Thursday, February 27, 2014

Nostalgia for the Musical 1960s

To balance out yesterday's post where I listed ten ways the musical world has improved since the 1960s, here's a list of ten ways the musical world of the 1960s might have been more fulfilling than the current musical world. Most of the items on this list come from talking with friends and family who were of musical age in the 1960s. I was only a child.

1. People in the business of playing classical music seemed to be far less "careerist" in the 1960s than they are today.

2. For people who were accomplished and lived in major cities there was plenty of commercial playing work that would pay the bills so that they could support their "serious" music "habit."

3. There were plenty of remnants of "old world" European charm that helped remind people of the traditions they were keeping.

4. New music really had revolutionary ideas. Some of them were pretty wacky.

5. Playing a virtuoso piece was hailed as a real accomplishment.

6. Performances in New York were often covered by an informed musical press. When they weren't covered by an informed musical press, at least they were covered by an uninformed one. A review was something to be expected after playing a concert.

7. The publication of a new piece of music was an event. Music publishers promoted the music they published.

8. Many of the established musicians working in the 1960s grew up during the depression and were children of immigrant parents. They set very high standards for themselves (or had them set by their parents).

9. Musical theater always had live musicians. So did radio and television shows.

10. The top-notch players of every instrument had their individual (and often recognizable) musical voices, but for those players the music took priority over the playing. The music itself was what was important, and playing it as well as possible was the best way to make that point.


ksh said...

Help me to understand what you mean by "careerist". Thanks!

Elaine Fine said...

Many people I know seem to make alliances and friendships based on what people can do to help further their careers. I suppose people have always done this.

But many of the older people I know spent their musical lives not thinking so much about their "careers," but thinking about their work itself. The "career" followed.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Fine, you are correct. A musical career built more on who you know than how well you perform (arrange or compose) is a bureaucratic thing. Those who perform at Carnegie Hall, especially soloists, assuredly think about their work, and not the next connection in their networking. I've worked with both. The higher I climbed, the less connections mattered, but the more the musical skill sets.