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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

The Spectator reveals Why the mid-1960s was the golden age of pop music

On a Monday evening in May 1966, Paul McCartney and John Lennon visited a nightclub called Dolly’s in Jermyn Street. The two Beatles were accompanied by two Rolling Stones, Brian Jones and Keith Richards. Already at the club was Bob Dylan, stopping off in London on his European tour.

Dylan had first met Lennon and McCartney nearly two years earlier at the Delmonico Hotel in New York. All four Beatles, then in the first flush of American success, had gone to meet him after playing to thousands of screaming teenagers at a tennis stadium in Queen’s. Their fascination with his lyrical and emotional maturity was already showing in their songs. Although Dylan was less likely to admit it, the influence went both ways. Intrigued by the group’s musical sophistication (‘She Loves You’ uses nine chords, ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ three), he was edging towards a poppier, band-based sound. That night, he introduced the Beatles to marijuana, which bent them further out of shape — or rather into a new one.

I don't want to quote any more, so go read the whole thing. These guys hung out a lot together, shared ongoing projects and influenced one another. Interesting scene. Of course nowadays most pop songs are written by a committee in Sweden...

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 Here is the New York Times' take on the Best Classical Music of 2021. Almost the only item that was not New York centric was this one:

It always feels frivolous to speak in superlatives, but this year it’s fitting — necessary, even — to name a best composer.

Kaija Saariaho, who has long conjured otherworldly sounds with the spirit of an explorer returning to share her discoveries, reached new heights of mastery with two of 2021’s most memorable premieres: the opera “Innocence” and the symphonic “Vista.”

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Over at the Marginal Revolution blog there is a post on How to read canonical Western literature. I just think it is heartening that we can still talk about canonical Western literature without, you know, scare quotes.

Assume from the beginning that you will need to read the work more than once, or at least read significant portions of the work more than once.  Furthermore, these multiple readings should be done back-to-back (and also over many years, btw, after all this is the canonical).  So your first reading should not in every way be super-careful, as you don’t yet know what to look for.  Treat the first reading as a warm-up for the second reading to follow.

I might do a similar post on canonical Western music if only because the whole notion that there is such a thing is pooh-poohed so often. In my own mind there is an interesting tension between the idea that there is a canon of Great Works that remains fairly stable over a long period of time and the idea that the canon is always undergoing a revision and renewal. Some works, pretty much anything by Bach, for example, seem to be absolutely central, but other composers wax and wane over the decades and centuries.

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Also from the same blog, a reference to a Times of London article that I can't access:

A leading music teacher has said the popularity of the ukulele is threatening classical guitar playing.

More than one in ten musical schoolchildren now play the ukulele, the largest proportion ever, a study by the music exam board ABRSM found. It said the instrument’s popularity grew from 1 per cent of school music students in 1997 to 15 per cent last year.

The ukulele was cited as a cause of the decline of the recorder in schools but in a letter to The Times, Graham Wade, former head of guitar teaching at Leeds College of Music, said the popularity of the four-stringed ukulele was threatening its six-stringed uncle.

“The ukulele is more likely to oust the guitar (whether classical or otherwise) from early instrumental tuition than the recorder,” he said. “I have been a classical guitar teacher in schools and colleges for 50 years, and the subtext of your headline is the demise of a worthy musical tradition.”

Any time I encounter real excellence or genuine knowledge I find it stimulating. I recall a conversation I had with a new friend in my first year at university. He was a recorder player and spent several minutes discussing conical vs straight recorder bores, simply assuming that I was both interested and could follow the discussion. I found that very stimulating. On the other hand, all those situations where the assumption is that everyone is pretty much an idiot leave me distraught. 

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The Left Should Defend Classical Education. Well, sure. But why?

...the perspective of Roosevelt Montás, author of Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation, is so badly needed. Montás is as passionate about the great books as Allan Bloom and his present-day intellectual descendants, but there’s an important difference: For Montás, the classical curriculum isn’t part of a proxy war against egalitarian politics. In this part memoir, part call to action, Montás argues that reading great literature and philosophy can make working-class people’s lives more meaningful and that everyone should have the opportunity to read great books. Instead of ceding this issue to the Right, as we often do, the Left should heed his arguments.

My view is that a good education, which should certainly include what is known as the "classical curriculum", is essential to one's full realization of one's character and potential. It's how you become what you truly are. Otherwise you are just a slave to someone's ideology.

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We start with Vista by Kaija Saariaho:

And some Bach:

Finally, a song by George Harrison:

One of the most unromantic love songs ever written. Influenced by the Byrds' use of the jangly 12-string guitar sound, which itself was influenced by George Harrison's use of the instrument in the film A Hard Day's Night.

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