A moment of epiphany for me was when I realized that there was something inherently wrong with professional sports. It wasn’t steroids or the incessant hype or the fixation on statistics down to the molecular level. It was the realization that there is something fundamentally wrong with paying someone to do your playing for you.
Now I understand that it’s not about playing, it’s about watching, but that sort of proves the point. “Spectator sport” is an oxymoron; as if spectating were in fact the sport.
Once you start thinking in this way, you find other areas where we lean perhaps too much on “pros”. The music industry has tried, and to some extent succeeded, in creating a hegemony on everybody’s music. Add to that the absurdities of the copyright protection schemes that practically make it a crime to undo the shrink wrap. But my biggest beef with the music industry is how they have stripped so much of today’s popular music of any individuality or variety. Take American Idol. Here is a show in which the next music “Idol” is the one who is the best at singing a sort of quasi-gospel/hip-hop style. Elvis might have had a shot, but Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young? Not a prayer. Led Zepplin? Pink Floyd? Queen? The Stones? Sent home.
The music of my generation was diverse, it was edgy, it pushed boundaries. It was a voice for passion and protest. It was the result of many different companies looking for some great sound for a particular niche market. I am delighted to see that more and more independent artists are starting to become known thanks to the Internet, and I hope that the homogenized, ossified music industry “leaders” take note.
The ultimate act of rebellion is to do what someone else is supposed to do, only better. A few years back my brother Dave joined a garage band as the drummer. At the time, he didn’t know how to play drums, but he’s picked it up since then. The band, The Fossil Fools, has spend the last couple of years refining their skills and finding their unique voice. A week or two ago I was delighted to hear that they have just released their first CD, “The Fossil Record”. It’s a great little album with all original songs.
There is something authentic about making your own music, whether it’s playing in a band, singing in a church choir, performing in a local musical theater or just sitting at the piano playing some of your favorite tunes. It’s empowering somehow. Self-expression forces you to think about your world and say something about it. Learning to play a musical instrument opens all kinds of vistas and can keep your mind sharp. I look back with great fondness on my activities in theater and choir during my high school years and my freshman year in college. It makes a difference in your life.
So support your local garage band, bluegrass group, jazz quartet, community musical theater, local symphony, or street musicians. There’s nothing quite like music, local and live.
But I’m drawing the line at accordions.