Lesson #87: Comments from a friend

Today I thought I would use some comments by an old friend of mine, Barbara York, as the basis for our lesson.

There are two comments from this teacher, musician, music writer and performer, both sparked by my JuicyLesson #75 when I wrote about Stephen Harper among other topics. Part of this lesson was a video clip of Stephen Harper and his magic band doing the Beatles tune “High with a Little Help from my Friends” and I asked Ms. York what she thought of Harper’s musical talent leading to the following perceptive remark:

My biggest problem with this is that I have an inherent mistrust of any and all politicians, which was probably and especially fostered and nurtured by my having lived in the US for 20 years. There is nothing inherently wrong or even musically bad in what Steven Harper is doing here, but I cannot help but be reminded of Bill Clinton’s sax playing or the “Singing Senators” on Capitol hill here seeking to aggrandize themselves with the public by engaging in either jingoistic patriotic songs, which frankly embarrass the hell out of me, or simply playing and singing for the general public in order to make themselves seem more human and more appealing. I see so many of my friends and colleagues in both professional music and music education struggling every day to make a decent living and dealing with a lack of both financial and cultural support when what we do is so difficult, so disciplined and requires so much time, effort, talent, training and dedication, only to be instantly superseded in popularity and appeal by some politician who can make himself charming and appealing by playing and singing a popular ditty or two as though he were in is own home with a few friends. All I can say to this is,”Good for him, but not in what he is using it for”, especially when symphony orchestras across this Country are folding or trying to cut salaries for musicians who have done and continue to dedicate their whole lives to excellence in the playing of music. Yes, of course, there are many problems to face in connecting with the general public in any kind of music beyond the commercial/pop culture, and some of the musicians in those areas are extremely professional and very talented, but I do not find it particularly charming when a politician chooses to ingratiate himself with the public because he can play and/or sing a pop song or two in order to prove that he is a “nice guy”.

I hope this does not sound harsh or even arrogant but, given what I do for a living, this type of thing just makes me roll my eyes in a kind of bewilderment when it seems to have such instant appeal at the time. Oh well, such is the way of the world, as we say.

I then asked Barbara if she was a registered Republican or Democrat and received this response which sums up, I believe, the political situation in both Canada and the United States.

I am not yet a citizen here so I do not vote. When I came down here I would have thought of myself as a Democrat but now I see little difference between the two. I am basically inclined to Democrat but find both parties (even all those here) rather reprehensible in many respects. I am inclined to be Liberal in my leanings, but since I moved here I have succumbed more and more to the idea that most of the politics here is controlled by Big Money/Big Business interests and has little to differentiate one from the other in this respect. I don’t know about Canada now, but I suspect that you are not much behind us and that what used to be sincere and philosophical party differences no longer exist in that respect. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Right on, Ms. York! You are certainly correct in all that you have to say. The fact that there is little political difference among Conservatives, Liberals and New Democratic Party accurately reflects the situation in the Excited States where there is little difference between the Democrats and the Republicans although the Tea Party rightists certainly stand out as being different and not in a good way either.


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