Sunday, April 21, 2019

Positive music in times like these

I have this side gig where I work with high school students at SpyHop in SLC. Right now the project involves a student rock band, and I was interviewing the members of the band about which of their original songs had the most potential to make an impact upon people.

All but one of them talked at length about their song "Get Up," which is basically about yeah, everything sucks but if we all just get up, stay positive, and help one another it's all gonna work out ok.

My teaching (at WSU or wherever) has always been focused upon the way music both reflects and influences society at any given time. This band at SpyHop is made of teenagers -- arguably the most horrible time of anyone's life -- and yet they are looking at the world around them and trying to put out a positive message to the world. They believe they can influence. When I was their age (and pretty much still today), the music I made and listened to reflected my rage, incertitude, and frustration; clearly reflecting my world, but not really influencing it.

Are they just young and naive? Was/am I just insufferable? I don't think so. I think in order to really get a sense of a time, it is essential to take a look at both sides of this reflecting/influencing coin. This gets especially sticky in the "classical music" world, in which utterances that are intentionally ugly or brash or confusing are so often dismissed in favor of more dulcet tones that are considered "real music." But we need both -- music that reflects our time and music that influences it -- and believe it or not, sometimes one piece or song can serve both purposes. Moreover, in my mind, "influence" need not always equal "positive." Sometimes people need to be made angry in order to act, which makes me wonder -- where are all the good protest songs today?

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