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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, May 29, 2013

The King: 'Will there be more music, or was this all?'

The new King and Queen visited Groningen. We know how much they like music ('Koningslied'). And as the Groningen conservatoire is named after the King's father, the big band of the conservatoire was supposed to play for the royal couple while they were doing a walking tour of the inner city.

The King and Queen took their time. The meticulously planned scheme of the visit, which indicated from minute to minute where the royalty was supposed to hear what and talk with whom, was not prepared for a King and Queen being humans, rather than robots. And so it probably came to pass that the big band finished playing their piece just at the moment K&Q, slightly late, arrived.

Slightly puzzled, the King asked the mayor of the town: 'Will there be more music, or was this it? ... Well, thanks.' And off they went to see other things and meet other people. Whereafter the big band started playing their next piece, I suppose, for an audience of Royal backs.

Or was it planned like this? Had the organisation sold the break between pieces of the big band as an abbreviated performance of John Cage's 4'33''? Has someone pointed out to the royal couple, in answer to the King's question, that music really is in the silence between the notes? And has this led to instant Buddhist enlightenment with the King? Which later on in the day made him apologize to a cow ('Sorry, Bertha.')? Will he soon seize power and turn our country into a Buddhist state?

How useful a big band is!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gil Scott-Heron

I am writing this blog entry sitting in the living room, while my wife and two oldest kids are watching the Eurovision Song Festival finals. (I was in an expert meeting on music yesterday (by chance and/or by mistake), and people assured me that to develop culturally everything starts with getting acquainted with culture at a young age within the family. So we don't have to worry about the musical future of the kids, I am sure.) As you know, for the first time in many years The Netherlands reached the finals. Well done, Anouk! The Netherlands should have reached the finals some years ago, as you'll remember, but we sent the right guys with the wrong song. Of course, there again is some media discussion about whether or not Anouk's song is nice and/or good - Koningslied revisited, as it were. I understood that one of our national singing heroes has said that the song made him slightly depressed (and it indeed is a ballad about a suicide), and then other people told him to shut up because the song is GOOD so he should LIKE it.

Never a dull moment in The Netherlands, musically speaking.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Playing without the fear of losing

In my regional newspaper Coen Simon, a Dutch philosopher, was interviewed. He wrote a book about guilt; a book I need to read because part of it is an interesting argument about sports. Sports, he says, has become economized (economicized? whatever) - it has become a domain where gaining has become the main goal. You play to win.

Simon thinks - at least according to my usually not too philosophical newspaper - that is wrong. Our society   has become a society where gaining, growth, winning, being the best and the biggest has become the norm. The way we sport reflects that. Simon thinks we should go back to a world where sport is essentially the playing of games: something you do together, something where you realize that if someone has to win someone else has to loose - a world where losers and winners are on an equal footing, and where you realize that when you have lost you made the game possible in the first place.

Great, great, great. I love people who invent their own mission impossible. Convince the world that soccer, baseball and chess is not about winning - not even about winning the battle against obesity. We have trouble even to think that thought - let alone to make it reality.

I especially love this because it reflects some of my ideas about making music. I understand that playing an instrument requires 'mastering' it. And that that is a process with no end - my experience is that people who start playing an instrument in some way buy themselves into a paradigm which requires them to become ever better. And I include myself in that. I want to learn to play the 5-string banjo better, faster, louder, with more swing. It is one of our 'codes of culture': the professional musician - the music specialist - as the role model for an entire music culture.

But at the same time I know that precisely this 'athletic view of music' (Bruno Nettl) is the cause for so many people abandoning playing an instrument, or worse: not even starting it. And that is why Simon's idea about a world of sports where we play games without the fear of losing is so sympathetic to me.

Wouldn't it be great to be playing instruments without the fear of losing?