Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Daily Riff: Just How Stark Can Performance Contrasts Be?

Today's guest post is by Steve Thomas.

Performance Contrasts In Our Changing Culture

For the first time music and I moved past the acquaintance. In that instant with my eyes closed, music became my mistress.
The contrast was so powerful, so stark, and so black and white. Two events, two independent, unrelated events, collided in a single week and caused me to question myself, our youth and then our entire society; its direction, its context, its values. Music was never a major part of my life, never a focal point; quite frankly, never of interest. This week, two events changed that; independently, one would have been of interest, the other ignored.

As parents we need to choose when to jump in and offer guidance, support, direction, and when to walk away and allow the laws of natural consequences to play out. How do you know when?

The violin is an instrument I never much cared for as a youth, and honestly, not much into adulthood. Told at a young age I was tone deaf, this week I heard notes sliding up and down the scales; how odd, how magical. Shocked I could discern the melody, it almost brought tears to my eyes. Hymns played on a violin; heard clearly. An electric violin, no less.

Thomas Beckman B-W by Jose Antonio Madriz

And later…

It didn't take long for the video to disappoint me. Not so much the content, although it should have, but 26,000,000 hits – how can that be? Who is watching this? Are we all so desensitized? Where are our principles? What messages are we allowing our children to see and hear? That money is an idol? Titillation? Where are our priorities? Is this the norm; the mainstream? What chance do our children have? Are we setting them up for failure? For now and for generations to come? Are we surprised with the proliferation of depression? Are we surprised with confusing right and wrong? How can we really expect things to go well? At what age are kids wired well enough to face what they are facing each and every day? Is ultimate stimulation the goal?

And yet…

He stood at the front of the makeshift stage. Black carpet stapled to wooden boards, cords on the floor, an electrical sound board at his feet, and in the shadows nestled among the black curtains covering the brick walls, a man, and a keyboard. A stand with a single guitar. A violin case lay open on the floor, insouciantly cast aside; beseeching coins, even bills, but today, nothing. None offered, none expected. Small lights draped on branches add wonder, hope, peace. A single candle flickers off to the left hand side. Calming. There was no motorcycle, no naked woman, no pumping of the fists.

The strings take on a life of their own. Each transition seamless; each note unique. The gentle background of the keyboard; entangled, like a tree that has grown around and over an old rusted fence; creating flux, chaos, yet as one with the violin.

He started slow; so quiet yet so powerful. He played; oblivious to the world. His first time alone on a stage in front of a hushed congregation; he was completely exposed. I was captivated. Enraptured. Now take note these words do not come easy, or without confusion. This must be how music was meant to be.

The crescendo is near, but it isn't. We are forced to listen, to sit up and take note. His face is a picture of concentration. The light plays games; he appears sad, yet serene, passionate, but content. The shadows dance across his features creating a montage of many men. Timeless. A mosaic of emotion. Yes, stimulating, provocative.

For the first time music and I moved past the acquaintance. In that instant with my eyes closed, music became my mistress.

Is this what my children feel? Does the beat capture their emotions, their passions, their souls? We of the same blood; how can we be so different in our tastes? Is it the music, or the stimulation? What would happen without the loud incitement or confrontational eye candy? Was I as guilty at their age? As guilty now? I have no pearls of wisdom. I have no clairvoyant opinion that explains the chasm between us.

At some point we have to let go, yet at some point we need to fight for the youth. Is this the fight to engage in? Or is this the fight that our youth wants us engaged in? Are there other battles to be engaged in side by side? There are so many battles I see facing our youth. Perhaps music isn't one of them; perhaps music is symptomatic of something else, but we may to choose to lose that battle, to win the war.

If only we could all stand side by side and listen to the violin. Perhaps watch the video? It may not cure all the evils, but a moment of peace, of stimulus, to be shared; to be treasured. Parents, kids; choose your battles and listen to the music; together, with respect, conversation, understanding and with love.

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