Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Music: Coda- Remembering The Past

Adventures in Music

Count Basie

It’s strange how simple, off-the-cuff stuff can be so beautiful, it makes you cry.

Here’s Count Basie on the Jazz Casual TV program from 1968. Basie paints a picture of Kansas City and Harlem in the golden age, then dispels it with a laugh like the smoke from his cigarette. “So, uh… Where were we?”

Count Basie on “Jazz Casual” 1958

If you are under 30 and you’ve followed through this whole series of posts, odds are you have heard music you have never heard before and you’ve seen performers you’ve never seen before. But my purpose here isn’t to generate nostalgia for the past. My eyes are on the future.

We like to think that the world is progressing and getting a little bit better every day, and in the case of some things, (like science and technology) that is undeniably true. But when it comes to creative popular culture- music, dance, art, theater, cinema- the sad truth is that today’s world is a pale shadow of what went on in the first half of the 20th century. What do we have today to compare with the birth of Jazz, illustrators like N. C. Wyeth, singers like Ella Fitzgerald, or composers like Gershwin or Stravinsky?

Our culture doesn’t value creativity like it used to, and performances full of amazing skill and expressiveness are the exception not the rule. We see the “real life” of teenage know-nothings on TV, watch computerized explosions at the movies, and stream clips of kids falling off skateboards on YouTube. Music isn’t coming out of every door and window like Kansas City in Basie’s memories.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have computers and the internet providing us the tools to create and distribute our work like never before. But technology isn’t enough. We need a collective cultural memory of the past to build on if we want to move forward. Today’s world isn’t that different in the ways that count. Audiences still want to be entertained, and they still respond to skilled performers. They want to be dazzled and impressed and see something they’ve never seen before. Let’s give them that.

Whatever art form you practice, develop the fundamental skills, think about what you are saying, create something new, and never ever cheat the audience. If you are an animator, use every aspect of filmmaking to put across your message. Music can be one of the most powerful elements of an animated film. Learn about music. You’ll be a better artist and make better films.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Adventures in MusicAdventures in Music

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Adventures in Music.

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Music: 15 The Boffo Finish

Adventures in Music

Cab Calloway

Any performer will tell you, the way you leave the audience is the way they’ll remember your act. There’s no finale more unforgettable than the one in Stormy Weather.

Finale to “Stormy Weather” 1943 with Cab Calloway, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers

I’m constantly amazed at the “pop culture amnesia” that seems to be an epidemic today. People have forgotten some of the greatest achievements of mankind… and what have they replaced it with? Infomercials, current events clowns, celebrity gossip and patently phony reality shows. Now, I can already hear you saying… “Well. me and all my friends know about important stuff… all kinds of stuff!” Whenever I ask one of my archive interns what kind of music they listen to, I always get the same answer- “All kinds of music!” Then I ask, “Who’s your favorite country and western artist?” or “What’s your favorite opera?” and I get blank stares. It turns out that “all kinds of music” means “acid house, electronica, trance, darkwave, eurobeat, speedcore, etc.”- a million different names for basically the same kind of music. It isn’t their fault that they’re ignorant of the cultural riches of the 20th century. Big media has kept them in the dark so they can spoon feed them “pre-packaged, pasteurized entertainment product”.

The “good stuff” is all out there. You don’t need a fancy shmancy archive. All it takes is a “breadcrumb”, a clue, a YouTube video clip, an MP3, a name to Google- and this wonderful world opens up like a flower. It turns out that the world we live in really isn’t such a drab and dreary place after all!

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Adventures in MusicAdventures in Music

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Adventures in Music.

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Music: 14 The Importance of Skill

Adventures in Music

Niccolo Paganini

Now here’s an area of music where I’m a little out of my familiar territory. I played violin for one grueling year in elementary school and swore off it forever (much to the relief of my parents). Although I’m interested in violin music (as long as someone else is holding the fiddle) I’ve never really explored the repertoire for solo violin. I know a little bit about Paganini- he was a flamboyant showman who used pyrotechnic technique to dazzle audiences- and I know Nathan Milstein was a great violinist who performed into his 80s- but I can’t call myself knowledgeable about this stuff at all.

Nathan Milstein: “Paganiniana” 1968
(sorry for the typo in the slate)

But I can tell you that when I first saw this clip on EMI’s Great Recordings of the Century DVD, my jaw was hanging on the floor. Ever since Andy Warhol made “ideas without skill” fashionable back in the 60s, it seems to me that popular culture has been playing a game of “skill limbo”. How low can we go? How badly drawn can a cartoon be and still be considered a cartoon? How many drum machines and sequencers can we stack up to avoid having to learn a real instrument? How much plastic surgery does it take to make acting skills unnecessary? I really don’t know the answers to those questions. Every day is a new horror.

But when I see someone who has both an idea AND skill, I’m reminded just how doggone powerful and dynamic a creative artist can be. I’m sick and tired of accepting “half a loaf”. Speak to me with eloquence. Dazzle me with your skill. Communicate an important idea. I insist on “all of the above”.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Adventures in MusicAdventures in Music

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Adventures in Music.