Progress in Music

Sep 26, 2017

Credit SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

For musicians and music teachers, the concept of Progress can be misleading. We can strive in our own ways to emulate the masters who’ve preceded us, but it’s a mistake to think there’s such a thing as being better than those masters.


For composers, mistaken concepts of progress can be downright dangerous. Human nature doesn’t change, and the reasons people listen to music don’t change. Whatever the thousand different feelings or ideas we experience in music, we seek meaning; we seek sounds that awaken feelings and ideas, and that organize time in ways that make sense to us. In other words, although musical styles may change, there is no such thing as progress in the essential goals of music. But some composers forget that, and either forget or ignore human needs and human limitations. The result? Bad music. Time is our greatest treasure, and bad music wastes it.
A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.