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Music 2003: The State of the Art
By Don Robertson

Hello Friends,

The advent of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s was a monumental occasion for Mary Ellen and I, and it was with great anticipation that we launched the DoveSong website in 1997. This medium was finally offering us a platform from which we could make our message available on millions of desktops situated all over the world. DoveSong was now just a click away.

With the advent of the mp3-encoding technology, we accomplished another great step when in 2000 we were able to begin placing actual recordings of great music on the site for anyone to download.

Just to relate a little about my background, music has always had such a major place in my life. When I was just three years old, I listened to my 78 RPM recordings of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Brahms Hungarian Dances, and music from Delibes’ Coppélia over and over again. Music spoke to my soul, my essence. As a young boy in grammar school, when all of the kids were at recess on the playground, I would go off by myself to compose orchestral and operatic music in my head. By the time I was in the fifth grade, I had discovered the popular music of the early 1950s that was then current and my favorite compositions, such as those by Leroy Anderson, were like winged angels bringing healing to my being.

Over the span of my life, I have discovered so much great music…music that sings with a lofty beauty, that ennobles the soul, that breathes a rapture and a goodness…music that adds so much value to life…music that lives and loves. I have collected this music over the years, caring for it, tending it, knowing that one-day that I would somehow make it available to others.

But there was a period in my life when I found myself following the dark side of music. I didn’t know it was the dark side…I didn’t even know that there was a dark side to music. In 1965, I became curious, then interested, and finally addicted to what was then called Contemporary Classical Music. This was the music of Arnold Schönberg, Anton Webern, John Cage, and Pierre Boulez among others. It was discordant, intellectual music. By 1968, I was studying privately with contemporary composer Morton Feldman, writing discordant music, and playing angry, discordant atonal guitar leads in a rock band that I had formed. When I played with this group, I didn’t bother to tune my instrument at all because by leaving it untuned, I could create violent, ugly discords. Also, I played guitar leads by plucking the strings, then by slowly changing the tuning knobs at the end of the neck, I would create long hellish solos that had no exact pitch. My music was loud, belligerent and atonal, and it shocked every single person who heard it.

However, I soon discovered what I called the duochord and this caused me to realize that I was playing negative music (as documented here). In 1969 I recorded my Album Dawn to present my discovery of positive and negative music in a musical format. Immediately after finishing the album, I went to Mexico to live for six months and there I took advantage of my time away from the music scene in the United States to clear my mind and to release myself from my addiction to negative music.

In the following decade, I concentrated on learning more about positive music. In fact I spent ten years of my free time in study, meditation, and listening to positive music. Then in 1979, I began performing publicly and I recorded my album Celestial Ascent. I also began speaking publicly about Positive and Negative music. Soon after, Mary Ellen and I met and began producing seminars about the effects of music.

Our message of positive and negative music has been difficult to get across over the years. Not many people understand that it is the music itself that we are talking about, not just the words, and that music has a definite effect upon living things. Meanwhile, I have watched the state of music in the world plummet. I had already had my own excursion into negative music. Mine lasted for several years. For the past thirty years I have been witnessing a long, slow decline in the state of music in the world around me, and few people seem to be aware of it. I am talking about edgy, angry and dark music such as is found in alternative and heavy metal music and the lack of beauty and inspiration in much of today's classical music.

Music is an art. It is a very special and very sacred art. Being as aware of this as I am, it is disturbing to me to realize the position that music holds in the world today. What I would do if I could only help people who haven't had the opportunity to experience the kind of feelings that I experience when I listen to music. How painful it is for me when I talk with young people today who are convinced that minimalism is something to be taken seriously, or that John Cage’s music is actually worth listening to. John Cage is all about philosophy, not about inspiration and depth of feeling. How sad it is for me to see young people in their teens, twenties, thirties and even forties who listen adoringly to totally inferior music, garbage, if you will, and believe that they have somehow discovered the Holy Grail! How amazed I am when I talk to people who somehow believe that musicians smashing their instruments on stage is a normal and enjoyable part of a musical experience!

I realize that not all contemporary popular music is negative (thank God), but a lot of it is. I hope my readers realize that I am not on a campaign against any kind of music. In fact, there are a number of contemporary artists and songwriters that I love, and that I like to listen to. I am very excited about some of the events that are taking place in today's music. The R&B group Boys II Men spawned a music of feeling with beautiful harmonies that was followed up by groups such as Boyzone, the Backstreet Boys and the Irish Band Westlife. The Irish group The Corrs have combined traditional instruments with pop music and created some very beautiful music. At the time of this writing, they are not well-known in the US, where positive pop music is having a difficult time, but have sold a phenomenal number of CDs elsewhere (something over 26 million!). Then there are great singers like Celine Dion and Lara Fabian.

The other day, a younger friend of mine from New York who has always been wrapped up in MTV for years asked me if I liked Bob Marley.

“Sure, he is OK,” I said.

“OK?” he retorted. “He’s GREAT”.

“No, Beethoven is great. Bob Marley is OK,” I answered

I was trying to make a point. My friend had been listening to me preach Victoria, Franck, Wagner, Palestrina, Beethoven and Bach for years, and yet somehow he had never fully gotten it. To me, one real experience with the Wotan’s Farewell from the end of Wagner's Die Walküre, and a person's baseline measurement for what music is all about will go way up. My heart aches as I watch the young people around me who have never truly experienced the great works of musical art.

It is time to understand, to teach, to finance, and to reform Music. It’s time to understand that Jimi Hendrix was not a God and that music wasn’t born with Led Zeppelin and John Cage. A change is in order. It is possible, and it will occur. But it will take dedication, time and money to make it happen.

Music is like food. In fact, it is food. We have spawned a culture of young people who think good food is available at McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and at sports bars. As I travel across the face of America, each town that I drive into presents the same tired restaurants, all owned by a handful of mega-conglomerates, all serving the same dreary, tired, fried garbage, and we, as a people, have grown accustomed to this, just as we have grown accustomed to the music that we have grown up with: the music from the radio and on TV…the music we buy at Wal-Mart and Target. A new Target store opened recently near my home and I found that in it's music section, there was not one classical CD!

The truth is that we can only grow personally by moving away from the influence of the mass mind. Are all of the movies that we watch really that funny, that inspiring, that fulfilling? Are we really eating good food, or just crappy food that we have become accustomed to, or even addicted to? And the music…what about the music?

Perhaps it is time to listen to a different drummer! And for those who have already listened, it is up to us to help those around us who are ready and willing to listen. I realize that not everyone is ready, but for music to succeed as an Art, for the Great and the Positive to flourish, those who understand must help promote and teach it! If it can only be found on a few obscure web sites, or on a few “special order” CDs, and it is not recognized otherwise, then the overbearing influence of the music that is on TV and the radio will be all that most people will hear or know about.

As a part of the team at DoveSong.com, Mary Ellen and I thank all those who have helped support our work with music, and we welcome all the newcomers. DoveSong.com has grown tremendously in the past few years, with thousands of people visiting the site each day. We ask you all to consider the reality that music can be a great expression of the heart and soul. It can help the spirit unfold, it can heal the broken heart, it can inspire and touch the depths of our being. Whether it be classical, pop, folk, or country; music that is inspired, music that is art should be recognized as such and promoted...given a place of distinction in this world. We love ya!

Don Robertson

Rising World Entertainment

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