An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

Lefty and Music

Several of the people that I keep in touch with saw the post where I reviewed the performance here in Anchorage by the jazz musician, Chris Botti.  They found it kind of odd that that is what we were writing a review about, and more specifically that I seemed to have been incredibly amazed by this concert.  In the interest of explaining things, I thought that I would touch on why this concert was something that I was so glad to be able to see.  This going to be a rather personal post, which isn’t something that we do often, but it was needed to be discussed.

The love of music that I have goes back almost to the beginning of my life.  The first Disney film that I ever saw was “Fantasia.”  It was a work of cinematic mastery, and remains my second-favorite film to date.  It’s ironic that for their third film, Disney did something so absolutely different from everything that they had done before.  And not only that, but this film wasn’t really made for kids.  There were parts that they could enjoy, but to be honest, this film was made almost entirely for adults.

For those who haven’t seen it, Fantasia is a film that combines beautiful classical music with artistry.  There is almost no speaking, aside from the host.  It is pure expression, and the beauty of it is beyond words.  It is, by far, Disney’s best animated film.  But from seeing that film, at the age that I saw it, I was able to get an appreciation for great music.  Complex harmonies, the chords all working together to form the artistic vision, the mass of instruments that had made this creation, I didn’t know what any of those things were when I was a little kid.  But I could see the beauty of the music that I was able to hear and see.  It forever changed the way that I look at music, and how it has had an effect on life.

I think that you can get a glimpse of what a culture is like during a time period exclusively by looking at its music.  Forget the politics, forget the economy, all you need to see in order to determine the state of a culture is to see what music that it creates.  So, the question becomes – what do you see now?  Well, unlike the 60’s and 70’s, where you saw rebellion and deep love, today we see conformity, the need to be up to the horribly low standards, a complete lack of emotional intimacy with the words.  The power of singers like John Lennon, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain is replaced by the emotionless drek of singers like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.  Never singing about the hard parts.  Love is easy, available, and life is awesome.  Such lies, but we are meant to stomach it.  And let’s not even get started about the fact that nobody seems to have any appreciation for wordless music, which gets its passion from the chords it plays and the instruments playing it.

Probably the only disappointment about Botti’s concert was that I was one of about 20 people in that packed auditorium who was in my own age group.  The bulk of the people in that room were middle-aged to senior.  Botti is a young artist, trying to play to a style that is young.  It should have had a much younger audience.  But it didn’t.  It had so few.  The lack of love for music that we are seeing in the modern culture is truly heart-breaking, because music is something that has absolute power.

The Beatles effectively ruled the world.  When Igor Stravinsky wrote his ballet, the Rite of Spring, it was so controversial that he was driven out of town with the threat of death on his heels.  Music has challenged leaders and ways of thinking, as it should.  Like the written word, it should be about more than just entertaining people.  Millions of neurons fire every single day, and the more you think, the more connections are made through this process.  With our new culture of brainless entertainment, it becoming increasingly clear that good taste is falling through in favor of something that is bright and loud.

If nothing else that I have said means anything to any of you, please take this away – the love of great music should be uniting our culture, and instead, while the Botti concert did sell out, and that is awesome beyond words, it should be selling out by the young.  The youth should have beaten the old people there, with a stick.  Oh yeah, I went there.

Music is power.  Music is passion.  Music is art and it is beauty and it is everything that makes our culture work.  The culture of America is dying, and this is sad beyond belief.  Botti touched on this when he said that one of his favorite places to go was Poland, because of their deep respect for musical artistry.  He was even asked to go there and perform in honor of Frederic Chopin.

We need our culture back.  Though that may be too much to ask.

Peace out,

Lefty

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