Category Archives: arts education

Yesterday.

 

I love the past.

1970’s superstar Billy Joel has his own SiriusXM station. Unlike the breadth of his continuing career, he gets to keep Channel 30 for just a few weeks, kind of like a feature. I’ve been enjoying his retrospective, while driving to the Food Co-op, or out on errands – every time I’m behind that wheel. Along with legions of others, I get this brief chance to travel across his repertoire with him, in between snippets of commentary and gems from his recollection.

Of particular interest is the story of how he became a songwriter. Apparently, his mother always played her favorite records, at home. She loved Gilbert and Sullivan, and others from her era. Billy absorbed solid songwriting from these masters but, as he recounts, his fire wasn’t really lit until he heard the Beatles.

And, the other day, while presenting his Songs I Wish I’d Written segment, he invariably cited one of them: Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday.”

Now, everybody knows that the popular song is the capsule for every memory, in our lifetime. And, most of us have a narrative for every favorite we can name. But, only the psychologists have warned that nostalgia isn’t particularly “healthy”; they, along with those Be In The NOW proponents, argue that living in the past is oppressive, even toxic.

At least two songwriters might challenge that.

Here we have legends, in their own time – Joel, and McCartney. I’m betting neither of these song meisters are wallowing in whatever happened to them. Their respect for the past is a real religion; they both know that, if we lose faith in what has made us who we are today, we’ll have little upon which to grow for tomorrow.

The Millennials, who live in a world of instantaneity, may not have a concept of history. They may be missing a reverence for that which is foundational, upon which the new must be built. They may not realize that what they deem worthy may have come from the mind of one for whom effort to produce it was lifelong. From their perspective, that which isn’t current is both passe and dispensable, devoid of value. Displacement has supplanted any concept of what used to be termed “classic.” Yet, how many of their pop celebrities are producing music which will endure? Whatever happened to “the test of time”?

We may long for that which is past, but we can hide away, even believe, in our yesterdays. I’m grateful, today, to be part of a generation which can still embody what it can also remember.

Sing on, gentlemen.

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© 10/21/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

 

The Prolific.

 

Beethoven was a loner.

Reports are his hair was often dirty. He’d wear a long top coat, pencils in the pockets, and pace the streets, muttering under his likely foul, acidic breath. His personality was neither warm nor appealing. To use contemporary vernacular, he was not well liked. Had there been a club, he would not have been invited.

Upstairs, where it all happened, he’d pore over his scores, for hours on end. The man was a driven perfectionist; his original manuscripts show so many scribbled erasures so as to have damaged the paper upon which his markings were made.

The totality of his compositions, while many, were not what one would call evidence of a prolific; rather, they were each in their own way masterpieces. They were masterpieces because, whether Beethoven himself realized it or not, he was changing the sound of music for ages to come.

And, in fact, there is hardly a civilized person who cannot name the 9 Beethoven symphonies as placed among the pearls of creative treasure for all of history.

Bach preceded Beethoven, by a stretch.

His output was enormous.

Each Sunday, there was a new Chorale for the church. Bach wrote 600 of these. And, within the mainstream of cultured society, although they are among the most beautiful of musical creations he isn’t even known for them; most cite his volumes of two and three part inventions for keyboard instruments, his partitas, his chaconnes, his toccattas and fugues.

Two singular composers, both creative geniuses.

Is one of higher value than the other?

In matters of taste, two constituencies may form. Under Beethoven, those who prefer to be moved by chordal harmonies and driving rhythm; under Bach, those affected by the intricate complexity of voicing and counterpoint.

But, each contributed not by the collected volume of individual works, but by sheer artistic impact. Regardless the quantity, the power of their affect lay in the quality.

Let’s not ask of our artists that they fulfill our time based expectations. Let us cast aside judgment against the frequency of their contributions. Art needs neither justification, nor critique upon its merit. The next masterpiece may already be in progress. All we have to do is wait, and prepare our hearts.

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© 10/18/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

A Crisis of Childishness.

 

Kindergarten.

The term itself is Germanic in derivation and, I believe, the concept as well.

Children, able to be separated from their parents for a single school day, brought together in groups according to their chronological age to be led by a competent adult, because socialization is considered vital to the success of an earthly civilization.

I remember what we did in Kindergarten. The year was 1962. Mrs. Williams’ room was the largest one at Lincoln School, with the bay window where the painting easels stood.  We each had a spot on the rug, sat cross legged, and faced her laced up shoes as she stood in front of us. We always opened each morning with a song, then the day of the week and the weather. We always made pictures, had a nap, played games and ate a snack.

But, beyond all this, a sentient sage compiled all the things that made it truly important and put them onto a lovely poster: “Everything I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. Herewith, a couple I’d like to add to that list:

a.) Keep your hands to yourself.

Goodness. Need we say more?

b.) Be kind.

How about:

c.) Tell the truth.

Are there any questions?

Does everybody understand?

Over the past couple of decades, I have watched the nation I call my own collapsing into a puddle of human depravity. This has made itself manifest in the form of fundamental behaviors we used to tell children were unacceptable.

Grown ups, touching each other inappropriately, but with sophisticated persuasive tactics that would make a chemist blush. And, then, going to equally intricate lengths to scrub out the crayon mark tracks they leave behind.

Alleged adults, grasping after power over one another’s things, taking what doesn’t belong to them with such drooling greed that even the 5 year olds would stop, stare, and wag an admonishing finger.

Moreover, the leader of our country, who is supposed to be the model for doing what is right, paying money to keep quiet those who would tell on his bad behavior to the people and then saying to everyone that, even though a girl said a man didn’t keep his hands to himself, we should let him into the little club where they make all the rules for good behavior for the whole country.

In fact, just today, all the leaders of the other countries laughed at him.

I don’t know about you, but I am embarrassed.

I’m mortified.

I suspect the Chancellor of Germany is appalled.

Our country is remedial. We need a retake, and a redo. We could do well to start over. Before we know it, the bell will ring, and school will be out.

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© 9/25/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com