What Ever Happened To Classical Music?

January 31, 2008

In studying to get my music degree, I have to take several music history classes. In looking back at the history of western music, it is clear that classical music was the main form of music. (In this article, when I refer to “classical”, I am pertaining to the broad spectrum of symphonic music, not necessarily specifically “classical” music) In Europe, when you talked about music, you were talking about classical. This music using the same instruments (strings, horns, percussion) stayed for years and years and years. This music was a social gathering. People crowded into performing centers in order to hear the latest new classical music.

Fast forward to 2008. Classical music is not a very big part of American culture. Our generation does not particularly care for classical music at all. This genre of music is typically viewed as “boring” or “for nerds” and is often associated with the upper class. What happened? What has caused the large cultural rejection of classical music ? What caused classical music to lose its popularity? As time progresses, so does technology. Our culture immersed in technology. Our sources for entertainment have turned into all things digital. We like to be spoon-fed entertainment. There is no thought involved. We wake up in the morning, turn on the TV, soak in the morning news, go about our day, listen to the newest cookie-cutter pop sensation on the radio, go sit in a movie theater, see a film, then we get home, and get on the internet for endless more thoughtless entertainment. Today’s culture doesn’t care for classical music because today’s culture doesn’t understand classical music. Classical music takes far too much thought. We want our entertainment and we want it now, simple as that, no effort involved. Classical music is so full of complicated melodies and harmonies, and themes and recapitulations and imagery and interpretation. Classical music doesn’t fit in our digital consumer culture.

I went to Walt Disney Hall tonight and saw the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra from Amsterdam. They played Strauss’ Don Juan and Mahler V. They were fantastic. It was an experience unlike any other form of entertainment out there today. I was not only entertained. I was enriched. There are people out there who still love classical music and see the beauty in it and can appreciate it, even in our simple-media focused culture. These people will continue to enjoy what is one of the most wonderful forms of art.

Dylan: Far from Retired

January 28, 2008

Bob Dylan has been getting a lot of press lately with documentaries, movies, magazine articles, and new CDs.  This new widespread public appreciation for all things Dylan is taking on the air of the rise of fame usually reserved to immediately follow the deaths of the greatest of authors, artists and celebrities.  Dylan is being appreciated in his lifetime as few others have. 

            Most of the new exposure to Dylan the public is getting also resembles that of dead artists; documentaries, books and movies all about Dylan, his work and his life. 

            Not only is Bob Dylan living but he continues in his music career. He has been touring worldwide almost nonstop since 1988 in what is being called the Never Ending Tour with over 2000 shows so far.  Along with the touring he has put out three new albums in 1997, 2001 and 2006.  All receiving great critical acclaim, especially the last two.

            Not only is Dylan still in business but he continues to move forward and remains in tune with the present.  Sometimes his being in tune with the present calls back to the 60s when he was called the Poet and Prophet.  Recently this has grown to be spooky. 

            His 2001 album Love and Theft’s was released Sept. 11, 2001 and contained the images of a world growing desperate and dark (especially in “High Water”).  This theme carried into his next album in 2006 Modern Times.  As stated in the Rolling Stone review,

It is inevitable to read “The Levee’s Gonna Break”–with its “people on the road carrying everything that they own”– in light of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, just as it was impossible to hear Love and Theft‘s “High Water” on September 12th, 2001, the day after its release, without thinking of the World Trade Center.

With his most recent works Dylan is achieving some of his greatest successes.  In 2000 he won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for best original song with “Things Have Changed” written for the film Wonder Boys. 

            His 2006 album Modern Times made #1 on the United States Billboard charts, his first since Desire (1976), making him the oldest person to make #1.  He was 65.   The album was also Bob Dylan's 'Modern Times'nominated for three Grammy’s winning two, including best solo rock performance.

          His new albums and music are quite different from “classic Dylan.”  They are a new and unique mixing of virtually all forms of uniquely American music blending jazz, blues, folk, folk/rock, country, rockabilly and even the classic big band sounds Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin used to sing to.  Again Dylan is creating his own sound and it is as true to his style as any past creations.

            I encourage you, in the midst of all the new publicity of Bob Dylan do not just turn to listening to the same few samples you have always heard.  Dylan is wonderfully gifted in creating and recreating and has given us many different expressions of music so do not limit yourself.  Explore the vastness of his talents and creations, new and classic.

A Club Full of Drama or How I Got Over The Cooties – Part II

January 28, 2008

I talked to the drama teacher about it, and seeing my incredible discomfort, decided that we would not kiss, but at the close of the play, hold hands as the curtain closed.  This was the greatest news I had ever heard!  A great burden had been lifted off of my shoulders!  Oh praise the LORD!  For He is good! Maid Marian was fine with this, knowing how uncomfortable I was with the entire situation. 


As we finished up rehearsal the next day, Megan stopped me on my way out.  “Hey Brandon, did you get a chance to listen to that tape yet?” I had completely forgotten about the tape, which was still sitting inside my backpack.  “Oh, no.  Sorry, I have been real busy with homework.”  “Well, you should listen to it.” she said.  “Okay, I will” I said as I got into my mom’s minivan.  “See you tomorrow!” she said enthusiastically.  “Yeah, bye” I said in monotone voice. 


