In Toward a New Music, Carlos Chavez brings to light many different ideas about new music and the future of the musical world in general. Although he wrote this book to bring attention to the possibilities electronic instruments brought to music, he focused on other points that interested me and opened up my perspectives on these topics. Many issues he brings up have a lot of relevance in today’s world, almost ninety years later. Chavez communicates that not only is music created because of humans need for expression, but it is produced and reproduced in order to share and educate the world through all types of media distribution.
Within the first chapter of Toward a New Music, Chavez mentions public perception of new music and how the public frequently lives in the past. During this time, it was difficult for new artists and composers to get their music performed because the public simply wasn’t open to the new sounds they were creating. I think this is even true today. We’re still stuck in the past and it’s sad to think that the music of composers from 100 years ago is barely becoming relevant and accepting of audiences today. It’s easier for us to want and like something we’re use to rather than be open to change. Unfortunately, it takes people way too long to realize the beauty of music as it’s happening, especially when it’s something they don’t understand.
Music has always been a way for humans to express themselves and meet their needs for expression. Chavez touches on how production and reproduction of music depends on this natural need for expression. This need fuels people to create and discover new concepts, instruments, and music. We wouldn’t have the music we have today if reproduction wasn’t a necessary and desirable part of life. We also always want to hear or have music reproduced, but we’re selective about the content. When Chavez wrote this book, the radio was a new means of reproducing and distributing music. He provides several pros and cons about radio usage that I think are relevant to today’s use of media. Radio increased audience attendance and brought music to a larger and wider variety of people. This holds true today with the capability of creating Facebook events, texting, calling, websites, TV and radio commercials/advertisements, and the newest thing, live streaming. Through all of these forms of communication, we are able to reach a larger audience but does a major form of distribution- concerts- become obsolete? One topic Chavez brought up was the idea that the concert has social value and brings people together whereas these other types of distribution have the opposite effect by creating isolation. I believe this is an interesting point because although we are reaching more people, they now have the ability to pick and choose what they listen to or how long they listen for. They can simply turn off the radio or livestream with the push of a button, whether it’s because they don’t like the music, are distracted by something else, or they even find something better to spend their time on. People who attend concerts aren’t necessarily “stuck” listening and staying until the end, but they are more inclined to sit through it because of its social value; getting up to leave in the middle of a performance isn’t as easy as pushing an “off” button. Live streaming is a really innovative way to reach people across the world, but is it really educating and spreading our music the way we want it to? Yes, the videos have thousands of views, but how long were those people actively watching? Did they really sit through a two-hour concert or did they comment or “like” it for social status?
As with all things, there are pros and cons to everything we do. Just as the radio transformed the musical world and its exposure, media has continued to do the same today. Music has always been present throughout history, circulated in diverse and new ways, allowing it to reach people that know nothing about music. I believe our job, as musicians and even educators, is to share music with the world, whether it is liked or disliked and no matter what the outcome may be. Without the production and reproduction of our music, we can never fully express ourselves and use music in the way it is meant to used.
Chavez, Carlos . Toward a New Music: Music and Electricity. Translated by Herbert Weinstock. 1st ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1937.