Sunday, October 25, 2015

Music is the Medium

"There's only two kinds of music, good and bad."
I'm not sure who said that, but it's been attributed to many.  I rather like the story that Duke Ellington's father imparted it to a young, gifted, son.  Duke certainly got the message because he made so much of the former kind of music.
Most of us have our favorite genres.  A quick look at someone's playlist or Pandora radio stations will reveal much about the person.  For those who have stacks of tape cassettes, or boxes of vinyl records even more knowledge and experience shows through.  Case in Point:  I went to a popular breakfast place the other day only to be greeted by the voice of Blind Willie McTell.  A record was playing...a real record making circles under a needle arm.  Felt like I'd walked into a Texas roadhouse.  I think it even made the food taste better.  I may have been the only one in that room who knew the voice, or even cared, but the music was the medium in that moment.

I've always marveled at how advertisers use the music of our formative years to sell their products.  When the Pillsbury Doughboy showed up playing blues riffs on a harmonica, I used to tell my classes that someday they'll see him as a rapper trying to sell the same old puffy white dough.  Lots of laughs, but mark my words, it's coming when they reach the right demographic in a few years.
As we age, we seem to get frozen or at least locked in for awhile to certain music genres and/or artists.  Again, Pandora helps because if you create a Neil Young station, you'll get lots Crosby Stills and Nash along with those Beatle songs that remind you of when and where you were at a certain time in your life.
I hold on to the Blues.  I'm overjoyed when anyone today covers a classic artist, but truth be told, I'd rather listen to the originals.  I'm old enough to have seen many of the classic Blues performers in their hey days.  Some like me feel it our duty to keep the music alive, so we wear T shirts with Blues graphics, and listen and talk up the music whenever we can.
With every year I'd say I know less and less about current popular music.  Can't tell you how many Grammies anybody won and it takes a good cluster of years before I feel certain I can put a date on a particular song or band.  It's of little value to do so now.  But make no mistake, I care about and listen to new artists.  In my hometown of Portland, Or, I hear all manner of street performers.  Occasionally I'll feed the kitty because it takes guts and resilience to stand out there (often in rain) and sing your heart out.  Now and then it's painfully obvious the busker on the street has a past.  They're too good, they have complete mastery over a piano, a fiddle, or a guitar.  The have a voice!  But then we all do.

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