Monday, October 8, 2007

The Exile of Brilliance and Profundity in Music

This is a redo of my old post. I will deal again with the nature of beauty in a later post.

The average ear no longer respects epic masterpieces filled with grand complexity, nor a pure and technically correct voice (though complexity and technicality alone do not automatically bring beauty to the table, but they can be factors), nor lyrics to a hymn which attempt to convey the awesome (that is, full of awe, not surfer lingo) truth the Christian is grounded in. Tragically, these have been exiled out of mainstream popularity.

Here are three examples of largely ignored (especially in the young adult generation) brilliance:

1) Beethoven's Erocia symphony #3 lasts around 50 minutes for an orchestra to complete. Even at the time it was written when attention spans were much longer, the symphony was played at the beginning of concerts in order to not play a lengthy piece to a tired audience. However, it was still adored. Today, even the movements (a.k.a. sections) are considered too long to be paid attention to, and the entire symphony is relegated to sound bites if ever listened to at all. Beauty in the technicality and finesse (when performed well) of this work is not seen I believe because it takes concentration. Concentration and listening to this piece takes time and time is no where to be found this day in age (that is, unless one were to actually look).

2) Luciano Pavarotti is my second example. His voice is one of the most, if not the most, technically correct and absolutely stunning ones in recent history. There is no question that his voice is beautiful. However, with as much greatness as Pavarotti achieved, he still was not nearly as popular or as well known as younger "classical/popular music crossover" artists who were technically and tonally inferior singers. In the media, Britney Spears having a terrible performance received more attention than the loss of the great Pavarotti. This is tragic.

3) Hymns are generally no longer appreciated. They are often seen as "boring" and "outdated". Instead of glorifying Him who gives perfect grace and reflecting on the profound lyrical words of spiritual giants, we worship (generally) with songs that were not only never intended for corporate worship, but are so devoid of truth that beauty is either not present or is in a distorted form. There is an overwhelming presence of the first person in modern worship songs. Use of the first person is not in itself wrong, but when it is paired with weak or non-existent dealings with truth, creed, and the attributes of the Lord, the song turns toward us. How can we truly worship God in such a narcissistic fashion devoid of the purpose of worship? Life is not about us; it is about glorifying our gracious Lord and furthering His kingdom. These hymns posses an abounding beauty through their gravity and depth which is largely not present in most modern worship songs. (This is not to say that there are not some good ones, I am however speaking of the trend)

Does this mean that there is no recent-era musical brilliance? Absolutely not! However, it does mean that most music fans are simply listening for what is catchy (in itself, this is not a bad thing, however, it usually ends here). Also, I am not advocating only listening to classical music. There are many other sources of fantastic and beautiful music out there, and preference does play a role in what one spends most of their time listening to.

I do argue, however, that generally, popular musical taste in postmodernity is a reflection (as my friend Anthony said in my deleted post) of intellectual laziness. We are, indeed, allergic to profundity.


Kyle said...

Aha! Now I am on board with you. Good post!

I really like the line "However, it does mean that most music fans are simply listening for what is catchy (in itself, this is not a bad thing, however, it usually ends here)." It is hard to start with the more complex music or literature, so it is good to start with the simple (and even continue enjoying it), but the problem is that most people never challenge themselves in their music or reading; they are content to never move beyond pop music or Harry Potter. As Richard Foster said, "Superficiality is the curse of our age."

Sarah Scott said...


Thank you! This is cause for celebration! ;)

Kyle said...


PS. I generally am in agreement with you except those two posts and various technicalities (which I am sometimes obsessed about).