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Music: A Runaway Train on the Rails of Adolescence
book: The Closing of the American Mind | 1987 | Allan Bloom

Posted on 10/11/2003 12:01:44 PM PDT by cornelis

The power of music in the soul--described to Jessica marvelously by Lorenzo in the Merchant of Venice--has been recovered after a long period of desuetude. And it is rock music alone that has affected this restoration. Classical music is dead among the young. This assertion will, I know, be hotly disputed by many who, unwilling to admit tidal changes, can point to the proliferation on campuses of classes in classical music appreciation and practice, as well as performance groups of all kinds. Their presence is undeniable, but they involve not more than 5 to 10 percent of the students. Classical music is no a special taste, like Greek language or pre-Columbian archeology, not a common culture of reciprocal communication and psychological shorthand. Thirty years ago, most middle-class families made some old European music a part of the home, partly because they liked it, partly because they thought it was good for the kids. University students usually had some early emotive association with Beethoven, Chopin and Brahms, which was a permanent part of their makeup and to which they were likely to respond throughout their lives. This was probably the only regularly recognizable class distinction between educated and uneducated in America. Many, or even most, of the young people of that generation also swung with Benny Goodman, but with an element of self-consciousness--to be hip, to prove they weren't snobs, to show solidarity with the democratic ideal of a pop culture out of which would grow a new high culture. So there remained a class distinction between high and low, although private taste was beginning to create doubts about whether one really liked the high very much. But all that has changed. Rock music is as unquestioned and unproblematic as the air the students breathe, and very few have any acquaintance at all with classical music. This is a constant surprise to me. And one of the strange aspects of my relations with good students I come to know well is that I frequently introduce them to Mozart. This is a pleasure for me, inasmuch as it is always pleasant to give people gifts that please them. It is interesting to see whether and in what ways their studies are complemented by such music. But htis is something utterly new to me as a teacher; formerly my students usally knew much more classical music than I did.

Music was not all that important for the generation of students preceding the current one. The romanticism that had dominated serious music since Beethoven appealed to refinements--perhaps overrefinements--of sentiments that are hardly to be found in the contemporary world. The lives people lead or wish to lead and their prevailing passions are of a different sort than those of the highly educated German and French bourgeoisie, who were avidly reading Rousseau and Baudelaire, Goethe and Heine, for their spiritual satisfaction. The music that had been designed to produce, as well as to please, such exquisite sensibilities had a very tenuous relation to American lives of any kind. So romantic musical culture in America had had for a long time the character of a veneer, as easily susceptible to ridicule as were Margaret Dumont's displays of coquettish chasteness, so aptly exploited by Grouch Marx in A Night At The Opera. I noticed this when I first started teaching and lived in a house for gifted students. The "good"ones studied their physic and then listened to classical music. The students who did not fit so easily into the groove, some of them just vulgar and restive under the cultural tyranny, but some of them also serious, were looking for things that really responded to their needs. Almost always they responded to the beat of the newly emerging rock music. They were a bit ashamed of their taste, for it was not respectable. But I instinctively sided with this second group, with real, if course, feelings as opposed to artificial and dead ones. Then their musical sans-culotteism won the revolution and reigns unabashed today. No classical music has been produced that can speak to this generation.

