i've been on and off moving some things around in our house during my jazz listening today (so the currently upbeat good ass Patrice Rushen tracks are helpful) and my brain, when directing my body to do repetitive low attention tasks like "move stuff from a to b", wanders.

today it wandered to family music.

so, while I'm taking a break from wearing a path in some floors, I'm going to ramble, thread-style.

there's a social dynamic that's arisen over the last 20? years maybe wherein two acquaintances might find themselves at a conversation point where one asks the other "so, are there any musicians in your family?"

and then the other participant will either list off a sibling or two who played in band in school, maybe a parent who sings.

and then it's off to other topics, often, as I've seen it happen anyway.

if, by some happenstance, someone of a young-ish generation dropped into casual conversation with my grandfather and asked, he would have looked confused and then listed off what each member of his family did musically.

because when he was a kid, everybody did music. every body.

to put it in perspective a little more, my grandfather was one of thirteen siblings whose parents were German immigrant farmers to the US.

thirteen kids, all did something musically. they weren't an outlier, they were just a family of farmers.

it wasn't that they were all remarkably talented or showed early promise or anything like that.

it was the only way music happened for people. music happened by making it. at home, at school, at church, in town, to celebrate, to mourn, to advertise, all of it.

so my great aunts and uncles and grandparents played fiddles and organs and guitars and spoons and harmonicas and sang because otherwise they'd have no music at all.

recordings were new and sparse. there weren't a thousand new tracks released every Thursday.

there weren't any bands touring an arena near them. there weren't tour buses anyway.

so teaching each other music, and practicing music together, became part of social things, so that music could be shared. it's always been that way for sung music, but with the advent of the industrial revolution and some other economic changes it became easier for common folk to get inexpensive instruments. and they did - they loved it!

because it's meta - it's part of thousands of years of teaching through storytelling. sometimes abstract, sometimes concrete, but constant. we sing songs. we make music.

with the rise of consumerism and institutionalized learning and some other things, music started to become an add-on activity to life.

some people do music. other people don't, they just listen to music.

and everyone said "well, of course - some people just aren't good at music. they just aren't meant to be musicians! and that's okay!"

and it is okay. absolutely no one should feel forced into music. there is enough music in silence.

but that first bit, the assumption, is off base.

no one is good at music without doing it. lots.

like I said, not all of my greats and grands were good at making music, but they did it.

some were - my aunt Minnie played church organ for fifty-some years without missing a single solitary week.

but it didn't matter either way - they learned because they did it together, they were shown and they practiced, not formally, just together as a family.

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@djsundog My great-grandfather played cello (on a casual/hobbyist basis AFAIK), my grampa played organ --for himself, not for church-- and a bit of ukulele as a younger man. His brother played plectrum banjo. My mom played piano and violin, and remembers family get togethers where her dad and uncle would play organ and banjo and everyone would sing.

When we'd visit my grandparents at Christmas, grampa would play carols and we would sing along, and I'm still mad at my tween dumbass self for rolling my eyes about it instead of realizing how incredibly special it was.

If you can find the right bunch of old-time musicians (by which I mean, musicians of any age playing "old-time" music) you can get pretty close to the "people making music together for the sheer joy of it" vibe. It's so easily poisoned by people playing "more authentically old-timey than thou" games, whether in terms of repertoire, techinque, instrument, etc.

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