by Joel Lawler
I recently returned from a trip to New Orleans. I had never been there before and really had no idea what to expect. I was completely surprised by the music. The hotel I stayed in was close to the French Quarter. During the evenings, I would walk through the streets. There was music coming from everywhere. It was incredible. There was a street corner where around dusk a young group of musicians would gather. They had old brass instruments such as cornets, tubas and trombones. They would play and dance throughout the evening and well into the morning. They are masters of their art and played incredibly well. They also danced and performed for the gathering crowds.
I have never been a big jazz fan. I have always appreciated the art of it but the music never really appealed to me. That changed after seeing it performed live in New Orleans. I now have a context for the music. I have been to its birthplace.
Upon returning home, I viewed a documentary on the history of jazz. One of the fathers and inventors that were talked about a lot in this documentary was Louis Armstrong. He was a brilliant cornet player. He also had a very distinct voice. What really struck me about him was when the commentator said one of his greatest gifts was the ability to listen to the other musicians. Even though the music was not written down and was completely spontaneous, he would know what the other musicians were going to play. He would adjust his playing to compliment theirs. This ability not only made him great but it made those who played with him great. They were able to create amazing music on the fly based on his gift.
I am also enjoying the World Cup. It is exciting to see all the countries competing in soccer to see who will bring home the trophy. It only happens every four years which adds to the uniqueness of this event. While I enjoy watching the games, I must admit that I turn the sound all the way down. There is this horrible noise that goes on throughout the entire game which is just completely annoying to me. It is the sound of thousands of fans blowing plastic trumpets called vuvuzelas. It has to be deafening to be in the stands while these fans blast these things.
The fans blowing them are not trying to make music. There is only one solitary note that comes out of these things. The only variation is volume. There seems to be loud and louder. The people blowing these things are not trying to coordinate with their fellow vuvuzela players. They are trying to out blast them. They want to be heard and noticed above the crowd and in the midst of thousands of other fans. Their intentions are not to create great art but to get noticed.
The Apostle Paul wrote: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal." A modern version of this would be "If I speak eloquently and with the words of angels but don't love, I'm nothing but a World Cup fan blowing on a vuvuzela".
There is such a tremendous difference between Louis Armstrong and the World Cup fan. Armstrong's music brings joy to its listeners. He continues to inspire musicians who come after him. He shaped a whole style of music. He made his fellow band mates better by playing with them. World Cup Vuvuzela players will be quickly forgotten once the event is over.