Have faith in the music you love

Why would someone who loves traditional music fear for its survival?
If you love a form of music, doesn’t that imply that you believe in it?
It’s ironic that someone might think traditional music is superior, but that it’s also in danger, and in need of preservation. To me, traditional bluegrass is undeniable–some of the most soulful and pure music ever. What Monroe and Scruggs did will never go away. Its influence on other styles is far reaching at this point, and its evolution is vibrant. THAT IS AMAZING, and something to be very proud of. It will live on in all its forms only because it’s good, not because we helped it out. Nobody (and no organization) can ‘change’ bluegrass, limit its growth or define its bounds–this is a lost cause, especially given that it’s a pure opinion issue.
What we can do is celebrate bluegrass and its many connections, and this will be the best way to ensure that the music is always flourishing.

Does great art (and the process that creates it) ever need to be ‘preserved?’
I don’t think it does. Great art happens, it always has and it always will. If a great form of music exists, why would anyone put energy into keeping it the same, when good art is defined by evolution, new voices and growth? People support what they love and that’s all they ever have to do. Supporting is very different from preserving. The music is up to the artists. Great acts find the support they need whether they are old or new sounding. These people love the music for what it is, without ever wanting to change it. Acoustic music is primed to make that kind of authentic connection to more people. As the old recording industry model disintegrates, quality/authentic music continues to rise. This will help bluegrass across the whole spectrum, building respect for the old school masters and creating new paths for the droves of young picking talent about to emerge.
More than ever before, bluegrass can take care of itself. Better yet, it has the opportunity to grow.

Could a specific form of music disappear? Could something bad like that actually happen?
I suppose that if it had little popular appeal, it might fade away. But bluegrass is far too deep, far too real to suffer any such trend. We should have no concerns about competing with other forms of music, especially when string band popularity in general is hitting new and unprecedented heights. You can’t isolate yourself from the larger music world and hope to find success–nearly no musicians actually want that anyway. Bluegrass, along with all its branches, is so unique and so full of skill, and those things are truly a leg up in this industry climate. And for those who fear that the intimacy will disappear, bigger shows are actually what most artists want (and if they don’t they just need to tell their booking agent!!). I believe that most traditional settings will remain the same, if not becoming a slightly larger version of exactly what they are now. Artists do what they want to do. If you find yourself disagreeing with it, something is wrong.
We just need to enjoy and support the music we think is great, and in turn great things will happen to it.

Have faith in the music you love. Don’t worry about everything else!

10 comments

  1. El Ron · September 12, 2011

    Bluegrass is a staple genre of music that will never fade away. Blues, rap, rock, jazz, R&B, bluegrass, etc. All segmented genres that willyou always bewant part of the music scene. It has been established through the years and the great legendary performers have molded it to this platform. How it evolves from now is up to its future players.

  2. Caroline MotherJudge · September 12, 2011

    Bluegrass seems to be in good shape thanks to young musicians like you who are passionate about playing it in not only it’s traditional form, but experimenting with its genesis beyond what is right now. Tony Trishka pointed out that Monroe himself created bluegrass music by bringing together Scottish, Blues and Gospel forms. Nothing new can be if we fear the process.
    However, I do fear for Polka music. That genre lacks passionate young players and needs a good dusting off it it will survive the swampy future.
    See you at IBMA keeping good music alive!

  3. Timrob · September 12, 2011

    Great Post. I feel that preservation has little to do with fixing the form, but rather upholding the traditions that led to the form. No art form is ever static. It has to evolve to survive, but if it loses the tradition it becomes something completely different. Of course, there’s a place for that too. The beauty of music in general and Folk music in particular is that every individual brings his/her own spirit into the music.

  4. Scott T Armstrong · September 12, 2011

    Traditional – “Based on customs generally handed down.” ‘Based on’ is a key factor in the definition of Tradition. We have children given into our care for a short while; We teach them so much in a short period of time, Flatt & Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, Rice-olian Guitar, Monroe!… BUT – What is more important to hand down in Tradition is where the tradition came from. It evolved in the minds of a people that could think on their own, from stimulation of the artistic nerve center, from limits that were non existent in a mind that reached out for ‘what if…’. The Father or Blugrass? What about Buck Monroe, Uncle Pendleton and even the decades of musical fathers and grandfathers that ‘handed down’ the ‘Traditional’ Music?

    I am far from pesimistic in my mindset and even so much more to the other side that the fire of optimism burns so bright it sometimes singes a few hairs. Traditional Bluegrass music is and will always be alive and well. I have passed a torch to my kids and lead slow jams to add to the fire. I love Frankie Miller (Blackland Farmer) and the match stick cowboy songs, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Price, Rich, Williams, HANK (Sr), Thompson… Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Andre Rieu…

    Pass TRADITIONS to the next generation. Who knows what our kids Great Great Grandchildren will call Traditional? Do teach them, with all vigilance the traditions of your family, the love of a home filled with music and of the choices that are only theirs to make!

    God Bless!
    Thank you Lord for the Bluegrass Stains that run deep in my Soul.
    Scott T Armstrong

  5. Scott T Armstrong · September 12, 2011

    Winfield!!!

    Do look for my daughter playing with JP Shafer in the Mandolin Contest at Winfield this Friday. JP won Texas Mand Champion. Their Banjo player Adam Greer won the Texas Bajo Champion for the second time. Come out and support the two 16 year olds from Texas. Their band is – Third Rail. Will be performing at the Oklahoma International Festival in Guthrie the weekend after Winfield.

  6. Kelly · September 12, 2011

    I just got home from my first banjo lesson. :) It’s true. And I can only say it once. I’m a classical violin teacher who attended the Grand Targhee Bluegrass Camp…. I gotta tell you…. life changing! I am really grateful for your lessons, talks, and jam leading…. I’m enjoying the “bluegrass vs. new grass” debate immensely because of all the parallels that can be drawn to the classical field… I mean… my 13 year old students love their Mozart, but I’m pretty sure they would prefer Kesha exponentially more if given the opportunity. The sad downside to the classical world is that many young students of classical music are too lazy or just plain uninformed that they have the tools to expand their musical playing pallet. They frankly don’t know that they can play other types of music… from pop to folk to celtic to bluegrass. For me, music is what you make it. I choose old school bluegrass. And Bach. And Prokofiev. But I hope that as a teacher I can instill in students that they can choose whatever they wish! A “D” is a “D” no matter what or how you play it.

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  8. Mark Lackey · September 12, 2011

    This notion of change, recognition, and support has been with bluegrass from the beginning. If you haven’t read Neil Rosenburgs History Of Bluegrass you should. Bluegrass has survived a lot of “bumps” since it’s inception, from actual stylistic draws on the music one way or another, to pulls by the fans and overall music industry and what it perceives as the direction bluegrass should go.

  9. Veta Gumber · September 12, 2011

    I think of music as a spherical puzzle. Traditional Bluegrass is one piece. Next to it is Gospel Bluegrass. Another puzzle piece is Old Time Stringband. Another piece is JamGrass. Another is JazzGrass, and so on. It’s still Bluegrass though not traditional as we think of it.We live in an expanding Universe, and music is part of that universe.

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