This is not a rant. I promise.
See, I’ve had this little battle in my mind for the past several years. It seems like in today’s music industry there’s a line in the sand. Are you an emotional artist or will you craft your music the way a fine violin maker labors over his creations? It doesn’t seem like there is much crossover between categories – you create well-crafted music and people will think its shallow, you create emotional music and people will forgive poor musicianship as being “deep”.
In recent memory, one of the few (but exciting) exceptions is Adele, with her recent release “21,” a musically pure record that outsold Lady Gaga by almost a million copies. Musicianship, song writing, and vocal performances are top notch, and I think one would be hard pressed to find anyone who doubts the emotion packed into the material.
Confession time. I have a degree in classical violin performance. I know what you’re thinking, “you? NO!” But alas, it’s true. So, as a classically trained musician, I spend a good deal of time listening to the likes of Beethoven, Brahms, Debussey, Stravinsky (mostly romantic), and it has struck me that a good deal of my favorite classical music was both intensely emotional AND that generation’s version of Pop Music. At what point in our musical heritage did we begin deconstructing the craft of music in favor of emotional abstraction?
When did we stop caring enough about our music to be satisfied with poor execution? Would Beethoven have dumbed down his creative vision because a vocalist or instrumentalist could not get the part? No. In fact, when rehearsing for the opening night of the 9th Symphony, one of the female vocalists asked Mr. Beethoven to re-write a section that was slightly outside of her range. He replied with, “Practice. The note will come.”
Maybe I’m naive, but I want to believe that an artist can spin an emotion or experience into a masterpiece of execution – knowing that every little detail the listener hears is intentional and designed to elevate the mood.