Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shake Your Booty!

 A writer at PJMedia comes to the shocking conclusion that musical skill no longer matters in music...


Longtime conductor of the Chicago Symphony, Georg Solti, was once asked why he didn’t program more modern repertoire. Solti’s response was, I thought, illuminating: all of us reach a point in our lives where the music we already know is sufficient for us and forms the basis of what we cherish, and we lose the ability to truly appreciate anything (stylistically) newer. Solti said, for him, music stopped sometime around 1950. So, yes to Bartok, Hindemith, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich; no to Stockhausen, Lutoslawski, Carter, and Xenakis.

I notice the same sort of thing in pop/rock music. For me, music stopped sometime around 1980. So, yes to Gerry Rafferty, Dire Straits, Supertramp, Robert Palmer, and ZZTop; no to Madonna, Pat Benatar, the Culture Club, rap, crap, and hip-hop.

Once upon a time, a musician did not need to be charismatic to sell a good tune, but it helped. Elvis was king, but there was also Roy Orbison and Bobby Darin, neither man being a sexual god. Barbra, for crying out loud, was no beauty queen, though Barbra might disagree. What I’m seeing nowadays is the opposite situation: the music has become a mere vehicle for the charisma (such as it is). Britney Spears is not a musician or even a particularly talented singer, and the songs? If you’ve heard one, you’ve heard ‘em all. Britney Spears shakes her butt and the music helps with the packaging. That makes her a butt shaker, not a singer.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Flattery Will Get You Nowhere

English professor Janice Fiamengo's perspective on what's wrong with students -- and education -- today, here:


On the streak of narcissism that results when you teach self-esteem rather than actual subject material...

"[The students'] belief that nothing requires improvement except the grade is one of the biggest obstacles that teachers face in the modern university.  And that is perhaps the real tragedy of our education system: not only that so many students enter university lacking the basic skills and knowledge to succeed in their courses — terrible in itself — but also that they often arrive essentially unteachable, lacking the personal qualities necessary to respond to criticism."

On grade inflation...

"In the past twenty years, the well-documented phenomenon of grade inflation in humanities subjects — the awarding of high “Bs” and “As” to the vast majority of students — has increased the conviction that everyone is first-rate."

(Which, of course, flies in the face of the truism that half the population is below average.)

On where the progressives jumped the track:

"Memorization itself, the foundation of traditional teaching, came to be seen as an enemy of creative thought: pejorative similes for memory work such as “rote learning” and “fact-grinding” suggest the classroom equivalent of a military drill, harsh and unaccommodating. The progressive approach, in contrast, emphasizes variety, pleasure, and student interest and self-motivation above all."

I was always suspicious of education fads that dismissed any learning done by "rote memorization."  On the contrary, I have always instinctively thought that memorization is to learning as calisthenics and drill are to playing football, or basic training is to warfare, or scales and arpeggios are to performing music.  In football, nobody skips the practice field or the training camp and goes straight to the scrimmage.  In warfare, nobody starts his military career by charging up San Juan Hill.  In music, you don't perform in Carnegie Hall without having first played a few thousand scales.

One lesson that you learn when studying music is that there are no A's for effort.  I never had a music instructor who felt it necessary to boost my self-esteem, though I could have sworn there were several who had quite the opposite goal.  You pay these folks to criticize your playing, and criticism is what you get.

You can't teach someone who thinks he knows everything already.  That makes humility a valuable commodity.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It's All About Him

Did you know that, at the official White House web site, the historical blurbs on every President since Coolidge (except Ford) now include little congratulatory notes on the Obama administration? It's almost like President Hoover was already thinking of the future zygote that would become the change we were waiting for, when he invented the vacuum cleaner.
Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.  And Jim Treacher, as usual, is without mercy.  http://dailycaller.com/2012/05/15/obamas-glory-was-inevitable-says-obama/

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rhetoric, Obama-Style

The President came out today in favor of gay marriage, as best as anyone can tell.  Well, at least he is no longer a bigot.

Obama: "I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married."

That's all in one sentence, too. But the key part... "I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm...." Now, that's a full-throated defense of gay marriage right there.

It's right up there with other great declarations in history.

Patrick Henry: "But as for me personally, I think it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that you can either allow me an appropriate degree of liberty, or at some point consider terminating my functioning as an organism."

Thomas Jefferson: "We feel the time has come when it is important to us to go ahead and affirm that we hold certain truths to be personally relevant, that all men, and women too, are created equal, that they are endowed by such a creator as would be congruent with our personal belief system, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are human life (where it is wanted), liberty -- of course, in the sense that we should all be liberated from want -- and the pursuit of happiness so long as it doesn't conflict with the more important goals of the government, and involves no bitter clinging."

FDR: "I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who have been living in fear, that at a certain point I've just concluded for me personally that we have little in the way to fear, actually, except for the generic fear in and of itself that can paralyze a positive response to the threats that I, personally, perceive as facing the country."
With inspirational leaders like this, no wonder America is such a great country.