The choice of the word “ritual” is not mere metaphor: for me, there really is a certain rhythm and order to movie-going. It’s not the same as watching a movie on the couch (as this excursion reminded me), but truly is a whole experience. The theater is the one place I’ll pay $7 for a Diet Coke, and I gladly plopped down $16 for a massive bag of popcorn and a jug of artificially-sweetened carbonated beverage this weekend.
Some movies are meant to be seen on the big screen—special effects-laden epics, for example—but some movies are simply better on the big screen. The Little Things (2021), which I saw this weekend, was one such film. It’s a movie I could have easily picked up on RedBox for a fraction of the price, but I think watching it at home would have undermined my appreciation of the film considerably. Watching on the big screen demands one’s entire attention (especially now that theaters are operating at reduced capacity, making for fewer annoying patrons); watching at home offers myriad distractions. If I’d seen The Little Things at home, I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much as I did.
It’s Valentine’s Day—and the one-hundredth installment of Lazy Sunday! Because I did the “Best of Lazy Sunday” prematurely due to The Great Misnumbering, I decided to take a look back at Valentine’s Day posts.
Unfortunately, I only have two posts for Valentine’s Day, which I don’t celebrate with the same gusto as Halloween or Christmas. So I’m also going to toss in a sales pitch for one of my albums, which you’re welcome to ignore.
“Phone it in Friday VI: Valentine’s Day” – When I wrote this post on Valentine’s Day 2020, it felt like a different world. It was in The Before Times, in The Long, Long Ago, before The Age of The Virus. I was single, which I always find to be a bit of a blessing on Valentine’s Day, as it releases me from the oft-unreasonable demands and expectations the holiday places upon men. I linked to several great pieces and one podcast about love, marriage, and all that mushy stuff, and I think those pieces still hold up, especially photog’s piece on matchmakers. Read the comments!
After three Sundays, several SubscribeStar Saturdays, and some Mondays of movie reviews, it seemed like a good time to give the movies a rest. Don’t get me wrong—there’s a good chance I’ll be writing a movie review tomorrow—but I realized the blog has been skewing a bit heavily in that direction for a few weeks. Sure, it’s wintertime, the perfect time to vegetate while consuming schlock in the evening, but that doesn’t mean we can live on cultural junk food alone.
“Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony” (and “TBT: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“) – photog gave the TBT version of this post a shout-out in his most recent “Friday Finds” post. I’m grateful he did, in no small part because everyone should hear this beautiful, programmatic symphony. The Pastoral is a beautiful, melodious traipse through the countryside—all told musically.
“The Joy of Romantic Music” – For a very brief introduction to and primer for Romantic music, I humbly submit this post. I point out just a few of the many excellent composers from the time period, almost all of whom I’ve discussed in class this semester.
“The Joy of Romantic Music II: Bedřich Smetana’s ‘The Moldau’” – Due to a WordPress error, the e-mail preview for this post went out a couple of days before the post was published, meaning that many folks missed it. That’s a shame, because it’s an absolutely gorgeous bit of nationalistic (and naturalistic) composing, detailing a whimsical river cruise down the titular river, sailing through the Bohemian countryside, through Prague, and past an ancient castle.
“The Joy of Romantic Music III: Hector Berlioz’s ‘Symphonie Fantastique’” – I’ve become fascinated with Hector Berlioz, which is apparently quite common: music critics either love him almost as madly as he loved Harriet Smithson, or they reject him entirely. I tend towards the former camp. Berlioz was a Romantic’s Romantic—full of lofty ideals about the power of music and the passions it stirred. The Symphonie Fantastique—which he wrote for and about Smithson, and his intense love for her—is likely the first psychedelic work, as it features an opium-addled artist descending into strange dreams.
I’m sure I’ll write more about Romantic composers soon, but these four posts should give you plenty of listening to get you started.
The Sixth, often called the “Pastoral,” is one of my favorites. I’m a sucker for programmatic music, and there are programmatic elements embedded in the titles of each of the symphony’s movements, but the music sounds like the countryside.
But I covered all of this a year ago, so why repeat myself (except that I’m doing that below… hmm…)? Here is January 2020’s “Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“:
To take us into the last weekend in January, I thought it would be nice to do at least one more entry in my unplanned Friday miniseries on “The Joy of Romantic Music” (read the second installment here). I very much enjoy the music of the Romantic composers, and have discovered some new favorites as I’ve been covering them in my Pre-AP Music Appreciation class.
It’s been an eventful week, so I figured an extra post today running down the posts from the past few days would be worthwhile. Also, I’m a slave to the WordPress daily streak counter, and when I scheduled this morning’s post on Wednesday, WordPress for some reason immediately e-mailed a preview; ergo, I want to make sure I get the daily post streak. Gotta keep the streak alive!
“The Last Day of Freedom?” (Tuesday, 19 January 2021) – Some musings on life under the (then-pending) Biden administration. Contra one anonymous commentator’s claims that I was lying and fearful, a closer reading of this long post indicates that I am optimistic, not about the national government, but about local government and community-building.
Last Friday I wrote of the beauty and power—the sheer joy—of Romantic music, a topic I’ve covered once before on this blog. In writing last week’s post, I noted briefly that Romantic music is nationalistic, which was certainly true in a number of cases.
Europe following the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars was a hotbed of political activity and nationalist sentiment. The Congress of Vienna (1815) redrew the map of Central Europe, reducing the hundreds of German principalities, bishoprics, duchies, baronies, and the rest into about a dozen political units, hoping these larger Germanic kingdoms would serve as a bulwark against future French aggression. They did, and more—under the steady Realpolitik of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Prussia gradually grew to unite these new lands into the Second Reich—a unified Germany.
Meanwhile, smaller nations chafed under Austrian or French influence. Bohemia—now part of the Czech Republic—fought against Austrian political rule and the German language that came with it. Bohemians championed the revival of their native Czech language, and began revisiting Czech folklore and music as the resting place of the national spirit.
This process was not unique to Bohemia or the Czechs, but today’s featured piece, Czech composer Bedřich Smetana‘s The Moldau, is a prime of example of how nationalist musical ideas can capture beautifully a sense of a place, while also transcending national identity and borders.
This semester started with two weeks of online learning (of which today is the last day before students and teachers return to campus after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), so it’s been an unusually slow start to the already sleepy January term. However, that hasn’t stopped my music classes from listening to great music; indeed, we’re now covering what is perhaps my favorite period in the history of Western music: the Romantic Era.
While I adore Baroque and classical composers and their works, Romantic music builds upon the forms established in those eras, stretching and expanding upon them to reach new heights of emotional intensity and musical expressiveness. The music of the Romantic composers delights with its musical exploration of the supernatural, the mysterious, the Gothic, and the nationalistic.