Standing on the verge of a new millennium is more than a little daunting. In 1898, the world stood poised for an industrial revolution. Airplanes, cars, phonograph records, radio, television, and eventually, computers waited by the door to the future. Accordingly, art experienced a similar explosion of blues, jazz, and rock and roll which reflected and sometimes predicated the oncoming changes. It is now 1999 and the question might be, ‘What’s next?’ With less than full confidence in my crystal ball I offer a musical wish list of changes for the better that we might see in the years to come:
- American children must be given the right to learn about their culture and how it has evolved. Let’s train our teachers to present Ellington, Coltrane, Marley, and Dylan with the same respect they do for traditional European classical music. ( Some are doing this, but not nearly enough). In order to do this they must be trained to accurately present the American voice and to see the difference between art of content and substance as opposed to the commercially disposable product. Give children the tools and let them decide between good and bad.
- Let’s see some balance in the music industry. Yes, they brought us new music styles and lots of technology, but the corporate suits are far too empowered and the result is generally poor stuff. Besides, downloading music on the Internet may change this ball game forever. We all know about the all important bottom line, but we will need vision and courage if the next century will artistically measure up to the past one. Let the Da Vinci’s paint , play and sing, and stop bothering them about how much the king will pay for it.
- The crisis in Kosovo brings back the shattering reality of the Holocaust, perhaps the 20th century’s darkest hour. Let’s create real music that is bold and life affirming. Music can do far more than sell as fashion, it can heal and uplift and we might recommit ourselves in our own lives. There is a reason why Bob Marley’s music is still so incredibly popular today.
- Children have the constitutional right to listen to Marilyn Manson and similar styles of music, but the hate and tragedy of Columbine High School must wake this country up. CDs are one thing but children who have access to semi-automatic weapons and bombs are another. This is a constitutional right that has become a wrong. Whether the NRA likes it or not, the gun laws must be changed. The world may be far more-precarious and filled with uncertainty today than 100 years ago, and the real bottom line may be that we need music as good medicine more than ever. Stop once to look over your shoulder, and move ahead into that good night.