“Rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read.”
— Frank Zappa
With apologies to Joni Mitchell, I’ve looked at music from both sides now, from baroque to jazz, and still somehow … I really don’t understand music at all.
I’ve studied music. I can tell a toccata from a fugue, a coda from a cadenza. I’ve analyzed some of my favourite pieces to within an inch of their lives.
But I still can’t truly explain what makes it all work in the end.
You can write about music all you want. You can write about the people who play it: their hopes, their fears, their congeniality or their conceit. You can extol the sweet clarity of a violin or the soulful wail of a Stratocaster.
But you can never capture music in words. I know. I’ve tried to. I wrote music reviews. The result was rarely adequate. You can say a concert was transcendent or inspired, gripping or idyllic. They’re only words.
No, music must be heard. You have to go to a concert or turn on the radio and experience it in action. And in today’s world, the widest audience is reached when music is recorded and broadcast on television or radio.
In this province, we’ve been privileged. The CBC regularly features local musicians on its airwaves. From Joan Morrissey to Ron Hynes, Emile Benoit to Duane Andrews, the CBC has consistently kept us abreast of our most talented minstrels.
That may be about to change.
The CBC announced last month that live recording would be a victim of federal budget cuts. That means we’re about to lose a very important soundboard in this province.
Off the air?
Two shows in particular — “Musicraft” and “The Performance Hour” — are on the chopping block. The former focuses on the classical music scene; the latter encompasses local pop, jazz and folk.
On Tuesday, MusicNL and other arts organizations hosted a news conference in St. John’s to protest the loss of live music recording, arguing the cuts go against the very mandate of the CBC.
There’s a reason Newfoundland and Labrador is such a formidable force on the music front. It’s because diverse factors come together in a happy collusion of events.
First, there’s the wealthy trove of Irish, English and French traditional music, kept alive by equally rich cultural traditions.
Then there’s the MUN School of Music, which nurtures a primary and secondary music education system second to none in this country.
Having sung in various choirs over the past 25 years, I am endlessly amazed at the calibre of young singers (and instrumentalists) emerging from our schools today. Many kids graduating now can read music better than I can with my years of experience.
And a final, crucial piece in the local music puzzle is the CBC’s mobile recording unit.
Music NL president David Chafe points out that CBC produced about 50 live music recordings last year, “covering the gamut of emerging and established artists from all genres and all reaches of the province.”
A few of those recordings were also picked up for national broadcast.
Musicians, after all, depend on an audience. And to build that audience, they need exposure. You can’t just read about them; you have to hear them.
“Losing CBC-NL’s only means
of recording high-quality live music performances is very much a destruction of a vital bridge between the artist and the basis of their career sustainability,” says Chafe.
I couldn’t agree more.
To learn more or support the cause, check out Duane Andrews’ event “Sad Times for Newfoundland and Labrador Music” on Facebook.
And keep the music alive.
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s