THE WAY WE WEAR MUSIC
Since 1988 people (after a concert of Chamber Blues) have been asking me the same question; "How is it that such diverse forms of music seem to blend so naturally?" I have gone through a gamut of answers but after almost 20 years now, of riding on the hood ornament of a vehicle crashing 100 miles an hour through the walls of musical traditionalism I have been able to come to some verbal resolution about this. Here's some food for thought.
Look at it this way: When we think of the blues, don't we think of some guy wailing on an old beat up guitar in a smoky tavern with a bunch of people in jeans and T-shirts? When we think of classical music don't we flash on an ornate concert hall with a grand piano on high stick and a performer in tux and tails and women in sparkling evening gowns? Just the visual image alone makes it seem like classical music and blues are worlds apart.
The music itself is innocent of this visual diversity. The music is made up of chords, melodies, harmonies, counterpoint, dynamics, articulations and rhythm. It doesn't know about smoke-filled rooms, blue jeans, or tuxedoes. It doesn't rely on ushers passing out programs or a society passing out dress codes to fit with a particular genre. The music is blind. All it cares about is having a wonderful time.
Once a radio announcer who was obviously a classical music fan confronted me on the air and stated that blues is a lowly form of music whose text is relegated to the gutter with stories of loose women and booze and etc. ... and sometimes you can't even understand the words. Then he asked the question; "What do you think about that Mr. Siegel?" I answered immediately; "Opera! I rest my case."
Sometimes we tend to choose our music like a hat: If we look at an exhibit of hats we can fully appreciate the artistic value of each hat. If it were an exhibit of hats from all over the world we can still appreciate the artistic value. Even if the hats were very outrageous and odd this would be even more fun. But if we had to wear these hats we would certainly have a different outlook. "Yes, that is a great hat, but I would never wear it." We have at best a subconscious and subtle tendency to choose our music as if we must wear it. There is such a social stigma with regard to the music we have chosen as our own ... the music we have chosen to wear. This tendency does get in the way of a deeper appreciation of the object of art. I mean really. With most forms of music, what's not to like?
I have heard some people say; "I don't like blues music." When I hear this I can't help but imagine the following line coming from them; "I don't associate with this kind of music. It is not sophisticated to me. I am a sophisticated person after all ... .... .... aren't I?"
And I have heard other friends say; "I don't like classical music." And I imagine the following line; "Classical music is square ... it's not who I am. I don't want to be caught in a hat that might not be hip" . . . and so on.
Of course the potential for enjoying different forms of music is suppressed by this psychology. What is especially interesting is that it also suppresses the potential for a deeper enjoyment and understanding of the music of our choice.
To take this a step further, when we are outright critical of other forms of music it is not only a disservice to ourselves, it is a disservice to the artists that make the music. More importantly, it isa disservice to all the people that love that music. Most music wants to bring people together but this behavior creates a powerful separation between people.
Some people who tend to worship a particular genre and those artists of that genre to the extent that they are critical of other genres and styles, might ask the question of themselves; "What do you think your favorite artist listens to?" Most artists listen to, enjoy, and respect other genres of music. For a blues example, I understand that Robert Johnson not only listened to other forms but also played many other forms in his set. My drummer Sam Lay is a blues legend. He is partly responsible for what we call the Chicago Blues. His favorite music is country music but he also loves most forms of music. Most of the great classical players I met love the blues and listen and love most forms of music. This of course includes Seiji Ozawa.
Even if we can't bring ourselves to "embrace" a particular form, we could still appreciate that other people do love this form. Then we could honor this by simply celebrating the joy of diversity the world is trying to offer us. And it is easier to do this and at the same time enjoy our chosen styles and forms even more when we experience music in the heart, not in the head, ... ... and certainly not on the head.
Blues is from Mars, classical is from .... ?
So after thinking about all this you can see that the social-political and self image stuff is so powerful, it makes it seem like blues is from Mars and classical is from a distant galaxy. Now, if we take away all the social-political and psychological self image stuff (and we haven't even talked about the powerful tilt of nostalgia), all that is left is two very beautiful and innocent forms of music that get along very well.More About Chamber Blues:
A Brief History - How Classical Met the Blues
The Way We Hear Music
|Copyright 2010 by Corky Siegel||Home Page: www.chamberblues.com|