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The Rock Idiom

When I was finishing Courage and Remembrance, I described the work to an older friend who listens to classical musical but little, if any, rock music. After explaining the ambitions of the project, I added, almost apologetically, “Of course, it’s just done in a rock idiom,” as if concerned that he might think me deluded enough to believe I had just completed Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.


“Why do you apologize?,” he asked. “If Bach were alive today, would he confine himself to using the same instruments and structures that he did?”


I took his point, and it helped me to understand another. Courage and Remembrance is and will ever be unapologetically rock music—in part because I want to show that rock music can be a medium capable of expressing powerful, consequential ideas and emotions beyond the simplistic sexual ones from which it (like the tango) rose into a much more complex art form. Pete Townshend’s Tommy and Quadrophenia are the works that I most associate with unleashing the explosive power of rock music to address a sustained story, yet both works make no attempt to address a topic of actual historical occurrence, let alone one of great moment. Both are great works of art, ones that give me continued enjoyment and engender my admiration, but neither one aspires to be Henry V set to electric guitars.


So there is still much work to be done within the rock idiom. Steve Winwood once said in an interview given when he was in his forties that he did not believe rock to be a juvenile medium. Neither do I.



Musicians I Like

Among popular musicians, Bill Bruford is my favorite. It goes without saying that he is my favorite drummer. Other favorites by category are Gordon Sumner (songwriter), Allan Holdsworth (guitarist), Jaco Pastorius (bassist), Bill Evans (pianist), Sergei Rachmaninoff (classical composer), Mark Isham (contemporary composer), Joni Mitchell (female vocalist), and Richard Page (male vocalist). Joni Mitchell is also my favorite lyricist, followed by Gordon Sumner.


The most transcendent piece of music I have ever heard is the Kyrie from Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem. The most compelling piece of American patriotic music—if not also the greatest single piece of American classical music—is Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland. Other musical influences include:


Noel Aguilar Tony Banks Samuel Barber Jeff Beck Bono David Bowie Johan Brahme James Brown Jack Bruce Paul Carrack Eric Clapton Jude Cole John Coltrane Stewart Copeland Chick Corea Miles Davis Claude Debussy  Richard Wayne Dirksen Bob Dylan Keith Emerson Donald Fagen Gabriel Fauré Bryan Ferry Gerald Finzi David Foster Stephen Foster Glenn Frey Robert Fripp Peter Gabriel George Gershwin Orlando Gibbons David Gilmour Philip Glass Enrique Granados Stéphane Grappelli Steve Hackett Merle Haggard Herbie Hancock George Harrison Justin Hayward Levon Helm Jimi Hendrix Don Henley Gustav Holst Bruce Hornsby Steve Howe Herbert Howells John Ireland Joe Jackson Eddie Jobson Eric Johnson Bob Kimball Mark King Mark Knopfler Greg Lake Geddy Lee Annie Lennox Tony Levin Dan Levy Alex Lifeson Jay Louden Eric Lowen Steve Lukather Lyle Mays Paul McCartney John McLaughlin Pat Metheny Joni Mitchell Van Morrison Modest Mussorgsky Carl Orff Nicolò Paganini Jimmy Page Richard Page David Paich Pino Palladino Charlie Parker Charles Parry Neil Peart Tom Petty Astor Piazzolla Wilson Pickett Jeff Porcaro Cole Porter Prince Giacomo Puccini Maurice Ravel Django Reinhardt Ottorino Respighi Tim Riedler Robbie Robertson Joaquín Rodrigo Todd Rundgren Mike Rutherford Norman Scribner Nan Schwartz Robert Shaw Wayne Shorter Chris Squire Stephen Stills Sting Igor Stravinsky Thomas Tallis James Taylor Pete Townshend Steve Vai Eddie Van Halen Ralph Vaughn Williams Joe Walsh Lawrence Welk John Wetton Healey Willan Bob Wills Steve Winwood Stevie Wonder Neil Young Frank Zappa Joe Zawinul

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