Challenges for the Future
Someone on the TPIN Newsgroup recently referred readers to an article by Dyske Suematsu called "Why Americans Don't Like Jazz". The article raised a number of interesting observations regarding how people listen to music that can be applied to classical music as well as jazz. To read the entire article, go to http://dyske.com/paper/778. Here is a summary of the articles salient points:
1) Most people listen to music for the lyrics rather than the music.
2) Appreciating and enjoying instrumental music requires abstract thinking.
3) Abstract thinking takes effort on the part of the listener.
4) Music videos have relegated music to a background role.
5) For young people, music has become mostly a visual experience.
6) As a result, most people cannot turn off their own thoughts and allow abstract art to affect their emotions.
7) Because instrumental music is abstract, listeners cannot understand its intricacies. They need lyrics to tell them what and how to think.
8) If a song has any musical substance, it can be played on a piano and still deliver its message. Consider today's rap music regarding this statement.
9) To reverse this trend, instrumental music should be the dominant teaching in our schools for both the classroom experience and performing groups.
It is my opinion, it is the responsibility of all of us to do whatever we can to see that the art of music survives. We must be active in preserving music in our schools and communities, especially in an economic downturn. Classroom music, vocal and instrumental music programs should be encouraged not to water down our art by emphasizing whatever is already popular in order to achieve recognition. At the same time, David Cutler, in his book "The Savvy Musician", suggests that classical and jazz artists need to rethink the way they present their art to their audiences. In other words, can we as artists do something different that will reach our audiences where they are and bring them to where we want them to be? The future of music may depend on it.
Additional Resources On This Subject
Cutler, David. The Savvy Musician - This book contains great ideas on how to market and present music in order to reach a larger and more diverse audience.
Brandon, Sy. A Composer's Guide To Understanding Music - This book has activities that can help non-musicians gain ability and understanding to more actively listen to music.