Anger at Plato

Symptomatic of this change is how seriously students now take the famous passages on musical education in Plato's Republic. In the past, students, good liberals that they always are, were indignant at the censorship of poetry, as a threat to free inquiry. But they were really thinking of science and politics. They hardly paid attention to the discussion of music itself and, to the extent that they even thought about it, were really puzzled by Plato's devoting time to rhythm and melody in a serious treatise on political philosophy. Their experience of music was as an entertainment, a matter of indifference to political and moral life. Students today, on the contrary, know exactly why Plato takes music seriously. They know it affects life very profoundly and are indignant because Plato seems to want to rob them of their most intimate pleasure. They are drawn into argument with Plato about the experience of music, and the dispute centers on how to evaluate it and deal with it. This encounter not only helps to illuminate the phenomenon of contemporary music, but also provides a model of how contemporary students can profitably engage with a classic text. The very fact of their fury shows how much Plato threatens what is dear and intimate to them. They are little able to defend their experience, which had seemed unquestionable until questioned, and it is most resistant to cool analysis. Yet if a student can--and this is most difficult and unusual--draw back, get a critical distance on what he clings to, come to doubt the ultimate value of what he loves, he has taken the first and most difficult step toward the philosophic conversion. Indignation is the soul's defense against the wound of doubt about its own; it reorders the cosmos to support the justice of its cause. It justifies putting Socrates to death. Recognizing indignation for what it is constitutes knowledge of the soul, and is thus an experience more philosophic than the study of mathematics. It is Plato's teaching that music, by its nature, encompasses all that is today most resistant to philosophy. So it may well be that through the thicket of our greatest corruption runs the path to awareness of the oldest truths.

Plato's teaching about music is, put simply, that rhythm and melody, accompanied by dance, are the barbarous expression of the soul. Barbarous, not animal. Music is the medium of the human soul in its most ecstatic condition of wonder and terror. Nietzsche, who in large measure agrees with Plato's analysis, says in The Birth of Tragedy (not to be forgotten is the rest of the title, Out of the Spirit of Music) that a mixture of cruelty and course sensuality characterized the state, which of course was religious, in the service of gods. Music is the soul's primitive and primary speech and it is alogon, without articulate speech or reason. It is not only not reasonable, it is hostile to reason. Even when articulate speech is added, it is utterly subordinate to and determined by the music and the passion it expresses.

Civilization: the taming of the soul's raw passion

Civilization or, to say the same thing, education is the taming or domestication of the soul's raw passions--not suppressing or excising them, which would deprive the soul of its energy--but forming and informing them as art. The goal of harmonizing the enthusiastic part of the soul with what develops later, the rational part, is perhaps impossible to attain. But without it, man can never be whole. Music, or poetry, which is what music becomes as reason emerges, always involves a delicate balance between passion and reason, and, even in its highest and most developed forms--religious, warlike and erotic--that balance is always tipped, if ever so slightly, toward the passionate. Music, as everyone experiences, provides an unquestionable justification and a fulfilling pleasure for the activities it accompanies: the soldier who hears the marching band is enthralled and reassured; the religious man is exalted in his prayer by the sound of the organ in the church; and the lover is carried away and his conscience stilled by the romantic guitar. Armed with music, man can damn rational doubt. Out of the music emerge the gods that suit it, and they educate men by their example and their commandments.

Plato's Socrates disciplines the ecstasies and thereby provides little consolation or hope to me. According to the Socratic formula, the lyrics--speech, and hence, reason--must determine the music--harmony and rhythm. Pure music can never endure this constraint. Students are not in a position to know the pleasures of reason; they can only see it as a disciplinary and repressive parent. But they do see, in the case of Plato, that the parent has figured out what they are up to. Plato teaches that, in order to take the spiritual temperature of an individual or a society, one must "mark the musice." To Plato and Nietzsche, the history of music is a series of attempts to give form and beauty to the dark, chaotic, premonitory forces in the soul--to make them serve a higher purpose, an ideal, to give man's duties a fullness. Bach's religious intentions and Beethoven's revolutionary and humane ones are clear enough examples. Such cultivation of the soul uses the passions and satisfies them while sublimating them and giving them an artistic unity. A man whose noblest activities are accompanied by a music that expresses them while providing a pleasure extending from the lowest bodily to the highest spiritual, is whole, and there is no tension in him betweent he pleasant and the good. By contrast a man whose business life is prosaic and unmusical and whose leasure is made up of coarse, intense entertainments, is divided, and each side of his existence is undermined by the other.

