Greg Henry Waters Newsletter January 2008


Well folk, another year has gone by and we are all getting older.  I can only think that how much things change and they only stay the same.  This month I would like to talk about haven’t we had enough of the old music styles?  Cannot we grow and change! Do we always have to speak of the old musicians and composers?  It is the media that keeps the old so alive and their record companies.  Now artists have to promote their own music and one knows that they do not have that much money to promote their own music.  The radio stations still play the same old tunes over and over again.  I cannot listen to it and the musicians just to get some attention try so hard to fit in that they lose their creative input and become copy cat musicians.  Clubs here also do the same for if you do not play the standards they do not want the musician.  What to do?  I do not know!  Just writing about it..


Here in New York City there are so many young musicians trying to have a voice in the music community, but they are always over shadowed by the past. For example, Bill Cosby’s 90th Birthday Celebration of Thelonious Monk. Why does this need to be replayed and replayed.  I know of so many wonderful piano composers here in New York that never get any attention and who have developed beyond or equal to Thelonious. a jazz magazine here in NYC that is a great magazine, but cannot we live on the present and not always go for the past accepted musicians artists.  Jazz at Lincoln Center is mostly an educational institution presenting historical concerts not living artist’s concerts.  I would not say anything if there were not so many wonderful artists not getting any attention or being allowed too present their music on a professional level.


Manhattan School of Music has the Miles Davis Jazz Summit: Well, Miles was a great artist and broke the race barrier, but what does he has to do with up and coming musicians.  They, the school jazz department, say they are giving their students the truly important orchestral works of jazz history.  Yes this is important, but music comes from a know ledge of counterpoint, the first harmony, harmonic function, rhythm and melodic development.  These are the true tools of the creative artist not orchestral works from jazz history.  Not from fancy ads that promote Miles Davis or like All About Jazz Dot Com has Frank Sinatra on their home page as the first thing you see.  He was really a pop singer not a serious jazz artist. Well, folks why cannot we deal with the present?  Why do we always have to be brain dead to artists like Bob Kindred, Jon Burr, Yaala Ballin, Nancy Kelly, Don Hahn and their friends, plus ,others in this class.  Really, too many to mention them all and these musicians are really traditional tune players but all very original and are special soloists.


I recently placed 170 or so tunes on my web site hoping musicians who perform traditional tunes would try to perform new tunes. I know musicians do not have the creative drive to become completely original and I am not sure it is even important, but it is important to be creative and not play the same old harmonies, melodies and solos over and over again.  In my own career I got so tired of playing the same old tunes that I stopped playing to get the same old tunes out of my head, but they are still there believe me.


Listen to this quote from Calendar for New Music, Feb. 2008, NY: “THERE’S MORE TO AMERICAN MUSIC THAN COPLAND” I always thought that Copland was writing classical pop music like John Williams does.  Wow, was it ever great to read this quote from The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Concert Ad.  Well, I cannot believe that Lincoln Center would go beyond the classical commercial format and really support creative American Music.


What is sad for me, I am a serious classical and jazz composer performer that there are almost no places to perform, even in NYC, new music of a serious nature.  Although there are musicians who try to do this but never come to a level of earning a living.  And to work for free is a form of slavery.  The late night talk shows bands have gone to truly commercial bands.  I rarely hear any real music coming out of them if I am watching any of these shows.  The leaders of the bands have learned how to laugh with the host that is for sure.


I do not understand why the business community and government does not support the musical arts to a greater degree for new music.  It is never about the music but always some political issue, social issue, business issue, church issue or school issue.  http://www.greg's non-profit Schools have taken over the presentation of new music to the public.  The ads for new music in the New Music Calendar for example come from Universities and Music Schools.  If only 2% of the population have masters degree this is not much of an audience.  My Mother who had season tickets to the Milwaukee Symphony gave up her tickets because after a few seasons they played the same tunes over and over again. The radio stations do the same thing. PBS presents commercial pop music as if it was art.  Where is the truly creative music?  It is not there it is covered up by other issues, never about the music!


Music is never about the music is the problem.  I do not know what to say except I hope we can think about all these things and in some way try to change so we can really live in a creative musical community and not a pre-programmed form of music like in TV commercials or elevator music term which I have heard before.  My Mother used to say, Greg, “play the melody” when I was practicing at home.


Sincerely, Greg Henry Waters