The Corner

Music

Tuning In

A student practices on her cello before competing in the annual Feis Ceoil classical-music competition in Dublin, Ireland, April 2, 2019. (Clodagh Kilcoyne / Reuters)

A couple of links for you: to my latest Music for a While and to my latest Q&A. About the former first: The new episode is titled “Joy in Music,” in homage to Nelson Freire. A Brazilian pianist, he passed away this month. Here is a portion of the relevant obit in the New York Times:

In “Nelson Freire,” a 2003 documentary film, he is shown watching a video of a joyous Errol Garner playing jazz piano. “I’ve never seen anyone play with such pleasure,” he said.

“That’s how I found the piano,” Mr. Freire continued. “The piano was the moment, when I was little, when I felt pleasure. I’m not happy after a concert if I haven’t felt that kind of pleasure for at least a moment. . . .”

The Q&A is with Daniel Asia, a composer, educator, and activist, in a sense. He wants to defend music against the philistines and barbarians. He is a professor at the University of Arizona, and the president of the American Culture and Ideas Initiative. Not long ago, he published a collection — a collection of articles, I mean (apart from his symphonies, operas, chamber works, etc.): Observations on Music, Culture, and Politics. (I wrote the foreword.)

Dan is from Seattle, like Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones. Did he ever know them? No, he tells me in our podcast. But look: He was in the same class as Paul Allen, one year ahead of Bill Gates. Those two — Gates and Allen — went on to a career in computers or something.

Daniel Asia has had any number of interesting life-experiences. For instance, he studied in Berlin — West Berlin — where he was told that there was no real difference between the eastern part of the city and the western. That’s odd, he thought. They shoot people who try to get over the Wall, from east to west. No one tries to get over the Wall the other way. And if they did, no one would shoot them.

I think of Caspar Weinberger. (Some of my critics accuse me of “zombie Reaganism.”) While defense secretary, he made the point that soldiers along the border between West Germany and East Germany — NATO soldiers and Warsaw Pact soldiers — were all facing the same way: east. Funny, that.

Anyway, back to music: The state of music education is deplorable, says Dan Asia. He would know. He has a front-row seat. American young people may be well-informed in some areas, but, about music, they know nothing. I mean, squat. Does it matter? And what can be done?

Also, what is the threat of “wokeness”? (Terrific.)

You will very much enjoy getting to know Daniel Asia. Again, he is here, and that Music for a While, here.

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