Skip to comments.The Old School Art Of Song
Posted on 09/09/2012 7:19:11 AM PDT by WXRGina
I used to want to live to be a hundred years old. It wasnt just an idealistic notion, but a real possibility. My grandfather lived 99 years, my mother 97.
But the world has changed. At 67 years of age, Im not particularly looking forward to 33 more years of being held captive in a world so different from that in which I grew up a world that produced my values, my beliefs, my identity.
A sense of not belonging anymore is being fed daily by every exposure to contemporary life news reports, politics, economics but mainly by stark changes reflected in our art forms. What was known as art fifty years ago is only known by those who were alive back then, or to the esoteric few who bother to study art history.
Culture today has no connection to the culture of the past. A sensitivity for beauty has been replaced by a jarring street mentality. Junk art has replaced sculpted forms. The art of story telling is dying, as special effects replace plot and character development. Dramatic content has become bloated with crudity, immaturity, and banality.
For me personally, the greatest difference between todays culture and the culture of our past is in the loss of the art of song. The song has been redefined from being melodically derived to becoming a beat-driven form. Song used to consist of a developed melody cradled in lush harmony and carried along on a heart-beat of rhythm. Today, the beat is the driving force of song. Harmony has less significance, and is used primarily in instruments supporting the beat. Similarly, melody has been reduced to short musical patterns, endlessly repeated, which emphasize the predominance of the rhythm.
The change in the structure of song reflects the cultural changes in social settings in which singing is done. In our old culture, it was more common for people to enjoy singing by itself, simply for the pleasure of the song. But in the new culture, singing is more often associated with a performance experience, such as a mega-concert, or with dancing at a club or party. And as an art form, dance itself has become increasingly less refined and more primitive. Influenced by Rap and Hip Hop, the popular enjoyment of body movement has become primarily expressive of sexuality and street pride, where dance used to embody more innocent and even noble messages.
I realize art has always expressed all the elements of human character, good and bad, high and low. But the change I have witnessed in my life-time is one of emphasis. Where most art used to emphasize the highest ideals, now most art wallows in harshness and reckless abandon. Add to this the intolerant, judgmental and even mocking attitude of todays younger generations toward art forms of the past, and I feel quite alienated.
This morning as I was sipping my first cup of coffee, I sought solace from what is euphemistically called the news. I flipped through the channels until I came across the 1936 movie, Rose Marie, starring Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. Maybe youve never heard of them. But back then, they were as big, as famous, as popular as one could be.
At first I watched the film in a distracted way, not really awake, not really in the mood. But soon, as Nelson Eddy began to sing, I experienced a flood of memories from when I was an aspiring baritone. Listening to his resonant tone, his superb vocal control, his clear diction and the apparent ease of his upper range, I began to identify with the singers experience the use of technique to convey passion.
The greatest reward of singing for me was when someone would tell me how much they liked my voice. What they were really saying was that they had experienced the same feelings listening to the song that I had felt singing it the same feelings the composer felt writing it. And that is the essence of art: separate lives sharing common passions through the connective talents and skills of the artist.
My memories, like the movie I was watching, were of an old style of song, and the singing was that of a bygone era an era of love songs something that would be considered sappy today, but then they were heart-felt, simple, direct and universal. Songs such as Indian Love Call expressed feelings that everyone dreamed about: You belong to me. I belong to you. They engendered a passion shared by audiences, regardless of social or cultural differences.
When I was a singer, I was particularly moved by that passion for life and love elicited by such songs. Now I feel separated, isolated, disconnected because the world has changed. Now I feel like a stranger, an outsider, someone who is irrelevant, a stranger in a strange land someone more comfortable in a world that no longer exists.
In our culture and art today, love has become a victim. Its a victim of sex, drugs and rock and roll, a victim of self-esteem, a victim of political correctness, a victim of multiculturalism, class envy, and every other form of social disunity that contributes to the breakdown of our cultural identity. As individuals, we have every opportunity to pursue any distraction in our attempt to fulfill our aspirations and satisfy our every desire.
