Music School

Screw the “Voice,” when are we gonna have an American music school?

I’m sick and tired of reading about Max Martin and Adele, products of their countries’ respective music academies, and being subjected to the dash for cash lowest common denominator American dreck made by people who can neither sing nor play, never mind having nothing to say.

Now I’m not talking about music BUSINESS school. Ain’t that America. Where we focus on the money as opposed to the art. Rather, I’m referencing something closer to “Fame.” You remember “Fame,” right? The movie about the New York City arts school featuring a soundtrack by Lesley Gore’s brother that evidenced more honesty and pathos than anything emanating from a TV singing show ever. I’ll give Kelly Clarkson some credit, Carrie Underwood too, but the truth is although they have the pipes, they’re the beneficiaries of the best songwriting in the world, oftentimes done by Swedes.

Yes, they focus on the song in Nashville. Which is why that scene is burgeoning. But if we want to reclaim America’s place atop the musical pyramid we have to focus on education.

You think I’m kidding.

I couldn’t be more honest. Someone has to turn the tide of America, run by corporations that everyone is enthralled by. Read the papers and weep. That’s right, there’s no skiing in California because of global warming, the Alps are falling apart, but we can’t have legislation against the polluters, those raising temps, because then the corporations will be crippled and we won’t have any jobs, because everybody knows corporations create jobs.

No, corporations create profits for their shareholders. These faceless behemoths that last forever don’t care about you and me, they’ve got no soul, and that’s what the best music evidences, soul.

And you don’t have soul if you’re twelve. Stop e-mailing me the ridiculous productions of your pre-teen sons and daughters. So they can sing and play, those are just building blocks, they’ve got nothing to SAY!

You learn how to have something to say by living, by reading, by studying. We need experienced people dropping their musical wares upon us. Not people beholden to the company. That’s right, if the guys, and they are mostly guys, at the label could play, if they could be the stars, they would. Instead, they’re businessmen focused on the bottom line, and the truth is most of the money is going to Europeans, where all the art is generated. Lucian Grainge is English. So are Rob Stringer and Steve Barnett. They at least know a good song, where all Americans are off chasing tech, believing dollars are everything.

But back to this education thing. We have to invest in our future. We need a place where people can learn how to create, can hone their chops.

Berklee’s not doing a bad job of it, but by time you’ve graduated from high school it’s too late, you are who you are. And it’s great that there are jazzers and orchestra students in the music programs of universities, but they’re working within precepts, they’re playing by rote, they think they’re testing boundaries but usually they’re operating in an hermetically sealed, self-congratulatory environment that the rest of us cannot relate to.

To get into the music school you’ve got to have talent. Unlike so many plying the boards today. You’ve got to be able to sing or play or write or all three. We’re gonna weed out the auto-tuners. Does Adele need auto-tune? And if you can play, it makes it much easier to write. I mean the basics, the building blocks, are everything. It’s about having the muscle, the reflexes, to put down what it’s in your head.

Who’s gonna rescue America?

Certainly not Mark Zuckerberg. Definitely not Tim Cook.

I’ll give Jeff Bezos credit for resurrecting the “Washington Post,” but by time he’s done we’ll all be working for minimum wage in the warehouse, listening to the sound of industrial machinery, not music.

The bar is too low. We laud people who can neither sing nor play. The Top Ten is dominated by me-too music. And the truth is we all know it but we cannot challenge it because we’re just listeners, inadequate players.

This is not complicated.

It starts with music in the schools. The public schools. We’ve eviscerated art from the curriculum as we starve the beast and focus on the test, as if everyday life were about tests. Come on, do you need a test to have sex?

But the Republicans have defined the debate, the government is profligate, it wastes money, better to keep it in the hands of the corporate titans, who earned it and create the jobs, as stated above?


Private enterprise cannot solve all problems.

It’s the government’s duty to educate the populace. And if you think you can do this via home-schooling, you think art is created in a vacuum, that you can do it all by yourself, and you most certainly cannot.

How about the major labels coughing up some dough?

How about the artists of today investing in tomorrow?

How about a campaign to establish a high school in L.A. Just for the arts. Where everybody making coin on television drops in to tell young charges how to do it.

How about refocusing our bankrupt culture away from money and more on soul-fulfilling enterprises. The old adage is true, money won’t keep you warm at night. But a record will truly save your life.

I don’t want to focus on social media. The young know how to connect so well. We’re not talking about marketing, we’re talking about skills.

But in America only the rich have skills. Only the rich can afford music lessons. But after they take them they jump ship to banking and tech, to the corporation, because they don’t want to struggle and be poor.

Once upon a time the middle class generated musical artists, with middle class values, i.e. questioning authority. But the middle class evaporated with classic rock. And if you think screaming into a mic with a bad voice behind speed metal is classic rock, you’d better pick up a dictionary.

We can wait for it to work it out by itself, via the private sector, but just like manufacturing, just like so many other jobs, the creative industries will be outsourced. Ever notice all the deejays are European? And Max Martin has more hits than any American?

It’s the culture, stupid.

So let’s end the bogus competitions with their lame drama. The Beatles may have broken on television, but music never lived there.

And, when done right, music is much better than television, far superior to movies.

But it needs people to make it. Who’ve been trained to the point where they can let their creativity fly.

Are you with me?

“The Sound Of Sweden – Who rules the pop charts? Swedes.”

“According to a 2004 study, 30 per cent of Swedish children attended publicly funded music programmes – and it was one of these that nurtured Martin’s talent”

BRIT School

“As Snow Fades, California Ski Resorts Are Left High and Very Dry”

“Are the Alps Crumbling?”

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