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Flavored Cardboard

LAST WEEK I saw a want ad for jazz by a motion picture company. The last sentence caught my attention: “NO INSTRUMENTALS — please!” That’s analagous to saying, “WANTED: Doctor of internal medicine. No physicians — please!”

When did jazz transition from instrumental to vocals only? While vocals always have been part of jazz, the entire basis for the genre is instrumental improvisation. What has happened to our culture?

Wait. Don’t tell me. Remember when I wrote about the death of instrumental music? Looks as though I was right.

So, on a somewhat related subject, I was visiting the website of a very good computerized “music minus one” program called Band-In-A-Box. They have a new development, RealTracks, where they record phrases by actual jazz musicians and the program stitches them together coherently. Let me tell you how good it is: The online samples are nearly indistinguishable from recordings by everyday professional jazz musicians. That includes the solos.

The playing naturally lacks personality but that is no drawback because many of today’s jazz musicians perform with just as little personality. After all, that is how they learn to play in school. Other problems exist with the computerized performances but, in a few years, the company probably will have solved them. Yes, within my lifetime jazz has disintegrated from a vital, personal, and popular form of music to a computer generated replica.

No wonder the want ad said “no instrumentals”!

And now for the question you have been dying to ask: “Doesn’t quality count anymore? Isn’t musical emotion important?”

Does your question really need an answer? Music, just as most things we see, hear, and use today, has become a disposable commodity. Why bother to repair a pair of shoes (or anything else) when it is less expensive to buy a new pair? Why bother to buy good music when you can download other music online for free? Even if the fidelity is worse, even if the musicians are third rate, even if it is a pale facsimile of real music, it’s close enough and its FREE. Or it costs 99-cents.

Why bother to hire real musicians when a computer program costs less and sounds close enough?

Why bother to buy steak when flavored cardboard tastes nearly as good?

The problem, you see, starts with the consumer — with you and me. Business simply provides the lowest quality the majority will accept. Of course, if you refuse to accept it, they provide it anyway and remove the alternative.

So where do YOU draw the line? Or does flavored cardboard really hit the spot?

We can stop the entropy affecting culture by taking a stand. Folks, it’s time to get jazz back on track. Don’t just sit there; do something!

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