Saturday, May 05, 2007

Music and Society

As an artist, and much to my horror, I keep up with the trends of society. I'm a blues-jazz musician and in the last few years it has been next to impossible for me to stay in public places for long due to the pain of the piped in music. The advent of the subwoofer added to the problem. Forget dining out. Gagging is not to my liking. The domination of the sounds was everywhere, often cutting off human communication.
Last Friday night I noticed something peculiar when visiting downtown. The music that wasn't live was coming from computers, and this made all the difference in the world. It diminished the power and people were communicating like wildfire. In one gallery it was killed after awhile in favor of poetry readings and other spoken recitations. Instead of forcefully filling the rooms and shrinking the people, the sounds were localized in a tiny box. People are finally able to ignore it.
When I moved to town 30 years ago, a large pedestrian mall was just being completed in the core of the city, changing life permanently. Musicians appeared and street theater came back. Chess games are going on day and night, horses clop along pulling coaches, and art is dispersed throughout the area. It's no longer a thing of the parks, but part of the basic city beat.
Street theater has always been a large part of social expression, and in my town, this is coming back in a huge wave that has gathered its own momentum. Live music is everywhere now, and increasing exponentially, finally replacing the corporate infiltration and joylessness of recorded sounds. I think people have had it. Saturation point. The human pulse is awake.
But the crowning experience occurred last evening when I made a pitstop at my neighborhood thrift store. I pulled into the parking lot and noticed a bar I'd never seen before. Being a musician, I'm always curious, so I ventured forth. On the windows were painted pictures of piano keyboards. Out front was the banished smoking group firing away, and after passing through the cloud, I walked through the door to find an ordinary American bar, typical in every way. A gigantic screen was in the back broadcasting the Sat. night boxing match. Men in shorts were joyously punching each other. Patrons were sipping their drinks waiting to see who was coming in. There was one big difference, however. In the front and center was a stage with a brand new shiny black grand piano, dignified, proud, and poised in anticipation.
Very odd. Some would say bizarre. Capricorn ahoy? 


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