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Laurie Niles

Classical music feeds the Soul, says Booker T

March 28, 2007 at 4:39 AM

Last week I was trying to tell kids the value of a classical education, but on Tuesday I heard an eloquent explanation, by a 2007 Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY Award recipient and soul great Booker T. Jones.

It happens about 21 minutes into this NPR Interview with Terry Gross.

"I had not yet met my own standards," Booker T says of his decision to pursue a Bachelor of Music Education at Indiana University, even though he'd already had much success as a musician. "I wasn't yet writing the music I was hearing in my mind; I had a classical background and a curiosity for all the European greats..."

At Indiana, "I spent many hours listening to the old masters: everything from Bach, to Stravinsky, to Chopin; learning that music and learning how it was put together -- and studying."

Check the interview; Booker T offers a lot of musical wisdom.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on March 28, 2007 at 12:14 PM
I assume this is Booker T of Booker T and the MGs. A good lesson to all of those in the younger generation who think that classical music is irrelevant.
From Gabriel Kastelle
Posted on March 28, 2007 at 4:54 PM
Excellent! Thanks. This summer I'm likely the hoppin' hip classical Urban Viking music leader teacher again.... this should be good reference.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on March 28, 2007 at 8:25 PM
I enjoyed the interview, but I was struck by how condescending it seemed. I first noticed it when Booker was talking about how pleased he was with writing and producing Born Under a Bad Sign with Albert King. Terry asks him why, and he has to justify it to her. If she was interviewing Bach, she wouldn't ask why he was so pleased with the S&P. Bach wouldn't have to go on about Johann Pisendel being the real thing from E. St. Louis and being so serious about his music, the way Booker has to. The traditon Booker comes out of is just as rich as classical, maybe more so, taking time into account. It bothers me he has to tell her Time is Tight was written sitting on the "banks of The River Seine" to give it cred. It's not classical music. I don't hear a classical music influence. It's American. Finally at about 22:00, she essentially says she's surprised he sounds intelligent.

In the late 60s there was an act of Congress, I think, that was the beginning of public radio. I think the original intent of it all, or the ostensible intent, was to provide something a bit closer to public access. I think it was usurped by private interests and that the reason they play classical is that it gives them a more solid position; you can't undo the national institution that plays classcial music; it's bigger than life. In turn, I suspect the reason for the popularity of classical music has to do with publishing companies not having to pay royalties to authors; the same reason "It's a Wonderful Life" became an instant classic Chrismas movie. I might be wrong, but I just might be right - because these are very obvious and excellent business strategies.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 30, 2007 at 6:04 AM
Really good point, Jim. I did notice how strange it sounded when she said she was surprised he was so serious about music. Duh! A musician would not be so surprised by his sophistication; one can hear in it the man's music. He was thirsty for more knowledge? Bursting with more music than he could yet write down? Not a surprise.

Of course some of it is the interviewer's ploy, to act sort of as an audience surrogate and play a bit dumb. What she is saying, in taking that pose, is that people don't appreciate the genre for the complex kind of music that it is.

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