Fantastic post in the Telegraph on music in education. The author, Frank Furedi, brilliantly describes the cowardice that is killing music education in the western world. What he doesn’t talk about, and what I think really needs to be discussed, is that, just as we need educational leaders to have the courage to make decisions about what music classes out to teach based on the merit of the content, we also need, in our larger society, to be able to talk honestly about what makes art music different from pop. If we can’t stand up and defend the inherent value of art, and differentiate it from pop-culture content, we’re surely lost. Art is created by artists, pop is manufactured by corporations. Art challenges, heals, awakens, inspires, outrages and amuses. Pop nullifies, markets, demeans, deafens, stultifies, manipulates and sells. Especially sells- that is to say, when you listen to Britney Spears, you’re listening to an advertisement, not a song. Jimi Hendrix sang songs, which he wrote, Britney Spears dances to advertisements, conceived in boardrooms and market tested to focus groups. Do you realize that music teachers are now teaching Britney and her cohorts?
Just as educators ought to be willing and able to set real standards in music education, beyond just encouraing everyone to feel blithely good about their diverse nature, so newspapers ought to have the courage to make clear the difference between music and pseudo music. Putting a review of Christopher Taylor playing all of Messiaens’ Vingt Regards alongside a review of the Spice Girls at Madison Square Garden is an act of cultural cowardice magnified by the fact that an arts editor should know better, and probably does.
Don’t get wrong, there are many, many true creative artists working in popular music, but just because some work in a genre is good or great, it does not follow that all of it is good or great.