So much sturm and drang about the death of Classical and Jazz music has led to absurd battles over the value of art music and its superiority to other forms. With the rest of the world at war over dogma and materialism we music lovers need to focus on the spirit of humanity and the expression of its profundity and transcendence.
Make music; not war.
In Maya Liberman’s blog https://mayamusicalgenius.wordpress.com/author/mayaliberman1/ she asks the rhetorical question ‘Is Classical Music Dying Already?”
The concept of Classical music is a canard. Bach, Haydn, Beethoven and the rest didn’t call it Classical nor did they play concerts comprised of music from their ancestors 2-300 years earlier; they studied it, but concerts were never retrospective. They were both a celebration and a provocation in the present moment. The evolution and value of this art form come from the tradition of creating new work that evolves, varies, changes and makes startling new discoveries of timbre, harmony, form, and expression.
The same is true for Jazz; Buddy Bolden and King Oliver were creating new music evolving out of Ragtime and other forms; and not necessarily art music. Jazz was a derogatory word; like scat–meaning shit– that was co-opted as a matter of pride—like we say, really good shit! It continued to evolve to include compositional forms with rhythmic and harmonic devices that far exceeded the comfort zone of early greats like Armstrong and Waller. Now that Jazz has decided to create a canon in the mode of Classical music, discrediting and squelching new forms, the rumors of its demise are widely touted, but in the words of Twain “the report of my (its) death is an exaggeration.”
Society has always preferred comfort to challenge, safety to risk, and a marketable commodity rather than an unknown one. The great music of the past was not always appreciated by the general public of its time, but great musicians championed great composers and their superlative works resulting in a tremendous legacy of art music.
So this is what we must do: Strive for the highest artistic standards in music and drag the rest of the public along, kicking and screaming–or cheering and hollering–that choice is up to us. What music do we choose to program and in what manner are we going to present it? Loft concerts and clubs (check out http://www.constellation-chicago.com & http://lepoissonrouge.com) are clearly attracting audiences because people want to be social and festive, as well as inspired. When Wagner and Toscanini created temples to deify ‘Classical Music’ they sucked some of the humanity out of the music, entombing it in a mausoleum of righteousness and rigidity.
What should we call this music that has evolved from religious, court, folk, Roma, Klezmer, and indigenous music to include electronic, computerized, trance, and chance elements? That is for future historians to decide. For now we call it new art music.
Essentially we must educate ourselves to be open to, and appreciative of creativity. Most importantly, however, we must fearlessly proclaim the richness of human spirit through the experience of music, both traditional and experimental. In this fashion we will inspire and enrich the hearts and minds of those around us bringing our world peace, joy, solace, mystery, and adventure through music. Isn’t that what musicians have always done?