Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Dead Still Speak

This past week, this past month really, the world lost a lot of talent, talent that influenced and shaped many people's lives. It always seems like people who live in the public eye tend to die in clusters. Someone should really look into this problem.

I have to say, with all the public mourning on the Internet and in real life, I have felt a little out of loop. I have found it very interesting that so many friends have marked how influential David Bowie was to their lives, where I have to say I had not until this week, ever heard a song by him or seen a video by him. Of course I knew of him, and that he was a highly talented, influential, and beloved person, but somehow I kind of missed the Bowie Boat.

It probably has to do with how I was raised. My family was very conservative catholic, and there was very little variety in the music that was played at home. Christian instrumental music anyone? Rock was not something that was played, and when I started listening to my own music as a teenager, it was Beethoven, not Bowie. I didn't even know the bands that were popular with my school mates in middle school. Sure, I pretended, but I have to admit, never listened to Green day. To this day I feel woefully behind in listening to all the wonderful music created in the last 30 years or so that isn't classical. So much talent in the world, so little time.

Though I find it a little ironic that I didn't discover Bowie's music earlier. What I hear over and over again from mourners is his message was that it is OK to be different, it is OK to be the weird one. Coming from a conservative family, home schooled, working in a library, playing bassoon... I was strange all right. It is a shame that I didn't discover his music when I was younger. I am still strange, but as a child I didn't think I was strange, rather I thought everyone else was.

Since his death, I have actually started to listen to his music. I have yet to listen to his newest album, but plan on after writing this blog post. I could see how coming across his music during one's youth could have a highly influential effect. No matter what time one lives in, it is (I can't come up with the right word here: wonderful doesn't quite work, awesome is dated, meaningful? fun? great?) to observe such an artist who embodies the Zeitgeist of the time, how relevant his music was, and apparently still is. The ability to tap into the group subconscious and create something out of it, creating something that speaks to people. I know I am saying this on a blog about early music, but it is a very important point that some classical musicians forget.

Whether you are creating your own new music, or recreating music from the past, it is important to find something that can speak to your public. Your public that is sitting in front of you or listening to your recording. It doesn't really matter if your audience is only a handful of people or millions of people, tapping into that source, finding relevancy, this is important. This is the key to finding one own creative greatness. As a classical musician specializing in music of dead white European males, this can sometimes become a challenge. We get lost in our own head, forget why what we do is important. Why do people still listen to Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler, etc? Because there is still that connection, but in our case, it must be found. We must lead people to the deeper meaning other than the music is pretty. Pretty isn't the point of what classical musicians do,  and this sometimes is forgotten.

So off I go to begin dinner and listen to Bowie. There are worse ways to spend an evening.


  1. What a treat to hear from you. I think there are many Bowie's out there...lots of great music to inspire us and learn from.