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Lost Music Roots?
Tuesday, November 20 2007 @ 01:14 PM CST

Are today's popular musical artists without the roots and influences that artists and bands had in the sixties and seventies? Read on:

N.Y. Times article and interview with Steve Van Zandt of the E Street Band fame:

"On Feb. 9, 1964, the Beatles played on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Or as Steven Van Zandt remembers the moment: “It was the beginning of my life.”

Van Zandt fell for the Beatles and discovered the blues and early rock music that inspired them. He played in a series of bands on the Jersey shore, and when a friend wanted to draw on his encyclopedic blues knowledge for a song called “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” Van Zandt wound up as a guitarist for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

The 1970s were a great moment for musical integration. Artists like the Rolling Stones and Springsteen drew on a range of musical influences and produced songs that might be country-influenced, soul-influenced, blues-influenced or a combination of all three. These mega-groups attracted gigantic followings and can still fill huge arenas.

But cultural history has pivot moments, and at some point toward the end of the 1970s or the early 1980s, the era of integration gave way to the era of fragmentation. There are now dozens of niche musical genres where there used to be this thing called rock. There are many bands that can fill 5,000-seat theaters, but there are almost no new groups with the broad following or longevity of the Rolling Stones, Springsteen or U2...

"Technology drives some of the fragmentation. Computers allow musicians to produce a broader range of sounds. Top 40 radio no longer serves as the gateway for the listening public. Music industry executives can use market research to divide consumers into narrower and narrower slices...

" Van Zandt grew up in one era and now thrives in the other, but how long can mega-groups like the E Street Band still tour?

“This could be the last time,” he says.

He argues that if the Rolling Stones came along now, they wouldn’t be able to get mass airtime because there is no broadcast vehicle for all-purpose rock. And he says that most young musicians don’t know the roots and traditions of their music. They don’t have broad musical vocabularies to draw on when they are writing songs.

As a result, much of their music (and here I’"m bowdlerizing his language) stinks.

He describes a musical culture that has lost touch with its common roots....

" Van Zandt has a way to counter all this, at least where music is concerned. He’s drawn up a high school music curriculum that tells American history through music. It would introduce students to Muddy Waters, the Mississippi Sheiks, Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers. He’s trying to use music to motivate and engage students, but most of all, he is trying to establish a canon, a common tradition that reminds students that they are inheritors of a long conversation.

And Van Zandt is doing something that is going to be increasingly necessary for foundations and civic groups. We live in an age in which the technological and commercial momentum drives fragmentation. It’s going to be necessary to set up countervailing forces — institutions that span social, class and ethnic lines.

Music used to do this. Not so much anymore."
J.A.Stewart
Forum Full Member


Registered: 11/13/04
Posts: 4560
Location: Somewhere In Time, USA
 
Re:Lost Music Roots?
Tuesday, November 20 2007 @ 03:31 PM CST

Very interesting, Jack.

There's much to be said about this point of view. As someone noted in another Forum thread, shopping for vinyl albums (LPs) was a minor social event for us as teenagers.

Groups of us would head downtown to the major record stores and pore through the bins, exchanging comments about different bands and celebrating our "finds."

Then we'd head back home and listen to each other's favorites, which usually represented a pretty wide variety of music.

When I first started playing guitar, I listened to old B.B. King LPs and tried to copy (as best I could) his lead parts. And I listened to my older sister's old records and sang along. When I first started playing out in a little neighborhood band, we played a freewheeling selection of old tunes and current chart favorites.

Genre meant absolutely nothing to us... we played whatever people enjoyed hearing or liked to dance to. It led to some bizarre sets, where we covered Standard Country faves, early Beach Boys and what might be considered early heavy metal-ish Yardbirds material.

What was PHENOMENAL about the 60s and early 70s was what was happening at *Underground* FM radio stations, where "counter-culture" DJs spun lots of records that, for various reasons (often length) didn't get mainstream radio play.

In many ways, what was going on at those underground stations was very similar to what we have at MacJams and similar music sites today. What killed them was commercial success, which led to corporate takeovers and predictable over-commercialization.

So we drew from a very rich... and deep musical reservoir that broadened our musical sensibilities and skills. I believe the process is now far more insulated... and limited as a consequence. Wink

--- Joe

MY LATEST: A demo version of my Work-In-Progress DAILY GRIND
bud
Forum Full Member


Registered: 06/17/05
Posts: 3827
Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
 
Re:Lost Music Roots?
Tuesday, November 20 2007 @ 03:47 PM CST

Very interesting article and even more interesting timing.
I just got a call one hour ago from my friend Warren Zanes who recently left the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to work with Steven on his education project. I'm supposed to put together a proposal and bid to shoot video interviews for the project. I've done similar work in the past with Warren for the Hall of Fame.

Little Steven's Underground Garage is a great radio show - and I'm sure this will be an interesting project. Wish me luck.

