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Relevancy of Music in Our World – A Personal Reflective

How we function in the continuum of music.

Photo courtesy Ben Laude
Photo courtesy Ben Laude

Traveling by subway in New York City in 1979 and 2020 is remarkably the same. As we ascend from the underground to street level, a mass of humanity is about us. We are somewhat insignificant at the moment, breathing the same air, trying to make a difference in the lives of others and creating a legacy that might, hopefully, outlive us. This is my personal goal as a musician, performer, and educator. Whether as a student at The Juilliard School in 1979, or a musician in 2020 as part of the continuum of music making, as I pause among the sea of people around me, I remind myself to re-assess and evaluate my purpose in the stream of life and music. Trained in the traditions of musicians before me, dating back to Beethoven, I share the musical catalogue of works I am spiritually and musically responsible to transcend to the hands of the next generations. In addition, since 1999, I have created projects with living composers to help shape the musical offerings for future performances. Born eighty-percent deaf and corrected through surgery at age three, the path of communication for me has never quite been the normal listen-and-response manner. From an early age, I have found ways to communicate my feelings, emotions and responses through other channels of expression. Music is, perhaps, my first language. At age twelve, I played a new composition by and for the composer, Meyer Kupferman. This life-changing experience planted the seeds to create commissioning projects for many living composers of classical and popular styles in the 21st century. The realization that music and its relevancy is much greater than any of us, has permeated my way of life for many years. My passion in this regard has helped bring new repertoire into existence for present recordings and performances, and, for future pianists and conductors to draw from for performances. The composers I have selected have been the recipients of the Grammy Award, the Pulitzer Prize in Music, the Tony Award among other distinctions. I have also helped foster young careers to bring forth new works of relevance to the community. One such work is “Dreams of the Fallen”, for piano, orchestra and chorus by Jake Runestad. Jake was only twenty-five years old at the time and decided to take several poems by war veteran, Brian Turner, to create a unique work depicting one’s experiences at war and, for those who have survived, their return from war. In this endeavor, some of the text is extremely graphic while other words reflect their yearning to rejoin the community they once enjoyed prior to being deployed. Jake expertly brings the music to a close as the community embraces the veteran, providing a sense of closure to help move onward in life. Truly, there are many composers of the past and those presently composing music reflecting the challenges of their time, so that future generations can gain a personal insight through music to best understand the plights of those times. Music has evolved from simple tones through the ages, through the styles of Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Classical, Romantic, Impressionist, Neo-Classical, Twelve-tone, Serial, Atonal, Minimalist, Avant-garde, Neo-Romantic, Contemporary Classical, and, now, I believe we are in the period of Neo-Impressionism. Whether you enjoy ‘classical’ or ‘popular’, ‘Broadway’ or ‘rock-n-roll’, ‘movies’ or ‘hip-hop’, music outlives the human element and transcends history. With all the many technological breakthroughs to create everlasting musical legacy, from wax cylinders, radio, television, long-playing records, vinyl records, cassette tapes, 8-track tapes, compact discs, MP3s, WAV files, etc, music will always strive to be a universal means of expression and sharing the basic human emotions which can never be separated from one person to another. Somehow we are interconnected, and music may always be the one language which unites us.

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