Hugh Laurie and the state of music

I saw Hugh Laurie being interviewed, and he had put out an album of old blues and swing tunes. Asked why, he said that these old songs mean so much to him that he doesn’t want them to be lost to history. This created some mixed feelings for me.

On one side, I also feel strongly about a lot of music that I would hate to see become relegated to museum pieces. There’s plenty of old blues, jazz, folk, and even rock & roll that has had such an impact on our culture that it’d be a shame for it to disappear, so I think it’s great that people like Laurie are keeping it alive.

But at the same time, I’ve seen our culture become increasingly nostalgic about music. I’ve seen so many jazz jams (and jazz acts) that don’t play any songs newer than 1950. So many rock acts are focusing on music from the 60s and 70s (and there are the more modern cover bands that play music from the 90s). When I was playing classical guitar I remember someone looking at the composers listed on a program of mine and exclaiming in dismay “But these people are still alive!”

I feel there has to be a middle way. We don’t want to lose the treasures of the past, but at the same time we don’t want to cling to that past to the point of stultifying anything new from emerging. I see a tendency for people to polarize to an extreme; either they’re only interested in the “authentic” music of the past (in whatever genre they appreciate), or try to distance themselves from anything that’s not new (those these seem to be the less common these days). Wouldn’t it be nice if we could stay appreciative of those who forged the paths in the past, but still support those that are creating in the present?

Buddha with Guitar 2


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