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The place where I will regularly post thoughts and comments on any aspect of music.
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And you might check my other blog, Evert Listens to Dylan, if you would be interested what listening to the complete recordings of Bob Dylan does with (or to, or for) me.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Serious Request - or: So Deadly Contageous is Music.

There may come a time when the mist that surrounds us all may thicken around me, and thicken and thicken. I will first find my way without any problem. But gradually I will lose sight of this beautiful world I know so well - and I will lose how it smells, and how it tastes, and how it feels, and how it sounds.

I would appreciate it if by then, you would help me a bit. Nothing serious - I hope others will be able to do the serious stuff - but when you visit me, play me a tune, sing me a song, put on the radio.

Play me 'Go Leave' by Kate McGarrigle, because I love this voice (and that of her sister Anna, of course), and because she sings 'ears have a way of calling...'.

Play me 'Your Soul and Mine' by Gil Scott-Heron, because it captures the frightening cruelty of our world in the frightening beauty of our poetry and music.

Play me 'Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' by Bob Dylan, because it shows that the world never ends because it can be captured in music - as long as you do it in 11 minutes and 18 seconds exactly, and Dylan found out.

Play me Dolly Parton's 'Travellin' Prayer' because it is about Love, and God, and Strings.

Play me the Allegretto from Beethoven 7, because it reminds me of eating home made apple pie on a winter morning in a small farm house with my best friends ever.

Play me 'Bells of Harlem' by Dave Rawling, because of its grace - Grace? -, and because I wanted to be him ever since I know him.

And in case you think I am a sentimental sod (which, indeed, I will be then, and actually I am already now):

Play me Goran Bregovic' 'Alcohol' so that I can look forward to a stiff drink and a wild party although those days have long gone, now and certainly then.

Play me Les Claypool's 'Wynona's Big Brown Beaver' as loud as possible, because of the slappin' on the bass, and because of the '...and a half' in the second verse and - oh come on, you know why ;-)

Play me The Beatles' 'Yer Blues', just for my sake and yer's.

And play me lots of music I do not know yet but you think you may do me a favour with. Because my talking may have stopped by then, and any other form of recognizable reaction, but inside I am sure my whole musical idioculture, built up in a life which by then will have stopped to be my biography, will still be available to make life meaningful and worthwhile till the end (although I am sorry to say you will never be sure; just trust me).

And then, when all has ended, carry on to play your tunes, not mine. And may I humbly predict that part of my tunes will turn out to have become your tunes?

So deadly contageous is music.

[This blog entry is the flip side of the entry called 'The Added Value of Music'. Up to you to decide which one is the A-Side.]

Friday, November 18, 2016

On the 'Added Value' of Music

I was at a conference where numerous projects were presented in the domain of 'Arts and the Elderly'. It was good to notice that, where ten years ago activities in this domain were hardly visible and actors hardly met, now this domain has constituted itself as an actual domain with actual key questions and a growing network of people who know how to find each other and appreciate each other.

One of the key questions, a persistent and recurring one, is that of advocacy for and, ultimately, of financing of activities for frail and vulnerable elderly: those with dementia, those in hospitals or in care homes, those living a lonely life at home devoid of meaningful social contacts, et cetera.

The communis opinio is that the arts may contribute to physical and mental health, and to a general sense of well-being and meaningfulness of life. There are many strong examples to show that, and research is carried out both to give 'deep' evidence (through, e.g. ethnography, case studies or action research) as well as 'broad' evidence (through larger scale but more superficial effect measurements). And slowly but surely the knowledge of what the arts contribute to the elderly is building up.

But in the back of my head there is this persisting and recurring question of my own: why do we, suddenly, in the case of the vulnerable older woman, have to explain something that was taken for granted when that same woman was not yet vulnerable and older but just simply living her everyday life. When it comes to music: why do we have to argue that there is something missing in the life of this vulnerable older woman if music has no place in it in the same way as it did before? And why do we have to deliver the 'evidence-base' for the simple, widely accepted notion underpinned by libraries of research that human beings are learning beings, and that therefore life is incomplete without the possibility to be surprised by new music, new images, new movements, and that even the very vulnerable should be given the opportunities to living by learning?

I was in a session on the said conference where we were making an inventory of 'the value of the arts', and where we were talking in terms of 'added value': the arts give you the opportunity to express yourself, to bond socially, et cetera. But the idea of 'added value' gives one the idea that the arts are not part of the basis of life, but form an 'extra' in order to reach specific 'goals'. That may be the case in for example the therapeutic use of the arts, but even arts therapy nowadays is firmly grounded in the idea that it works precisely because the arts are nót an extra in life, but rather an undeniable part of life.

Speaking for music - the only 'art' of which I really know something - I would like to draw your attention to the fact that 99,9% of our population leads an intense and deeply satisfying - and very idio-syncratic, and often not very 'canonical' - musical life on a day-to-day basis. If at an elderly age people get less and less opportunities to continue their musical life, it is very simply part of a human health care system to provide those opportunities. The questions may be who should be doing that (contrary to popular belief in my circles I do not see why 'music professionals' should suddenly take the lead here), how we organize it, and who pays for it.

