Originally published March 5, 2011

Yes what we are looking at is the top of Mt. Everest, massive and impressive. For some wholly attainable, some. What you would have to endure even in preparing to even think about scaling that peak would stop most from even considering the sojourn, so why should it be any different for our art which is the fabric of our culture?

I had a great conversation with a great friend and former colleague last evening who I hadn’t seen in over half a decade. It was like we didn’t miss a beat and something that he shared with me inspired me to write these few lines. He’s been a DJ both on radio and mobile for well over thirty years and we happened to be talking about him first making the conversion to cd’s and how eventually he’s going the Serato route.

We’re both fans of advances in technology but, as he stated so eloquently “Everybody’s a DJ these days, just like everybody’s a producer.” But then he said “I’m just waiting for it to come back around to when people can appreciate and (know the difference) between the authentic and the inauthentic. It was at that moment in the conversation that I mentioned that I had heard some music in the last couple of weeks that really is making me believe that we can slowly but surely turn this corner of mediocrity.

See the way I and probably many others see it, is that why should I pay to see someone do something if they can’t do it better than the average person walking down the street. That’s what we’ve been seeing en masse for a very longtime: a bunch of people creating music and performing music who really cannot perform any better than the average person walking down the street. You wanna know why people are constantly harkening back to the music of the 1970’s? Look at the folks who were peers back then, I mean when Stevie was on his almost decade long string of incredible album after album you know his peers were like I really have to bring it because I know he is. What was most beautiful about that sentiment is that it was all about the music.

That’s what lies at the top of that peak: real music from the soul, a timeless emotional expression codified in sound. All of us have to commit to not only raising that bar once again but making sure that it stays in its proper place. A corporation cannot do that for us just by the very nature of what a corporation is set up to do: maximize profit. I’m not mad at someone making a profit, I’m just trying to put this issue into its proper context.

It’s going to be gradual but I feel something is about to break over the horizon and when it does there are going to be a lot of people who are going to need to find something else to do, because the bar will be too high for them to do music.

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.