On Thu, 26 Nov 1998, Anatoly Vorobey wrote:
> Though students do not have books, they most emphatically
> do have music. Nothing is more singular about this generation
> than its addiction to music. This is the age of music and the
> states of soul that accompany it. To find a rival to this
> enthusiasm, one would have to go back at least a century to
> Germany and the passion for Wagner's operas. They had the
> religious sense that Wanger was creating the meaning of life
> and that they were not merely listening to his works but
> experiencing that meaning. Today, a very large proportion of
> young people between the ages of ten and twenty live for music.
> It is their passion; nothing else excites them as it does; they
> cannot take seriously anything alien to music. [...] It is
> available twenty-four hours a day, everywhere. There is a stereo
> in the home, in the car; there are concerts; there are music
> videos, with special channels exclusively devoted to them, on
> the air nonstop; there are the Walkmans so that no place - not
> public transportation, not the library - prevents students from
> communing with the Muse, even while studying. And, above all, the
> musical soil has become tropically rich. No need to wait for one
> unpredictable genius. Now there are many geniuses, producing
> all the time, two new ones rising to take the place of every
> fallen hero. There is no dearth of the new and the startling.
> [...] But rock music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal, to
> sexual desire - not love, not _eros_, but sexual desire undeveloped
> and untutored. It acknowledges the first emanations of children's
> emerging sensuality and addresses them seriously, eliciting them
> and legitimating them, not as little sprouts that must be carefully
> tended in order to grow into gorgeous flowers, but as the real thing.
> Rock gives children, on a silver platter, with all the public authority
> of the entertainment industry, everything their parents always used
> to tell them they had to wait for until they grew up and would
> understand later.
> Young people know that rock has the beat of sexual intercourse. That
> is why Ravel's _Bolero_ is the one piece of classical music that is
> commonly known and liked by them. In alliance with some real art and
> a lot of pseudo-art, an enormous industry cultivates the taste for
> the orgiastic state of feeling connected with sex, providing a constant
> flood of fresh material for voracious appetites. Never was there an
> art form directed so exclusively to children.
> [...] Picture a thirteen-year-old boy sitting in the living room of
> his family doing his math assignment while wearing his Walkman headphones
> or watching MTV. He enjoys the liberties hard won over centuries by the
> alliance of philosophical genius and political heroism, consecrated
> by the blood of martyrs; he is provided with comfort and leisure by the
> most productive economy ever known to mankind; science has penetrated
> the secrets of nature in order to provide him with the marvelous, lifelike
> electronic sound and image reproduction he is enjoying. And in what
> does progress culminate? A pubescent child whose body throbs with orgasmic
> rhythms; whose feelings are made articulate in hymns to the joys of
> onanism or the killing of parents; whose ambition is to win fame and
> wealth in imitating the drag-queen who makes the music. In short, life is
> made into a nonstop, commercially prepackaged masturbational fantasy.
> [...] Some of this culture's power comes from the fact that it is so loud.
> It makes conversation impossible, so that much of friendship must be
> without the shared speech that Aristotle asserts is the essense of
> friendship and the only true common ground. With rock, illusions of shared
> feelings, bodily contact and grunted formulas, which are supposed to
> contain so much meaning beyong speech, are the basis of association. None
> of this contradicts going about the business of life, attending classes
> and doing the assignments for them. But the meaningful inner life is
> with the music.
> This phenomenon is both astounding and indigestible, and is hardly noticed,
> routine and habitual. But it is of historic proportions that a society's
> best young and their best energies should be so occupied. People of
> future civilizations will wonder at this and find it as incomprehensible
> as we do the caste system, witch-hunting, harems, cannibalism and
> gladiatorial combats. It may well be that a society's greatest madness
> seems normal to itself.
> [...] My concern here is not with the moral effects of this music -
> whether it leads to sex, violence or drugs. The issue here is its
> effect on education, and I believe it ruins the imagination of young
> people and makes it very difficult for them to have a passionate
> relationship with art and thought that are the substance of literal
> education. The first sensuous experiences are decisive in determining
> the taste for the whole of life, and they are the link between the
> animal and spiritual in us.
> [...] The choice is not between quick fixes and dull calculation. This
> is what liberal education is meant to show them. But as long as they have
> the Walkman on, they will not hear what the great tradition has to say.
> And, after its prolonged use, when they take it off, they find they are
> Allan Bloom, from "The Closing of the American Mind".
> Anatoly Vorobey,
> email@example.com http://pobox.com/~mellon/
> "Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly" - G.K.Chesterton
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