In a world of divided people, music is regarded as being one of the great equalisers - but that's only as long as you've got the cash for the gear. How equal are you?
IF THERE'S ONE thing Thatcher's ten years have made us all aware of more than anything else, it is material wealth. It's been a good time for some - those who've had the money to play her game - it's not been so good for others. Not that Britain has the only unfair society in the world: who would choose to be black in South Africa, Aboriginal in Australia or Chinese in China?
Fortunately for us musicians, artistic talent doesn't discriminate between nationalities, colours, sexes or the rich and the poor. Being black and poverty-stricken didn't prevent the negro slaves in 19th century America from laying down the roots of jazz. Being bald and wearing sackcloth dressing gowns didn't stop Benedictine monks from creating beautiful choral music. And being white, female, middle class and fairly wealthy hasn't stopped Kate Bush from being a major musical force here in Britain over the last 15 years or so. You could call music the equaliser.
Although music recognises none of these distinctions, the musical equipment industry imposes one of its own. It's true that owning an instrument - no matter how good or expensive - will not provide you with any talent you do not already possess, but the lack of the instruments you need to realise your musical goals places severe restrictions on your music. I'm certainly not advocating the use of gear as a substitute for talent, but there's no doubt that the technology you and I both celebrate through the writing and reading of this magazine imposes its own kind of discrimination upon us all: those who can afford it and those who cannot. Which class do you belong to - the elite Synclavier Set, the Atari bourgeoisie or the secondhand, MC202 hoi polloi? I'm not about to offer any profound solutions to this situation, I wish I could. Instead I just want to draw all of our attentions to the fact that nature has given us a sporting chance in music, and mankind's enquiring mind and materialistic nature has neatly counteracted it.
Perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel is that as technology has advanced, it has tended to make itself more freely available. Take the example of digital samplers: they were once available only to the Synclavier Set, now the Atari bourgeoisie have them securely in their grasp and they're beginning to filter down to the MC202 rabble. The gap only widens when people's ingenuity outstrips - or even equals - the pace of technical innovation. Fortunately for creativity, that's not too often.