|Casey Kasem, counting down...|
It's weird. I don't really consider myself a pop music person at all. However, I do remember spending Sunday afternoons in the 80's with my sister listening to Casey Kasem count down the Top 40 on the radio. I didn't buy too many of those pop albums, but my sister had some of them. I was more into jazz and classical music; however, if you are a high school student in any era, it's hard to avoid the "music of your generation". Now, like anybody who hears music from their youth, I get nostalgic when I hear Michael Jackson, or Duran Duran, or Prince, or Tears for Fears, or any of the one hit wonders from that era. But, even though I actually liked some of these songs at the time, I was still a bit of a snob. Though now, some of the 80's pop music could be considered high art compared to today's songs.(I mean 80's songs had INTROS, instrumental INTROS, for crying out loud. And sometimes, they even had cheesy tenor saxophone solos. Do any songs on the radio now have instrumental SOLOS? I'd like to know...)
|Makes any music sound GREAT!|
Last week, my father-in-law was in Portland for a visit. He had rented a car, so we were driving to Toys-R-Us to get some toys and such for my son Liam. Mr. Politzer had set the Sirius station to Pop, and most of the music, which came to us via satellite, was horrendous. And then this song called "Someone Like You" came on, and I said, "Who is THAT?" I had never heard the song. And Mr. Politzer, who I don't think of as a musician at all, said,"that's Adele, she's the hottest thing in the music industry right now." And then it sort of rang a bell; another recent hit of hers (that melodically almost sounds like "Crazy" by Cee-Lo) called "Rolling In the Deep" I had heard before. But this song, "Someone Like You" was extremely refreshing in it's only-vocals-and-piano acoustic purity, something you rarely hear nowadays. Not only is Adele's contralto voice really rich and distinctive (also something you don't hear much on the radio, what with everything auto-tuned and robotic sounding), but the message of the song really struck me. If you've ever loved and lost (which I assume is a universal, unless you married your high school sweetheart and lived happily ever after, or you are a robot...), then you can feel Adele's pain.
|Soon to Be Released in Canada.....|
Indeed, anything very popular in the world nowadays has a pretty short shelf life, due to the constant media saturation of youtube and the internet. I read this about "Someone Like You" on Wikipedia:
Stairway To Heaven'. Everyone thinks they can play it. The sign was a bit of a joke, but the song can drive you mad." Joanna Corscadden, an assistant manager at the shop said: "It is a very popular song, and it gets played over and over again. You get sick of songs when you hear them so often. So after hearing the same song played about four to five times in about half an hour, one staff member put up a sign stating 'strictly no Adele'. We will remove it if people are genuinely offended by it but people are still entitled to play, and they are continuing to do so. They [customers] called us piano shop fascists but did not get the correct name of our shop."
The competition for people's attention is astounding, and because entertainment is so instantaneous, it's a wonder that any song can capture anyone's attention for more than 5 minutes before some video of a Indonesian orangutan doing bong hits and dancing to becomes the talk of the global village. However, Adele's song is still a popular song (hence the "Strictly No Adele" policy in the Dublin music shop, ha ha). What struck me was that I'm supposed to be a music teacher, and I was completely unaware of one of the most popular songs of the year. How did this happen? Why is there such a disconnect between music teachers and popular music?
I think you could make a case that the elite culture and the mass culture have almost reversed, in a sense. When we think of intellectuals, we think of starving artists, or music students, or college professors, jazz musicians. Most in that group are not out clubbing with Paris Hilton. People like Hilton, with more money that God, are out spending their inherited cash, listening to the lowest of the lowbrow music there is. (I have not done the research, this is just a conclusion I have arrived at off the top of my head. Maybe I'll do my Doctoral Thesis on The Reversal Of The Cultural Elite in America. Yeah, that sounds scholarly....)
I'm constantly questioning the importance and relevance of my art and my teaching. I don't want to stay in the ivory tower all the time. I want to know what goes on in the real world, for better or for worse. We have known for a long time that the majority of music students don't make it in music. Why not? Is it because of the industry? Or is it because we as music teachers have our heads in the sand? I and most other music teachers teach what they know. Much of what I know comes from when I came on the jazz scene in the late 1980's and moved to New York in the mid 90's. The music scene, industry, whatever you want to call it, is in comparison almost unrecognizable now. So why should I continue to teach as if nothing has changed? How much of a dinosaur do I want to be?
|"Yeah, my teacher is making me play this Lady Gaga song on my recital...."|