I love the writings of Kurt Vonnegut. Consider the following excerpt from one of his early novels:
Rudy Hertz had apparently missed all the talk and was still celebrating in his mind the happy reunion with his great and good friend, Doctor Paul Proteus. "Music," said Rudy grandly. "Let's have music!" He reached over Paul's shoulder and popped a nickel into the player piano.
Paul stepped away from the box. Machinery whirred importantly for a few seconds, and then the piano started clanging away at "Alexander's Ragtime Band" liked cracked carillons. Mercifully, conversation was all but impossible. Mercifully, the bartender emerged from the basement and handed Paul a dusty bottle over the old heads.
Paul turned to leave, and a powerful hand closed on his upper arm. Rudy, his expansive host, held him.
"I played this song in your honor, Doctor," shouted Rudy above the racket. "Wait till it's over." Rudy acted as though the antique instrument were the newest of all wonders, and he excitedly pointed out identifiable musical patterns in the bobbing keys-trills, spectacular runs up the keyboard, and the slow methodical rise and fall of keys in the bass. "See-see them two go up and down, Doctor! Just the way the feller hit 'em. Look at 'em go!"
The music stopped abruptly, with the air of having delivered exactly five cents worth of joy. Rudy still shouted. "Makes you feel kind of creppy, don't it, Doctor, watching them keys go up and down? You can almost see a ghost sitting there playing his heart out."
Paul twisted free and hurried out to his car.
----Kurt Vonnegut from his novel "Player Piano"
Hertz was a journeyman machinist. Proteus was an engineer who pursuaded Hertz to allow his tooling skills to be "sampled " by Proteus. With that sample, Proteus was able to completely automate the division of the plant that Hertz worked in. Hertz had been dupped into sowing the seeds of his own self destruction!
This has been happening in the music business for about 20 years now. First recording, then sampling and now sequencing. There was a time in the not distant past that even little jingle sessions required many musicians talents. Life was good. Lots of people were working.
Now, thanks to this "wonderful" technology, fewer and fewer musicians each year are able to survive comfortably and support their families. Society (particularly in the United States) is becoming increasingly indifferent to the fine arts. Great symphony orchestras are losing recording contracts. Many a fine orchestra has resorted to near clown like tactics to retrieve audiences with minds numbed by TV and radio practices that pander to the lowest elements of our culture. It is easier to make huge amounts of money by not bothering to try to uplift society and, instead, maintaining a level of mediocrity that doesn't require much concentration.
Those of us who love art, culture, science and the general ability to think and wonder have a responsibility to make sure that the arts don't get so diluted as to become mere pablum or pleasant background music in a technological society where everything comes with the push of a return or enter key. We must find ways to keep the music going. The internet may very well provide some ways of leveling the playing field, if we are clever. We need to keep our talents growing even in the face of this overwhelming public indifference. To use the old peppy little bromide, we need to "keep the faith." We must continue to offer a "cup of cold water" of art built from love to everyone, even though it doesn't always meet with a response. We never know who we might be reaching in some small way with our knowledge.
If we are alert and diligent, this tidal wave of mediocrity can be mitigated. It is up to us, the musicians and artists in the trenches, to carry the torch into the 21st century.
Don't ever quit playing!
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