But the fundamental position should be: music is not an added value. It is a basic value. Music for elderly people should not be judged on the basis of the fact that it is 'fostering well-being', or on any other kind of 'added value' of music. It should be judged on the basis of the fact that human life by definition is musical, and that living the full life till the end means also living the musical life till the end. And if a care system is a 'care' system at all: simply taking care that that happens.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Long live the Italians - but no.

I had a long blog break. A long, long blog break. But I was nearly back writing, if not for our Italian friends.

The break was not due to a holiday. Oh yes, I had one; we went to a Foreign Country, I renovated a room of one of the kids, put together at least 10 IKEA bookcases, built a sort of play house for the kids in the garden (it looks more like a hunting lodge to shoot at the neighbors), swam in a lake, hurt my foot, read books (Michel de Certeau, Bruno Latour, Gert Biesta, T.C. Boyle, books on the death of Yugoslavia), and what not.

And hardly wrote blog entries.

I wrote other stuff, of course. The not-blog-writing-period started way before the holidays and lasted until way after the holidays, and as my working life consists of talking, listening, reading and writing, I wrote articles, grant requests, research field notes, memoranda and addenda, bibliographies, little pieces about the history of shanty singing, and much more.

But no blog entries.

Maybe, I thought, I had grown tired of words. Maybe I had lost inspiration and suffered from writer's block. Maybe the world simply had changed, and nothing happened that required a blog entry to be dealt with. I mean, I could write about reading De Certeau or getting stuck in Latour; or about the way Bob Dylan's album 'New Morning' coloured my stay in the Foreign Country. But somehow, it didn't feel right.

But then the Italians nearly got me back to writing. I read in a news item that they give every kid turning 18 500 euros to be spent on culture. Or rather: on Culture. There seems to be a list made by the Italian Ministry of Culture, containing the Culture one can choose from. Italian Culture - because, as the government has stated, that is good for personal development and societal coherence. And it is an anti-dote against the terrorist attacks of IS. The Dutch corespondent in Italy added in his news item that the 500 euros could probablyy not be spent on Justin Bieber concerts, because Bieber would most likely not be on the list.

For a moment I thought this might be something to write about - the combination of astonishment and irritation is probably the greatest catalyst for writing any blog entry. But when the Bieber-stuff came up at the end of the news item, astonishment as well as irritation seeped away. Sometimes reality is so boringly and outrageously stupid that one can do nothing else but loose all interest.

Sorry, my Italian friends. Sorry, Justin. I am sure the world will soon be interesting enough again to write about. But there apparently are limits to what one can write about, limits beyond which all writing becomes useless.

As Wittgenstein said: "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen". And indeed, it feels like 'muss', not 'soll'.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Kanye West, a guy called Uwe Diegel, and a sickening confusion of categories


I was checking out one of the social media last night and some-one I respect posted this:


Uwe Diegel is chief-executive of a medical firm. He also has a past as a classical concert pianist.

So let us get the equation right: the music world may be compared to the Muslim world. And in that case, it is okay to compare Kanye West to a terrorist.

I checked out Kanye West on Wikipedia because I don't know much about him and maybe I overlooked a recent atrocity. I also checked some other sites on news about him. Found nothing to be deeply anxious about. Yes, the usual Famous American rubbish; little scandals, bigger scandals, cross-libelling, et cetera. Nothing to be too shocked about if you follow the show bizz from the side lines.

I cannot draw any other conclusion: it is okay for Diegel to compare Kanye West to a muslim terrorist because West makes music Diegel dislikes. (And, maybe: because Music, to Diegel, is Religion.)

Friday, July 1, 2016

Special Needs

I think I told this story before: I once told a group of music education students about my developing ideas about 'idiocultural music education', a form of music education that acknowledges the musical individuality of every child and takes that as its point of departure. (Many people say: "Oh, I do that all the time. What's new?" I take the liberty to doubt that - true idiocultural music education is a severe paradigm shift once you think it through. And, I would like to add for those interested, it has something to do with Gert Biesta's idea of 'subjectivation' as one of the three functions of education.)

Monday, May 16, 2016

An embarrassingly auto-ethnographical piece of writing

Although it is rainy and windy now and one would not say it is late spring, only a couple of days ago the weather made us believe it was summer. One afternoon, I was cycling home after a quite busy day. I was good-humored, due to the fact that the last meeting I attended showed signs of improvement in a field which had given rise to worries and even conflicts in the past year.

These days I often listen to music while biking to my work and back. I put some fifty or so albums I like on my phone and listen over those small earphones which deliver a quality which never stops amazing me. Occasionally I listen to Soundcloud - I subscribed to a couple of channels of EDM-artists just to keep an idea of what is going on in the world of my son, musically: Skrillex, David Guetta.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The M4 Principle

This is a little note about the M4 Principle: the Miraculous Meaningfulness of Musical 'Mediocracy'.

I was in Sarajevo last week, as I have been every year those past few years to deliver guest lectures to master and PhD students. I was, to be honest, not looking forward to go, because I have been too busy lately to enjoy travel and I did not want to leave my family. But of course, once I was there I was happy to be back, meeting my Sarajevan colleagues who have become very dear to me over the years, working with those nice students, and wandering around this beautiful city, scarred by history and teeming with life. The smokey smell of Cevabcici-fires. The beautiful mosques, the guilty mountains. Bosnian coffee.