The Ideology of Musicianship and the Cultivating Of The American Mind

TK Turbo

Curious technical engineer, survivor of life, musician, reluctant morning radio host.

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30 Responses

  1. Pinky
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    says:

    Good article. There’s a lot to talk about here, and I hope we get a good conversation out of it. My first thoughts are: I’m glad to hear that Yngwie Malmsteen is a decent guy. I think you’re underselling the teamwork, discipline, and expression in sports. And my personal hobby horse, the place that most people were first exposed to music performance was church.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Pinky
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      The kind of church one goes to matters in this regard. I was raised Catholic and music in a Catholic mass is not particularly inspiring, particularly to a young person. After acquiring some education, I understood some of it to be evocative of medieval ceremonies but that realization made the church feel more remote from me than before.

      As an older teen I went to a Southern Baptist service with a band and was absolutely Blown. Away. by the quality of the musicianship. Anyone who doesn’t understand how a church can cultivate amazing musical talent ought to see the Aretha Franklin biopic. (Well, you should see it anyway.)Report

      • InMD in reply to Burt Likko
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        It’s not so crazy. Religion has probably been the most important inspiration for music for much of recorded history, maybe even before. I would daresay that one of the unique features of our time is that so much of the most popular music is secular.Report

        • CJColucci in reply to InMD
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          Inspiration and patron. What would Bach have produced if his source of income and commissions were secular?Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to CJColucci
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            Sin-FonYa in E Major (fugue) feat. Wet Pu$$y Playa.Report

          • InMD in reply to CJColucci
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            Heh, very true, that the patron is always right. However I still think you can’t totally separate it from the culture either.Report

          • Chris in reply to CJColucci
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            Two things: (1) We’re talking about high art here, not folk art, which has had a less formal, and even less conceptual, link to religion than high art, for a variety of reasons. I say art, and not music, because virtually all high art was associated with religion, at least in the west, regardless of the medium, until about the Renaissance.
            (2) When you see high art began to separate from religion, at least in the west, you see music innovate at an incredibly fast pace. So, for example, in the separation between Mozart/Beethoven (two artists who began to dissociate their music from the church) and Miles Davis is under 200 years. The 200 years before that saw innovation, but not at that pace. Hard to argue there’s not a direct cause.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko
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        I find a lot of contemporary Evangelical music really corny and uninspiring. It feels like it is just trying to be like contemporary popular music but abou Jesus. I’d stick with Bach and Handel. Though a lot of really good musicians do get started in church performances.

        As a Reform Jewish person, East Coast Reform Jewish music is “let’s try as hRd as possible to make us look like Episcopalians.” West coast Reform Judaism is folky guitar strumming. Neither is particularly inspiring.Report

        • InMD in reply to Saul Degraw
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          I have a close friend who is Reform Jewish. I don’t know the specifics but I assume hers is whatever sect/synagogue is most liberal since her rabbi married her to her wife over a decade ago.

          She once told me a that a fixture of every Reform household is an acoustic guitar that no one is any good with. Hopefully this isn’t offensive (it isn’t intended to be) but your comment reminded me of it and I chuckled.Report

        • Pinky in reply to Saul Degraw
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          Like most everything else in the West, our music tradition comes from the merging of Greek math and the Jewish soul.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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          Good cantor singing can be operatic in quality. More than a few cantors in the mid-20th century ended up as opera stars. One of them is Richard Tucker who performed at our paternal grandparent’s wedding according to Dad. This operatic style of cantor singing seems to be dying out in favor of folk style singing as a more women became cantors and Reform Judaism evolves in a more hippie direction.Report

  2. Burt Likko
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    A quibble I have with an argument in the article is that our current understanding of psychopathy is that these are people who cannot be taught empathy, but dangerously, psychopaths do learn how to imitate it, and that society dispenses rewards to them when they do so.

