Music and MadAminA!
Music. Old and new, symphonic and operatic, vocal and chamber and recital. Music performed
in the concert hall, or listened to on records or radio, or made in the cozy comfort of home or the camaraderie of school or church. It is all part of one of mankind's most marvelous means of communication, totally transcending national borders, languages and customs, even time itself.
Yet it can be reduced to a few simple components: rhythm, melody, and harmony. Another ingredient, however, is every bit as essential to its existence, and that is enthusiasm the enthusiastic, passionate involvement of those who write it, play it, and (most important) listen to it.
We live in peculiar times. No civilization has ever had the abundance we enjoy of just about everything: wealth, education, art, leisure, consumer goods. Technology and mass media have made them all accessible to most people, but at a perilous price. As a people, as a world, we have become
more passive than our forefathers, and more blasé. After all, we can always call in professionals to do whatever has to be done, and pay them for it. More and more, our society shapes up into two strata: the practitioner (highly skilled and often shamefully cynical) and the layman (hard-pressed by the ceaseless pressures of his world and frustrated by his failure to understand or to be understood). Those of us concerned with music have not escaped injury.
In a brilliant and courageous statement appearing in High Fidelity (June, 1980), Gunther Schuller discusses the growing cynicism and disaffection of orchestras and their managements, i.e. the very people who convey our music to us. His remarks can be applied with equal meaning to other media in music and the other arts as well. The largest problem, as we see it, is in the interaction among the music professional, the amateur (in the best sense of that word), and the engaged listener. Who, having seen the splendid old ballet film, "The Red Shoes", can forget the scene with the crowd of ballet enthusiasts lined up in front of the still-locked theatre door, waiting to dash up to their balcony seats, there still to wait for the performance to begin, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the magnetism of their common denominator, their passion for music and dance? It is this unbounded and unbridled involvement at the spectator level which makes any art thrive. Such vital involvement is probably best achieved when there is also some degree of personal participation in the art. In a recent interview, Robert Shaw was quoted in The New York Times. "Religious choral singing has helped shape American musicality. Most people's first experience of music is still from youth choruses or church choirs. The level of actual music-making
is often disastrous, but the participative experience, the sense of belonging
to a society of performers, is crucial."
The arts are of fundamental importance to man not only because
future generations remember him only by what he has wrought. They are important
because they nourish his inner life, his relationship with time and the world.
They contribute like nothing else to his sense of humanity. It is counterproductive,
therefore, to segregate the budding professional in any art, leaving the
amateur and spectator to grope for musical contact as best they can. How
many students are lost to music during their school years, and only because
their school makes musical participation available solely or mainly to "music
majors"? Should we not be making a more concerted effort to harness
the energies, talents, and contributions of our developing engineers, business
people, scientists, workers, and thereby make them, as they once were, true
partners in what Roger Sessions described as "the musical experience?"
It is to the plurality of that musical experience, the widely divergent interest in making music of all types for all sorts of reasons, that the pages of MadAminA! are dedicated.