Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The "Joy" of Classical Music

There are certain forms of art that have no place. I wouldn't even call them art, because they're not artful. They're not even commercially artful, though some (those who make money off such "art") would argue. I'm talking about "art" with a blatant, in your face message. Art like the Left Behind novels and movies. Art like Christian Rock music.

The reason I bring all this up is because I just listened to Dvorák's Symphony for the New World, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and I am currently listening to Beethoven's 9th Symphony, after which the only commercial Classical radio station in the entire United States of America will cease broadcasting to become a Lutheran Church-funded Christian Rock station. This is kind of a sad thing to happen. And by kind of, I mean, very.

Classical music has always been a large part of my life. Music in general has, but I have many memories of listening to this radio station (Classic 99.1 KFUO) from my youth. Many people growing up know classical music from Loony Toons. I knew it from the radio and the symphony and the records and tapes and CDs in my parents' music library. I knew it from concerts my father would play in. I knew it as a listener and then I knew it as a performer. Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Mozart, Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakov, Dvorák, Mussorgsky, Hindemith, Salieri...so much more. And I was always able to discover new music by flipping over to the classical station.

The fact that tomorrow morning I'll have one less viable radio station to listen to makes me sad. I refuse to listen to Christian Rock, because there is no artistry. The intent is so heavy-handed, there's no room for interpretation. Each and every song is a love song to Jesus, God, Faith...what pain there is seems to be referenced in passing, removed by Jesus. Where's the humanity in that art? For what is the purpose of art if not to hold a mirror up to reality? And I know, in reality, many people find joy in Faith. Fine. Many people find joy in a well written piece of music. And many musicians and composers believe their talent to be a gift from God. And with that, I have no qualms. My sadness comes from the idea that the owners of the new Joy FM feel the need to remind us of God. To quote Douglas Adams, "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" Except, in this case, do we have to hang sings on the plants that there are fairies at work? It cheapens the beauty of the flowers.

As I understand it, most Christian Rock bands are put together the same way that other tasteless mass market pop is put together; some people who want to make money put together a marketable package of pseudo musicians with only enough talent to do exactly as they are told. Somebody else writes their music for them, and all they do is record it and perform it. So the artistry is not even there at the beginning. Just get a good looking group of people with decent singing voices and the ability to cover the instrumentation you need, and (in the case of Christian Rock) make sure they're clean cut and regular churchgoers.

Never mind the fact that a few short decades ago, the predecessors of the people now putting together these rock groups decried rock and roll as "the devil's music." I really want to know what late 70's tech geek and person of faith engineered his record player to play Hotel California backwards to hear "Worship Satan" over and over. Let's just skip that part and get to Joy FM.

Why did this happen in St. Louis? This is tantamount to the symphony hall closing and becoming a church. Or the art museum becoming a tabernacle. I am sad, I am indignant, and I am sad. In that order.

Sorry this wasn't more coherent. I just don't know what else to say without inflaming any anti-religion v religion debates. For the record, I am an atheist who loves classical music, so of course I oppose this. But many people of faith oppose this as well, mostly because we already have radio and television outlets in St. Louis for religious expression. Now we have no easily accessible outlet for classical music. Sure, there's internet radio and satellite radio and HD radio and CD and mp3, but not everybody can gain access to these things. It's just sad.


Anonymous said...

for the longest time- the guys I dated had horrible taste in music. Classic 99 was the only radio station we could agree on in the car. These people have no idea what they're doing to my dating life.

Becca said...

I feel your pain. I'm quite happy to ignite that whole anti-religion spark as well. I just have many very serious issues with organized religion (particularly of the Christian faith). I just don't see them doing much good. Cutting down native trees and eliminating classical music stations are just the nails in the coffin, so to speak.

Might I recommend Dvorak Symphony #8 in G - pretty sure it's one of my favourites of all time.

notawritersfather said...

Just remember this: We still can go to a concert and hear the music of, say, Mozart. He died in 1791. The Big Bopper died in 1959, and most young people have never heard of him, or his one big hit. I have faith that classical music radio will be back in the Lou before very long.