Pan-Stylism as one option

There’ve been quite a few emails (for which Thank You) about The Demands of Style, several beginning with an agreement about pan-stylism as a concept.

To clarify – the article was not proposing that pan-stylism actually rules the day, or is some sort of central focus of today’s music. Rather, that the idea of pan-stylism is one example, among many, of an approach that musicians are finding useful. And as with any method, it has its benefits and its limitations.

It’s an illusion to think that artists can pick and chose resources in a non-linear, unbiased, a-historical way. Music is not a science experiment. Great music — of any variety — is made by musicians with lots of experience with ideas (and beyond ideas), with the sure knowledge of whether their music is working or not. None of the masterworks seem to have been made willy-nilly.

Personal style is built of many elements, physical, environmental, social, economic, and more. It serves in fomenting a musician’s deepest desire for expression. (And of course expression and the very notion of expression come in all varieties, too.) Pan-stylism would be one example of this process playing out. It’s one current option for musicians in finding their own personal style.

But when it comes to making music, it’s not possible to be all things to all people. Sound comes out. It sounds a certain way. That’s what it is.

What’s remarkable is how the examination of musical issues shuts down when it focuses only on The Music I Like. There are innumerable ways in music, and the limitations of personal preference can be deadening. With all respect for individual taste, an overview of musical practice has to take a step away from genre related value judgments. This is much bigger than jazz, classical or any other kind of music.