Please read the previous post “a letter to a friend” and the comment there from Aimee.
It seems like Aimee is trying to say that everyone has influences that give them direction, but they eventually get their own sound. Like the Beatles copied British skiffle music and American R&B. Or like the Jamacans who were trying to play soul music, got it wrong and created Ska and reagge.(sp?)
Going back to the metaphor of language. A child imitates her parents to learn how to speak. But, so does a talking parrot. The difference is that the child will begin to take the words that it has learned and form original thoughts on its own, like “gimme ice cream!”
Aimee asked a good question “can virtuosity develop in someone who has not benefited from outside influences?”
I would say yes, but that music would sound meaningless to the rest of us. When white people first encountered the music of isolated cultures out in the wilderness their first response to this “primal” music was that it needed some good’ol Western tonal structure. They invented social evolution to explain the difference. They said, “give them a few centuries to master proper intonation and understand the logical superiority of four measure phrases, maybe if we introduce them to some Bach and Beethoven, they could even write their own symphony.”
My point is that different cultures develop different kinds of virtuosity. That’s why an African American gospel organist cannot do justice to a Bach organ prelude. Neither can a conservatory trained organist walk into a C.O.G.I.C. church here in St. Louis and play anything resembling a gospel shout chorus. Both of these musicians could cross over into the other culture, but only if they have the humility to listen and learn at the feet of a master.
Sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it; it sounds a lot like the sermon on the mount: blessed are the meek, the poor in spirit, the peacemakers.
This is getting at the original intention of my “letter to a friend.” Pride turns the musician into a self-righteous judge that continually evaluates and criticizes. Humility makes us open up our ears and listen to other cultures without jumping to conclusions.
Good questions, Aimee. This is the kind of blog stuff I was hoping for!