Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Music Ignited This Blog 5

The nuts and bolts of getting into this notion of establishing a blog has to do with music. When I was a child, one of the dozen “Childcraft” volumes, published in 1949, dealt with music. I knew who George Gershwin had been, and the description of him in the music book said 1898-1937. The “37” was cocked by bad lead type and looked like a superscript. I suspected there was a printing error. As a child, then about six, I guessed that this was a printing error and that Gershwin couldn't be dead – because – his music was more modern than anyone else's at the time, the late 1950s.
Of course, eventually I figured out that I was wrong. And this left a weird hole in my understanding of music. What had happened. What dumbed down music? Why was there no successor, both physically to Gershwin and intellectually? Why had this clever approach to melody been stopped cold?

For over 50 years I have lamented this sudden stop to romantic and modern melodic music (now absurdly called “classical jazz”). There should have been successors. There were a few sparks out there in the darkness. But why weren't there more?  The music history books will tell you that a new revolution took over, the 12-tone and frankly amelodic sound of composers like Hindemith, Bartok and Shotokovich.
But my desire for more, for genuine successors to Gershwin and Rachmaninoff, stayed with me.  An attempt to flesh out the music I liked as a child, both for my own amusement and to add t the coyote manuscript, caught fire through some clever and manipulative research that I've been doing on

Post romantic and modern melodic music did in fact survive. Barely, but it did – especially in Hollywood as soundtracks and as music for the BBC in the United Kingdom. I'm still filling in the details, but the guts are there. And it hasn't been written about very much among musicologists and music historians.

OK, yes, it sounds like there was some conspiracy by some music PhDs back in the 1930s, and they won in academia. So they write the rules. End of story. But when I looked up the definition of conspiracy, I notivced that the music establishment's shunning of melodic orchestral music didn't fit the definition for conspiracy.  There's something else here. I remember being present on the campus of the Northern Virginia Community College one morning in 1998, accompanied by the first of my mentoring course graduates.  I took him to the piano practice room and played some boogie woogie. One of the instructors happened along, getting prepared for a class, and he brusquely and rudely told me to get out. He was very angry. He didn't know me. I wasn't dressed like a freak nor acting like a thief. It was the music that made him angry – and he was furious. I've never forgotten that.

It planted the notion with me that we were dealing with some kind of furious intellectual bias. Not a conspiracy. Not an accident. Not an organized movement per se.
As a child, I remember that my parents had a small collection of classical music.  In addition, my father purchased several soundtracks.  I also spectacularly remember that on September 25, 1963, on CBS television, a live concert was presented from the Hollywood Bowl of soundtrack music, normally selections conducted by the composer.  David Raskin's own direction of his title piece Laura, written and filmed in 1944, was a hit.  The broadcast, including applause, has been anthologized to many collections since that time.  Another performance was gospel legend Mahalia Jackson's singing the theme song from The Alamo, "The Green Leaves of Summer."  It was an electrifying performance.  It was Hollywood's night of musical fame and respectability.  An album was cut and offered to the public.  It appears that the critics and academians in music ignored this festive accomplishment.
With some digging and tricky research, which methodologically bore a remarkable resemblance to resolving the trickiest kinds of tax questions, I was able to unearth an unbroken opus of melodic orchestral music continuing from the 1930s in Gershwin's era to the present day.  Most of this music features unknown composers.  Some of the known composers have had the works that fit in this category unrecorded for decades!  As a music lover all my life, I was astounded and outraged by the shunning involved.
More details and a list of some of the compositions will be offered in the next blog posting.

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