Bringing classical music and opera to the people!
Bringing classical music and opera to the people!
Daily High Culture 16: Light Into the Darkness
May 8, 2020
"To send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist." Robert Schumann
This is a noble calling but what about those of us who aren’t artists? Our responsibility is to let the light of art into the dark recesses of our hearts. Our responsibility is to cultivate ourselves in order to receive the light.
How is that done? My first recommendation would be to subscribe to Classical Rebellion and turn on notifications! If we start interacting with the arts just a little bit every day, our capacity to allow light into our hearts will grow.
Whenever this idea of just a little bit every day comes up, we need to remember that for some of us that is almost impossible. If your parents had to nag you to brush your teeth or make your bed or clean up your room, your personality resists “just a little bit every day.” That’s a big part of why we are doing this exploration.
You can come to Classical Rebellion and get your little bit every day.
As we listen to a piece of great music and look, however briefly, at a great piece of art every day, our bandwidth to absorb the light of the arts grows. This is the primary function of interacting with the arts. They make our lives better.
The temptation is to think that the arts are valuable because of the skills involved to produce them. That is one sure indicator of value but the primary value of art is that it makes our lives more liveable. Art and music open us up to a more profound experience of life. They provide context to the human condition. They can inspire us to move beyond our basic needs and addictions.
As a side note, the human condition is often used as if we all understand what it is. In a nutshell, the human condition means we aware that we are going to die. We are aware that our actions or lack of action today will curse or bless us in the future.
The arts bring light. If a piece of creativity does not bring light, it is something other than art. A creative piece could be a legitimate expression of human suffering but an expression that leaves us with only suffering is meaningless.
We know how to suffer. We look to art to provide some light to guide us through our sufferings.
The piece of music for this quote is Schumann’s Requiem fur Mignon. Mignon was a character in Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. The character of Mignon is a 13-year-old Italian girl whom Wilhelm rescues from the carnival. Mignon became something of an icon for Romantics such as Schumann.
The piece of art for this quote goes with the music. Mignon Desires Her Fatherland is a painting by French/Dutch artist Ary Scheffer from 1836. We can see the orphan Mignon considering the life which was taken from her when she was abducted by the carnival operators.
Daily High Culture 15: Define the Moment
Daily High Culture 15
May 7, 2020
"Either define the moment or the moment will define you." Walt Whitman
Here’s an easy one, to understand. Define the moment or the moment will define you is the very definition of taking control of our lives.
How many times have we heard someone say, “I need to take control of my life,”? It sounds obvious. What isn’t obvious is how to do it.
Whitman is telling us how to do it with this quote. Most of us are constantly defined by whatever moment we find ourselves in. That is a life that is out of control. It is a life trying to navigate the seas of existence with no rudder or sails for that matter. The wind blows and I drift. The tide changes and I drift the other way. A storm rises and I fall apart. I pass into the doldrums and I languish. Every now and then the current takes me towards what I want and it is a good day. The next day conditions change and take me even further away from what I want.
When we define the moment, we take control of our lives. That’s it. It’s that simple. Of course, this is a simple concept that is difficult to realize.
As with learning any skill, we must crawl then walk, and finally run. We can start with trying to define just one moment today. It can be as basic as, “I’m about to turn on the TV and watch a show. What does that mean?” or “I’m going to brush my teeth, why?”
The answers will start to flow. I’m brushing my teeth because I want to have a clean and healthy mouth. I am taking the time to do this now so that my future visits to the dentist will be more pleasant. I want to do this little thing so I can keep my teeth for a long time.
It need not be transcendent life-altering moments which we define as we start to develop this skill. Although, brushing one’s teeth is ultimately life-altering.
After a few days, we can try to define two or three simple moments per day. Again, keep it simple. Define the moment as you start to prepare a meal. Ask easy questions. What will this food do for me? Why do I like it etc? As we practice defining these simple everyday moments, it prepares us to define those life-altering moments which come with the storms.
We start to take control of our lives piece by piece not all at once in one fell swoop of enlightenment. We must progress from basic moments to more profound moments or we will fail.
The piece of music for this quote is the ridiculously popular Canon in D by Pachelbel. The music starts out quite basic and simple before progressing to mare and more complex themes. It is the map to accomplishing what Whitman is recommending.
The piece of art is I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold. Again, this starts with a basic theme, the number 5 and then progresses from there.
Daily High Culture 14: The Infinite Speech of the Heart
Music is the inarticulate speech of the heart, which cannot be compressed into words—because it is infinite.
Great music will forever speak to our hearts for this very reason. I have done a lot of talking and writing about music, having written at least 1,000 articles over the past 10 years.
I’m doing even more talking about it now in the formats of YouTube, podcasting, and social media, along with the print versions. None of the words I use will ever come close to the experience of simply listening to music with an intelligent ear and an open heart.