But as a people, that is not enough, because a genuine love for one another has been buried in the grave of the past, along with modesty, circumspection, discipline, tolerance, forgiveness and accountability to the transcendent standards of an infinitely perfect God. That very God has been rejected by the world a world that is not my home. I guess Im just homesick.
Art should be something that points to the beauty and glory of God and the loveliness of His creation, but people who have turned from the Lord and embraced Satans mindset have rebelled and turned art into a protest against beautywhich then becomes bad art (yes, we most certainly CAN proclaim art to be bad, if it is). This rebellion against beauty has infected all forms of art, including music, which is a most powerful, spiritual influence.
“The song has been redefined from being melodically derived to becoming a beat-driven form.”
The “Africanization” of music. All rhythm, no melody or intellectual structure.
The article’s author was just too polite to state that — and had to dance around it with a symphony of words.
No intellectual structure in today’s “music” is SO RIGHT! Zero intelligence with a hundred percent belligerence!
I disagree with your re-definition of what the OP has written. It’s not “Africanization”, which implies that you see it as a ‘racist rant’, which it is not!
Music used to be about MUSIC! NOT crimes in the street, how low the girls wear their jeans, how much they wiggle their ‘yes, yes, yes’, how much the guys hate old people, etc.
Music used to be written, composed, rhymed, with meaning. Nowadays, with the electronic aids available, frogs can sound off with a baritone voice! The talent is NOT THERE ANYMORE! Originality and content are not there anymore. The music industry has become the General Motors cookie-cutter with different name brands of today.
If THAT is what you define as “Africanization”, then say so!
I’ll just sum it all up for ya .... it stinks!
I’ll buy my $% cd’s at the big box store, of the bands and music I USED to listen to, and pay my internet radio fee to listen to that and much else, including fife and drums ... they haven’t learned how to make a mess of THAT yet!
But how can that be when society is so "inclusive" now...
Art flows from the soul. Modern artists lack that pre-requisite for creating art. It appeals to those who also are lost and empty, a vast number of the world’s population in these latter days.
Ironically, all this bad and vulgar art is completely dependent on the good that came before it, in that it becomes meaningless without the context of its rebellion against beauty.
It’s all on purpose:
22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.”
23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”
All excellent points and true!
This song was performed at my parents' wedding:
Through the Years--Nat Shilkret & His Orchestra (with Nelson Eddy), 1935One of my favorites by Jeanette MacDonald:
Isn't It Romantic? (1932)
Beautiful! We love to listen to the music of the 30s, 40s and 50s (plus the vintage radio shows from that period).
No Other Love--Jo Stafford, 1950I like this earlier version even better:
Tristesse (Sadness), aka L'Ombre S'Enfuit (The Shadow Has Departed)--Tino Rossi, 1939
It is really not fair to compare bygone eras to the present in terms of the quality of art. The bad stuff tends to get forgotten as the years go by.
Of course, if that happens to the present era, people of the next 100 years may wonder why we had no music.
I guess Piet Mondrian took that advice to heart! 20th Century BAD ART--oh, the snobby art critics would call me a barbarian!
When I need a fix of good music I either listen to Frank Sinatra, opera or big band music or favorite rock and roll bands, whatever fits my mood at the moment and possibly all four. I agree music today is just noise...no more. Even rock and roll has shining moments in composition and melody.
Many fields in art used to be highly specialized and it took years of training to acquire the the skills and equipment necessary to practice. You had to spend years in apprenticeships under the eye of a master before you’d be allowed he freedom to hang execute works on your ownor with your own team.
I think the Industrial Revolution opened the door for the freedom that artists enjoy today. Equipment and tools become cheaper and more readily available as the prices dropped. People with an interest in art could pursue it on their own if they were dedicated. The 20th Century made the tools of artists easily available. A person could go to schools for art and be able to afford itor at least get bywith a second job. All the while, fairly free to create whatever occurred to them or interested them in whatever style they wished.
