I’ve not written a blog for a while now, so I figured I’d knock off a quick one about a couple of my favourite musical bugbears that I hear people bandying about willy-nilly…
And here they are:
1. “Music that I don’t like is just a noise”.
2. “Music is a universal language”.
So, a while back, I was teaching a bit of compositional theory (as you do) and I asked the students a seemingly outrageous question: “What is the purpose of the harmonic minor scale? Why is there a raised 7th in there?”
But I was not deterred and thought I’d push them even further… “OK, what about the melodic minor scale? A raised 7th AND a raised 6th.”
Tumbleweed, and a bell tolling in the distance…
A couple of years back, while on holiday in NYC with the fam, I went to see the Willie Jones III Quintet in The Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola at the Lincoln Centre. The Dave Holland Trio (w/ Kevin Eubanks) were at the Village Vanguard downtown on the same evening but they don’t let kids in, at Dizzy’s you can be over 7 years old and they’ll take your money.
I first became a fan of Ornette Coleman back in the early 1980s, when I took out At The Golden Circle Vol. 1 on vinyl from the local library.
What appealed to my cold and detached teenage soul was the Blue Note-designed LP cover. The icy backdrop, the too-cool-for-jazz-school threesome, the black & white of it all.
We’re all Michael Brecker fans here, aren’t we? I mean, what’s not to like? The man was regarded as one of the greatest saxophonists of his generation, and has a back catalogue of albums, both as leader and sideman, that is largely unchallenged both in its diversity and musical accomplishments. Whether we knew it or not, we’ve all heard his playing – through his sessions with mainstreamers like Paul Simon, Christopher Cross, James Taylor, Billy Joel or Dire Straits, or through his jazz collaborations with brother Randy, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Steps Ahead etc etc. But his solo albums are fantastic as well, particularly the early ones: the self-titled debut Michael Brecker (1987), Now You See It, Now You Don’t (1990) and the album where Itsbynne Reel found its home: his second album Don’t Try This At Home (1988) on Impulse Records.
You’ll know from my other blogs on music education that I’m of the opinion that a lot of what is being examined in our young musicians (and mature ones, taking the dreaded graded exam journey) is outdated and irrelevant. The system has remained much the same for over 80 years, and shows no signs of changing anytime soon. Most academic exam systems have changed over the years, so why have music exams (and I’m looking at you ABRSM) staunchly remained the same all of this time?
Over the past year, or so, I’ve been thinking about how we educate our young people in music.
People that know me will no doubt be aware of my views on some aspects of music education that I consider negligible in worth (ie. scales and aural tests in ABRSM exams, the Kodaly method and other similar academic delusions) but the topic that I want to talk about today is ‘music appreciation’.
Following my post 1979: The Death Of Progressive Rock & The Jazz/Folk/Acoustic Amalgam, I began to think more about what I’d written. Was I being too hard on the Prog scene by saying it was virtually dead by 1979? Surely there was some life in it yet? But then I thought, what does the sentimental side of me say about this? It said ‘no, you were not’. And my logical side, of course, agreed.
1979: Growing up in southern Ontario in the 1970s, FM radio was the soundtrack to your existence. The music came in from Toronto (CHUM FM, Q107) and played a mix of stadium rock (Styx, Journey, Kansas) and AOR (mainly the Westcoast type like Toto, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan and so forth). Soft rock and Fleetwood Mac was/were all over the place – there was a fair share of disco, too.
Those of you out there who know their stuff will no doubt be familiar with the topic of today’s blog: the paradigm analysis. And those of you with a bit of knowledge of linguistics, and what-not, will recognise the name Ferdinand de Saussure, the French structuralist and semiologist. If you do, you’re probably more prepared than the average blogger for what is about to come and can skip over a few paragraphs below.