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  • Writer's pictureCraig Birchfield

The Good Stuff – Part Two: Great Music 5/10/2014

In the first part I discussed the vitality of experiencing live music as a listener and as a musician. I called it, “the good stuff.” I want to explore the idea of good music a little more deeply this time, especially where it relates to the quality of our lives and that of our children. I’ve used this saying a lot: There are two types of music, good and bad. Immediately some of you will say, “yes, but good and bad are subjective tastes.” That is true to a certain extent but I think that there is also a certain objectivity to great music. As I mentioned in part one I am eclectic in my musical taste. I like Gospel, classic rock, baroque, modern classical, folk, Celtic, world music, bluegrass, jazz, etc. Even allowing for the subjectivity of the listener there is an objective sense when we are listening to something above average or something mediocre. Even if you liked the band the Animals in the 1960s you would have to say on just about every level that the Beatles were a better band. Carol King and Bob Dylan are better songwriters than Eddie Money or Steve Miller (at least they are much better lyricists). I can listen to good innovative jazz by musicians like the Brubeck Brothers or Bela Fleck and the Flecktones for a long time but if it is just random and self-gratifying noodling I will soon tire of it. I was subjected to the symphonic mediocrity of 101 Strings by my mother when I was a child and I was so anesthetized by it that I didn’t develop a taste for great symphonic music until decades later. Without being self-important and stuffy I think that we can separate out the music in every genre that migrates to the top of the food chain in quality and not just in popularity. This does not mean that we need to pile on to the latest music du jour like so many critics do but we don’t need to settle for the fair when we can experience the great. Heck, I even like instrumental guitar “surf music” from back in the day but there is a definite difference between journeyman groups like the Ventures, the Shadows and Del and the Deltones and the rest of the pack.

There is the point somewhere in all of this. I believe that if we are the parents of young ones we can foster an appreciation for good music and culture in our children. Otherwise, they can easily get sucked into the swirling vortex of mediocre pop culture and, for a lack of a better term, the ubiquity of the abysmal. One of my greatest regrets is that as a parent I let my children pick their own music and entertainment when they were young. I thought that since I had set a standard by example that they would make good choices on their own. Wrong, very wrong. I didn’t want to be one of those “overbearing” parents that was constantly leaning on my kids to live up to my standards and tastes. What they often chose as an alternative was not good. What I am talking about here is music that goes way, way beyond just bad vs. good quality. We live in a world where the great purveyors of taste seem to be only interested in one thing: money. They have absolutely zero conscience about filling our kid’s minds with filth, violence and perversion as long as it advanced their bottom line. That which the brain and soul absorbs by the senses can develop tendencies that may last a lifetime. Some music can have the vilest and most pernicious lyrics and even the performance can be hateful and if we don’t monitor what goes into their little earbuds and brains we will never know it until it manifests itself in anti-social or self-destructive attitudes later on. We can oversee and manage what our kids feed their minds (and sometimes, as parents, we do need to be the big meanies) but I think that if we also offer alternatives very early on and promote healthy and positive music and entertainment that we can develop a taste for that which ennobles rather than that which degrades and debases.

Obviously, this rant goes way beyond my platform for helping children and beginners learn to play strings. I apologize if it sounds preachy but I think that if you are concerned enough with your children’s development (or even your own development) that you are investing in a music education then there is a good chance that you agree with me in promoting a high quality of life. We would never put used oil into a nice car. We would never knowingly eat spoiled food. Let’s make sure that we put the good stuff into our kid’s minds and maybe our own minds as well.

Keep practicing,


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