Even this quote by Wagner, as succinct as it is, pales in comparison to the music he wrote. The whole point of quotes such as Wagner’s and the hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written is to help in the creation of an informed ear and develop an open heart through which to experience music to the fullest.
The words we use about music are meant to help us explore music as opposed to trying to replace the musical experience with a literary one.
What I love about this quote from Wagner is the concept of the inarticulate speech of the heart being eternal. Has anyone ever reached the edge of their heart and identified its limits?
Whenever and however we turn inwards, after we traverse the well-worn paths of our heart, we often come around a corner, so to speak and are presented with a new and unexplored vista.
It’s difficult to put into words because, as Wagner said, the speech of the heart is eternal.
The whole point of this entire project here at Classical Rebellion is to develop our intellect in order to master the inner-self. Listening to music with an open heart is, for many of us, a learned skill. We must have a thought to which our hearts respond with “openness.”
I must insist we admit that not all music is the inarticulate speech of the heart. Only music that comes from the heart speaks to the heart.
The music for this quote is Wotan’s Farewell from Die Walkure. In this music, we hear the father’s heart breaking as he is forced to be separated from his beloved daughter forever.
The piece of art for this quote is The Last Farewell of Wotan and Brunhilde by Ferdinand Leeke.
Siegfried Wagner, the son of the composer Richard Wagner, commissioned Leeke to paint a series of paintings showing scenes from ten operas by Wagner
Daily High Culture 13: The Echo of Weariness and Pain
Daily High Culture 13
“He heard the choir of voices in the kitchen echoed and multiplied through an endless reverberation of the choirs of endless generations of children and heard in all the echoes an echo also of the recurring note of weariness and pain. All seemed weary of life even before entering upon it. And he remembered that Newman had heard this note also in the broken lines of Virgil, GIVING UTTERANCE, LIKE THE VOICE OF NATURE HERSELF TO THAT PAIN AND WEARINESS YET HOPE OF BETTER THINGS WHICH HAS BEEN THE EXPERIENCE OF HER CHILDREN IN EVERY TIME.” James Joyce A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
The context for this quote is Stephen Dedalus, the primary character, considering the voices of his younger siblings singing during their morning meal. The mention of Newman is a reference to the writings of Cardinal Newman about the Roman poet Virgil.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was published in 1916. Now, 100 years later, there is a different tone to the voices of many children. For all the drawbacks of modern mass culture and society, the echo of weariness and pain is fading from the voices of children and even some adults.
For many of us, the biggest problems we face are self-imposed. It’s a strange habit we have. Vast swaths of humanity have access to what amount to leisure and luxury. More people have stable shelter and food than ever before. Yet what are we doing with all of our free time and extra resources?
Sometimes it feels as though we are unconsciously creating obstacles for ourselves because so many of the traditional obstacles such as disease and hunger have been erased.
I am not going to go on a tirade about not fulfilling our potential and squandering resources. The significant diminishment of weariness and pain is enough. The reduction of disease is miraculous. The abundance of food, even if it isn’t considered “good food”, is astounding.
I think the next step for many of us is to stop creating problems for ourselves. That would be a huge leap forward in fulfilling the potential which is in and around all of us. If we remove the dams from the river of our potential, we don’t need to teach the river how to flow.
My belief is that we are still experiencing the momentum of endless generations of weariness and pain. We have yet to adapt ourselves to the ease which modern mass culture and society provide. This new experience of ease is still foreign to us. We just aren’t ok with life being easy.
I am not saying that there is no suffering in the world. There are clear and disturbing cases of abuse and violence. However, practices that were once thought to be normal are now considered criminal.
I can look at my own family as an example. The way my parents disciplined me was considered fair and normal at the time. In today’s culture, it would border on child abuse. The way my parents were disciplined when they were children would probably be considered criminal in our current society. At the time, it was standard parenting.
In spite of the suffering and abuse which we do witness, the standard concept of how much pain and suffering parents are allowed to inflict upon their children has changed drastically for the better.
The piece of music for this quote is In Paradisium from Faure’s Requiem. Paradise, here represented as the New Jerusalem is a place where weariness and pain pass away. The chorus of children has found their rest as opposed to the chorus of children in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
In keeping with our theme of children, the painting is by Lucas Cranach the Younger; Christ Blessing the Children. If we allow for the traditional image of Jesus as the Prince of Peace, we can view this painting as children being blessed by peace.
2,000 years later, that is still the goal but we’re closer now than we’ve ever been. If we stop creating probl
Daily High Culture 12: Create from the Heart
“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall was one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century. What he has defined for us here is the concept of “feeling it” versus “thinking it.”