The new philosophers

Hence, for those who are interested in psychological health, music is at the center of education, both for giving the passions their due and for preparing the soul for the unhampered use of reason. The centrality of such education was recognized by all the ancient educators. It is hardly noticed today that in Aristotle's Politics the most important passages about the best regime concern musical education, or that the Poetics is an appendix to the Politics. Classical philosophy did not censor the singers. It persuaded them. And it gave them a goal, one that was understood by them, until only yesterday. But those who do not notice the role of music in Aristotle and despise it in Plato went to school with Hobbes, Lock and Smith, where such considerations have become unnecessary. The triumphant Enlightenment rationalism thought that it had discovered other ways to deal with the irrational part of the soul, and that reason needed less support from it. Only in those great critics of Enlightenment and rationalism, Rousseau and Nietzsche, does music return, and they were the most musical of philosophers. Both thought that the passions--and along with them their ministerial arts--had become thin under the rule of reason and that, therefore, man himself and what he sees in the world have become correspondingly thin. They wanted to cultivate the enthusiastic states of the soul and to re-experience the Corybantic possesion deemed a pathology by Plato. Nietzsche, particularly, sought to tap again the irrational sources of vitality, to replenish our dried-up stream from barbaric sources, and thus encouraged the Dionysian and the music derivative from it.

This is the significance of rock music. I don to suggest that it has any high intellectual sources. But it has risen to its current heights in the education of the young on the ashes of classical music, and in an atmosphere in which there is no intellectual resistance to attempts to tap the rawest passions. Modern-day rationalists, such as economists, are indifferent to it and what it represents. The irrationalists are all for it. There is no need to fear that "the blond beasts" are going to come forth from the bland souls of our adolescents. But rock music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal, to sexual desire--not love, not eros, but sexual desire undeveloped and untutored. It acknowledges the first emanations of children's emerging sensuality and addresses them seriously, eliciting them and legitimating them, not as little sprouts that must be carefully tended in order to grow into gorgeous flowers, but as the real thing. Rock give children, on a silver platter, with all the public authority of the entertainment industry, everything their parents always used to tell them they had to wait for until they grew up and would understand later.

Young people know that rock has the beat of sexual intercourse. That is why Ravel's Bolero is the one piece of classical music that is commonly known and liked by them. In alliance with some real art and a lot of pseudo-art, an enormous industry cultivates the taste for the orgiastic state of feeling connected with sex, providing a constant flood of fresh material for voracious appetites. Never was there an art from directed so exclusively to children.

Ministering to and according with the arousing and cathartic music, the lyrics celebrate puppy love as well as polymorphous attractions and fortify them against traditional ridicule and shame. The words implicitly and explicitly describe bodily acts that satisfy sexual desire and treat them as its only natural and routine culmination for children who do not yet have the slightest imagination of love, marriage or family. This has a much more powerful effect than does pornography on youngsters, who have no need to watch others do grossly what they can so easily do themselves. Voyeurism is for old perverts; active sexual relations are for the young. All they need is encouragement.

Musical antinomianism

The inevitable corollary of such sexual interest is rebellion against the parental authority that represses it. Selfishness thus becomes indignation and then transforms itself into morality. The sexual revolution must overthrow all the forces of domination, the enemies of nature and happiness. From love comes hate, masquerading as social reform. A worldview is balanced on the sexual fulcrum. What were once unconscious or halfconscious childish resentments become the new Scripture. And then comes the longing for the classless, prejudice-free, conflictless, universal society that necessarily results from liberated consciousness--"We Are the World," a pubescent version of Alle Menschen werden Brüder, the fulfillment of which has been inhibited by the political equivalents of Mom and Dad. These are the three great lyrical themes: sex, hate and a smarmy hypocritical version of brotherly love. Such polluted sources issue in a muddy stream where only monsters can swim. A glance at the videos that project images on the wall of Plato's cave since MTV took it over suffices to prove this. Hitler's image recurs frequently enough in exciting contexts to give one pause. Nothing noble, sublime, profound, delicate, tasteful or even decent can find a place in such tableaux. There is room only for the intense, changing, crude and immediate, which Tocqueville warned us would be the character of democratic art, combined with a pervasiveness, importance and content beyond Tocqueville's wildest imagination.

