In looking back at posts from March 2020, it’s wild how many of my posts were about two plagues on humanity: the Democratic Party primaries and The Virus. What’s particularly interesting is how those posts—including the one below—still assumed that life would begin returning to normal after two weeks; after all, we were all promised “two weeks to flatten the curve,” and now we’re living under perpetual public health tyranny.
Amidst all of that plague talk, I penned a short post about the Strasbourg “Dancing Plague” of 1518. After being told to vegetate indoors for a year, I’m beginning to think a mystery plague that causes hysterical dancing might be preferable to the foolishness we’re enduring at present.
But I’ll keep the preamble brief and let the post do the talking. Here is 23 March 2020’s “The Boogie Woogie Flu“:
As a bit of a mea culpa for my positive post about Mitt Romney’s pro-natalism plan, I thought I’d atone by looking back to one of my better posts: a detailed rundown of the Romney family’s long history of waffling on important issues, and attempting to play both sides of the political spectrum simultaneously.
Romney’s father, George Romney, was one of a (thankfully) dying breed: the Rockefeller Republicans. These “moderate” and liberal Republicans essentially were a paler echo of the postwar Democratic Party: they espoused heavy spending, government intervention, and socially progressive policies, just in a more toned-down manner than their more overtly progressive colleagues in the opposing party.
In this post, I review Romney the Elder’s infamous “brainwashing” interview, in which he claimed his earlier pro-Vietnam War position was due to a thorough “brainwashing” by the United States military. It was a politically catastrophic and bizarre statement, and one that demonstrated yet another of Romney’s shifting positions to fit with the tenor and fashions of the time.
And so it continues with Romney the Younger, who voted this week to proceed with the farcical impeachment trial against a man who is no longer holding office. Romney will yet again bask in temporary accolades for his “courage” and “bipartisanship” in the press, before they return to reviling him for being a Republican.
At this point, why can’t these Republican squishes—Romney, Murkowski, Collin, et. al.—just show their true colors and join the Democratic Party?
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.
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.
Here we are—another Christmas Eve. It’s a night full of magic, mysticism, and wonder—the Light and holy version of Halloween, when the tenuous division between our corporeal existence and the supernatural world is thin.
Last year I wrote of my family’s Christmas Eve traditions, which are changing up a bit again this year. In lieu of the usual evening candlelight service, we’re going to an afternoon service at a church in my younger brother’s neck of the woods. Afterwards, we’ll be enjoying Chinese food—a newer tradition for us—and some fondue, a tradition from my sister-in-law’s side of the family. We’re beginning to sound like 1970s Jews on Christmas.
Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas tomorrow—and some Christmas Eve merriment tonight! With that, here is 24 December 2019’s “Christmas Eve“: