Monday, 27 August 2007

Bridging the Generation Gap


In the history of popular music, there are two distinct eras. There is the Dark Era, from inception in the 1950s to around about the mid 1980s and the Enlightened Era from thence on to the present.

In the Dark Era, music belonged to the young and there was a marked generation gap. This was especially noticeable at school, where pop music was a complete unknown when it came to music lessons. All music teachers were blinkered classical nuts of the first order and all teaching was based around putting Beethoven’s fifth on the record player and staring out of the window for about half an hour. Instruments available for tuition did not involve anything with a stack of Marshall amps. Any mention of the Beatles or Led Zeppelin or even Simon & Garfunkel was a heresy punishable by death (well, perhaps not death but the school equivalent).

This was certainly the norm when I was at school, with the exception of one almost unbelievable moment that took place at the end of summer term in 1970. Our music master allowed, in a moment of madness for reasons best known to himself, a rendition of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ during school hours – a previously unheard of precedent. He, himself sight read the piano part from sheet music (in retrospect, this in itself is a belated tribute to his ability as a pianist – the accompaniment is not easy) and a member of our class, Simon Trott as I remember, an ex-choirboy, sang as if still in church doing Handel’s ‘Messiah’. A more unique occurrence you could not imagine and one that will stay with me probably forever. It was one of those moments that make pop music the life enhancing force that it always has the propensity to be, almost in spite of the circumstances.

Latterly, we have moved into the Enlightened Era, where every schoolteacher likes to drone on and on about the Kaiser Chiefs in an effort to ingratiate themselves with their charges. I had a look at my old school website recently only to find that what used to pass as the music room in my day, a spartan area with battered upright piano and grey metal music stands now resembles a state-of-the-art recording studio with mixing desk, arrays of guitars, drum kits and keyboards all on tap.

It makes me extremely envious to think of all this opportunity affordable to today’s youngsters. But then, will they ever experience that sublime moment, a mixture of rebellion and amazement, that comes from hearing a previously banned piece of music performed in front of you by opposing generations in an unspoken war?

Probably not.

3 comments:

Jayne Ferst said...

It was definitely an era of change when I was at school - our first year began with music being taught pretty much as you describe, and I.T lessons introduced in a hot room during the second year, with three to a BBC Acorn computer as we tried to draw a picture in co-ordinates. Yet by the time we left, we could only watch in envy as the new first years had a state of the art studio in which to learn music, and I.T lessons were suddenly top of the agenda.

But then, will they ever experience that sublime moment, a mixture of rebellion and amazement, that comes from hearing a previously banned piece of music performed in front of you by opposing generations in an unspoken war?

It was fantastic when our music teacher one day came back from the lunchtime pub visit and said we could learn to play theme tunes instead of ‘Clair De Lune’. I was a dab hand at the theme from M*A*S*H. Not sure what the equivalent for school-kids today would be!

musicobsessive said...

Theme from M*A*S*H eh? The original or the Manic's version? I friend of mine used to sneak into the music room and play the theme from the Munsters! Happy Days.

Jayne Ferst said...

The original, it was my speciality - that and 'The Entertainer!' It was only in later years I got the lyrics to the M*A*S*H theme, and thought oh, that is a bit bleak...