Usually what we think is a good idea for a creative endeavor ends up falling apart or coming off as what my kids would call “a try-hard.” No one likes a “try-hard.” We like authenticity. Creations that come from the heart might not be lasting masterpieces but they are much more likely to be an authentic expression as opposed to an idea.
Ideas are clever, creations of the heart tend to be true.
When we create based on our feelings there is an element of truth that is often missing from a thought based project. What we think is true in the creative process often ends up being something less than true if not an outright fallacy.
What we feel to be true is often more compelling and more accurate than what we think to be true. We might luck out every now and then and have a thought which lines up with our feelings but Chagall is telling us that, for him, it’s the other way around.
I’ve often come across this phenomenon in my writing. When writing an article for publication I often have to cover a topic which I think is true but doesn’t feel true. At that point my writing becomes labored. Over the years I’ve learned to give up on that topic and search for another which feels true first and is then verified by my thoughts.
Things that feel true do end up being false upon closer inspection. That can actually be a pretty common occurrence. However, creating based on our feelings is far more efficient than trying to think our way through a piece.
Chagall isn’t saying that we never use our heads in the creative process. It’s rare to create from the heart from start to finish. I would say that the start and the finish do need to be from the heart. In between, we might need to use our heads to shape, develop, and connect the themes our heart is producing.
One way to think about it is that a piece that comes from the head can often be impressive but it will almost never move our emotions. A piece that comes from the heart has the potential to both impress and move our emotions. When it comes to music and art, I would rather be moved than impressed every single time.
The pIece of music for this quote is Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninoff. This is not an impressive piece of music but it does come from the heart and it goes straight to the heart.
The painting is The Fiddler by Marc Chagall. This is one of Chagall’s most famous pieces. He created a second version roughly 10 years after this one entitled Green Violinist. The Fiddler dominates the village in this painting suggesting that music was the heart of the community.
Daily High Culture 11: I Want to be Who I Can Become
Daily High Culture 11
You only know me as you see me, not as I actually am.” Immanuel Kant
This is one of the fundamental truths of life. For better or worse, no one knows us as we actually are. We are only known to others based on their perceptions and their filters.
At first blush, this might feel like a depressing idea. We have a concept that we want someone to “just know us.” There is someone, someone very important. Ourselves.
If we consider this quote closely, it will liberate us. Kant did not clarify that we ourselves must have a true understanding of who we are. It’s not a foregone conclusion that we have a clear picture of ourselves.
If we have self-understanding if we see ourselves as we actually are then the game is over. It still needs to be played but once we understand ourselves, we have won.
Notice that I did not say if we see ourselves as we think we should be. At that point, the game is also over and we have lost.
If we take an assessment of ourselves and have a feeling of dissatisfaction, we can reset immediately with just one thought.
“I want to be who I can become.” That quote is mine. The thought came to me up while I was trying to “just be ok with myself.”
This idea of accepting ourselves as we are is an idea that will lose every single time. “I just want to be ok with myself,” is the mantra of the downtrodden. At the same time, if we are unpleased with ourselves, it is also a recipe for disaster. We want to be able to see ourselves as we are without confirming or denying the desirability of our current situation.
“I want to be who I can become” is a neutral statement that consistently resets our potential. It is dynamic and scales with us as we start to become who it is that we are capable of being.
When we were kids we were all pure unrealized potential. As we aged many of us became unpure unrealized potential. As adults, many of us still have potential that has remained unrealized but that potential has become unpure, toxic, and bitter based on our repeatedly falling short of what we think we’re capable of.
Many times we fall short of what we know we are capable of and that is the very definition of sin. Sin, originally, meant to miss the target, to fall short of our abilities. Out of that came a code of behaviors to avoid such as lying, cheating, stealing, etc. If we practice those behaviors, we will fall short of our abilities. The problem is that we can still remain far short of our potential and never lie, cheat, or steal. Avoiding vices is not the same as participating in virtues.
To tell the truth, play fair, and give to others is a far different perspective than merely not lying, cheating, or stealing. Many times we simply keep our mouth shut, don’t play, and neither steal nor provide for others.
To be sure, if we lie, cheat and steal, our potential becomes poisonous. However, sin is not only about specific transgressions. It also has a macro component. If we fail to become who we can become, our failure has untold consequences as it applies to how we interact with and influence others.
When we fail to realize our potential, it literally makes the world a worse place and we can definitely call that sinful. On the flip side when we start to fulfill the potential of who we can become, it makes the world, a better place. Should we consider that to be “holy?”
The other element which I like about “I want to be who I can become” is that it doesn’t set any false expectations. False expectations manifest as both too much and too little.
The key to this process is that we never ever set a bar or put expectations on our potential as we are constantly resetting it. We can have goals and aspirations but we must refrain from putting them on a schedule of expectations. Wherever we find ourselves,