A C 0 N T E M P 0 R A R Y V I E W

LECTURE: The Dark Age of Music

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Greg Waters Music



The Dark Age of Music

By Greg Waters, Given in NYC in 1988 at a church in Manhattan.

The development of music that reaches the public has not changed for about the last 30 or 35 years. To me, the development of music has actually gone backwards. First, lets us talk about the qualities that make up music, rhythm, harmony, melody, instruments, national origins of music, or styles. In music, the laws of nature always stay the same just as in human beings. Pitch is always pitch and rhythm is rhythm. With one sound going to the nest sound, one pitch going to the next pitch, blocks of notes going to the next block of notes are the sounds of music. These laws always stay the same. How we arrange these laws of nature gives us the qualities of music. The quality of the person producing these sounds and his judgment of his music are part of these laws. God did give us freedom in arranging these notes for good or evil. Even with no purpose at all.

They are not given to us whether we are born in the right family or not, or have the right position in life.

In my 24 years, since, I received my Masters Degree in Music Composition; I have been studying the shapes and forms of music. Because, I am a composer of music and this is part of the study of composition. I came to the realize that 98% of our music that is written is formula music written for a certain audience. Another way of saying it, is the creator of this music has no freedom because in order to sell this music it must meet the standards or fashion of the day. If you do not want to meet this fashion standard as a composer or performer 'your friends would rather use someone else.' To be creative as a working musician is a form of suicide.

NY Musicians with Greg Waters and CMP Inc.

Today, there are fewer working musicians than ever before in our country, yet the music schools are graduating student after student with a major in music. Most of your free lance musicians of the 20, 30s and 40's never went to school, because they were working all the time in bars, taverns, night clubs, dance halls, beaches, and private parties. They learned their craft at work, not in school like the present day young musician.

New York is the musical capital of the US and it is a fact to me that the real music does not exist, except on records or at rare concerts, usually written or established more than 30 years ago. The modern age of TV and communications as brought the world closer together, but has destroyed man's individuality and creative drive. Where is the spirit of adventure and creativity? I say there is none: there are just people running around looking for money. The mediocre of our age have won, maybe they have always won, and I finally accepted this, but if I accepted this why am I giving this lecturer. I know they have taken over and are running supreme. The mediocre are running supreme.

I have talked with many instrumentalists, free lance musicians, who have worked with all these great bands, Latin, jazz, swing, classical, and they have recorded music for years. They say in the last two years we instrumental musicians have hit the bottom. The machines have taken over our world. The voice is supreme. Even on the radio station, WNEW, all you hear are the singers' names. Never do you hear the names of the sax soloist or arranger of rhythm player who made it all happen. Usually the singer knows the least about the music. We have made people much greater than they are. We have forgotten many great people.

Do you ever see an instrumental musician on a talk show. I do not. What is wrong with our shows? They cannot have the first chair players or second chair players talk about the orchestras on their shows. Johnny Carson always cuts off the band as if they were nothing. Well, to me Johnny, Dave and Jay, "I know you love your musicians, but show more respect." The hosts should pick up and instrument and play an instrument, just do not cut off the band. I say the entertainment industry has cut instrumental musicians out of any kind of public position.

Frank Sinatra's lead trumpet player, Tony, is working in a music store so he can pay his bills. Frank Sinatra, the musical singer of our time, his musicians do not earn enough money to support themselves. Everybody always talks about how great he is, to me he is not great if these are the facts. When he gives respect to the musicians then he will receive the proper respect, but this is par to our age. Equal yes on stage, but that is the only place. Lionel Hamton's Band has the same problem. In fact Lionel's contractor asked me to go to Washington for three days for 125 dollars and I was supposed to support a family on that money. Oh, I forgot; musicians were not supposed to support a family.

Why do we not hear more about this? With records, Frank's music is being played every week all over the world. Are not the musicians performing with this music deserve the same credit or a lot more? I believe they do. I can only say that this shows the rape that takes place every day against musicians.

Not only is it on economic disaster it's a musical one also. For you hear formula type of music on the pop stations, jazz stations and classical stations. I have never heard any new music on the radio that is really creative it all sounds alike in one form or the other. You just hear the same old thing over and over again. I personally find it very difficult to listen to the radio. Usually I can only listen for 5 minutes or more before I decide that the modern musician is being killed off by lack of air time or exposure.

I have lived in Milwaukee, Dallas, Chicago, Toronto, Florida and Virginia. Everybody looks to NY for its leaders. That is why I came here and now that I have lived here for 12 years I found out that there are no leaders here just a lot of followers looking for work. A smaller and smaller group of people earns their money from music. The distribution of wealth is moving towards the very rich and very poor, now especially in the arts which is the first part of society showing the effects of an economic problem. The NYC Schools took out music education in their schools some twenty-five years ago. Now we have rap.

