Music As Information

by Harvey Reid


With the advent of audio and video, music can travel farther, faster, and better than ever before. It may be that in the days before recordings, which purists somehow feel was better than today, there were many more obstacles in the way of learning, like the way that books and writing may have improved language. No doubt there were people then who felt that writing was going to be the end of language as they knew it, although we don't know much of the world as they knw it unless they wrote it down. It's getting that waay with music. If it is not filmed or recorded, it might well have never happened, and the oral traditions of music are dying just as they are in language and history.

You no longer have to live in a particular place and at a particular time in history to get access to its cultural information, and the period when musical information could only be stored in the human brain and on the written page is ending. They preserved the written word of Latin, but no one knows how to pronounce anything. When the first Japanese Bluegrass band, The Bluegrass 45, came over the the U.S., they caused a sensation in the Bluegrass world, because they were actually quite good. And how is it that Yo Yo Ma plays Bach, and Christopher Parkening plays Spanish guitar? And now there are Russians and Czechs who play Bluegrass, and Australian Blues Men, and possibly we have only begun to see the proliferation of cross-cultural musicianship. How can this be? Are they real Blues men or just actors? What if their learning techniques were the same? What if a Black man from Mississippi takes up Blues theater? Is he more "authentic" than the Australian? I think it is largely a matter of information. Most players in the U.S. today learn from recordings, rather than by tagging along behind the masters on the street corners, so that is the sort of thing that can be done just as easily by a Romanian with a record player as someone from Atlanta. The Age of Information is making it easier for almost anyone to do an quite commendable job of mastering a particular style of music as long as it has been previously documented in recordings, though the deeper question of the authenticity of the result remains.

Maybe this offends our nationalistic sensibilities, but ultimately it is good for the preservation of the music, and the styles of playing are more likely to survive and grow in an information-rich environment. How many brilliant musicians came and went in their small villages, unknown to the rest of the world? Face it, the whole folk process is just a matter of information transmittal. A traveling fiddler came through town, played his stuff, and the players who heard him got what they could from hearing him, depending on their ability to remember. The difference is that now you can make a tape or a video, and capture exactly what was being done, and then you could only remember snippets, so musical ideas and plots of songs and catchy lines moved through the people who played and heard them, and were constantly changed. This process of endless variation through inaccurate remembering is the heart of the Folk Process, but it must have been tough for somebody who actually wrote a song, to have people stealing it and changing it everywhere he went. At least creators now can get some credit for what they do, copyright it, and people can learn it correctly if they so choose.


Copyright © 1995 by Harvey Reid

Harvey Reid has been a full-time acoustic guitar player, songwriter, traditional musician, and free-lance minstrel since 1974. He has recently released his 11th solo recording on Woodpecker Records. He lives on the coast of Southern Maine, though he did live in his car for over 5 years, which made him philosophical.


WOODPECKER MULTIMEDIA
PO Box 815 York Maine 03909  USA
phone (207) 363-1886


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Harvey Reid Concert Schedule |Harvey's Blog | About the Liberty Guitar Method|Catalog of CD's and Tapes|Discography|About this Web Site & What's New Here | Hot News | Woodpecker Home Page | About Harvey Reid |The Song Train | Video | Audio | About Joyce Andersen | Books by Harvey Reid | Get On the Mailing List... | Concert & Record Reviews | Interviews with HR | Lyrics to Harvey Reid Songs | Harvey Reid Annual Newsletters | HR's Guitar Tunings | About the Partial Capo | Articles & Essays by HR | HR's Gear | HR's Favorite CD's | HR's Career History | Booking Info | Publicity Info & Download Files |


This web site concerns the music and life of acoustic musician & music educator Harvey Reid.

If you don't find what you want, or if you have comments or questions, please email to

 

WOODPECKER MULTIMEDIA
PO Box 815 York Maine 03909  USA
phone (207) 363-1886


Lyrics
About Harvey Reid
Concert Schedule
Lyrics
Catalog of Recordings
Buy From Us
Say Hello to Us
Books
Newest Recording
Newsletter
Booking Information
Publicity Info
Publicity Photos
About Joyce Andersen
Say Hello to Us
Listen to Audio
About the Partial Capo
Downloads
Articles & Essays
Harvey's Gear
Out of Print Music
Interviews
Reviews
Guitar Tunings
Lyrics
Listen to Audio
The Song Train
Favorite CD's
Listen to Audio
Hot News
Lyrics

Harvey Reid Concert Schedule |Harvey's Blog | About the Liberty Guitar Method|Catalog of CD's and Tapes|Discography|About this Web Site & What's New Here | Hot News | Woodpecker Home Page | About Harvey Reid |The Song Train | Video | Audio | About Joyce Andersen | Books by Harvey Reid | Get On the Mailing List... | Concert & Record Reviews | Interviews with HR | Lyrics to Harvey Reid Songs | Harvey Reid Annual Newsletters | HR's Guitar Tunings | About the Partial Capo | Articles & Essays by HR | HR's Gear | HR's Favorite CD's | HR's Career History | Booking Info | Publicity Info & Download Files |


This web site concerns the music and life of acoustic musician & music educator Harvey Reid.

If you don't find what you want, or if you have comments or questions, please email to