Does the institutionalization of Pop Music signal its Decline?

Ben Folds Masterclass at The Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma

Ben Folds Masterclass at The Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma

I remember when Performance Artists were bemoaning the fact that you could go to college to get a degree in Performance Art which seemed anti-thetical to the aesthetics of the discipline.  I know that Billy Joel and some other big names pop artists have given masterclasses in the past,

but I’m not so sure the institutionalization of pop music into a masterclass setting is necessarily a good thing for pop music.  The university where I teach on the Arts Institute has a songwriting class as one of its offerings.  The Music Department itself has production technique classes as well. I commented briefly about the legitimization tactic for pop music in a previous post which mentions a local music store chain:

I get regular mailings from a local music store, “Mom’s Music,” which has (I think) three branches. I usually get my non-classical electronic gear from there as it’s a local store and not a big megachain. I’m on the mailing list and occasionally get event notices for their Clarksville, IN branch which is the one that actually has a regular band concert series. Most of the private lessons for rock band instruments are taught at that store (one of my cello students actually takes guitar lessons there) and the students form bands and occasionally give band “recitals” –and apparently this is a fairly regular type of phenomenon in more local music chains and I wonder how much of this kind of educational initiative is actually spurred by the declining economic situation for local bands.

That last part is the crux: “how much of this kind of educational initiative is actually spurred by the declining economic situation for local bands” and likewise, how much of the interest in more formal masterclasses for pop music is all spurred on by the declining economic situation for bigger name pop musicians?

Are we now in an age where there are so many performing musicians that revenue opportunities now have to be outsourced and packaged as educational initiatives such as what’s happening with the rising number of adjuncts in universities (and low level drug runners)?  What I would be asking is if the pop music field is doing so well (which it isn’t) then why would we need to teach the techniques?  And if this seems like an obtuse question then why are we so worried about music school churning out so many music graduates while the classical music field is supposedly not doing well?

I guess the irony is that for all the new model talk about using pop music as a model to get the classical field out of the doldrums, there is a corresponding move in pop music to mimic the legitimization of art musics through more formal education.  While this “American Voices” Festival isn’t probably the only gaffe Renée Fleming has made recently, they both may also demonstrate how out of touch the purportedly “in touch” classical musicians of today are.

As one of those performance artists said, “if we’re going to teach Performance Art in the Universities, then performance Art is truly dead now”–maybe now we can add an obituary for pop music as well.

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