When I went to music school, I went to the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. As the name might imply, this is a very conservative musical institution. To make a long story short, they teach music the way it was taught in the 1800’s, and specialize in the music of that period or earlier. There was no jazz taught there when I attended. The professor of music composition was famous for saying that jazz wouldn’t last, although in Baltimore, it was doing a very good job of lasting.
My friend, Big Nose and I were engaging in innovative research at the time, although we didn’t know it was innovative research; it was just what we did. First, we determined that good music has a pleasurable effect almost regardless of genre or complexity.
The next thing we started was an extra curricular activity called ‘Music Appreciation.’ Music Appreciation was conducted in Big Nose’s dorm room every Friday night. Many local dorm members were invited and attended. Some were artists from the Maryland School of Art, which shared dorms with Peabody.
The way ‘Music Appreciation’ was run was, everyone was welcome to bring his or her favorite music. The music was stacked up and played pretty much in random order with no considerations as to genre. Hence the program ran from Gershwin to Bach and Pink Floyd and so on like that.
Everyone sat back and enjoyed the music regardless of whether or not that was their ‘thing.’ No comments were made; in fact there was no talking at all for several hours. People went off with opinions about what they had liked or not but, usually, you went off with a couple more new musical genres that you discovered you liked.
The main point here though, is that everyone duplicated the music being played; they gave it their undivided attention and let the opinions come later. The class also involved a very non-standard use of a Pringle’s Potato Chips can, but we don’t need to go there. Regardless, this activity was formative in breaking down artificial barriers between music genres in my mind and I began to see more similarities than differences.