Musical Musings, 2 or whatever out of 10 gazillion

My childhood/facebook friend The Beautiful Mimi posted a wonderful video on facebook today in which a bunch of Moo-U percussionists performed a piece written by one of their professors. It was The Carol of the Bells and it was performed on a construction site using both standard percussion instruments and various things found around the site. I have to note that their instruments included an mbira, which I am sure they did not find hanging around the construction site but I am also wondering if the mbira is actually something that they *teach* nowadays or if the professor simply wrote a part for it and managed to find someone who knew how to play it. (I know someone but that person is not anywhere near Moo-U.) There are links to this video but they are usability-challenged (think pop-up ads and logins up the wazoo) so I’m not going to try to link to it. You can try The Google if you are interested enough. And it is Michigan State University, not Moo-U.

I didn’t watch the entire video (because of the usability challenges) but I LOVE this composition. I was always fascinated by outta the box stuff like this. I think we used to call it avant garde? When I attended music school there, about the most avant garde thing we did was a yearly music festival for new composers. I loved this festival. As much as I always loved playing music that was based on traditional scales, it was so much fun to play atonal or otherwise esoterically based stuff. One year, I was sitting first seat in the symphonic band and playing our school’s only alto flute on a piece written and directed by a composer named Gunther Schuller. He gave me a quiet “Bravo alto flute” (first flute is directly to the right of the director in symphonic band) at the end of the performance. Another time, Anthony Braxton directed us. All I remember about that was a section where we all more or less noodled around like crazy for a while playing fast, random notes. I wasn’t sure I was personally doing the right thing but he seemed to like the overall effect.

Still, all of the outta the box stuff we did was in the “band room” with a traditionally arranged band and didn’t include instruments like the mbira and definitely not a wheelbarrow or random pipes sticking outta the ground and other things you might find at a construction site. I would have loved participating in that kind of thing, flute or not.

Of course any decent musician needs to be able to play all of the beautiful old standards (Bach/Beethoven, etc. etc. ad infinitum) and I always loved to play those too. But if the construction site composition was more the norm when I was coming up through the ranks, I MAY have been more interested in going on in a musical career. As wonderful as the “traditional” music careers are for the right people, they weren’t really for me. I’m not going there tonight and I am also not unhappy that I didn’t “do” music for a living. My talent for music (and mathematics) has been a basis for eventual success in a career as a systems analyst.

But. Parents, if your kid is obsessed with playing a musical instrument, lug that instrument around if you need to. If you are lucky, your kid will be like me and haul their *flute* everywhere, i.e. easy to haul. But support your kid even when it is a bass fiddle or a tuba that you have to schlep. If your kid is obsessed enough with music that they practice ALL THE TIME, that is not always a bad thing. They may be building the kind of skills that will lead them to successful non-musical jobs later (if they don’t “make it” in music). The discipline of practicing every day will build a work ethic and meticulously analyzing the structure of a musical piece will provide the skills for picking apart difficult issues in a complex web application in order to change or design new functionality.

I’m just sayin’ I got a “useless” music degree way back when. The career I have now didn’t exist at that time but I somehow have the skills to do it now. It paid off.

One Response to “Musical Musings, 2 or whatever out of 10 gazillion”

  1. Margaret Says:

    Music is very mathematical and creative, so it prepares a person for many careers. We can mostly all be trained to do a job, but our brains are better equipped for deep thought and problem solving if we’ve had musical training.