You know, I was just thinking, as I was listening to the old song, ‘Tighten Up’ (1968), that young people today, born after 1980, might not even bother to listen to such a song upon learning its age. They might have a quick thought that it’s old and they’d rather not waste their time with it and stay focused on what is contemporary, happening now and relevant within their peer group.
Is now better than then? Take music for instance, is music today (2009), necessarily better than say, music of the sixties? There have certainly been developments in miusic, new types of music, as the years roll on. Music is a popular activity subject to continual change as people experiment with instruments and the sounds that might be created. Yet there is classical music, invented centuries ago, which still makes its claim on the post-modern ear, even among children. Once upon a time, classical music was the popular music of the day in Europe. So history in music is quite important. I reflect on the Psalms of the Old Testament and imagine people with lyres and timbrels and horns, etc., and most of all the human voice, with its wonderful range, praising God in ancient Israel or lamenting some misfortune. The accoutrements of music have changed, but the players and singers, we are the same. We are in the same relation to the cosmos as the pre-Socratic philosophers of ancient Greece. There is so much we do not know.
So, I guess in music appreciation, only self-limitation excludes the past from the present. The past might be better, maybe because it was simpler, less technical, more spontaneous. Actually I prefer to place equal value on music of every age. The music liked today will be remembered 20 years hence, reminisced about, and then it’ll be old. [Music mixes with emotion.]
There is a quotation from that ‘who does he think he is’ rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth that may serve as an analogy for thinking about the process and progress of music in society: Nor do people pour new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the skins would split, the wine would escape, and the skins be destroyed. But they put new wine into fresh skins, and both are saved (Mt. 9:17). Nor does anyone after drinking old wine wish for new; for he says, "The old is better" (Lk. 5:39). Music and wine, they go together, no? Isn’t there room in the world for new and old?