Our union, 802, has been trying to improve the decline of the business in the last years, but how can you save a sinking ship? The public can hear music 24 hours a day and not pay a dime for it except they have to buy a radio. The money does not go to the musicians. I never heard the union talk about quality music. They just talk about money and collecting money.

To sell their musical ability the musician must sell their souls, put on paint, play the electric guitar, sing with a rough voice, take off their clothes, hit the drums as loud as they can, dance around and look like fools. The age of discipline, grace, charm is over, Take the easy roads destroy our society, families, and health because is not this happening today with cancer, aids, divorce, school education, family income, etc.

Our country is seeking the wrong kind of freedom. You have to judge your own search for freedom. Not let TV tell you what it is or talk show hosts who think they are educated.

The world today is as saying my needs are more important than your needs. The age of rock-n-roll-disco- modern show tunes is an n excellent reflection of the soul of modern individual. You should think about that?

I got home last Thursday and heard on the news that the American Academy of Arts gave out the nominations for best music. They went to Michael Jackson, Bruce Springteen and an English Group for best music of 87. I want to say I would not give these people and award for the worst music. They are not selling music they are selling a formula of greed, self indulgence, stupidity and narcissism. Just think what this music is doing to our young people. It's help creating a world of people who cannot read, write, or act in a disciplined manner. Our young people do not have goals nor do they finish high school, nor do they know or care about quality things in the words of Michael Jackson "It's bad, bad, bad, bad. etc. " I mean the dictionary definition of bad."

I do not understand, especially now, with this age of communication devices why our world should not be on a higher cultural level. Individuals of culture and quality are few in number. Our communication devices are becoming more sophisticated, but most of the sounds that are coming out of them are more mechanical, and they have taken the tonal qualities of centuries of music making and placed them in the background. I am talking about modern pop music and TV background music. What happened to tone, intonation, orchestration, rhythm and harmony?

The real musicians did not do this, but the business people behind them made our music what it is today. Donald Trump is making big deals and running some large hotels, but I wonder what his concern for the level of quality music in our country is. The modern money maker, does he have culture? Can he just make a deal? We have leaders, but no leaders who are cultured people.

I have talked to many educated people in other fields and including some so called musicians in the business who do not know there is a problem. This is what I mean about the dark age. The leading people in our country do not know that there is really a problem. I never hear Billy Taylor say anything about the lack of work for musicians, and how we should do something about righting a wrong.

Maybe when our cultural leaders and business leaders get their heads out of the sand some hours they will realize what damage our present musical policies are doing to our country. This decay is a decay that we cannot see, like tooth decay and one day we have a pain. I say the pain is here and has been here a long time.

For example, I was talking to a school teacher from Clinton High School, the other day, and she told me that she dropped her subscription tickets to the Met because of the poor performances. Opera because the singers were so poor. I went to the Met once and never went back because of what I heard. So it was nice to hear a lay person agree with me.

On the Five O'clock news, they mostly talk to pop musical artist in the rock field. News should deal with all parts of our life with equal time, but the public is always being given not what is quality, but what is popular or makes the most money. Is country is going to have to grow up and act in a more mature way. Give me, give me, give me is not the way of quality. I wish I could say I am attacking wind mills. The reality is that I am talking about the truth of the situation. Our TV, new stations, radio stations, music programs and just about everybody dealing with the arts. We are going to have to deal with the real creative aspects of music and not with business as usual, if we will ever change. I ask you. How do you explain to a fool he is a fool. I am sure he will do everything in his power to prove that he is not a fool and tries to destroy the person who is telling him that he is fool.

The creative arts bring us the real qualities and perfection of life's goals. What is our country doing to help create a creative environment in the US.? I believe it is doing nothing, but it must change and create an environment that meets the needs of the artists and the population and that is when we will have a high culture. Art is not a free for all like the market place. Art is a living science that must be taught every generation. The lack of respect for quality music in our country only helps create a population that is weak and self-indulgent.

My opinion, The National Endowment for the Arts, is this; it is a most degrading system one could have some right amount of money spent on creative projects. It's a joke. I do not call an orchestra or the met a creative project. I call a creative project one that has a living composer there performing his or hers music. This is creative art not performing art.

We do not have a system to help the real talented, but we have a system to help the special interest groups. Remember, Bartok stood on 54th and Broadway and begged for money to buy a cup of coffee the same week his music was being performed at Lincoln Center. "Why cannot we find places for musical artists" Why does the world love its stupidity?

