The Joy of Romantic Music IV: Claude Debussy

The big news this week is that Milo Yiannopoulos is now “Ex-Gay,” which I intended to write about today.  However, that topic is so huge—much like the personality of the formerly loafer-whitened gadfly—that it deserves a more thorough treatment than I’m capable of producing at present.  Suffice it to say that, based on reading hundreds of his Telegram posts and listening to Milo’s commentary and analysis for years, I think he’s sincerely turning his life over to God completely, and through Christ is cleansing himself of his homosexual proclivities.  It’s a bit of celebratory news akin to Roosh V’s dramatic conversion to Christianity two years ago.

So instead of covering a flamboyant man’s dedication to Christ and consecration to St. Joseph, I’m dedicating today’s post to the flamboyant music of a Frenchman:  Claude Debussy.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Movie Round-Up I

With all the gloomy weather in South Carolina over the past week (please pray for the poor folks in Texas, who are facing truly dangerous weather conditions), it’s been ideal weather for staying home and watching movies.  Surprisingly, Hulu has upped its game a bit in terms of selection.

I’m running a tad behind with today’s post, so I figured rather than diving deeply into one movie, I’d give a quick round-up of several movies, with some quick notes on each.

Happy Viewing!

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Lazy Sunday XCIX: Romantic Music

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.

To that end, I thought I’d highlight the classier side of The Portly Politico with haute cuisine—my recent posts on Romantic music.  Seeing as Valentine’s Day is one week away, why not cozy up with passionate music from some of history’s greatest composersBon appétite!:

  • 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.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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TBT: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony

I’ve been on a major classical and Romantic music kick lately, dedicating the last three Fridays specifically to the music of the Romantic Period (here, here, and here).

As such, I thought it would be apropos to look back at a piece I wrote last January about Beethoven and his masterful Sixth Symphony.  The occasion for that piece was the South Carolina Philharmonic‘s Sunday matinee performance of their popular Beethoven and Blue Jeans concert—back in The Before Times when we still had live music.  The program, as I wrote at the time, was “‘Beethoven’s Greatest Hits,'” featuring Beethy’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor and Symphony No. 6 in F Major.

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“:

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The Joy of Romantic Music III: Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique”

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.

I’m a real sucker for program music—music that tells a story or depicts an idea or place—and the Romantic period was full of it.  There was perhaps no greater champion—if not practitioner; Camille Saint-Saëns likely holds that title—of the form than French composer Hector Berlioz.

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TBT: A Little Derb’ll Do Ya: Haydn’s “Derbyshire Marches”

The blog of late has been focusing more and more on culture, specifically music.  That makes sense because I am, after all, a music teacher, and am increasingly moving away from teaching social studies.  That’s never been truer than this year, where I am teaching, among other things, a detailed Music Appreciation course covering the major works and stylistic periods of Western music.

This focus is also a result of a desire to move away from the constant flux of politics.  More and more, I’m coming to believe that the best way to improve our lot is to focus on creating culture and building our communities.  Decentralized, localized bulwarks against progressivism offer one peaceful form in which like-minded conservatives and traditionalists can continue to live freely—at least to some extent—and happily.

So in casting about for a TBT post this week, I stumbled upon this one from 16 December 2019, “A Little Derb’ll Do Ya: Haydn’s ‘Derbyshire Marches.’”  My Music Appreciation students and I have been discussing Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, and have listened to a number of their works this week in class.

Joseph Haydn lived a remarkable, long, and successful life.  He grew up poor, and his early musical experiences involved hearing and singing the folk tunes of his native Austria.  He spent his childhood singing in a church, but was turned out when his voice changed.  He then made ends meet teaching music lessons and taking side gigs, slowly teaching himself how to compose.

His fortunes changed at 29 when he joined the Hungarian Esterházy family as their Kappelmeister, writing and composing a mind-boggling amount of pieces (at one point, the family staged two operas a week in their personal theatre in Hungary, all of which required Haydn’s pen and conductor’s baton).  But the position—difficult as it was—made Haydn wealthy and secure.

