The banjo’s timbre cuts to some of the deepest seams of America’s past. To a number of contemporary banjo players and composers, the well of history and associations surrounding the banjo becomes a musical parameter to be bent, subverted, or used to evoke a particular landscape or time.
Music people, in general, have always seemed to possess a higher level of character and integrity in pursuit of a particular calling. But it seems that now, even in the new music world where we are all essentially in the same boat, so-called professional courtesy is no longer a given.
Haitian rhythms were perhaps of equal importance in early jazz developments as Latin ones. And now there is a growing cadre of jazz musicians of Haitian descent, as well as other Caribbean arrivals or first gens, who openly embrace elements of their rich musical heritages.
Institutionalized jazz is safe, museum-piece jazz, but the music still happens in basements and lofts and living room performance spaces. These are the alternative venues and institutions for a music that, by definition, is outsider music, counter-culture music.
Stating that the DarwinTunes experiment proves that “selection rapidly evolves music from noise,” among other dubious claims, is problematic to say the least. Yet media coverage of the research may be perceived as a mirror of how our society generally interprets music.
With LDS names popping up everywhere else, where are the Mormon composers? Until fairly recently, Mormon composers who were known as such weren’t all that known outside of Mormon circles. Conversely, those who were more well-known as composers weren’t readily identified with their native religion.
The big point that critics of college teaching fail to understand is that teaching music is more than just teaching music. A good teacher connects the great musicians and musical works of the past with the present, while paving the road for the future.
Looking around, listening around, culture is as stylistically non-hegemonic as I’ve ever experienced. But parallel to that is a kind of greater semiotic compartmentalization: the vast majority of cultural artifacts I encounter keenly announce their stylistic allegiance early and often.
Evan Ware suggests that his piece is an invitation for an interpretative dialog between his listeners’ experiences and his music’s ingrained symbols. Yet, even if we accept this premise, how do we evaluate the way pieces of music, and their composers, foster the formation of listeners’ interpretations?
There’s a lot of blame to spread around for our music appreciation downgrade, but I think there’s a single phenomenon that’s working harder than all the others: the constant bombardment of music functioning as an aspect of an environment.