I also hold responsible our Universities and Colleges with this poor representation of culture in our society. These people are people who run and hide because they are too weak to try to change society for the better. When they do have a controlled environment like their campus, do the Presidents of the Universities try to educate the student population in the arts? I graduated from University of North Texas and the jazz band leader had many complaints centered towards him for running the lab band. The policies of the Universities are not policies of creating a student body of cultured students, but just a free for all expecting the students to decide for themselves without any guidance what is culture and what it is not because business major thinks that quality and profits are the same thing. If you make money at it, it must be something of quality, but remember money is the tool not the end product. We live in a society where money is the end product. (Not so folks)

In our large cities we are aiming the poor population towards the middle class, but our achievement rate is not even a passing grade in school. How can we hold are head's u p high? We have better and better computers and we are creating a bigger and larger underclass of people, and I believe it's our quality of music and the values that are being promoted by these groups that help create this underclass. Everybody in our society is promoting this inferior form of music, to be the popular music of the day. In some ways this music is destroying our society or the moral fiber of it.

The music schools go on producing musicians, but how many take the responsibility to find these same graduates' jobs and a place in our society. Where is the accountability by these schools? This is a major problem and why do I never hear anything about it? I say if they were accountable they would be out of a job themselves. NYC Schools have solved the problem by cutting out the music programs as much as possible. If it was not for the state law, they must have music. I am sure they would do away with music in most of their schools. The demon of decay is within us. The music teachers, instead of fighting the movement of rock-n-roll music the teachers teach a course called the history of rock-n-roll, further supporting an inferior form of music that destroys rather than improves the quality of life.

How many orchestras set aside part of their season to promote Composers. Yes, they maybe use a token composer, but no real improvement in new music. Why do not all are major cities have a team of composers writing and performing music. We have football and baseball teams why not have music teams? Is it less important? How many churches put on new music programs. Remember Bach was a church composer. Most of his music was sponsored by the church What church sponsors a full time composer now? We have nothing but a population that uses music, but does not respect it or pay for it.

Why do not our major cities have a composer in residence? I say because in stead of creating music with musicians of quality society is more interested in raping the musicians for it does not cost them anything. We ourselves, musicians rape musicians besides the public doing it to us knowingly or unknowingly. There is so much free music out there that I really think that some how we musicians have to make the public pay for that music and have that money return to the working musicians and not to record companies, radio stations and TV stations, performing rights organizations and a lot of the entertainment unions. Disk Jockey's on radio stations make huge salaries because they play music for the public. The talented and gifted are not getting the money, but the power brokers are. At great sporting events they use organs and drum machines and drum corps for the entertainment. What is wrong with skilled professional musicians? Why does not the public demand more for their money? Or why does not this be a demand and a right for us?

In 1975-76 I gave my last lecture on the subject of Creativity and The Artist: I was really concerned what was creativity because I really did not experience it around me. Well, I did give the speech and wrote the music for this concert and feel a lot better about my roll as an artist. Now I am giving a lecture about what is going on in the music world, and my purpose is tonight. I just hope I can direct the future so that our culture can be better and more productive. But if we develop the qualities of our habits of life we will develop the joy and happiness of our world and bring more peace to human beings.

Music is a great power and force. We do not talk about this. I believe music is out of control and people who do not have the experience and knowledge of the laws of music controls it. To me it is like a car driving down the road without a driver, or if the car has a driver it is the first time he sat in front of the wheel without any instruction. Just as we have speed limits on the road we have to think about controlling the music that we like and are subjected too. The quality of the music and the quality of some TV shows to me have nothing common, to give an example, the news's TV music, background, is one example. Is that music or sound?

What I think should be done. Making decisions about music should not be done by lay people, but by people who have an education in music. We need more radio stations with a more of a balance of music shows. We need more TV programs that talk about music and more musicians who talk about music, not just rock musicians. Orchestras and chamber groups must play more contemporary music of living composers. We need jazz orchestras as we have football and baseball teams in each city. Colleges and Universities must take responsibility for educating their students in the appreciation of music and create jobs for their graduates. High Schools, Jr. Highs, and Grade Schools must put more into presenting musicians and music. Churches must spend money on creative productions and not entertainment shows. (Remember Bach was mostly a church musician.) We musicians must be representative for music. Musicians must fight against their own mediocrity and self centered behavior that is a huge problem. I say serve music and not yourself would solve the problem a great deal, however a lot of musicians do not know what serving music is. Instrumental music is the voice of God, because it does not deal with words on earth and our vanity. So lets go and promote beauty and love music for we is really living in a dark age of music, because the truth of our age is being killed by the people of vanity. Let us begin to stop this sickness and evil by educating ourselves and the public with the search for real quality music and not the fashion of the day. To know the real artists or our day is truly to be alive and living in our age. Truly the public has no idea or education to choose an artist of music. Popular music is not music.


 What would the public have without their artists? So let us all try together to put an end to this dark age of music with more of a correct balance if we cannot have perfection.

Greg Waters http://greghenrywaters.com/index2.html