In regards to what Joe wrote - I too was brought up on "underground radio" and vinyl diving at the local shop. It became very challenging to discover new music in the eighties and nineties - between the death of free format radio and the birth of iTunes and Napster. However, now that the internet is the source of music for kids I find that they're exploring far and wide through various webcasts, and shared playlists. My 17 year old daughter has a pretty deep understanding and familiarity with music crossing all genres and time lines as a result. This may not be the norm - but it's certainly available for "kids like us" who are into the music.

It's better to regret something you have done, than something you haven't done.


 
Re:Lost Music Roots?
Tuesday, November 20 2007 @ 04:19 PM CST

I need to respond to the fine essays written above.
One of the main reasons for me to be on this site is to learn from others. And as an honest consequence,I have learned to enjoy their aural gifts, how underground or amateur it may sound. I could just as well look for some hardcore electronic website, but I'll never do that. Where is the fun in that? I like macjams for its broad scope and intense artists. The support I have gotten from some has been heartwarming. And they are all a bit wiser than I am....:-)

mmmm, all in all, I feel tiny again. But confident at that

I love this friggin site...SHit, sometimes it hurts...


 
Re:Lost Music Roots?
Tuesday, November 20 2007 @ 04:51 PM CST

Today's young musicians have their roots, but greatly "diluted" from previous generations. As technology grew, the super groups faded, with the exception of a few. Baby boomers, were the pinnacle of paving the way. Technology was new. Media coverage was just starting to take off. The result of several decades, and the fact that a geometric growth in technology and mass communication caused the road to "fork" into an infinite, tangled web of direction, was the culmination. It no longer became necessary to follow tradition, or guidelines. As rock music grew up, new musicians were born in the wake of so many predecessors, that it was time to "unlearn" everything about music and begin again.


 
Re:Lost Music Roots?
Tuesday, November 20 2007 @ 05:06 PM CST

Quote by: Dadai
Are today's popular musical artists without the roots and influences that artists and bands had in the sixties and seventies? Read on:

N.Y. Times article and interview with Steve Van Zandt of the E Street Band fame:

"On Feb. 9, 1964, the Beatles played on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Or as Steven Van Zandt remembers the moment: “It was the beginning of my life.”

Van Zandt fell for the Beatles and discovered the blues and early rock music that inspired them. He played in a series of bands on the Jersey shore, and when a friend wanted to draw on his encyclopedic blues knowledge for a song called “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” Van Zandt wound up as a guitarist for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

The 1970s were a great moment for musical integration. Artists like the Rolling Stones and Springsteen drew on a range of musical influences and produced songs that might be country-influenced, soul-influenced, blues-influenced or a combination of all three. These mega-groups attracted gigantic followings and can still fill huge arenas.

But cultural history has pivot moments, and at some point toward the end of the 1970s or the early 1980s, the era of integration gave way to the era of fragmentation. There are now dozens of niche musical genres where there used to be this thing called rock. There are many bands that can fill 5,000-seat theaters, but there are almost no new groups with the broad following or longevity of the Rolling Stones, Springsteen or U2...

"Technology drives some of the fragmentation. Computers allow musicians to produce a broader range of sounds. Top 40 radio no longer serves as the gateway for the listening public. Music industry executives can use market research to divide consumers into narrower and narrower slices...

" Van Zandt grew up in one era and now thrives in the other, but how long can mega-groups like the E Street Band still tour?

“This could be the last time,” he says.

He argues that if the Rolling Stones came along now, they wouldn’t be able to get mass airtime because there is no broadcast vehicle for all-purpose rock. And he says that most young musicians don’t know the roots and traditions of their music. They don’t have broad musical vocabularies to draw on when they are writing songs.

As a result, much of their music (and here I’"m bowdlerizing his language) stinks.

He describes a musical culture that has lost touch with its common roots....

" Van Zandt has a way to counter all this, at least where music is concerned. He’s drawn up a high school music curriculum that tells American history through music. It would introduce students to Muddy Waters, the Mississippi Sheiks, Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers. He’s trying to use music to motivate and engage students, but most of all, he is trying to establish a canon, a common tradition that reminds students that they are inheritors of a long conversation.

And Van Zandt is doing something that is going to be increasingly necessary for foundations and civic groups. We live in an age in which the technological and commercial momentum drives fragmentation. It’s going to be necessary to set up countervailing forces — institutions that span social, class and ethnic lines.

Music used to do this. Not so much anymore."



Good stuff Jack. It underscores what I've been telling my sons for years, that budding young artists need to spend about two years listening to the blues and blues-based bands; and that then and ONLY then will their music not tend to suck.

Rock is nothing without it's roots, and the taproot of rock is the blues. After all, rock originally was a further development of the blues. When cut off from it's roots rock is just power, and power is not art, much less music.

Indeed, it seems (to my ears anyway) that rock HAS to be joined to some traditional form or another before it can even qualify as music and not just insipid noise.