Picture a thirteen-year-old boy sitting in the living room of his family home doing his math assignment while wearing his Walkman headphones or watching MTV. He enjoys the liberties hard won over centuries by the alliance of philosophic genius and political heroism, consecrated by the blood of martyrs; he is provided with comfort and leisure by the most productive economy ever known to mankind; science has penetrated the secrets of nature in order to provide him with the marvelous, lifelike electronic sound and image reproduction he is enjoying. And in what does progress culminate? A pubescent child whose body throbs with orgasmic rhythms; whose feelings are made articulate in hymns to the joys of onanism or the killing of parents; whose ambition is to win fame and wealth in imitating the drag-queen who makes the music. In short, life is made into a nonstop, commercially prepackaged masturbational fantasy.

This description may seem exaggerated, but only because some would prefer to regard it as such. The continuing exposure to rock music is a reality, not one confined to a particular class or type of child. One need only ask a first-year university student what music they listen to, how much of it and what it means to them, in order to discover that the phenomenon is universal in America, that it begins in adolescence or a bit before and continues through the college years. It is the youth culture and, as I have so often insisted, there is now no other countervailing nourishment for the spirit. Some of this culture's power comes from the fact that it is so loud. It makes conversation impossible, so that much of friendship must be without the shared speech that Aristotle asserts is the essence of friendship and the only true common ground. With rock, illusions of shared feelings, bodily contact and grunted formulas, which are supposed to contain so much meaning beyond speech, are the basis of association. None of this contradicts going about the business of life, attending classes and doing the assignments for them. But the meaningful inner life is with the music.

This phenomenon is both astounding and indigestible, and is hardly noticed, routine and habitual. But it is of historic proportions that a society's best young and their best energies should be so occupied. People of future civilizations will wonder at this and find it as incomprehensible as we do the caste system, witch-burning, harems, cannibalism and gladiatorial combats. It may well be that a society's greatest madness seems normal to itself. The child I described has parents who have sacrificed to provide him with a good life and who have a great stake in his future happiness. They cannot believe that the musical vocation will contribute very much to that happiness. But there is nothing they can do about it. The family spiritual void has left the field open to rock music, and they cannot possibly forbid their children to listen to it. It is everywhere; all children listen to it; forbidding it would simply cause them to lose their children's affection and obedience. When they turn on the television, they will see President Reagan warmly grasping the daintily proffered gloved hand of Michael Jackson and praising him enthusiastically. Better to set the faculty of denial in motion--avoid noticing what the words say, assume the kid will get over it. If he has early sex, that won't get in the way of his having stable relationships later. His drug use will certainly stop at pot. School is providing real values. And popular historicism provides the final salvation: there are new life-styles for new situations, and the older generation is there not to impose its values but to help the younger one to find its own. TV, which compared to music plays a comparatively small role in the formation of young people's character and taste, is a consensus monster--the Right monitors its content for sex, the Left for violence, and many other interested sects for many other things. But the music has hardly been touched, and what efforts have been made are both ineffectual misguided about the nature and extent of the problem.

"The rock business is perfect capitalism . . . "

The result is nothing less than parents' loss of control over their children's moral education at a time when no one else is seriously concerned with it. This has been achieved by an alliance between the strange young males who have the gift of divining the mob's emergent wishes--our versions of Thrasymachus, Socrates' rhetorical adversary, and the record-company executives, the new robber barons, who mine gold out of rock. They discovered a few years back that children are one of the few groups in the country with considerable disposable income, in the form of allowances. Their parents spend all they have providing for the kids. Appealing to them over their parents' heads, creating a world of delight for them, constitutes one of the richest markets in the postwar world. The rock business is perfect capitalism, supplying to demand and helping to create it. It has all the moral dignity of drug trafficking, but it was so totally new and unexpected that nobody thought to control it, and now it is too late. Progress can be made against cigarette smoking because our absence of standards or our relativism does not extend to matters of bodily health. In all other things the market determines the value. (Yoko Ono is among America's small group billionaires, along with oil and computer magnates, her late husband having produced and sold a commodity of worth comparable to theirs.). Rock is very big business, bigger than the movies, bigger than professional sports, bigger than television, and this accounts for much of the respectability of the music business. It is difficult to adjust to our vision of the changes in the economy and to see what is really important. McDonald's now has more employees that U.S. Steel, and likewise the purveyors of junk food for the soul have supplanted what still seem to be more basic callings.

