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“:
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.