Saxophonist and Love of Life Orchestra leader Peter Gordon gave one of the most lucid presentations at the recent Experience Music Project’s Pop Conference — being the only person over three days to perform a note of music within their allotted 20 minutes. Of course, his reasonable, arguably achievable suggestions may seem outrageous, given the outrages of our time — but I offer them here with hopes presumptive nominees for president of all parties in the U.S. (and why not abroad?) give serious consideration to their support, in exchange for the gratitude and perhaps the votes of the music-lovin’ public.
“Musical Action for an Authoritarian
America — a Manifesto” is the title of Peter Gordon’s paper, which begins with
the undeniable premises: “Music Is Important, Music Deserves Our Respect, We
Need Change.” He continues (I excerpt):
an essential part of human nature, and even reaches beyond our human species. .
. Music touches us on a primal level, singing vibrates the back of the throat,
chanting massages the brain. Rhythm provides social synchronicity, melody
provides a linear code on which we can hang our memories and aspirations.
. . . Music is a
parallel to language – it does need to interpret, nor to be interpreted. Music
can elicit an unspoken understanding among strangers in a dark room, it can
express and evoke emotions for which poetry lacks words. Music means, and is
something in and of itself. . .
touches us on the metabolic level. It has healing powers beyond emotional,
beyond sexual healing. . .
is like Religion, except it is not an exclusive . . .the Musical Experience is spiritual
- it sparks the soul, and allows us a glimpse of an all-encompassing universe. As such, the practitioners of
Music should be afforded all the rights, privileges, and protections as
practitioners of other faiths. All music-related items, organizations,
property, services, etc should be free of any local, state or federal taxation.
want to see Music represented at the highest level of government – I suggest a
fourth branch of powers – let there be the executive, legislative, judicial,
and musical branches of government. Free of any influences and pressures from
the other three branches of power, an autonomous firewall to protect this
essential human activity.
want to see a House of Music on every corner in urban neighborhoods and within
walking, or bicycling, distance of all homes across America. This is a place to
play, listen and learn music. A center of learning, with a full staff of
instructors, as well as a performance center. All genres and media welcome.
These Houses of Music will provide private and ensemble instruction, and
performance opportunities free of charge to anyone. Concerts and dances will be
regularly scheduled, with a proper budget for performers. Ad hoc events from
any part of the community should also be encouraged.
is a special interest group. . . Music people should have incredible lobbying
power, and should command, and demand, whatever resources are necessary. We need to organize. We need to look
beyond genre, style, particular musical cultures — we need to work for the
common good of all music people.
needs a Hippocratic oath. Music
must do no harm. All uses of music
for torture or any other use of force must be prohibited, This includes use of
music as a means of deterrence and population control, such as municipalities
or landlords who play intentionally vile music in public areas in order to keep
people (ie, others) from gathering. We must STOP torture of any type — this
includes musical torture.
world is being ravaged by consumer excess and depletion of resources. . . We must just stop using music to sell things. Advertising
licenses are not a good thing. . . I
propose a moratorium on all music in advertising. This needs to be seen as a
at its very basic, involves the sharing of an experience in which there is the
pushing of air over time. . . Music has a vested
interest in the air. We need to lower our carbon footprint and protect the air
we breathe, but more importantly, we need to protect the air Music breathes.
is about community, encoded in music is the memory of generations. Music
connects us to our ancestors, to our history. However, equally important, music
can also be a refuge from community. Music provides a sanctuary for the
disaffected. Many of us would be lost, without a sense of purpose or belonging,
were it not for music.
music education and access to musical tools and instruments, from pre-school
through senior citizenship.
- Houses of music must be established in all communities, giving access to
rehearsal and performance spaces, as well as production studios and dance
- Music must do no harm. The cessation
of music being used for killing, torture or crowd control.
- All musical material and activities must be tax-free.
- Music in advertised needs to be seen
as anathema to the common good. Products, musicians, companies which do
this should be boycotted and ostracized.
- Musicians should be encouraged to
create honest music. Honest music is the music which we make without
concern for the market, peer-group pressure or any external mandate. Some
people make music which is popular and reaches masses, others make music
which reach dozens — and this changes over time. This is all okay.
- Through music, we must resist the
political and military bullies who are ruining our country and the world.
We don’t have to write protest songs per se, but our audiences should
always know where we stand. Preaching is not necessary — but basic
statements of fact can be mentioned in banter between songs. Song titles
- Spread your beliefs, and use the media which
you have available to you. Join advocacy groups, include them in your
publicity, liner notes, web pages. In the old days, we could scratch
messages in the vinyl masters – mp3 files have room for comments in the
info page, use this.
- Do not steal. Do not steal anything.
Do not steal music.
- But you can prevent stealing: Give it all away. Give
your music away – this way, no one can steal it. Eliminate dongles and passwords,
create open-source musical software. Spread the word. But if it is not being given away,
see 9 above – do not steal.
- And we need pilgrimages to our
musical holy cities. New Orleans, Havana, New York —- the list can grow
and shrink. I propose free transportation and free hostels for musical
- Musical groups can serve as a model for larger social
behavior. If you are a bandleader, don’t be a jerk.
Gordon concludes, “There is a paradox in all of this . . . (M)usic is a parallel to language, and as such, putting music in the service of
anything external subverts the power of music. We need to know where we stand,
what our goals are — and then, we need to return to the non-linguistic state,
a non-figurative, non-referential musical state, but try to find that intuitive
place, where memory and premonition co-exist. And from that place, we can change the world. And I refer to the words of John
Lennon, or perhaps His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”
I think you know which words he has in mind.