Monday, June 8, 2009

Recording Academy Dumps Polka

The Recording Academy (Grammy Awards) has just decided that they are going to eliminate the award for best Polka album.


Or better yet: Who stole the kishke?

They claim that they want to ensure that its awards show will remain “pertinent within the current musical landscape.” They also claim that the category is attracting too few entries. Perhaps they simply can’t deal with the fact that the Polka King, Jimmy Sturr, keeps winning the award. Now if this were actually the legitimate claim, then certainly the categories of Pop, Country, Rap, Latin, and Gospel have nothing to fear. But if we are talking about what is pertinent to the current musical landscape, we will also have to eliminate the other categories that don’t “sell.” This then would put pretty much the rest of the lot into the same dilemma as Polka: Rock, Reggae, R&B, Jazz, Historical, Folk, Dance, Comedy, Classical, Children’s, and Blues.

Blues gets only two awards. Compare this to the relevance it has in relation to the history of American music. At the same time, World Music gets three. Children’s also gets three. Jazz, which holds a place in the American music lexicon that is obviously pertinent, gets eleven Grammy’s. Yet no one buys the CDs. Classical gets fourteen, and they sell fewer CD’s than Jazz.

Did you know that Gospel gets more awards than any other category, with 22? Wow! I can’t even remember the last time I ran out to buy the newest Gospel album. Oh Yeah, it was NEVER.

The Grammy Awards is supposed to honor the rich diversification in American music. So have they the right to decide whose heritage is more important than some one else’s. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. My heritage is Welsh and Dutch, but believe you me, I can oompah with the best of them. And after all, isn’t the role of the Grammy Awards to let these diverse musical styles fuse with each other in the full spectrum of American music. Is not polka just as much a part of our lexicon as say, Best Hawaiian Music Album, or Best Native American Music Album, or even that coveted Best Surround Sound Album?

If we are going to reward music, we are going to have to consider all that it conveys to all people. And if this is the case, then we have to consider what the classical composer Schoenberg wrote in his autobiography—“For the wonderful thing about music is that one can say everything in it, so that he who knows understands everything; and yet one hasn’t given away one’s own secrets, the things one doesn’t say even to oneself.”

On the other hand, if relevance and pertinence is everything, then we must listen to the words of Stravinsky—“I consider that music is, by its very nature, powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, a psychological mood, a phenomenon of nature…If, as is nearly always the case, music appears to express something, this is only an illusion and not a reality.”

Fortunately there are still people who believe otherwise. The Julliard School estimates that there are between 20,000 and 40,000 Americans who consider themselves composers of classical music. If it weren’t for them, the music that I listen to would surely die. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen to polka.

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