Jon told me he saw Billy Bob Thornton on a TV show, asking another man to name a rock band after 1980 that we will listen to in a hundred years. The man named Bruce Springsteen to which Thornton immediately replied that Springsteen started in the Seventies. Then U2 and REM were brought up, but Thornton said that he could name at least 100 bands from the Sixties and Seventies that will be listened to a century from now.
I suggested Prince, but could not come up with much else. What about Jazz, can you name a bunch of young players? Easy to name the greats from the fifties, sixties and seventies, isn’t it. Could be I am not listening to Jazz radio… wait, there basically is no Jazz radio anymore… So, what happened with the record labels and with radio during the last decade and a half has something to do with it. But was that action or re-action?
Could it be that there is a relation between the downward spiral of art and music education in our schools, starting sometime in the Eighties, and the music and art scene? Has anybody studied the effect the lack of music/art education might have had on our culture in general? How about this: what if the lack of art/music education means that more people simply don’t know what a superior photograph looks like? If any photo of the Pantheon will do, why would the press, for example, hire a photographer to take a great photo of the place?
Maybe people have not been given the tools (((art-education))) to analyze a photograph? This came up in a conversation with a photographer friend, after our performance in Newport Beach today… And if a person knows near nothing about music, because the subject was never brought up in school, they also don’t know what it takes to play an instrument, the studying, the practicing, the discipline…. Therefore music and performance is devalued. And it’s not going to get better soon, as Californian government has promised to slash more of whatever is left of art and music in schools because of their budget crisis.
I find this inquiry as fascinating as a doctor might find dissecting a cadaver. Very complex, with lines crossing and double-crossing… a veritable hive of connections and layers. What is the origin? How is it connected? Which piece should I move first to strengthen the position? Which was the biggest mistake? I think it is safe to say that, as Dr. Sacks mentioned, we are a musical species – to deny that is to inhibit our personal and cultural growth. So, the first step is to not only provide arts education, but to attempt to really integrate it into the curriculum. We certainly don’t all have to become musicians, painters, photographers, but an appreciation and rudimentary understanding of the arts, and in particular music, would, I believe, enrich all of us.
Here is a little riff on Tradition and Originality:
Tradition and Originality are poles, extremes like the absolute and relative that in reality can’t be torn apart. There is a flamenco tradition, predated by the Arabic tradition, but there is also the guitar-tradition, the coaxing sound from any wooden box tradition, which includes all string instruments, etc. etc… Tradition is the rootsystem, Originality is the bloom. Tradition is the mountain you jump from to fly. And sometimes it works the other way aroud, too, when an original event becomes a new tradition. Tradition is craft to the originality that is art. All the study-pieces and etudes we play and practice are like sacks filled with sand, which we pile up to climb and jump.
Finished the book The City and the City by China Mieville on Friday morning. What a book, what a trip! Don’t know what to write about it. It was compelling, twisted, fantastic.