Monday, July 10, 2006

Infernal machines: a progress report

"These talking machines will ruin the artistic development of music in this country. When I was a boy, in front of every house in the summer evenings, you would find young people together singing the songs of the day or old songs. Today, you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal chord left in America! The vocal chord will be eliminated by a process of evolution as was the tail of man when he came down from the ape.” -- John Philip Sousa, testimony to US Congress
I love all kinds of machines for making music, whether those machines require the pushing about of electrons or not, and I can't live without any of them. But I do believe that it's possible to live without recordings of performances. My year without recordings -- not making them, and avoiding listening to them -- is going splendidly.

Okay, I did listen to some soundfiles sent to me by Jon Brenner (you can hear some here, too), and taxiing kids about town is a valid excuse for turning on the radio, so I've heard some amazing things (for example) on broadcast recordings by accident, but generally, I've tried to use the time I would have spent listening to recording by doing more score reading at the keyboard: of late, Giles Farnaby, Purcell, Bach (one-a-days from Die Kunst der Fuge), some Feldman, Kurtag, and Mumma. I'll never be a real pianist, but my ambition here has everything to do with training my ears, which is a project for a lifetime, and little to do with keyboard technique, which is a project for a youth more disciplined than mine ever was. More importantly, I think, I've been taking time each day to sing with my daughter (she's four), time that cannot be better spent in front of a loudspeaker.

BTW, isn't it swell to know that John Philip Sousa, that most American of American musicians, believed in evolution?

1 comment:

sfmike said...

What a wonderful project, and since I'm around so much live music in San Francisco, turning off all recorded music is something I've also been toying with. "Training your ears" is a great way to put it.