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February 8, 2009
Vol. IX, No. 5

"Music Wants to Be Free"
I was cced on an email this past week from a community member who expressed concern about the recent spate of news stories regarding the use of recorded performances as insurance during "live" performances. The email cited the Super Bowl, Obama's inauguration, and the Olympics in Beijing. The emailer also cited a personal experience where a member of her audience was unable to perceive that her performance was live. The overall concern was that recorded music might be in the final stages of overtaking live performance and her message ended with a solicitation for "thoughts, ideas, solutions...?"

There was a swift response from AGO HQ with a link to a position paper on the use of prerecorded music in worship services. Well, let me tell ya, nothing helps solve a problem or says "we care" more than releasing a position paper. Seeing as how it was released in 1996, I guess we can judge the effectiveness of that tactic!

Anyway, recorded music has been around a long time and live performances still survive. So I don't believe we're in an imminent crisis where performing live will become obsolete but there IS a serious lack of appreciation for music these days. The good news is the solution is simply a matter of education. The bad news is that education is currently under Federal control.

We've all seen the studies that music makes you smarter. As mentioned in a recent Rampage, at the beginning of the previous century, a good education was based on music appreciation. Now that doesn't sound like the Federal government to me! Obviously, Washington wasn't always in the education business, In fact, the major thrust occurred in the 1940s. This wouldn't be an issue except that history shows that government is not honestly interested in education. If you need proof of that, just count up the billions that have been allocated for education and then check our ranking in the world when it comes to the smarts of our kids:
What gives! Still a skeptic? Spend some time here:

Our society as a whole is at a turning point and, by extension, all of society's components, including organists. What we have done in the past is no longer working. Our ways of doing things are no longer responding to band-aids. Frequently found on the internet is the quote that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. As Dr. Phil says, "How's that workin' for ya?" So the impulse of the email under discussion is correct. Something needs to happen. But...something DIFFERENT needs to happen.

Right now in our country, money equals control. Control the money, control the music. I suppose it's always been that way. You've heard the expression, "He who pays the piper calls the tune." As organists, we've all had first-hand experience with this concept. Since we don't control the money we have to be a bit more creative in exerting our control. The important thing to remember is that there's only one person we can control and that's ourselves, and through our actions we can effect change by influencing others.

So when it comes to the issue of prerecorded music eclipsing live performances, the question we need to ask ourselves is not "What will we do?" but "What will I do?" Think about what you can do to influence the people with whom you come into contact? How can you wrestle some control of the music away from the money? Free the music and we free ourselves. Maybe the title of this Rampage should be "I Want to Be Free."

Added is a link to the Church Music Association of America. "The Church Music Association of America (founded in 1874) is an association of Catholic musicians, and those who have a special interest in music and liturgy, active in advancing Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and other forms of sacred music, including new composition, for liturgical use."

Added is a new photo this week from France. Come on, submit your photos! These could be photos of organs, organists, churches, musical or whatever. Please provide a caption describing what's in the photo and please be sure the photo is yours and not something that you copied off the internet.

Due to the fact that both Community photos that have been submitted make reference to playing the organ without shoes, I decided today's poll will be called SHOES OR AU NATURAL and the question is whether you regularly play the organ WITHOUT shoes?

(The last poll question was Does your church music job generally give you an annual cost-of-living raise? The results were 50/50 but there were only a handful of responses, unfortunately not enough to answer the question conclusively.)

Have a great week!

Dan Long

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