This change has been happening for some time. In the late fifties, De Gaulle gave Brigitte Bardot one of France's highest honors. I could not understand this, but it turned out that she, along with Peugeot, was France's biggest export item. As Western nations became more prosperous, leisure, which had been put off for several centuries in favor of the pursuit of property, the means to leisure, finally began to be of primary concern. But, in the meantime, any notion of the serious life of leisure, as well as men's taste and capacity to live it, had disappeared. Leisure became entertainment. The end for which they had labored for so long has turned out to be amusement, a justified conclusion if the means justify the ends. The music business is peculiar only in that it caters almost exclusively to children, treating legally and naturally imperfect human beings as though they were ready to enjoy the final or complete satisfaction. It perhaps thus reveals the nature of all our entertainment and our loss of a clear view of what adulthood or maturity is, and our incapacity to conceive ends. The emptiness of values results in the acceptance of the natural facts as the ends. In this case infantile sexuality is the end, and I suspect that, in the absence of other ends, many adults have come to agree that it is.

It is interesting to note that the Left, which prides itself on its critical approach to "late capitalism" and is unrelenting and unsparing in its analysis of our other cultural phenomena, has in general given rock music a free ride. Abstracting from the capitalist element in which it flourishes, they regard it as a people's art, coming from beneath the bourgeoisie's layers of cultural repression. Its antinomianism and its longing for a world without constraint might seem to be the clarion of the proletarian revolution, and Marxists certainly do see that rock music dissolves the beliefs and morals necessary for liberal society and would approve of it for that alone. But the harmony between the young intellectual Left and rock is probably profounder than that. Herbert Marcuse appealed to university students in the sixties with a combination of Marx and Freud. In Eros and Civilization and One Dimensional Man he promised that the overcoming of capitalism and its false consciousness will result in a society where the greatest satisfactions are sexual, of a sort that the bourgeois moralist Freud called polymorphous and infantile. Rock music touches the same chord in the young. Free sexual expression, anarchism, mining of the irrational unconscious and giving it free rein are what they have in common. The high intellectual life . . . and the low rock world are partners in the same enterprise. They must both be interpreted as parts of the cultural fabric of late capitalism. Their success comes from the bourgeois' need to feel that he is not bourgeois, to have undangerous experiments with the unlimited. He is willing to pay dearly for them. The left is better interpreted by Nietzsche than by Marx. The critical theory of late capitalism is at once late capitalism's subtlest and crudest expression. Anti-bourgeois ire is the opiate of the Last Man.

Mick Jagger

This strong stimulant, which Nietzsche called Nihiline, was for a long time, almost fifteen years, epitomized in a single figure, Mick Jagger. A shrewd, middle-class boy, he played the possessed lower-class demon and teen-aged satyr up until he was forty, with one eye on the mobs of children of both sexes whom he stimulated to a sensual frenzy and the other eye winking at the unerotic, commercially motivated adults who handled the money. In his act he was male and female, heterosexual and homosexual; unencumbered by modesty, he could enter everyone's dreams, promising to do everything with everyone; an, above all, he legitimated drugs, which were the real thrill that parents and policement conpsired to deny his youthful audience. He was byeond the law, moral and political, and thumbed his nose at it. Along with all this, there were nasty little appeals to the suppressed inclinations toward sexism, racism and violence, indulgence in which is not now publicly respectable. Nevertheless, he managed not to appear to contradict the rock ideal of a universal classless society founded on love, with the distinction between brotherly and bodily blurred. He was the hero and model for countless young in universities, as well as elsewhere. I discovered that students who boasted of having no heroes secretly had a passion to be like Mick Jagger, to live his life, have his fame. They were ashamed to admit this in a university, although I am not certain that the reason has anything to do with a higher standard of taste. It is probably that they are not supposed to have heroes. Rock music itself and talking about it with infinite seriousness are perfectly respectable. It has proved to be the ultimate leveler of intellectual snobbism. But it is not respectable to think of it as providing weak and ordinary person with a fashionable behavior, the imitation of which will make others esteem them and boost their own self-esteem. Unaware and unwillingly, however, Mick Jagger played the role in their lives that Napoleon played in the lives of ordinary young Frenchmen throughout the nineteenth century. Everyone else was so boring and unable to charm youthful passions. Jagger caught on.

