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 A sensitivity for beauty has been replaced by a jarring street mentality.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
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