third stream

Modern hero: Gunther Schuller (NPR photo by Andrea Shea)

Modern hero: Gunther Schuller (NPR photo by Andrea Shea)

Sometimes, when faced with a choice, the very best answer is “both”.

In this morning’s story on NPR’s Weekend Edition, Schuller recalls the revelation of hearing Duke Ellington on the radio, and telling his father that music was equal to anything Beethoven or Mozart wrote. (Heresy!)

I first encountered Gunther Schuller years ago as a beginning French Horn student. The Horn has few heroes, and he’s one. My private teacher had a whole collection of LPs on Gunther’s own label, GM Recordings – I was fascinated by its eclecticism. In fact as far as I could tell that was the only unifying element of the label’s offerings, which included Gunther conducting the great classics and his own compositions, jazz orchestras, and a wide array of unusual and exotic (to my 10-yr. old mind) contemporary music.

So it started with the Horn but the more I listened to music the more I appreciated Schuller for his non-denominational musical views, as realized in his ‘third stream’ philosophy to create a safe, academically sanctioned place for common ground between jazz and classical styles.

In my career and in my life, Schuller’s convictions have continuously served as a sort of centering source for understanding (and validating, I suppose) my own omnivorous love of all things musical. And I know he’s had the same effect on many generations of other music appreciators, all over the world.

Truly inspiring.

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