I get a lot of comments about ‘my little opera’. Or rather, I should say I get a lot of odd looks when I deign to broach the subject that I am writing an opera. Besides the usual unspoken adjectives that go along with this endeavour (narcissistic, grandiose are two typical diagnoses) the eight hundred pound fat lady in the room (I can so laugh at myself about this) is why on earth one would want to do this.
I thought a lot about this as I the idea took shape—or rather the desire took shape to write Detroit. I spent a lot of evenings fighting with myself over the stupidity of the whole thing. After all, as I’ve written, I myself think of opera as an art form that belongs in the archives. What really put me at peace with the piece was the realisation that not only did this not matter to me, but in fact, that it may even be a plus. Because pretty much everything which feels good to me these days belongs behind a velvet rope.
And in the wee hours I had that epiphany: I don’t think there is any going back. I think that all serious music (and by that I mean music that is meant to be listened to as a sole activity and not in conjunction with dancing, driving, doing housework, relaxation, exercise, fucking or any other ‘purpose’ besides concentrating on the music) has become a museum piece.
People will still do it (ie. make it.) Just like millions of people still go to museums. But most people don’t go to museums regularly anymore. They do it once in a great while to ‘broaden their minds’. That’s where serious music is going. At least during my life time. And by ‘serious’ I don’t mean Bach or Stravinsky. I mean anything from Weather Report to Duke Ellington to Charlie Parker to real calypso or Cachao or Irish tradisiunta like Altan or Clannad.
No one wants to go to a club and hear music that requires concentration. It’s a dance happy world. Jazz clubs? A totally dying breed, mate. Most guys who’ve made it can’t wait to play concert halls; not just for the increased paychecks, but because you get to set the agenda. You get to control the show. You get to that vaunted place we all aspire to: you get to put on a fuckin’ concert.
So I just took out the middle step and started out with concert music. You can do that when you get to be my age.
As I said, I don’t think there’s any going back to the kind of shows I (we?) grew up on. I honestly don’t think any band like Yes or Return To Forever or even The Eagles will be possible again. The technology has changed. People have changed. To attain that drawing power will require, at the very least, many dancers.
But a certain ‘class’ of people will always want to see good music. But be they young or old, they won’t want to have to fight the concession stands; they’ll just go to a museum show and watch Glenn Frey or Keith Emerson. Or their grandsons. All that has to happen is that people have to embrace the fact that music one listens to should be listened to in a concert hall. At a museum. And leave the people who want to see a ‘show’ to the stadia and clubs.