I grew up loving classical music. As a young child, I found a recording of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony and fell in love. My music appreciation, at that time, was strictly classical, for the most part. Sure, every now and then I would hear some song on the radio that caught my fancy and I distinctly remember sitting in our living room when The Beatles made their American television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show.
You see, my parents always watched the Ed Sullivan Show and, suddenly, there were The Beatles and hundreds of screaming girls in the audience. I thought this was very strange; why would the girls be screaming? I looked back at my parents to get their take on it but there was dead silence. It was just as if someone had set a bomb off. I can still see the shocked expression on my mom’s face.
Well pop music remained just sort of a fascination and, as I studied my classical music, I grew more convinced that it was just a lower, debased form of music. Then I went to the Peabody Music Conservatory in Baltimore. Here was a very conservative musical institution that held the line on music teaching at the end of the eighteen hundreds. This was strictly classical and the composition teacher was famous for saying that jazz wouldn’t last. He had not stepped out for some decades, evidently, because there was jazz in every club in Baltimore.
I don’t know if it was in reaction to the extreme conservativeness of that environment or what, exactly, but my peers and myself decided we were definitely not conservative anymore. There was a lot of experimenting with altered states of mind, sexual activities and things of that nature.
We were innovating, really, although we didn’t know it. We decided that good music was good music no matter where or when you found it. We started an extracurricular activity called Music Appreciation, where students from all around would bring their favorite music and it would be played. These sessions went on for hours with no conversation whatever; only dead silence and rapt attention to whatever music was on. The program ranged from jazz to pop to classical.
After it was over, people would just move off and sort out their opinions on what they had heard or have a discussion amongst their selves. And it was in Music Appreciation that I learned there are more similarities than differences in different musical genres even if there are centuries separating them.