One of my favorite innovations of recent years is Youtube. It's amazing what's on that site. For more than 20 years, I was looking for a clean copy of Wayne King's 1931 hit Dream a Little Dream of Me, or at least one that sounded better than my beat-up 78, but had no luck. On Youtube, I found that one, as well as versions by other artists.
See? I can post on the internet and not check my spelling or grammarand no one can stop me! :-D
I think that a lot of it is just laziness. When I read a sonnet by Shakespeare, I marvel not only at the beauty of the words and how they’re put together, I also marvel at the time and effort and care spent in crafting something so beautiful.
Yes, You Tube is an excellent source of the classic music. That Wayne King version of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” is a peach! I love it!
I will give you a couple of examples of what some of the “core students” considered art. We were taken to a gallery to view some “art”.
A female student had taken dead tree branches made them stand upright and hung rubber chickens from them with string. Then 2 male students had emptied out an old garage, painted the rotten boards and every single thing in the garage, red, and rebuilt it and put all the (now red) objects back into it. That’s art, right?
The painting class that I was in was instructed to read a book entitled “The Pot That Was Not A Pot” and be inspired to make a painting from that inspiration. The book made absolutely no sense, probably written by a drugged out abuser. The instructor was not impress with my painting, I would have been dissappointed if he had been.
There are still some talented artist out there, painting beautiful landscapes, still life and portraits, beautiful art has not died.
Does anyone here remember the little songbook used in schools of America until the last decades of the 20th Century?
Perhaps the abandonment of such a "shared" knowledge accounts for some of your own feelings.
The poignant old love songs, the simple and lovely songs about nature, about patriotism, about love, and about sadness and loss became a part of the backdrop for education.
Pride in the flag, in America's brave history of freedom--these were instilled in the hearts and minds of children in the schools of the nation.
Note that in the entry of "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," there is an alternate verse which was suggested by the NEA. Yes, that is the same NEA organization which later became a coercive power center for the "progressive" ideas which now dominate and threaten to destroy American liberty and sovereignty.
I hold in my hand "A Golden Treasury from the Bible," "selected by Joy Elmer Morgan, Editor, Journal of the National Education Association," which included Bible verses. According to the Editor, "The Bible expresses the highest aspirations of mankind. In it are the ideas that have inspired, comforted, and lifted humanity for generations." This was only one in a series of "Personal Growth Leaflets" published by the Hugh Birch-Horace Mann Fund and distributed by "The National Education Association, Washington, D. C." The First Printing was in 1939, and the thousands distributed continued for years thereafter. They continued until the so-called "progressive" forces imposed a "different" agenda for the schools of America.
For any who, like the writer here, miss the comforting and uplifting sounds of the music of America--contributed by every segment of its then-populations from all over the world, perhaps those persons can sense that a much larger force has been at work to "change" its foundations, all in the name of "progress."
and Clint Eastwood's take on the situation:
Those are surely typical examples of modern “art”!
You are correct, Ditter—beautiful art has not died. As long as people who have good, pure hearts remain, there will still be good art (I consider myself one of the good artists, even though I rarely paint or draw lately).
Hey, I am now 77, and I strongly suspect there are a lot of us old-timers with that Lone ranger feeling—Hang In! there are only a few of us real Americans (not AINOs, Rinos, etc) left standing...
Take care and Straight ahead!
There are still some people that make good music, and here is a really nice "feel good" song: The Jive Aces "Bring Me Sunshine"
These well-trained amateurs personally propagate the excellence of singing by performing both old-time and newly-written harmonies, not by merely listening. And there is just such a chapter of singers not very far from any wannabe singer in the USA. Support them by your attendance at their shows. They will sing for you on request.
Excellent idea! Thank you!
For me, I loved barbershop harmony from my youth. One Christmas present was my first pitchpipe when I was 14. Sang in high school choir with a fine director. Took voice lessons in college. Sang in church choirs. helped start a SPEBSQSA chapter that became District Champion 7 years after our first meeting. Member of competition quartets. Performed in quartets entertaining at local business and social club dinners, senior citizen gatherings, hospitals, etc., sometimes for money, sometimes not. Directed another chapter chorus and revived it when on its last legs.
