In reflection of an almost ancient past conversation that I was subjected to, which became a particularly lengthy discussion, that somehow became a lamentation of how French tuned organs aren’t in the U.S., and what a shame this is that we can’t hear the pieces preserved in their original key, and sound, etc. Having had enough of this conversation (similar to having has enough of the previous sentence), I burst aloud, “That’s because all French music sucks”. Now in retrospect, that probably wasn’t the right thing to say in this situation on a few levels. See, first of all, I didn’t mean that statement in it’s fundamental actual sense. No, all French music doesn’t suck, nor do I believe any French music sucks, at all. Really, I was just tired of this old conversation on subjects that reminisced something one would hear in a music history lessons during undergrad. So I stated this conversational absurdity in desire of a reaction. However, I didn’t get the reaction I sought. I expected those in conversation to laugh at the true absurdity of the statement and then move on to another subject. Instead I forgot I’d been conversing with musical elitists in the first place. If an elitist is presented with an absurdity in conversation, it is often times unbearable to said elitist to move on. An elitist must defend, try to sway, re- educate, and squash that idea. They must then draw out an entire argument. In this case an elitist must then provide examples of great French composers, renowned and therefore remembered as great because the composer has somehow made it into the annals of history. Ultimately, an elitist feels they are the greater source of this truer knowledge, other is discounted as lesser, and thus a definition of elitist is assumed.
But really “Who cares?”. And “Why should we care about this?”. These are two questions an elitist will never ask. It’s just too ‘other’.
My generation is the post jazz era generation. Personally, I greatly enjoy the demeanor, perspective and intellect of jazz musicians. Yes, I know there are certainly elitists in that genre as any other. In my experience, generally, those classically trained musicians who have jumped ship and entered into the realm of the art of written music as ‘suggestion’ are more my speed, well, and certainly more enjoyable to converse and play with. Mostly, because of the common held observation that we all perceive and interpret differently. No one has a personal time capsule to go back in time and re-live the past or has an omniscience that they can get into the motive and perspective of others completely. We are all different, society is a progression. Over a set of time everything changes, which includes our perceptions and interpretations of those perceptions. No matter how much we’d try to defend this notion or concept that things can be preserved in unadulterated purity, it cannot be escaped. No one can truly re-live the perceived glories of yesteryear, or recreate what is past.
From a musical perspective, I find it increasingly laughable that the culture which the elitist musical sphere is trying desperately hard to emulate note for note, sound for sound, is the same which developed the concept of improvisation. For example we’ve learned that figured bass was basically our modern equivalent of a lead sheet showing the progressions of the chart. This was an outline, a sketch work meant to display the bare bones of what a musician would be playing, and in fact was considered truly nothing until it was ‘realized’. Let me say that in another way, that paper with notes written was not music, just the illusion of music, the idea of a musical possibiity. The realization of the bass line is the actualization of it. Actualization is the doing, the playing, the process which creates real by enacting it into sound. Music is an action, not a preserved piece of paper.
Too often we exist in this culture of over thinking, reacting, defending, decreeing. When are we realizing, actualizing, and doing? I digress.
I think the greatest cultural shift is being felt today by those who would like to maintain and preserve an outdated and unrealistic hold onto elitist views. This is in every sphere, from politics, to music, to religion, newspapers, books, art, ancient polluting energy sources, sciences, western patriarchal medicine, most traditional industry, etc. I believe those who are turning from this hold, if they are paying any attention to the why, will find the whole idea absurd. After all, do we insist on using our original computer because “those were the good old days”? No. Technology has changed us, we have changed technology. Everything else is change as well.
So in closing, I still enjoy my conversations with well informed, “elitist” musicians (you know who you are; educated, experienced, with that same high level of expectation you’d expect of yourself and ensembles) All I ask of us is simple. Please, when encountered with the absurd, note it and move on. Change.