The Emperor’s Clothes
Sadly, this still rings true. Originally posted June 2008.
Given the current political circus rambling around the country, you, dear reader, may be forgiven if you think I am about to engage in a rant regarding the total vacuity of the political platform of one party, or the wrongheadedness of a significant portion of the other side’s platform (at least at this point). However, such is not the case. Others are doing an admirable job on this issue and I will let them take main stage in that arena. Instead, I am going to pontificate based on a thoroughly glorious experience of this past [i.e., in June 2008] weekend about the cultural vacuum currently strangling the vast majority of composers of music in this fair land.
My daughters are classical musicians, most recently trained in a major university here in the Midwest. A young man of our acquaintance graduated with them with a bachelor’s in composition, and from his shared experiences with my daughters, and my own observation, the composition “teachers” (and I use that term loosely at this point) at this university pride themselves in being “on the cutting edge” of avant-garde music. Their output is, to put it mildly, as memorable as the screeching of tires just before the impact in a 50 car pileup on a foggy day…and about as pleasant to the ear. These poor souls think they are oh so sophisticated in their rejection of the “Old School” that believes that, perhaps, music should be beautiful, melodious, and follow certain rules of structure and composition. Yet, having cast aside these “oppressive shackles,” their creations insult the definition of music, fitting much more readily into the category of noise, and cacophonous noise at that. Root canals are more pleasant, and ultimately, their output stimulates at best the three R’s: rejection, revulsion, and regurgitation!
In stark contrast to these emperors running around with no clothes, we have the titans of music from the past fully clothed in true regal splendor, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms to name just the “3 B’s,” whose works are beloved still and have stood the test of time, and whose names are foreign to only the most illiterate (i.e., the public school educated). The experience to which I referred above was a performance of Beethoven’s glorious Ninth Symphony. Glorious is, was, and will be the word for such music. But why? What sets this music apart? Great, glorious, memorable music reaches into the human soul and resonates with the human spirit, elevating and reminding him of his divine origin, as the Psalmist so pointedly exclaims:
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands…. (Psalm 8:3-6)
Remember that the Psalms were Israel’s hymnal. Johann Sebastian Bach said, “Music’s only purpose should be for the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.” Not to be outdone, Martin Luther said of music:
He who despises music, as do all the fanatics, does not please me. Music is a gift of God, not a gift of men…. After theology I accord to music the highest place and greatest honor.
This connection to the divine is, of course, a primary reason for the degradation of the musical arts. Having its roots in Marxist/Leninist philosophy, the liberal worldview knows nothing of God and seeks to chase God from the culture and public discourse in all possible venues. This is not some shadowy conspiracy theory. In a previous post entitled The Enemy Within, I documented goals the Communist Party drafted and published in the 1950’s and which they then went about to implement all too successfully into the American cultural milieu to bring us down. Two of them read:
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, meaningless forms.”
Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”
Note the adjectives they chose to describe what they wanted to create: “shapeless, awkward, meaningless, ugly,” and their goal to apply this to “all forms of artistic expression.” While the above only mentions art as found in museums, the art of the concert hall falls under this purview as well, and has suffered under their attack.
What to do?
Support your local radio station that plays classical music. Take your children to classical concerts and go yourself even if you don’t have children. (Hmm, take someone else’s?) Enrich your life with the glory of good music. Above all, be aware of this front on the cultural war and take your place on the line wherever you can.