Sunday, June 13, 2010

Interesting Insights about music

This is a letter sent by a friend who lives on the East Coast. She and her husband and two kids live in a Catholic community. I met her in my hometown in Minnesota in Junior High.

These are some cool insights.


While doing my decluttering, I came upon the attached review by Joseph Sobran from 1988 of a book called Seductions of Crime by Jack Katz which I’d saved and marked up. I was struck by his descriptions of what we’d call “cool.”

Katz discusses criminals (and those not at all opposed to becoming such) having:

“...’an alien aesthetic’ of strutting, glaring, tattoos, slang, dress and general demeanor, all signifying a ‘toughness [that] manifests that one is not morally or emotionally accessible.”

“...[scary tattoos] suggest that the wearer...is unresponsive to conventional moral appeals.”

“...taking the posture of an alien presence, a being who moves coolly above the mundane realities of others.”

“The person who would be tough must cultivate in others the perception that they cannot reach his sensibilities.”

I wonder if the reality is that they CANNOT be reached. That it isn’t any cultivated act...just fact. That if it IS an act, it’s a way to sluff off and deny & defy the reality of who they are, what they have done, what they have become.

Take what interpretation one may, I found Katz’s “take” (pardon the pun) “arresting” – his description is something we all recognize but perhaps haven’t seen expressed so clearly. Of course Socrates recognized the attitude millennia ago in relation to music (music, as Ted pointed out, was seen as being capable of being bad, loooooooong ago!):

'Through foolishness they deceived themselves into thinking that there was no right or wrong way in music, that it was to be judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave." With these words Plato complained about the "promiscuous cleverness and a spirit of law-breaking" that characterized the music of his time—the fourth century B.C.

Socrates points out that music “makes men [adolescents! PN] think they are knowers” – and, when they get the wordsmiths involved, music incites them to a state of mind where they “publicize what is properly private.” Socrates talks about certain types of music making the young, when ensconced in it, unable to recognize their betters (IMHO, take, say, certain rap music, or as Cassie as a kid thought it was called, “rat music”).

Another factor regarding music’s power - I remember how Plato wrote that whatever music is currently in vogue “presages the regime to come.”

presage: Etymology: Middle English, from Latin praesagium, from praesagus having a foreboding, from prae- + sagus prophetic — more at seek

Date: 14th century

1 : something that foreshadows or portends a future event : omen
2 : an intuition or feeling of what is going to happen in the future
3 archaic : prognostication
4 : warning or indication of the future

Jim once observed that he was feeling perplexed about what music IS, about what it IS that makes humans suddenly go from our normal way of being to that state in which we feel impelled to break into “song” and create “music” -- the answer that came: “Celebration.” “Music comes when we celebrate. And shows exactly WHAT we celebrate.”

As Socrates and Plato knew, it isn’t always nice or lawful.

But as far as prognostication of the future, I actually think things “musically” have improved. Not to sound like the old fogey that I am, but I’ve seen and heard and passed thru a lot in my day! And I think in general what we hear now is less confused and more hopeful than, say, the punk era...

Paula

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