I love Barbershop.
You’re no doubt a marvelous talent! Harmony is lovely!
I find this trend especially pernicious in the churches--of all denominations, and in all regions of the country--where the electric guitar is driving out the organ and the choir.
That’s right; the church is looking more and more worldly.
Some years ago, a teenage girl told me about the "mega-church" that she attended. I asked her if it had an organ, and she gave me a blank stare. She had never heard of an organ, and I had to explain what it was.
By the way, my father was a vocal music teacher and a church choir director. My mother sang in the Old Fashioned Revival Hour Chorus Choir radio broadcast, and her voice was heard by millions around the world.
Music is in your family spirit! Bravo on your Dad and Mom! Your Mom, a radio star!
I am wary of “mega churches.”
My mother passed away last year, but she can still be heard on Old Fashioned Revival Hour broadcasts over the Internet--bootleg versions available on some sites as well as those from the official site. She never soloed on the broadcast, but I think her voice was better than that of the two designated soloists.
She left in 1957 so she could give her kids a religious upbringing in a real church--the Methodist Church--but she and my father would sing in many choirs over the next several decades.
I’ll bet you miss her very much.
I’ll give the old broadcasts a listen!
I love the choir’s singing! Dr. Fuller had a very long radio ministry.
The choir was accompanied by organist George Broadbent and Rudy Atwood, a famous gospel pianist. My mother said she had seen Atwood carry on a conversation while playing a song on the piano.
Most of their repertoire consisted of postbellum American Protestant hymns and gospel songs written or co-written by Phillip Paul Bliss, Fanny Crosby, William Kirkpatrick, Lelia Morris, James McGranahan, Ira Sankey and other great hymn writers. H. Leland Green (1907-1984), the choir director, also wrote a few hymns of his own.
‘The Africanization of music. All rhythm, no melody or intellectual structure.
The articles author was just too polite to state that and had to dance around it with a symphony of words.’
I’m afraid you didn’t really understand me at all. You obviously have your own opinions, but I don’t agree with him. Rather than taking my meaning, you read your own meaning into what I wrote. I am not dancing around anything. The so-called “Africanization” of music in America is what produced Jazz, a uniquely American form of music, which I happen to love. Any musicologist who has studied Jazz will tell you it is a highly developed, intellectual form, which employs sophisticated melodic and harmonic elements, in addition to rhythm.
Let me add also that I do not automatically hate music that has a driving beat. I like a variety of musical styles and forms, including music with a strong beat. My comment that song has become less melodically derived than beat-driven doesn’t mean I am opposed to music with a beat. Apparently, some readers have little use for critical thought. They simply jump to their own conclusions, without regard to what a writer has actually written.
I happen to love the musical influences that came from Africa. The contribution of many timeless “Africanized” melodies, particularly in the pentatonic scale, have deeply enriched popular secular music of the mid twentieth century. And the “Negro Spiritual” has greatly influenced sacred choral literature. Though I am not black, I have sung in a black gospel choir, and frankly found that musical and spiritual experience to be as profound as any classical choral music I’ve ever sung.
Mike, you’re the music meister! You are very knowledgeable! :-)
That was a long-running, very successful ministry, blessed by the Lord.
In his book The Soul of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches (Chicago: McClung, 1903), W. E. B. Du Bois wrote that the Negro spiritual was the only art form that originated in America. Of course, it's a safe bet that he never saw a Navajo sand painting, and jazz and blues were a few years in the future.
It was, indeed. Around 1950, the Rev. Charles E. Fuller stated that the Old Fashioned Revival Hour broadcast would end with his retirement or death and that nothing would remain of it except a few phonograph records. Little did he know that it would continue in cyberspace long after his death in 1968.
Right! How could Dr. Fuller have imagined the Internet? :-)
Black and Tan Fantasie--Duke Ellington & His Orchestra, 1928
What a great example! I love it. The music is telling a story. Thanks so much.
If you like Shirley Bassey, take a look at this:
The kicker? In spite of the intentionally retro video, this is from 2007.