Rock music provides premature ecstasy and, in this respect, is like the drugs with which it is allied. It artificially induces the exaltation naturally attached to the completion of the greatest endeavors--victory in a just war, consummated love, artistic creation, religious devotion and discovery of truth. Without effort, without talent, without virtue, without exercise of the faculties, anyone and everyone is accorded the equal right to the enjoyment of their fruits. In my experience, students who have had a serious fling with drugs--and gotten over it--find it difficult to have enthusiasms or great expectations. It is as though the color has been drained out of their lives and they see everything in black and white. The pleasure they experienced in the beginning was so intense that they no longer look for it at the end, or as the end. They may function perfectly well, but dryly, routinely. Their energy has been sapped, and they do not expect their life's activity to produce anything but a living, whereas liberal education is supposed to encourage the belief that the good life is the pleasant life and that the best life is the most pleasant life. I suspect that rock addiction, particularly in the absence of strong conterattractions, has an effect similar to that of drugs. The students get over this music, or at least the exclusive passion for it. But they will do so in the same way Freud says the men accept the reality principle--as something harsh, grim and essentially unattractive, a mere necessity. These students will assiduously study economics or the professions and the Michael Jackson costume will slip off to reveal a Brooks Brothers suit beneath. They will want to get ahead and live comfortably. But this life is as empty and false as the one they left behind. The choice is not between quick fixes and dull calculation. This is what liberal education is meant to show them. But as long as they have the Walkman on, they cannot hear what the great tradition has to say. And, after its prolonged use, when they take it off, they find they are deaf.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: allanbloom; bloom; mickjagger; music; plato
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. . .the Right monitors its content for sex, the Left for violence, and many other interested sects for many other things. But the music has hardly been touched, and what efforts have been made are both ineffectual misguided about the nature and extent of the problem.

If someone can find me a better analysis of the contemporary scene, I'd like to read it. This is from a chapter in Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind. In the excerpt above you can easily replace Reagan with Bush and Michael Jackson with Bono. The times have not changed that much, increase in profits has. Meanwhile there is still that same ubiquitous naivete that sweet adolescence reserves for its highest good. In the end, love is what contracts in the self and is fully endorsed in the new age of rights: the virtue of courage is reduced to non-surrender "there will be no white flag . . I'm in love." But with what?

Others may provide various positive views of the goodness of music, its therapeutic comfort in our weakest moments, its solace in solitude. Such positive views, as Bloom recognizes, are often given as evidence in apologies of indignation. I really wish someone could come forward and best this critique with an understanding that lifts this unturned rock.

1 posted on 10/11/2003 12:01:45 PM PDT by cornelis
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To: All
Got a minute?
I'd really like you to rub my ears,
or help out FR.

2 posted on 10/11/2003 12:04:11 PM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: cornelis
music is able to open the doors of the mind..and allow the lyrics to change and introduce new cognitions which in turn produce emotion or mediate it...and of course influence behaviour

Garbage in Garbage out
3 posted on 10/11/2003 12:31:28 PM PDT by joesnuffy (Moderate Islam Is For Dilettantes)
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To: joesnuffy
So where do Richard Thompson and Elvis Costello fit in?
4 posted on 10/11/2003 12:38:52 PM PDT by proxy_user
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To: joesnuffy
Bloom almost mentioned the John Lennon. Lennon's pretense to pacificism is to endorse the 100% lyrical cynicism. "One and one and one is three" is meant to influence behavior in a specific way.
5 posted on 10/11/2003 12:40:01 PM PDT by cornelis
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To: cornelis
This guy needs to listen to Metallica's S&M album where they play with a full orchestra.

Anyway, most of us young people know more about classical music than we're willing to admit, and those who don't will eventually discover it when they grow out of Justin Timberlake.

