Tuesday, February 28, 2006

i'M Not Ready for iBluegrass

I read an interesting article the other day about the impact of the digital, i-music craze on orchestras, and what orchestras are doing to get in the mix. In fact, one major orchestral client recently made "experience with emerging media" a requirement of the selected candidate. This, coupled with the increased exposure over the last couple of weeks as to the value and necessity of digital music, has made me realize not only how far behind the curve I am technologically, but also why I'm behind the curve.

It seems that I view the next age in music the way my parents might have viewed the possibility of space exploration when they were my son's age. "Ha. Only digital? That'll never happen."

But, it is happening, in bluegrass, and jazz, and yes, even among symphony orchestras. One orchestra in Cologne, Germany even provides digital recordings of the performances from that evening -- you can buy a cd of the experience you had that night, on your way out. A number of renowned conductors and composers have their own blogs or web sites, complete with a lesson in a particular area, be it a particular piece or player or style. (Huh! Whodathunkit?!) The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra even boasts a blog! What in heaven's name is this world coming to? (Click here for links to listen and watch SLSO's Music Director, American conductor David Robinson, in action.)

The day is coming when this blog will have its own radio station, for example, or better links into the actual music making that goes on in bluegrass. At the same time, I'm reticent. I don't want us all to go so digital that we go home every night and lock ourselves in, the only live concerts we catch being those streamed into the little video screen in our kitchen while we make dinner.

As much as I believe that the electronic age will deliver bluegrass, and all music, to many audiences that might not otherwise have heard it, I worry that it also brings an element of distance. I hope that it doesn't mean the experience of live music making and listening becomes obsolete.

I'm going to force myself through all kinds of self-directed learning over the next several months, and part of that, to be sure, is to make myself so comfortable with other forms of media that I can manage audio files with one eye closed and the other playing a hot game of Uno with my daughter. Heck, even Bill Monroe has entire albums on MP3! But it's not going to be easy. I don't trust it all yet. But if my dream is to be a modern-day songcatcher, gathering and then spewing forth the wonders and benefits of traditional and bluegrass music to convert all those who seek, how can I possibly be successful without an iPod? Who knows...iBanjo, iMando, iLuvTrad.com?

And I thought watching a DVD of Jerry Douglas was way cool.

Some dear friends passed on to me an MP3 player over the weekend. I've pulled it out, and examined the cords, but, I have a looonnnnng way to go before actually leaping into action. And the first act is believing I can, and should. But I have to. I might be a bit of a relic, but bluegrass will never be.


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