.

And this got me wondering. Big surprise.

Here’s a “duh” moment question: why is it that the American consumer public, at least at the broadest levels, dis-values tradition and the re-presentation of older musical forms? Is this any different in theater? Film? (Hint: NOT) Of course the answer is that our society values and fetishizes the “new” and the “unique,” making “the past” something only relevant to people who are “out of touch.” (this last part: also not true)

I had a conversation with a fabulous screen writer this past weekend talking about this same evolution in film and tv writing and development. Granted, this is a far newer technology, but it takes on the same question: where do relevant art and culture-making enterprises have to let go of the past to be relevant to the present and the future?

My favorite example of this kind of art music making comes from one of my favorite composers, Maurice Ravel. Ravel, for those of you who don’t know his work, not only totally rocks in terms of creating moving and meaningful music, but also had a real sense of the connections between what was created before and what can be meaningful now.

I’ll take as a case in point his Le Tombeau de Couperin, composed between 1914 and 1917, and was dedicated to friends of his who died fighting in World War I. The notes from the performer who presents this performance give a great example of the kind of relevance I’m talking about.

So, I’ll leave you with this here today. But there will be more on this theme. Please do comment – this is something so important for us all to talk about!


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