Ebony & Ivory

I know the song's a little 'cheesy' (and so is that expression I guess) – but the sentiment was pretty good with a neat metaphor. The piano works because of the black and white notes – though it is actually slightly out-of-tune. A piano tuner puts your piano out of tune! Our ears hear it IN tune though – so everyone's happy. But the idea of all these notes with the potential for harmony, rhythm and melody is wonderful. You can have white chords, black chords and mostly a combination of the two. Sometimes they'll be heard sweetly and sometimes the dissonance will be hard for everyday (non avant-garde) ears. There is convention and creativity at one's fingertips. What you don't want is a beaten up old pub piano that sounds like an extra from a horror film!

Music is the great leveller (in many ways) but also very much an elitist pursuit. If you pop over to MEDIUM and type in my name you'll find three essays discussing all this – so I won't repeat myself. But basically the important thing about music is SOUND. Sound is abstract and it really doesn't (or shouldn't) matter who's creating and performing it. No one is going to pass over a great musician because of the colour of their hair, or their size, or their language – except where the 'business' comes in. Where music meets business then you get a kind of sordid glamour-show with notes. We LISTEN to music – we don't watch it (unless you're reading a score – and even then you're mostly listening). We DO like seeing folk perform their music though. Compare and contrast live shows with some of the current 'music videos' – well sex sells.

This essentially abstract art form seems to call to us from our deepest nature – it derives from the wind playing across soft reeds, or fluttering leaves on creaking branches, the rhythm of bird call – the jabbing of a woodpecker. The thump of a stick on a rock or the fallen log of a tree. It's right inside us. It affects us all – no matter who we are. It speaks to our soul through generations. Maybe that's why I prefer music mainly made by humans – not machines. It is a primitive, direct and honest language.

Music has got me through life at times. Thank God for music. Listening to a slow blues when you're feeling low – or being hurtled into action by a heavy guitar riff. And music is open to all (again check my essays for more on this). Some are luckier than others and some get the breaks. I didn't actually start playing an instrument (the drums) till I was a few weeks short of 20. I still carry the chip on said shoulder. But if you put in the work – it'll pay off. We are who we are are and we live the life we lead – with luck or otherwise. That's the way it is. But one thing we can count on and, although there IS a celebrity culture around musicians (probably always has been), what really and ONLY really counts is the music we create.

Music begins in our minds. We articulate that music through instruments (or our voices). Our technical abilities facilitating our range of expression. But who and what we are is subordinate to music. And it doesn't matter 'who or what you are'. And even the greatest musician is only great because others make him so. You can't have Mozart without thousands upon thousands of lesser musical mortals. We all play our part. Our very own part.

Nobody in their right mind would overlook a great musician. If we discriminate it is only on their technique, creativity, performance, repertoire. The pressure of the industry and 'success' will mean the young and better-looking (often going hand-in-hand) will get first shout. But it's also about keeping on - keeping on going - having tenacity. Those black and white notes on Steve's and Paul's song (I'm on on first-name terms, don't you know) – might refer to 'race' – but they could refer to ANY difference. It is our job to be a note that is unique but fits in nicely to any chord, harmonic rhythm or compact or flourishing melody. Eventually what will be remembered is the SOUND.

Tim Bragg

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