Author: Alvira, Marco

Today’s column from Marc(os) Alvira

Things kids don’t know today, or that they do strangely: Hold pencils awkwardly; print and can’t read cursive; don’t know what a picture tube is; don’t know what guide words are for at the top of a dictionary page; think hooded sweatshirts are jackets. I could go on for quite a while with this list that I have been compiling in my eighth grade classroom the last couple of years. What is all the more interesting is the number of things kids know or can do that most adults cannot do or even possible know. There’s is a different world. The demands on today’s generation and how they approach traditional tasks like studying, looking for and applying for work, or even how they access the news is lightyears from the thinking of even the most forward thinking older adult minds.

Impacting the lives of today’s youth, facile digital communication enables popular culture to roll across the continent like frightful tsunamis. Teens living in remote North Dakota towns are rapidly in tune with the newest fads trending in New York among their peers. One rapidly evolving aspect of popular culture that amuses me is how today’s slang and idioms change their meaning or drop from use so quickly. It seems that ears that are few decades old cannot adapt quickly enough to contemporary vernacular. Have you ever been “merked?”** In 2011, at least, that was Grandpa’s “blottoed”; Mom and Dad’s “plastered”, our “toasted.” But don’t think you’ve learned something new. That term is antiquated. I’ve discovered that slang today is born, evolves and dies as quickly as fairy shrimp in a vernal pool, whereas a slang term would stick with a generation for almost a lifetime.

As interesting as the development of new slang, is old terms can take on new definitions. The unwary teacher can find himself in the midst of a classroom in the throws of riotous laughter with a slight slip of the tongue. A nod to discretion and decency prohibits me form providing an example here. An example that anyone visiting might understand is how the definition of“bluegrass” itself has become a point of contention not only between generations, but also those holding to a traditional view and those of a more progressive bent. The contention is not only about the definition of a genre, but to many, the definition—or appropriation -of a way of life and heritage.

I’ve recently become well acquainted with a couple of young Americana promoters in the northern San Joaquin Valley .These are people who are earnestly promoting Americana. I sat in a dark pub with one of these fellows, drinking a pint while watching an act he had recently booked. It was a couple of guys one wearing a plaid shirt, the other sporting a wool beanie even tough it had to be 85 degrees under the stage lights. One fellow was banging away at the six string “banjo” that happened to be tuned like a guitar, the other was strumming an out of tune mandolin. The promoter turned to me and proudly boasted, “I’ve been trying to get these guys for a while. They’re one of the best new bluegrass bands I’ve seen.” I refrained form spewing, in a sudden fit of confoundedness, my beer out into a fine mist all over the person sitting next to me. Instead, I smiled and replied, “Ya, they aren’t bad at all.”

I had recently witnessed an uncomfortable confrontation when the other promoter of my acquaintance was forwardly admonished for his lack of knowledge in bluegrass. In the end, the promoter felt like it was an assault on his taste. As an Area Activities V.P. I represent more than the CBA. To the eyes of those outside the bluegrass circle, I —and everyone on of us that plays our glorious music— represent the genre itself. It is the responsible position, and an obligation on our part, to educate and promote bluegrass and old time. It is not our right to dictate taste. An amazing thing happens when someone unknowledgeable about bluegrass is brought to hangout at a picking party or actually sits in on a session: the lightbulb goes off and they get it. No lecturing is required. In this digital age of lightening fast communication, all we have to do to spread the word is do what we do best, be friendly, kind, and share our love for bluegrass…the old fashioned way.

Posted:  5/4/2014

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