It’s been a musical week here at The Portly Politico, so I figured, “why stop now?”
I’ve dedicated more and more space on the blog to musical and cultural matters, especially in the last year. Among the posts I most enjoy writing—and of which I am most proud—are those I write about music.
This week’s TBT feature, “Music Among the Stars,” is one I really enjoy, and I think (humbly) it’s one of my better posts. It’s about the golden records aboard the Voyager I space probe, and about the true purpose of music—to worship God.
The new year school year is back into full swing, with this week being the first full week of classes. Needless to say, yours portly is tired, but very much enjoying the academic year so far.
I’m teaching Pre-AP Music Appreciation again this year, so I’m excited to dive back into some of the works we discussed last year—and some new ones! Of course, we’ve kicked the year off with a listening to “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” a favorite for introducing orchestral instruments.
My Pre-AP Music class this year is quite small—just five students—which makes for a more relaxed classroom environment. We’re able to explore tangents as they arise (and, based on my frequent use of em dashes and parentheses, you can imagine I go off on them frequently), and generally take the time to enjoy the music, which the students seem to be doing.
I don’t have much more to add that I didn’t write a year ago. Britten ingeniously weaves a whopping thirteen variations on a Henry Purcell theme, featuring nearly every instrument in the orchestra—including the percussion section!—in solo or soli. Even the neglected double basses get some love with a melody of their own.
The first short week of the new school year is in the books, and assuming I’m still alive when this post pops this morning, I survived!
That’s reason enough to be joyful, but in case my survival of a three-day workweek doesn’t inspire you, here are some more “the joy of” posts of a decidedly musical extraction that might:
“The Joy of Hymnals” (and “TBT: The Joy of Hymnals“) – I love this little post so much, I offer a PDF version of it as a freebie with any purchase of The Lo-Fi Hymnal. I’ve been playing piano at my little country church for a couple of years now, and it’s really given me a newfound respect for the theological and musical qualities of beloved hymns.
It’s also just fun, much like the music of Robert Mason Sandifer, the young composer I’m highlighting today. Mason, as I call him, is a private student of mine, so this post is perhaps a tad self-serving, but even if he weren’t my student, I would adore his music.
Later this month I’m hosting another front porch concert, following the success of my Spooktacular event in October. I’m quite excited to do another front porch concert, and I’m interested to see how the May date will stack up compared to Halloween. I’ve also ordered some great t-shirts, which I will have available on my Bandcamp merch page soon.
In preparing for the concert, I thought it might be a good time to look back at a post I wrote one year ago today, about the Tom Jones song “Delilah.” The first time I truly heard the song was when I heard Bruce Dickinson’s version. The Iron Maiden singer nailed the performance, and I immediately set about learning the song.
The latest target of the woke elites and their braying mobs is—that great symbol of imperialism and Western dominance—sheet music.
Apparently, some Oxford dons are considering removing sheet music and the ability to read traditional notation from its curriculum. One quotation from The Telegraph article notes that “The Oxford academics went on to pronounce that teaching the piano or conducting orchestras could cause ‘students of colour great distress’ as the skills involved are closely tied to ‘white European music’.”
This latest crusade is the musical equivalent of the effort in English departments across the country to downplay the teaching of grammar. Sure, one can make plenty of excellent music without knowing how to read notation, but why limit one’s self to tabs or lead sheets? I can certainly communicate certain ideas without adverbs, adjectives, or even pesky commas, but doing so severely limits the range of expression.
Here we are, another Sunday, which means it’s time for another Lazy Sunday. I’m feeling particularly lazy this weekend, so instead of searching out a particular theme, I’m offering up another grab bag of miscellaneous posts. I tried to pick three posts from the past year—one from March 2020, one from March 2021, and another random post. For that random post I went to October 2020, because I love all the spooky stuff I write in October.
So, here they are—your second Lazy Sunday grab bag:
“The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 1973” – It’s amazing how everyone was losing their heads a year ago over toilet paper. I still see signs in stores warning customers they are only allowed one package of toilet paper per visit. I had (thankfully) purchased fresh toilet paper about a week before The Age of The Virus began, not out of special forethought or insights into what was to come, but because I was running. Thank God for that. This post details another toilet paper shortage in 1973, fueled by the reckless comments of a Wisconsin Congressman.
“Monsters” – This post dealt with an issue of The Hedgehog Review about monsters. As a fan of horror movies, I enjoy speculation about monsters, and am particularly interested in “cryptids” and cryptozoology—the study of presumably mythical and/or undiscovered species. Who knows what wonders are still out there to discover—maybe the Lizard Man of Lee County?
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“: