Let It Roll: The Subversive Side of Classical Music
Some. Let it roll. Let me host Nate Wilcox. They will have the pleasure of welcoming back Ted Gioia to discuss again his book a subversive history of music. Today we're going to talk about a section of the book focusing on what we probably call classical music European concert tradition and starting off with chapters like musicians behaving badly so it's kind of a different take on classical music ted. Welcome back to the show right. Thanks for having me back. It's a pleasure and I wanted to do this because you know we talked about the book before and and it's it's a paradigm shifting book for me. It's one that really expanded my mind and and clarify things that have been wrestling with and you put it into words brilliantly and it it helped me focus on the whole scope of the show but the section in particular was one. I skipped over last time because I considered outside the breadth of the show which has covered things like the history of rock and roll music and Pop Music in the twentieth century. And I realized reading this book and do more research that the history of popular music as a business really goes back to the renaissance while absolutely on a lot of the behavior patterns of the musicians as well date back to that people often ask me what I learned researching this book and it was many years of research. But one of the quickest summaries. I have is. I found out that the music of might time and the music I grew up with which was jazz. Blues and rock and roll really the musicians back in the glory. Years of classical music weren't all that different and we have a tendency to sanitized that whole record to treat these people with great esteem. But they were just disruptive in many ways more disruptive than later rock musicians so. There's a lot of things that we take for granted in the current day that in fact for justice vibrate noticeable two hundred years ago. Yeah and you talk about this phenomenon that repeats throughout the history of music in the book which is a transition from disruption to respectability from outsiders to insiders and so often musical. Innovations are driven by people on the outside of the system but then there as they succeed as they impact the popular consciousness. They're pulled in to the inside. Sometimes they themselves become insiders other times. They're co opted. You know postmortem talk about that phenomenon. Logan that's right and we're very familiar with this in our own lifetime. We've all seen it when I was growing up The the Beatles and the Rolling Stones Bob Dylan. These dangerous. Figures feared by the establishment. But nowadays Bob Dylan is Nobel. Laureate Mick Jagger Sir Mick Jagger Paul McCartney Sir Paul McCartney and even the most extreme examples I mean take hip hop. Nwea the FBI tried to shut down the record label when they came on board nowadays. That same record has been enshrined in the National Archive of historic recordings of Congress. You have the Smithsonian out there putting together an official Smithsonian Guide to hip hop with fifty hip hop professors. Very idea about professor would have seen the contradiction in terms but they got fifty of them putting together this Canon of hip hop song. So we know about this from our own life and we've seen how these styles has been a good sized what we don't realize the same thing happened hundreds of years ago. The classic example is Bach. You Know Balk is considered now the poster child for respectability classical music is great composer. Who composed for God and country devout booth and run it Cetera et CETERA. You go back and do his own times and you find. That balk grew up with juvenile delinquents. Went to a school famous for gang. Culture was mentored by one of the worst gang members all his early jobs. Disciplinary problems At a young age to spend a month in jail He was called to task for cavorting with a young lady in the organ. Loft had prodigious beer-drinking every possible violation of rules and discipline he exemplified. None of that is is remembered nowadays. He's just the Lutheran composer so this recurring. We could talk about other composers. But there's one point I do WanNa make though I raise these issues in my book. Not because I'm trying to be gossipy or salaciously and it makes for great reading to read all these sexy anecdotes. I have the point. I'm trying to make though is these. Figures could not have created disruptive music they invented if they hadn't been disruptive in their own lifetimes you know almost all the commentary on Bach. We have from back then people complaining about him. You know people complaining about how show he was. He was called the task before the city council had to submit a written document explaining why he was using such new progressive and strange musical techniques. So this thing is conducted disruption in their private life and the disruption. Their music is connected. And that's why well upon it because if you don't understand that you will never understand the evolution of music and going back a little further. You talk about a couple of composers from the Italian renaissance. Who went way beyond Bach in terms of violations of social norms? I'm Talkin about two particular Rotella Mayo Trump Esino and Carlo Jesualdo and bothered these guys. Were involved in love. Triangles that resulted in murders committed by them. Oh this is right. It's interesting if you start with the music of these two individuals trauma Chino and swallow. Its gentle music and they will have songs. These pretty gentle love songs. Mandra goes in front of us but in their private life they were violent angry people and both of them not only did they commit murders but it was obvious to everybody that they were guilty and they were never punished and this is interesting because it shows you that. Starting around the renaissance it became the norm or musicians to go outside the norm. They were allowed indiscretions that other people were not and in fact. I'm convinced in both those instances their fame and reputation was increased by committing murder. I think people felt well. If this guy is such a passionate lover that he he he. He kills somebody in a fit of jealous rage. Who you know. There must be a similar intensity of passion in the song and we laugh at that. But that's the same way. People look at rock bands and the sex pistols. And we've seen this in our lifetime. If the musician out of control we suspect there must be a certain intensity in the music as well so it all came back to that time I mean just one more example I find this fascinating people that want to understand what it was like to be an artist during the Renaissance. The most famous book. They read the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. He was a renaissance artist famous as a silversmith sculptor but he was also a musician played the flute and he wrote his life story. And it makes fascinating reading but I went through that book page by page and I just marked off every time. Shalini committed a violent crime and and I think I came up potentially with at least fourteen. Violent crimes committed in his life. And this is not including the the the just the vandalism or the varsity these are actually violent crimes where he murdered somebody or beat them up and none of them was punished for he was. He was actually put in jail couple times. It was only because of arguments with his patrons over payment and artworks and my favorite anecdote from the whole book comes from a conversation when someone would approach the Pope instead of the jubilee. WanNa hire this Guy Shalini. You know he's committed murder and all this and the pope said you don't understand for people like Ben to Chile. Different rules apply that came directly from the mouth of the Pope and the renaissance. And this was a new idea and I would say we still live with this idea to even though even in the midst of the metoo movement and all the scandals. They're still this expectation that great musicians with by their own rules and they violate rules and and For good or bad that's part of the whole Agassi Western music.