I’m not even kidding! We need string instruments back!
Yesterday, my fifteen-year-old daughter, Lady J, and I had a conversation about the music that she enjoys listening to. She even shared some of her favorite songs–which shocked me since Lady J, like most kids her age, can be very elusive.
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of those songs had very gorgeous and complex arrangements–they were beautiful—they were lovely—I was touched by the melodies.
As I sat there listening to one song after another, I noticed two things.
First, the songs were heavily punctuated with string instruments.
Second, they were mostly written, composed and performed by Japanese artists.
You might be wondering where I’m going with this…
Let me begin by saying that I totally understand Lady J’s current taste in music.
Like her, when I was a teenager, I was mostly interested in music that evoked feeling.
The Late Great Maestro, Barry White said, “When I want to bring emotion, I pull out the strings.”
I don’t know where I heard that, but, based on his musical catalog, if he didn’t say it, he would likely have agreed with it.
May his soul rest in power!
But I digress.
Back to Lady J.
As a teenager, Lady J has become aware of the importance of finding healthy ways to live and cope with daily happinesses (not a real word) as well as the occasional hazard. She has learned that certain music provides the perfect vehicle for the sound (forgive the pun) expression of a range of emotions.
Have you ever heard it said that someone or something “pulled at the heartstrings?”
Now, I got no time to google the origins of that saying but I guarantee that it is related in a some circuitous way.
Now comes the part where I have to confront my own emotions about the current state of music here in America–in the Year Of Our Lord 2021.
To be blunt, I am struck by the fact that my daughter kept sharing song after song by artists who hail from elsewhere. I mean, oftentimes my child feels like she has to “go” all over the world—albeit digitally— to find the kind of music that she likes.
Now, before folks go off, let me check them right now.
I am not writing this to be used as a study in xenophobia because, as a black mother, I don’t play that.
I’ve taught my children to respect the beauty of all races, colors, creeds and cultures.
However, I have also taught them to learn their own—especially when it comes to music.
But there’s a problem.
Excuse my “Southern-ness”–I know it’s showing–honey, there just ain’t that many folks round here making music that incorporates string instruments—or any other classical instrument for that matter.
That’s why my baby gotta go all the way across oceans to find the stuff that she wants, and I would argue, needs to hear.
But, why am I so bothered? I mean, regardless of where it comes from, she has found the music that she likes, right?
To answer that questions, I must take us back in time…
You see, string instruments were an integral part of my childhood.
Hell, I even played violin briefly but I gave it up in order to become a majorette—Sheez!
Anyway, during that time, in the mid to late 1970s, violins, violas, cellos and the like were EV-ER-Y-WHERE—Barry White made sure of that!
However, Barry, wasn’t the only one, string instruments were all over the place then, not just in Soul music (which, I know seems counterintuitive), but in just about any genre that you could think of.
Yes, that’s right, string instruments, the ones of classical music fame, were everywhere—not just at the “INSERT YOUR CITY HERE Symphony Orchestra.”
Granted, I know that violins and cellos were NOT invented in Georgia–nor were they played solo at the cook-out–but that’s not the point. Forget where and when string instruments originated, talented musicians, back in the day, made them do things that Beethoven never could have imagined.
Hell, we were shook by the Delfonics professing love over a wall of high-flying violins in LA-LA- Means I Love You.
And don’t get me started on Bill Withers telling us about a Lovely Day with classical violins, violas and cellos backing him all. the. way. up!
My loves, those kind of heavy handed string arrangements gave me all of the things that I needed to get my emotions out about:
My dying dog, Bones
My unrequited love for…What’s his name?
My very, very, very, serious relationship with…What’s his name?
Flat out, string instruments gave me, and so many others, a quick way to access our emotions about any number of things.
Anyway, you know what I mean.
I just hate the fact that my daughter can’t readily find the kind of mental and emotional tonic that string instruments provide in her own backyard without crossing oceans or sifting through the music of yore.
And so, it seems that the strings are notably absent, but I would contend that we MUST bring them back for our sanity!
This is especially important as we all muddle through some version of a lockdown.
We need string instruments to give us a healthy way to release emotion!
Now, in the midst of my rambling, I must say that I’m grateful that my dear daughter has sense enough to know that mess like Danileigh’s “Yellow bone what he want” is not a good lyric and I shudder to think about the “music” that is enveloping those words.
Baby, I’m not EVEN gonna address that controversy—it would call for a different post.
Let me just say that if you’ve never heard that nonsense, do NOT google it and consider yourself and your ears blessed.
Right here, right now, I’d like to implore musicians in America to find a way to incorporate string instruments into your music!
Do your part to help us get in touch with our emotions.
And if you are wondering, the previous sentence was my “call to action” for musicians from a passionate lover of music advocating for her dear daughter-and the rest of us!
Now, if you don’t get my point, consider this whole thing an exercise in academics–and keep it moving past this old woman–who is probably out of step with the times droning on about nothing.
I bid you Good Day!