David Byrne has a bit of a must-read post

spurred on by the $32M LA production of Wagner’s Ring cycle. He makes the case that money spent on recreating past works of art would be better spent on music in education:

Take that money, that $14 million from the city, for example, let some of those palaces, ring cycles and temples close — forgo some of those $32M operas — and fund music and art in our schools

The money line:

The dead guys won’t write more symphonies.

His argument is more nuanced than that one pithy phrase. I find myself in partial agreement, but here is here I diverge:

…it’s more important that someone learn to make music, to draw, photograph, write or create in any form than it is for them to understand and appreciate Picasso, Warhol or Bill Shakespeare — to say nothing of opry. In the long term it doesn’t matter if students become writers, artists or musicians — though a few might. It’s more important that they are able to understand the process of creation, experimentation and discovery.

Calling for kids to make music “in any form” is too low a standard. One can argue playing Guitar Hero teaches musical rhythm. Sure, it’s fun, but it’s rote. Why not aim high?

And as to the value for a student to “understand and appreciate” works of the past, I would submit to you this rather traditional, old-fashioned painting:

The artist? Pablo Picasso.

Before he invented Cubism, Picasso took the time to understand, appreciate, and indeed master what came before him. He was fifteen.
More David Byrne:

Bach, Mozart and Beethoven I never could get, and I don’t feel any the worse for it. There’s plenty left to love and enjoy. This whole rant, I guess, derives a little from the fact that I resent the implication, and sometime-feeling, that I’m less of a musician and even a person for not appreciating those works. It’s not true!

Absolutely. But we shouldn’t be quick to dismiss the dead guys. After all, we’ll all be dead too someday. And if you’re David Byrne, can you really object if garage bands in the year 3000 are jamming to “Burning Down the House”?

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

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