The joining of rock with classical and/or jazz based motifs gave us prog-rock, and then there are various other combinations like folk-rock, country-rock, and celtic-rock, as well as a number of types of world-beat music.

Traditional forms of music have a beauty, pathos and emotional depth which is lacking (for the most part) in much of the new music. In my view, good rock music is like a mighty tree with it's taproot in the blues and it's other roots sunk deeply in other traditional forms. Cut away the roots and the tree withers and dies. A return to rock that is rooted in traditional forms can breathe new life into the music.

When, for example, the "No Depression" movement began in the American south, it yielded a number of great new musicians and bands; a number of which have had staying power (like Wilco, the Bottle Rockets, and Blue Mountain's Cary Hudson among others). There are, of course, many other examples that could be mentioned.

It is my own cherished hope that a site like Macjams, which is trans-generational in it's constituency, can contribute to the much needed return to the roots of rock.

Nuff said!
Komrade K
Forum Full Member


Registered: 08/02/05
Posts: 927
Location: Whitstable, Kent England
 
Re:Lost Music Roots?
Tuesday, November 20 2007 @ 05:35 PM CST

Not sure that I would go along with Steve Van Zandt's analysis - in fact I would say that it's not necessary to know much about musical roots at all.

For starters, the musical roots change/shift for each generation and indeed new genre. When I've read about the roots of various popular music styles it's clear that a large number of performers have drawn ideas and styles from other performers without an understanding of where the music came from. When it comes down to it finding the roots of musical styles may not be easy because for pioneering artists, their musical sources come together in the act of realising the music they make - and these sources can be diverse and vary from track to track.

When I look at the huge variety of styles which have grown out of electronic/dance music I can find parallels with the many different (albeit regional) styles of folk fiddling which would have been found around the British Isles in years gone by. In the Shetland Islands, there were as many different fiddle styles as there are Islands. The point being that there has always been diversity in music. The only shift is from hard geography to virtual geography.

I can't understand why lost musical roots should stop stadiums being filled - it's more likely to be changing structures within the music biz. It might partly be to do with genre fragmentation but if there's an audience for these fragments then I don't see that as a bad thing. Another positive which might explain the lack of stadium bands is that in the UK we've seen a huge growth in the number of music festivals. These offer audiences much better value than a stadium gig and the bands get to play in front of much larger audiences than they would typically encounter on tour. I suspect that we're seeing a transfer of limited cultural budgets from stadium to festival - and this is certainly a trend which is good for live music.

KK

michael2
Forum Full Member


Registered: 03/18/07
Posts: 3094
Location: Los Angeles, Cali USA
 
Re:Lost Music Roots?
Tuesday, November 20 2007 @ 05:49 PM CST

I don't know that I agree with this one. Kids today have their own musical roots; they are not necessarily appealing to old folks, but they are roots nonetheless. grown-ups hated elvis, the stones, punk rock and everything else cool that ever happened. the whole point is to piss off the adults.

i am old enough now to wonder how someone younger than me would find something appealing that I think is terrible. It doesn't happen always, but enough to where I feel old. Little Steven is older than me by far, so I think there is little chance that he can understand (let alone enjoy) the music that kids are doing now. Happens to everyone eventually (even those of us that were way underground).

that said, I think it's really neat what he is doing. i almost feel like we are doing something similar here. we all have different points of reference, but we are composing and distributing the music that strikes a chord within us. some may like, and then some may not.


 
Re:Lost Music Roots?
Tuesday, November 20 2007 @ 05:54 PM CST

Ever wonder what Beethoven, Haydn, Bach, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and others might have answered to this question, posed in their own times?

Somebody once said to me, "It's all been done before..."

I guess I would maintain that someone will sometimes create new original music by sheer genius, because they can draw from inspiration, what they have sought, learned and have been exposed to, and (to borrow from what a friend said to me) break it down into the simplest of terms.

You can’t force that on anyone, but you can try to encourage it.

 
SmokeyVW
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Registered: 06/13/06
Posts: 7069
Location: N/A
 
Re:Lost Music Roots?
Tuesday, November 20 2007 @ 06:14 PM CST

Learning (and teaching) is always a good thing. I see no reason why music would be an exception - so Van Zandt's idea sounds like a great plan!

Music has been an evolving thing for centuries: there was no reason to expect rock to stay around unchanged forever. (Even rock grew out of rock and roll.) Rock will continue to influence music in the future, but only as an influence. Not unlike how the blues influenced rock itself. Apparently bebop was a revolution in jazz in the mid 40's (from what I've read).

An important change to consider is pace. Global communication stirs the music pot much faster than ever before in history. Things probably didn't change much during a typical person's life in the 18th century, but today one lifetime can span several major music phases.

And, an often underappreciated fact is that there are so many more people alive today. It isn't just that the "audience" is bigger - also means the pool of active musicians is bigger than ever, that has got to mean something - more musicians can actively interact, also accelerating the rate of genre evolution and fragmentation.