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February 4, 2008

That Sounds Like Rock And/Or Roll!

I no longer have any idea how people blog. I'm tired. I mean, I'm tired. Homeschooling four kids and keeping the house in some kind of condition that would not prompt the authorities to investigate ... I'm tired.

No, I still don't have pictures in my computer.

I had planned to move right along and blog my thoughts from the "Great Tradition" readings. Last week's reading was Aristotle. I got sidelined by a discussion on the message list about music. You see, Aristotle has a great deal to say about music. He mostly goes on about the different modes, and makes recommendations for raising our young on certain modes, and not allowing them to hear others.

Somewhat predictably for a mailing list composed of classical homeschoolers, the first post was something along the lines of classical = good, rock = bad, immoral, leading us all into ruin.

You can imagine, dear reader, that I had some comments to add to that conversation.

The real argument is this: That if music has an effect on our souls, should we not choose to listen to music that enlivens and enriches our souls, and avoid music that vulgarizes us? I don't disagree with that idea. I do disagree with the assumption that the enlivening and enriching music is always classical, and that the vulgarizing music is always rock.

This list had the usual assumptions about rock music: It's all the same, monotonous beat; it requires no artistry; it's simple and simplistic; it's all about sex; it's depressing. And, you know, I won't argue. All of the above is true about most of the crap you hear on the radio.

Still, those generalizations don't, being generalizations, tell the whole story. Go listen to Rush, Yes, Spock's Beard, Sting, Dream Theater, anything involving Keith Emerson ... leave your own additions in my comments. I hope to have the brain power and the time to dredge up a list of audio and video links for the skeptical.

How does this relate to homeschooling? Aristotle thought it best to expose the children to particular modes of music, to better form their minds and spirits. Whether or not he's right doesn't matter much to me, as my children have already been exposed to all different kinds of music. Is it better to cultivate a taste for classical, than for rock? Well, yes, I think it is better to do so. We are all better off by exposure to and study of great music, just as we are all better off by exposure to great books, great ideas, and great art. But I take breaks inbetween reading Plato and Melville to rest with some Maeve Binchy or Ruth Rendell (or lately, P. G. Wodehouse). And if my kids first learned to love classical by listening to Emerson, Lake and Powell's version of "Mars, The Bringer of War," well ... ?

No one else on this list rose to defend rock music. I bet it won't go over well if I start talking about how my kids know the story of the Odyssey from the Simpsons.

Posted by lynx at February 4, 2008 10:10 PM

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Iron Maiden.

Posted by: COD at February 5, 2008 8:27 AM

LOL I wonder how they'd feel about my kids going around singing, "I like beer. It makes me a jolly good fellow."

I agree with you about Rock (and other non-classical music for that matter). But... even if I didn't, you know what? We eat very well, nice healthy stuff. But there's still room for some potato chips. I don't believe that my children's minds, or bodies, will be ruined by the occasional indulgence. There's room for fun in our lives, too.

I bought the book. I haven't started it yet, but I bought it. :)

Posted by: KathyJo at February 5, 2008 12:32 PM

Pink Floyd
Led Zepplin

Posted by: JP at February 5, 2008 7:16 PM

Oh gosh, where to begin? Queen, for one. Metallica has turned out some surprisingly quality stuff (Whiskey in a Jar being the one that most immediately comes to mind). Have you heard The Iguanas?

What about folk music? From Ireland to Africa to the good old North American continent, there are so many fantastic melodies, lyrics, stories, *people*, histories...

I also love the Tex-Mex music from the Southwest. Freddy Fender, Flaco Jimenez, both masters of music, of their art, and of story-telling. (Obviously, those are just two, a very small sampling, and some might argue not the most pertinent sampling.)

If it speaks, if it demands to be heard, then it probably has something worth hearing. (Or, something along those lines. I do love Classical music, but I can't swallow the whole "of the devil" thing that people sling about when it comes to anything produced past an arbitrary point in the past. It's not like Venice, which produced some of the most astounding artists of several Classical genres, was a hotbed of moral purity at the height of its culture...)


Posted by: Dy at February 5, 2008 11:47 PM

Wow, Chris, interesting pick. Iron Maiden certainly has some musical skill, and their lyrics are often wonderful, but I wonder if that would even be accessible to someone who doesn't already appreciate fairly hard rock. Kind of like Dio, come to think of it.

Maybe Dream Theater, or Savatage (well, at least the TSO stuff) would be an easier introduction, while still getting into the harder end of rock.

Posted by: Jeff Medcalf at February 6, 2008 1:02 AM

Hmmm. Loreena McKennitt for Folk/World.
Chick Corea for Jazz (he has an amazing rendition of Amazing Grace).
The Grateful Dead for metaphor and poetry, and folk-rock.
Rebbe Soul for Jewish/World/Jazz Fusion
Tim Sparks for Classical Guitar.

You know, I always thought of a classical education as something that opens up the world to our kids. The people on your list seem to want to make it into another narrow orthodoxy.
Maybe that's why it didn't work for us--at least not in an orthodox manner.

Posted by: Elisheva Levin at February 7, 2008 1:05 PM

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