Thursday, March 4, 2010

A question of relevance: Education an old post updated and reprinted

A question of relevance:

I remember a panel discussion reprinted in the AMC newsletter also on the net.. 
Where a composer and 2 leading music educators decried the persistence of traditional classical music --to paraphrase-- 

this was a retrograde force on education as it had no relevance to today's children -
Public school children that is.

One always forgets that when anyone mentions any education reform they mean public education reform. 

I was struck with how unanimous was there agreement on this subject. To say that times have changed is perhaps the point its self. In the 1950-1960 even 17 magazine covered classical music as well as popular music – no longer. But then again is it because mass market or nich market media no longer cover classical music does that make it irrelevant?  Skills based learning irrelevant? Huh?

Consider if public school children, rather lets say poor children, have any choice in the matter?  Do they have a choice?  Many times not.  

This reveals the disconnect between our so called leaders and the folks who actually have to implement a policy.   A policy that they, I mean we, are actually unaware of.  That is; the folks at the top would sell us out to promote pop music.   Why? Merely because its ubiquitous.  Because it has a beat you can dance to?

One can't help but wonder what the motivation is here.
Is it Funding?

Is there not money to be made in these choices or lack thereof? The music industry does many wonderful things, yet not enough, but it has a huge stake in popular music and every year music seems to get cheaper to produce as performing skills are emphasized less and less and technology used more and more thus increasing profits. With the Anteries machine it is no longer necessary to sing in tune to sing on a hit record.

What I mean is this; Technology can produce many wonderful things but its main focus with the top 40 has always been to make music cheaper and more profitable.  

The advent of music video made an advertisement the object itself.

Why has technological advances replaced artistic achieve in the public mind as the greater good?

Artistic achievement is rare, sporadic, and not always apparent or easy to understand, it doesn't get much press or make a lot of money either. Higher thinking skills are required to understand it. (Hmmm maybe Public School students need some of those).

Of course elementary band has some sonic issues that the same kids wired to a laptop with headphones don't have.

Technological advances are a constant, and as products are easy to understand and not only do they get constant press they are the signal and the “bus.” That is they are the medium (Flat screen HD TV) and the message as well (for our next segment--new laptops!!)- they are ubiquitous and almost inescapable. It also drives our economy even thought not many of these products are made in America anymore.

Every new upgrade means more expense but my conclusion is this; new technologies makes music cheaper and easier to produce thus increases profits. To achieve that end it has also reduced the value and meaning of composition. Today music compositions are just another computer file. They all look alike.

Recent trends in the arts are also against  "artistic" achievement. The recent trend in the arts world is that “high art” is just “another” of many many styles. This fits in well with the music industry that for years has marketed popular music as “outsider art.” “If Mozart were alive today....”

If we consider the public mind in American terms as Barnum did, we love winners.  So, its obvious that technology wins and artistic achievement loses.

Why then does it surprise anyone that those in the know (the NYT?) would drop the composers who do not hitch their wagon to the current winning team? 

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