Our nearest and dearest serious amateur musician has been evolving his taste and interest towards progressive metal lately, from other hard rock and metal subgenres I could barely mention and will best leave alone. Porcupine Tree is a significant representative and among his favourite bands right now.

In an amazing development, this past week-end he started practicing the most famous among Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Cello suites – no. 1 in G Major – on electric bass guitar.

This reinforces two useful lessons from earlier acquaintance with this musician – lessons that a listener of music like me, however keen, can only gleam from acquaintance with true music players.

First, some at least among young rock and modern popular music players view the whole of the ‘new’, post World War II western popular music as a comprehensive corpus to navigate freely and pick from. This is very different from how earlier generations of listeners like me started to live and view the same trends, in strong antagonism and alternative to each other. 30 years ago, if you listened to band A and singer B there would most definitely exist a singer C and band D that you actively ignored or publicly despised.
Younger musicians appear to swim in much deeper, broader and more interconnected ponds now. Now, with this amazing twist to Bach, these fish appear to consider with interest also seemingly very diverse streams such as the most classical canon there is.
I find this fascinating: it’s a testament to the depth of culture that can be established on genres and subcultures formerly presumed ‘lower’ as they come to command respect – as well as as a huge business value, of course.

Second, as sensitive as these musicians appear to be to multiple different genres and streams, they have very clear ideas about the relative weights of such genres in terms of technical complexity in execution, placing most pop music for instance well below rock in terms of how difficult it is to play, and classical music obviously quite far above.

Now, to a lover of many kinds of music as I am, and still all but helpless at playing any, this is another amazing finding, and for more than one reason.
As obvious as it is that technicians and specialists, including musicians, value ability, I find it very interesting that classical music automatically commands respect from those artists who can gauge their own ability as lower than that of classic music executors. Even as it is obvious, with hindsight, that this difference in skill must exist since classical music is performed by artists who have needed long years of study and practice, on average more so than players of other genres.
Most important of all, I feel like I now also understand better how rock music players see themselves, their music and its authors and players within the much broader context of music. I guess they balance creativity, expression and impact with technical prowess. So, they presumably go for rock also as a combination allowing them to express and create effectively even at a lower level of technical capability.

Now that is a lesson in pragmatism, and in how rock must have empowered more free expression of more and different people. A lesson in the value of cultivating diversity, too, since a non-player like me could only surmise this by acquaintance with actual players.

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