In 1961 President Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower in his farewell address to the nation, expressed his concerns about the dangers of massive military spending, particularly deficit spending and government contracts to private military manufacturers, which he dubbed ” the military-industrial complex”. His warnings were prophetic and much of his concerns have come to pass. The growth and influence of “the military-industrial complex” in the US has led to a distortion of the political and economic make up of the country. For the past 50+ years the US has been in a permanent state of war for which there seems to be no end in sight.
Now, it is not the same thing of course, but I suggest that the music “industry” seems to be in in a similar predicament. The mere fact that we consider music as an industry at all pretty well under scores the existence of a “music-industrial complex”. Of course we don’t call it that. We know it simply as the “the entertainment industry”. It implies that if it doesn’t “entertain” then it has no value”. I suggest that this is responsible for the sorry state of music in general. All pop music sounds the same. Maybe it is because I now fall into that group of “old farts” who are incapable of recognizing “new and vibrant music”. Maybe, but I don’t think so. It is now usual for music to be pigeon holed into various genres and categories and within these groupings the music has been homogenized to point where original and creative performances are hard to come by. If you hear one good Blue Grass band then you have pretty well heard them all. The formula is there and to make a living the musicians pretty well have stick to it. Every rock band seems to be still rattling around inside the standard configurations pioneered in the classic rock era. Imaginative instrumental music has been replaced by a thousand and one singer / song writers. There are some great wordsmiths out there but a lot of the music is pretty ordinary. So much so that audiences no longer know how to listen to interesting instrumental music.They don’t know the instruments, the forms and the repertoire. Instrumental music is just too abstract for most audiences.
Every Community College and University in the land markets a range of diplomas and degree programs designed to dissect all aspects of music and parcel it up for students looking to equip themselves for a career in music. Even the “high art” genres such as Jazz and Classical music seemed to have fallen prey to the mass marketing of career building skills. The end result is the flooding of the “market” with thousands and thousands of highly trained and highly skilled musicians, producers, sound engineers, and support staff for careers in music that just don’t exist and probably not likely to exist in the future. The result is most musicians, etc barely make a living. Those that do usually end up in teaching careers. This aspect of the Classical Music Industry was very successfully explored in the book and the TV series Mozart in the Jungle. The whole topic brings to mind a conversation I had some years ago with a classical viola player who, despite a music degree and tenure in a number of symphony orchestras, was heading back to school to get either an unrelated degree or vocational training to equip her for life “in the real world”. She found the rounds of soul destroying auditions had become too much to bear.
All is not lost. In fact technology has come to the rescue in the form of YouTube. It is possible to spend many hours a day exploring performances on YouTube that fall outside “the music-industrial complex”. Here is an example. I have no idea of the exact name of the song. I have no idea of the content of the lyrics. I can only surmise that the music is probably Greek. The performers are two female vocalists who harmonize in a style that sounds some what Eastern European (Balkan, Bulgarian, Romanian, Turkish, Armenian – pick one) and is way outside the norms of the entertainment industry. One of the girls accompanies the performance on the Arab Oud. She uses the standard oud pick called a Risha that gives the music a vibrant percussive sound that also sets it further outside current entertainment norms. The other lass uses some finger castanets to add some percussion variety. Take a listen to a performance that, to my ear, is creative and imaginative.
I was fortunate to stumble on an analysis of the song on the website Oud for Guitarists. If you are a musician take a note of the key signature in the manuscript. With its Bb and a half Eb notations it is not a key signature that the average western musician would know. As an analysis the video it it is a good introduction to some of the nuances of Middle Eastern music.This is music way outside the norms of the “music-industrial complex”
Here is another interpretation of the same tune by a young musician on electric guitar who is jamming along with the video of the two girls.
So, as I said. All is not lost. Explore the back roads and by ways of YouTube and find the hidden gems that are sitting there waiting to be discovered.
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