Within the institution of the University there exists a very complex and changing attitude that attempts to deal with the relation between musical complexity/intellectualism and visceral displays of self. How does the notion of songwriting compare to the discipline of art music or contemporary composition? Quite simply, songwriting is a community activity in that its necessity lies in the very direct and tangible affect it has on the group. The expression that it deals in can be very abstract or focused on daily activity, but its purpose is always towards personal and group connection. In contrast, the symphony, the string quartet, the improvisational medium, etc. are ultimately a group of disciplines meant for self exploration. Their welcome is reserved for those who pursue it and their concentration on the various mechanisms of form creates an environment that easily distracts the young student from more tangible and popular forms of music, leading to nothing more than a sort of fiddling with the tools of the musical trade.
To put it plainly, the “classical arts” are an idiom which requires a very extensive repertoire and high level of technical ability before the performer’s artistry is spoken through the compositional medium in which they are performing. The same could be said of traditional jazz. The university is not an inherently creative structure and has no active place in the developing arts but to inform new musicians through the teaching of structured and studied idioms. At its greatest height the college atmosphere provides advanced tools, and through personal inspiration of the professors and student atmosphere, encourages creativity while simultaneously being critical of new formats. In its starkest and most true form the conservatory is comparable to a fancy tree house that instructs “Keep Out. Prodigies Only.” It is in fact this very attitude that great musicians and champions of the “Classical” genre, such as Glenn Gould, have rejected. It is an attitude which rejects community and supports notions of hierarchy and structure while boasting traditionalism over experimentalism.
With a popular consumerist music culture built off of the entertainment/beauty industry, the strongholds of music’s advanced studies are rather expected to turn their nose up to less lofty expressions. So the question must be asked, “where is the potential of music most rightly pointed if not towards entertainment or towards academic study?” Well, it would be foolish to completely reject popularism and academia due to the necessity of their opposing extremes. Though, they must be seen as blocks in the construction of something most important to our global experience: community. With the correct application of entertainment and intellectualism we serve to synthesize their strengths while curbing the great weakness of both extremes: ego.