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The 64th Annual Conference on World Affairs brought together a compelling panel to talk about the evolution of music called “Beatles to Bassnectar: The (De)evolution of Music.” It consisted of four music-expert panelists weighing in on whether they think the quality of music has deteriorated or grown over the years.
The panelists included Grammy-Award-winning artist Charlie Bisharat, who has worked with artists such as The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith and has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra; Abraham Laboriel, who has performed on more than 4,000 recordings and movie soundtracks and has worked with artists such as Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Dolly Parton and Barbra Streisand; Dave Grusin, a CU School of Music alum, who has composed more than 75 film scores and has received 8 Oscar nominations and one win for ”The Milagro Beanfield War”; and Gooding, who has created music for commercials for Fortune 500 companies including Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler, and has more than 100 songs in movies such as “Iron Man 2″ and “Walk the Line.”
The topic of this panel was one that could really speak to any audience member because everyone has had an experience with music because it speaks to the shared human condition. You could see the bridge of differences music makes when you look at the audience that attended this panel. The audience consisted of only a handful of CU Boulder students, the rest were of an older crowd.
Near the beginning of the presentation, Dave Grusin asked the audience: “Who here has even heard of Bassnectar?” The hands in the air mostly belonged to CU students, but I was impressed when the elderly woman sitting next to me rose her hand as well.
Grusin confessed he did not know much about Bassnectar, revealing that the first time he’d heard of them was when he read the schedule for the CWA. Grusin casually pushed the conversation toward Gooding, whom Grusin dubbed “the hip one.”
When Gooding, the youngest panelist spoke, he instantly had the attention of the entire room. His passion for everything music was apparent, as he gave off the coffee-shop-intellectual vibe. I would love to sit in any coffee shop with him and talk about music for hours. He began with the fact that he didn’t like the title of this panel, because he does not agree that music is “de-evolving”. He noted that with technology, it has become easier to make music, but that doesn’t mean that good music is not still being made. When people put in the time and the work — otherwise known as “woodshedding — music can still be good, even if it is made through a computer, he said.
When Bisharat spoke, he touched upon what he thinks is the one-sided nature of newer music, more specifically electronically created music. He talked about the collaboration and the shared energy of live music played on a stage with other performers, and he highlighted how that is missing in music that is composed by one person on a computer.
Laboriel talked about his two sons, both of whom work in the music industry. One works with Paul McCartney, and the other is on the cutting-edge of music created with computers, so he had ample perspective on the range of music this panel focused on. It was Laboriel that provided one of the most thought-provoking ideas of the topic. He pointed out that our generation is attempting to create a vocabulary, a language we can all use to communicate. The music that is being created right now, he said, form the “letters,” we just don’t know what those “letters” mean. He described that one day a great musician, or group of musicians, will make music that puts our “letters” into words, giving it the definition and meaning it lacks today. Laboriel said we are on the precipice of something great in music, we just don’t know what it is yet. Laboriel called it a “re-evolution” of music, not a “de-evolution.”
Grusin chimed in, highlighting the importance of remaining open-minded toward new forms of music. He said his father was open-minded to new music. Classically trained as a violinist, Grusin’s father liked to explore newer forms of music like jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, and he often came to Boulder to hear Grusin’s brother play at a jazz club on Arapahoe Avenue.
The foundation and essence of this panel was all about the human spirit and the human condition. As listeners, we must find music that speaks to our souls, no matter what genre that happens to be. If you find salvation in the Beatles, Bassnectar or anyone in between, run with it.
Contact CUI Staff Writer Ellie Patterson at Elizabeth.N.Patterson@colorado.edu.