As the rehearsal the next day was coming to a close,  I felt a sense of relief, knowing that I would not have to subject myself to the incredible agony of kissing a girl.  The entire last scene, that’s all I thought about.  I had triumphed!  “The King has issued a decree!”  I said in a dramatic voice.  I unrolled the scroll and continued to deliver my lines.  “As for Little John…” As I continued reciting my lines, I thought about how awful it would have been to kiss a girl.  Who would want to do that?  “And for Friar Tuck…” I continued.  I didn’t like Maid Marian at all.  She was a nice person, but that was the end of our relationship.  I couldn’t understand how anyone could just go up and kiss someone like it was nothing, all in the name of acting.  “And Maid Marian and I shall marry!” I belted out, to the sound of the rest of the cast cheering.  The narrator began the final monologue explaining how we would all live happily ever after.  I turned toward Maid Marian in order to grab her hand, but just as I did, she began to inch closer towards me.  We were now facing each other.  I began to panic.  “THIS IS NOT PART OF THE PLAN!” I thought.  I remained standing straight up, aware of my impending doom, but powerless to stop it.  As she leaned in and upwards I felt perhaps the most discomfort I had ever felt.  She had a look on her face as if to say, “Come on, get over it.  You’re being ridiculous.”  Our lips touched for what seemed like eternity but was most likely more like half a second.  I couldn’t believe that she had just done that! What was I going to tell my parents?!  The ridicule would start the next day!  I could already hear my brother making fun of me in my head. 


To my surprise, nothing happened.  No one cared at all.  As rehearsal finished, no one said anything about it, it was as if this epic kiss that had altered my life meant nothing!  Though I was relieved, I was a little bit disappointed, as if I felt I deserved a “congratulations!” or a pat on the back because Maid Marian followed the script and kissed me in drama club. 


As we left rehearsal, once again, Megan asked me, “Hey, so did you listen to that tape yet?” “Oh, sorry!  No, not yet!  But I will, I promise” I said as I put my backpack on, tape still inside. 


The next week at drama club rehearsal, before we started, Megan showed me the new prop she had made.  “It’s a scroll.”  She said, as she unveiled a miniature version of what I had previously used for the last scene.  My final monologue, the decree from the King, was quite long, and the small size of the scroll I would be reading from would add to the humor.  I unrolled the one inch wide, nine inch long scroll.  “Oh cool, this will be funny.”  I said.  “So have you listened to that tape yet?” Megan asked once again.  “No, but really, I’ll listen to it.” I said as I handed her the miniature scroll back.  “But now, I have to go get makeup on.”

What Chores Would Jesus Do?

January 26, 2008

Check out this article from the LA Times.  When I first read the title, I rolled my eyes, figuring it was a typical “Christian Article”.  It is quite long, but after I finished it, I was very glad that I had read it.  It is very interesting to read and awesome to read how these people are striving to be more Christ like.  Read the article all the way through, and then post your thoughts here.  

A Club Full of Drama or How I Got Over The Cooties – Part I

January 25, 2008

We had 6th period Geometry together. Mrs. Rust’s class was very fun. I had many friends in the class, and while I certainly learned lots about shapes and calculations of areas, I had many friends in the class, so it was fun. I had not talked much to Megan before though. She knew that I played the bass. She had once asked me if I would give her lessons. Of course, with my busy schedule at the time, I explained that I couldn’t. Of course my mother gave me a hard time about this, as she was sure that this was a sign that she liked me. I denied any possibility of that and dismissed it as ridiculous. After all, this is me we are talking about.


Me in 9th grade was not a pretty sight. I had grown out my hair the longest it had ever been and it began to poof upwards. It was constantly a mess. My hair was perfectly complimented by my bulky double chin and I wore an old navy fleece jacket nearly every day, along with an old pair of jeans and black suede Birkenstock clogs. I wasn’t exactly Prince Charming. I didn’t play sports at all. My physical activity consisted of PE and the occasional walk home. Instead I did music and for a short time, after school drama club. I had already turned down the bass lesson offer, but Megan was not about to give up. Since she couldn’t act, she figured she could do some behind the scenes work, for the drama club. It would be relatively painless, and she would get more time with me.




As Megan approached me, I figured she was probably going to tell me about some prop that I needed to use, or how she was working on a new one. After all she was the prop girl. I had had little interaction with her other than prop-related discussion and the occasional borrowing a quarter so that I could get a drink during the breaks. “Hey Brandon,” she began, “I uh, hey, how are you?” “Oh, pretty good.” I replied. “How about you?” “Oh pretty good yeah. Um, so hey, uh I made you a tape. It has some of my favorite songs on it.” “Oh…” I said, slightly surprised at the kind gesture, especially since I didn’t know her all that well. “Thanks” I said as I looked at the tape. It read “Megan’s Mind”. “You really should listen to it…” she said. “Ok, I will, thanks” I said. “Okay, break’s over, everyone back in here!” we could hear the director call from the gym. I stuffed the tape in my backpack, put my Robin Hood cap back on, and continued rehearsing for The Somewhat True Tale of Robinhood.


I enjoyed acting. The play was a humorous take on the story of Robin Hood. It was full of all sorts of one-liners and witty little remarks that junior high kids don’t necessarily get, but their parents love. Of course, being one of two guys in drama club, I was cast as the lead role, Robin Hood himself. It would not have been strange being on stage with such classic characters Little John and Friar Tuck, except for the fact that these roles were played by girls. But after all it was acting, so we all did the best we could.


Now, even though it was 9th grade, I was still a little shy around girls sometimes. Sometimes. So when I found out that I was going to have to kiss Maid Marian at the end of the play, I was mortified! I had never had much interaction with girls, let alone kissed one! This was going to be awful! The moment our lips touched, I would surely die! I would get endless ridicule from my peers, my parents would shun me and my older brother would never let me hear the end of it! I couldn’t go through with it! Acting is acting, sure, but as a 9th grader who was still uncomfortable around girls, I saw having to kiss Maid Marian as pure torture. There was no way around it. I would probably have to quit the play.