6 posted on 10/11/2003 12:48:47 PM PDT by Hawkeye's Girl
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To: Hawkeye's Girl
Most of us young people is the American ideal of forever young.
7 posted on 10/11/2003 1:02:44 PM PDT by cornelis
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To: cornelis
An excellent treatise, to be sure. I once tried to say the same thing, not in narrative, but in the form of a poem whose theme is the subversion of innocence at the hands of evil, through the agency of primal desire.
8 posted on 10/11/2003 1:17:50 PM PDT by Agnes Heep
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To: Agnes Heep
Thank you for sharing that poem. It's the ancient tragedy for which some of us pay for with dissidents' smiles.

It reminded me of an old b&w film "The Devil and Daniel Webster" (1941) based on the short New England story by Benet. It also reminded me of a latin poem by Crashaw Non est hic fugitivus Amor (or, This Cupid is not a Runaway) Do you read Latin?

9 posted on 10/11/2003 2:06:33 PM PDT by cornelis
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To: cornelis
Alle Menschen werden Brüder

When the Berlin Wall came down, this was the selection played to celebrate its demise. Beethoven's tribute to Schiller, an "Ode to Joy." "Joy" in the German sense -- much, much more than sheer "happiness." Joy, as Schiller put it, "bright spark of Divinity, daughter of the Heavens."

That Joy is the engine that drives Man, more than any other energy. And music -- in all its forms -- captures the distilled spirit of Joy.

Classical music will die only when that Joy does. At that point, entropy will have won and life won't be worth living anyway.

10 posted on 10/11/2003 2:13:45 PM PDT by IronJack
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To: cornelis
Taught me a new word:


("dEswItju;d)  [a. F. désuétude (1596 in Hatzf.), ad. L. dUsuUtGdo disuse, f. dUsuUtus, pa. pple. of dUsuUscSre to disuse, become unaccustomed, f. de- 6 + suUscSre to be accustomed, to be wont.] 

   1. A discontinuance of the use or practice (of anything); disuse; protracted cessation from.

   1623 Cockeram, Desuetude, lacke of vse.  1629 tr. Herodian (1635) 131 A generall lazinesse and desuetude of Martiall Exercises.  165262 Heylin Cosmogr., To Rdr., My desuetude from those younger studies.  1661 Boyle Style of Script. (1675) 139 By a desuetude and neglect of it.  1677 Hale Prim. Orig. Man. ii. iv. 160 Desuetude from their former Civility and Knowledge.  1706 J. Sergeant Account of Chapter (1853) Pref. xv, By a desuetude of acting, expire, and be buried in oblivion.  

   b. The passing into a state of disuse.

   1821 Lamb Elia Ser. i. New Year's Eve, The gradual desuetude of old observances.  

   2. The condition or state into which anything falls when one ceases to use or practise it; the state of disuse.

   163750 Row Hist. Kirk (1842) 14 To revive acts buried and brought in [= into] desuetude by Prelats.  1678 R. Barclay Apol. Quakers x. §22. 315 The weighty Truths of God were neglected, and, as it were, went into Desuetude.  1703 Lond. Gaz. No. 3914/4 Reviving such [Laws] as are in desuetude.  1820 Scott Monast. i, The same mode of cultivation is not yet entirely in desuetude in some distant parts of North Britain.  1826 Q. Rev. XXXIV. 6 This beautiful work+fell (as the Scots lawyers express it) into desuetude.  1874 Green Short Hist. iv. §2. 168 The exercise of rights which had practically passed into desuetude.  

11 posted on 10/11/2003 3:42:06 PM PDT by boris (The deadliest Weapon of Mass Destruction in History is a Leftist With a Word Processor)
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To: IronJack
Views on the fall of the Berlin wall as well as of the Holocaust have often tried to square with German idealism.

Are you a musician, IJ?

I remember a conversation about music on Firetalk once and you were there.

Schiller tried his best in believing the happy harmony between reason and the passions (On the Aesthetic Education of Man), a harmony Bloom espouses as an ideal. It's a struggle for order, internal for Aristotle, externalized into a sacred world by St. Paul, and secularized and internalized again by Kant. Schiller follows Kant.