Even in spite of his workload and an unhappy marriage, Haydn maintained a positive attitude, and adopted an optimistic, humorous outlook on life.  It shows in his compositions, which are light-hearted, whimsical, joyous—and fun.

With that, here is 2019’s “A Little Derb’ll Do Ya: Haydn’s ‘Derbyshire Marches’“:

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Music Among the Stars

Back in 1977, NASA launched Voyager I, which is some 14 million miles from Earth.  The super nerds behind the mission stowed two golden records on board.  Those golden records included various selections to represent life on Earth, from “Johnny B. Goode” to nature sounds to classical music.

Over the Labor Day weekend a colleague e-mailed me Classical Archivesweekend newsletter, which includes some musings about why humans developed the ability to create—and their interest in—music.  The newsletter features the blog posts “Can E.T. Carry a Tune?” and “Music for Extraterrestrials… Sampling the Music Selected for NASA’s Voyager I.”

The former explores the possible deep origins of humanity’s music-making abilities.  It posits several theories developed from evolutionary biology.  As  a Christian, I find these explanations ultimately wanting, though they each make interesting points (the second proposed theory, for example, suggests “that music arose because it was a social glue that helped our ancestors bond with one another and with a group”).  Music serves many purposes, even if those purposes are not strictly utilitarian (and even then music can serve that function, such as coordinating workers’ movements via work songs).

Chiefly, though, music is intended to praise God.  Like the other arts, music is God’s grant of a small sliver of His Creative potential to His Creation—Tolkien’s “sub-creation” of Middle Earth serving as a prime literary example.  The highest form of musical expression, then, lifts up songs of praise to God.

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Lazy Sunday XLVIII: Culture

A paradox of blogging is that the more I write, the more difficult (at least some weeks) it is to think up a good theme for Lazy Sunday.  Part of the problem is that the earliest editions often featured very broad categories; thus, the proliferation of “Part II” posts throughout.

Of course, that’s probably a problem for me, the writer.  You’re just looking to scan through a list of hyperlinks while enjoying your pre-church coffee (or—given my tardiness posting of late—your post-church nap).  Such is the nature of the relationship between creator and consumer—thirty minutes put into crafting a blog post equates to about thirty seconds of skimming.  But it’s worth it to have your eyeballs (eww…) for those thirty seconds!

On that note, I’m dedicating this week’s Lazy Sunday to matters of culture.  In compiling this short list of recent pieces, I came to realize that I way overuse the “culture” tag on my blog posts.  In my defense, I do so because I see most issues as cultural (or, even more deeply, theological and philosophical), rather than merely political or economical, in nature.  The major political battles we’re fighting in the West today are, at heart, about culture.

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Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony

It’s been an artistically fulfilling weekend.  First there was the play (I’m sure readers are tired of reading about it) in which I performed.  After three successful performances, my girlfriend and I took in the South Carolina Philharmonic‘s Sunday matinee performance of their popular Beethoven and Blue Jeans concert.  Classical music is even more enjoyable when you get to wear jeans.

The SC Philharmonic’s energetic conductor, Morihiko Nakahara (a show in himself), didn’t pull any punches with this year’s B&BJ program.  It was, essentially, “Beethoven’s Greatest Hits,” as I remarked to my girlfriend.  Morihiko always tosses in one piece of weird modern classical music, but after enduring young composer Jessie Montgomery‘s 2016 tone poem “Records from a Vanishing City,” it was straight into the classics:  Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, the so-called Pastoral, rounded out the first half of the concert.  Then it was into the thundering “DUHN DUHN DUHN DUUUUUUH, DUHN DUHN DUHN DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUH” of the Symphony No. 5 in C Minor after the break.

Everyone loves the Fifth Symphony, with its iconic opening theme (the first in symphonic music to make a rhythmic idea the theme, not a melodic one).  But for my money, the bucolic beauty of the Sixth takes the cake.

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