Monday, May 20, 2013

Early Music, New Music vs. All Music

A friend recounted an exchange he once had with his six-year-old granddaughter:  "What do you call a person who speaks two languages?"  "Bilingual."  "What do you call a person who speaks only one language?" "American."

I think this applies as well to music: Though I do not agree that all Americans speak only one language, I do think that many musicians speak only one musical language.  I grant that it makes sense for a musician to know his or her limits and stick to genres in which they feel free to play as they wish.  But too often that means that they listen only to music of that one genre and keep company only with like-musiced individuals.

To me, as an American, this seems counterintuitive.  I want to understand all kinds of people, why not all kinds of musicians?  I want to include all kinds of people as friends, so why not include all kinds of musicians as musical friends?

Some people find it strange that I care so deeply about the sound of the modern piano and, at the same time--well not exactly the very same time--caring deeply about the purity of a cappella vocal intonation. 

Isn't it like learning to speak or at least comprehend more than one's own language?