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Some Cultural Musings

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Title : Some Cultural Musings
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Some Cultural Musings

It seems you can't turn around these days without running into yet another trailer for Peter Jackson's documentary on the Beatles, or a piece in the New York Times, or a review on a blog. IT'S EVERYWHERE! Which makes me think that this is the end of the Beatles as an interesting cultural phenomenon. I do have a beef with Peter Jackson: I disliked The Lord of the Rings and I really hated what he did to The Hobbit. I grew up with those books and I think that the movies, while visually appealing, were a severe diminishment of the books. For one thing, they fix in the mind certain images that replace the ones the imagination creates when you read. That is a big deal, in my opinion. And the soundtrack tends to trivialize the mood and, again, prevents you from having your own emotional reaction.

I have the same thoughts regarding the Harry Potter movies. The generic, derivative orchestral scores from John Williams, again, trivialize the narrative and the same caveats apply to the visual imagery. I know this just sounds grouchy, and it certainly doesn't diminish my enjoyment as I just go back to the books. But I worry that lots of people think they have experienced the Tolkien and Rowling books by seeing the movies, when they really have not. It seems that any popular literature stands the risk of being Disneyfied.

What I think underlies this is a general cultural phenomenon where excellence and challenging literature is discounted in favor of trivial and maudlin displays. I guess to a narcissistic generation this is appropriate. If all you want is to be reinforced, told how wonderful you are and reassured as to your being the best and deserving the best, then hey wow. I think a whole raft of so-called "self-help" books were really mislabeled. They should be called "self-harm" books. As it says in the Odyssey somewhere, "sufferings are teachings." And the contrary: if you are insulated from all suffering and challenges, then your learning experience is impoverished.

Of course, reality has a tendency to break through our little delusions like a splash of ice water. In this wonderful modern world we live in, twelve major cities in the US are experiencing record levels of homicides. But we are going to be carbon-free by 2050!

Still, despite all the fearsome rumblings in the world, I'm having a lot of fun and have no complaints. Really! Mind you, I am going to put off all travel plans for the foreseeable future. But I seem to be living in a place that has not entirely lost its mind, for whatever reason, and I can live, not only a relatively normal life, but a fulfilling one. Well, yeah, I can't seem to get any pieces premiered, but you can't have everything.

The upside of the current situation is that with resources like YouTube, you can hear just about any piece of music you want. I was just listening to a 2019 piece by Kaija Saariaho titled Vista and a lovely piece it is. Back in the good old days you could not hear music like that unless you lived where it was premiered or unless CBC broadcast it (unlikely) and if it had not yet been commercially recorded, your only other option was to buy the score at some horrendous price. Now, just go to YouTube and there it is. And the sound quality is not too bad. Just that alone is really amazing. Another upside, I can video chat with my ex-wife in Germany over Facetime and usually the picture is clear and the audio is pretty good. These are real treasures and were not available until recent years.

So I suppose we should just be grateful for the good stuff!




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