Perhaps Nietzsche's orientation to the Dionysian potencies--reaching back beyond Greek rationalism--is too often confused with the spark of divinity. This is all very German, very French, very European after the sunset of Scholasticism. And then over the graves of Locke and Hobbes the English gave us the Beatles and their children who turned the tension into a schizophrenia: seriously singing of love--our highest joy--by demoting it to unseriousness.

Roberto Benigni in "Life is Beautiful" presents a triumphant joy in the face of tragedy, although its very frenetic and exhausting--only the vibrant could keep it up. Have you seen it?

12 posted on 10/11/2003 3:45:44 PM PDT by cornelis
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To: cornelis
"a mixture of cruelty and course sensuality characterized the state"

A pretty coarse thing to say...

13 posted on 10/11/2003 3:47:39 PM PDT by boris (The deadliest Weapon of Mass Destruction in History is a Leftist With a Word Processor)
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To: cornelis
Are you a musician, IJ?

Aside from occasionally torturing a piano, sadly, no.

the happy harmony between reason and the passions

I believe any harmony starts with a recognition of prime forces, and that freude is that force. It is the fire that fuels both passion AND reason.

Have you seen [Roberto Benigni's "Life is Beautiful"]?

No, I haven't. But I'll be on the lookout for it.

14 posted on 10/11/2003 3:50:43 PM PDT by IronJack
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To: boris
At least it's spelled right:)

You subscribe to the OED?

15 posted on 10/11/2003 3:56:47 PM PDT by cornelis
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To: cornelis
I grew up on classical music.

I now listen to classical and some "popular" artists such as Enya. But my obsessive "must listen" has been and continues to be Mike Oldfield.

An instrumentalist--mainly--he writes what I call "Rock Symphonies". Actually influenced by Carribean, African, Asian, and Celtic (mostly Celtic) music. I find his music compelling and evergreen. I believe that in--perhaps--100 years, his work will be considered in the same league as the "second tier" of composers. No Bach or Beethoven, but certainly up there with Mendelsohn.

He shares a knack with Bach: his music hooks into the alpha rhythm of your brain; at its best it is music for ruminating, pondering, analyzing, dreaming. Almost hypnotic. With each listening I find more and deeper threads. Many have called him "boring and repetitious"; Oldfield fans call such critics "cloth-eared nincompoops" because they fail to hear the subtleties. Philip Glass is also criticized for being repetitive and boring, and he sometimes is--but Koyaanisqatsi is one of my favorites...


16 posted on 10/11/2003 4:03:05 PM PDT by boris (The deadliest Weapon of Mass Destruction in History is a Leftist With a Word Processor)
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To: cornelis
"You subscribe to the OED?"

Indeed. I bought it on CD-ROM. The only dictionary to have. Incidentally, I broke the copy-protection; it is the first and only CD software I have encountered that is copy-protected...but not from me.


17 posted on 10/11/2003 4:04:36 PM PDT by boris (The deadliest Weapon of Mass Destruction in History is a Leftist With a Word Processor)
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To: cornelis
The power of music in the soul--described to Jessica marvelously by Lorenzo...

The opening sentence synchronistically mugged me personally..."Jessica" by the Allman brothers, and "San Lorenzo" by Pat THAT'S music.

18 posted on 10/11/2003 4:11:17 PM PDT by ctonious
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To: cornelis
I believe the author is confusing Pop with Rock (though the two bleed into each other).

Having said that, there is a certain sexual dimension that defines rock music (and to a certain extent, the Blues). It all comes down to live performances - all of the girls want to sleep with the performers, and all of the boys want to be the performers who can have their pick of the girls.

Very Evolutionary.

19 posted on 10/11/2003 4:14:35 PM PDT by Senator Pardek
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To: Senator Pardek
confusing Pop with Rock

That must be Plato's fault, who is said to have confused eros with porne. But after amps and ohms even country music prefers this confusion.

20 posted on 10/11/2003 4:45:40 PM PDT by cornelis
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