    One thing that does occur to me as I think this through is that the use of arts to teach empathy (or rather to cultivate it and encourage its expression) may be a way of eliciting a clue as to tendencies towards psychopathy. But I kind of hate to put that sort of thing on arts teachers. It would be interesting to hear from teachers about the spectrum of things they are already required to know and incorporate into their work, and whether this is the sort of thing that could fit into it.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Burt Likko
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      I’ve noticed that these days it’s popular to diagnose others as sociopaths or narcissists. This comment might also fit under the Xanex thread too, but everyone wants to describe themselves as children of narcissists. So I don’t trust the pop articles on psychopathy/sociopathy. That said, I don’t see anything wrong with teaching people to imitate empathy. That’s the full-time job of a parent of a child under 6. The ability to put oneself in another person’s shoes takes a while to develop. If it doesn’t develop at all in some people, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to teach them to act as though it did.Report

  3. InMD
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    says:

    An extremely important outlet for me in high school was jamming out on guitar. In fact it led to one of my closest friendships that I still maintain. We recorded some stuff that I’m sure would be embarrassing to hear now if I ever came across it. Sadly adult responsibilities have pretty much killed the hobby, though when my son was a baby every once in awhile I’d break out the acoustic for some nursery rhymes.

    In terms of (part of) this article’s thesis I do think the complete splintering of a mainstream in music has had some positive effects. A few months ago that same friend and I were talking about how one of the nice things we recall about high school was that, at least where we went, there was some generally broad appreciation for the fact that there was more out there than just what was on the radio. Now you really don’t need to rely on word of mouth or happenstance to find stuff that 25 years ago would have been untouchable by the mainstream. It’s all over the place.Report

    • Pinky in reply to InMD
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      Yes and no. I remember sharing music as a young person, and I don’t know if you could get that experience now. Less variety in the popular sounds but near-infinite options if you look for them, that’s got to be tough for a 14-year-old to navigate.Report

      • InMD in reply to Pinky
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        See to me it’s easier than ever. Me and that same friend I mentioned will occasionally drink beers Hank Hill style by his shed and play stuff we’ve discovered back and forth on YouTube or Spotify or whatever. Of course you have to have the inclination to do it but I’d love to think at least some 14 year olds are using the technology to expand their musical tastes. I’d have killed for it back in the day.Report

  4. Mike Schilling
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    Mozart’s 40th?Report

  5. Chris
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    Here ya go:

    https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/adorno/1944/culture-industry.htm

    Also, there’s a metric ton of really good new music out there. It’s just not on mainstream radio or in the Billboard Top 100, in part because it really very rarely has been over the decades, and in part because the markets for radio and high-sales music is very, very, very different than it was even a 10 years ago, and almost unrecognizable from what it was 50 years ago.

    Also, old people complaining about today’s music is perhaps one of the few things that has remained consistent about music for centuries.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Chris
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      Let’s see…mock or block, mock or block…I guess it doesn’t matter much. There’s no way back to respectability after that link.Report

    • TK Turbo, JSPS in reply to Chris
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      Absolutely correct there is really good new music out there. And, as “that guy,” I produce a live weekly stream of original singer/songwriter from our area. Again, as with avocados (personal fav) and brussel sprouts (gross), some I really like and some just isn’t my brand, but all of it is art. Its something I believe in whole-heartedly, but I can’t influence within the school structure (UofL School of Ed jaded me as student teacher inside of 2 years: I love students, but I am not entirely tolerant of kids (of any age)), so I do what I can in the community. So, from crayons to Rodin, we have a musical diversity that gives me hope, its just not really profitable. Doesn’t need to be, it just needs to happen.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris
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      You will probably dislike me for stating this but Sirius XMU has exposed me to a lot of good new music.Report

  6. TK Turbo, Jsps
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    Interesting that many of the replies went to religious vs. secular music. I contend that while the devotion to faith may be part and parcel to a piece, the music itself was a human expression. I would even say that Mozart’s attitude was “sure, god, yeah, whatever, dude, still $50.” Every last musical composition since the first banging of rocks and chanting grunts, those I do not like and those I do like, are human creations; it is unique to us to humans. Everything else are trappings to the central fact that each note and lyric was from a creative mind searching for an outlet.Report

    • Pinky in reply to TK Turbo, Jsps
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      I raised it because I think it’s an interesting topic in general, but also because a lot people have their first musical training in churches. Even just being the first time a kid sees written music or performs with others. It’s a human impulse though, I agree with that.Report

      • TK Turbo, JSPS in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        I was blessed with ignorance as a child, I guess. The cello and symphony were instrumental pieces with weird-ass names. There was some church music, but not, like, hard-core gospel (which has generated far better players at a far higher incident rate to any other genre). Even did a stint as a musical director for a worship music project until someone discovered I was a cigarette-smoking 4:20 advocate who was not a jesus freak. Nothing against it, just not my spiritual connection to the universe, but, man, were they pissed. They had been paying a blasphemer for months! (the music was good and the gigs were lining up. church circuit pays REAL well)Report

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