Sunday, March 1, 2009

Musical Blending

In working with a show choir back-up band, I had the opportunity to view several shows, including a show choir from California. What I noticed was that the performances that I enjoyed most generally had music I recognized but arranged in a new and intriguing way, and having a Bachelors of Music Education I might be more prone to notice such things. Sometimes this was done with setting a song to a different style, and sometimes this was in taking two songs and blending them together. It got me thinking about why show choirs are doing this and not instrumental ensembles.

The obvious answer is that it's easier to do this with vocal music because they are less complex, especially when working with contemporary or "radio music". But this the ease of something shouldn't determine whether it is done or not. This musical blending can help make instrumental music more accessible to the casual listener, while also engaging performers in new techniques and styles of performance. People are more likely to want to hear more if they recognize parts of the music, even if in a different setting than they are used to. And this musical blending can also work in reverse, by making "radio music" more accessible to those that might not normally listen to it.

Marching bands have began integrating more modern dance into their body movements but still generally limit themselves musically. I have seen more and more break dancing and similar movements from the guard and sometimes the band breaking partially away from the "traditional" movements, but more is still needed. This isn't to say that their shows aren't enjoyable, but musical blending could bring a new level of performance energy and audience interaction to the shows.

Bands and orchestras seem to be the least experimental when it comes to this idea of musical blending. In general these ensembles' range of musical experimentation extends to 21st century music and no further. Perhaps some of the blame falls on the composers who write for these ensembles, but it also falls on the directors for not seeking out new ways to reach not only their students, but their audiences. Musical blending allows an audience to connect with the music in different ways and encourages further exploration of all aspects of a musical world, while also pushing performers to learn new styles and techniques. It's time to start actively pushing at the envelope, thinking outside the box, and writing our own musical history. George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," bet he didn't say we have to live in the past. Let's keep the past at our side, as we journey forward into our musical evolution.

1 comment:

Christopher J. Simerman Jr. said...

I was rooting through some of my old college projects and found a project titled "Music Dies." This excerpt sums up a bit of that I am trying to get across.

"There are three main reasons why classical music was already on the decline.
1)Classical music is on the decline because it has only been moving linearly.
Since its creation, music has moved from concept to concept with very little interaction between these ideas.
2)Classical music is on the decline because it has become too specialized.
Music began as an all purpose entertainment. Music for People states, “Your music is more authentically expressed when your body is involved in your musical expression.” The arts used to be intimately connected but now they stand apart and jealously guard any changes they make as their own.
3)Work concept has limited our creativity.
With the advent of the work concept, composers write more specific music and musicians only play what is written. I was once told that “Composers only write what they think you don’t know.” If that is the case then composers today must think we are morons because they leave nothing up to interpretation."

My source for this information was a class on Improvisation taught by Professor Eric Edberg (