My feeling of being at home somewhere is really a feeling of transition, as everything is in life. Music is transition, too. I am happiest when I can be at peace with the idea of fluidity. And I’m unhappy when I cannot really let myself go and give myself over completely to the idea that things change, evolve, and not necessarily for the best.
a message from that place that always says it has cookies but doesn’t really
….or maybe it does have cookies, but they are cookies the likes of which I’ve never seen before.
It’s been exactly 4 months since I graduated from Northwestern. I am now an adult, doing adult things: i.e., trying to make enough money to pay my monthly bills while not defaulting on student loans, and oh, also eating. (Let’s be honest. That’s a fairly accurate assessment of what adulthood is for my generation.) There have been some bumps in the road, if by bumps you mean boulders, and there have also been some exhilarating downhill rides; you know, the kind where you let go of the handlebars and throw your head back.
Here are a few things I’m learning along the way:
This post is in direct response to the article linked above.
1. To the editors of New Republic: why did you publish this? The author’s “research” consists of a survey of 10 friends at a dinner party, and the fact-checking is abhorrent, nigh on nonexistent.
2. "Our daughter Rebekah, who is in second grade, takes three after-school classes every week. On Monday there is violin; on Wednesday, Hebrew; and on Thursday, ballet. One of these classes connects her to a religious tradition going back three thousand years. Two of them are pretty well pointless."
Firstly: Mr. Oppenheimer, it appears you calculate merit based on how long a given tradition has been around. In that case, you should know that music and dance go back to the dawn of human history, well before Judaism existed.
Secondly: I think religious education is pointless. But that’s my opinion. It is not an objective measure of a cultural object’s intrinsic worth. You are welcome to state your opinion that musical education is pointless, but don’t masquerade it as a factual premise for an argument that is going to occupy the next several hundred words.
3. "Rebekah enjoys her violin and ballet classes, both after-school at New Haven’s terrific Neighborhood Music School. She loves her teachers, and she is proud when she makes progress."
Exactly. These two sentences nullify your entire argument.
4. Your school lunch line “test” is a pretty god-awful way of evaluating any skill, let alone skills like music and dance, which promote a rich inner life while also developing the body’s ability to execute very specific physical movements.
Side note: have you seen a ballet dancer recently? They do in fact move with more grace and poise than the rest of us. And even if the parent who told you that ballet would give her child more grace was not as articulate as she could have been, dance does give you an exquisite awareness of your body and how it moves in space. Check out this book. It might enlighten you.
5. You stopped short during your dinner party interrogation, directly after hearing the answers you wanted to hear. Did you try asking how your friends felt about quitting the saxophone, or the violin, or the piano? They may admit that they don’t play their instruments anymore, but some measure of regret often accompanies that admission.
6. "The music that these friends listen to as adults — klezmer, Indigo Girls, classic rock — is in each case quite far from what their parents paid for them to study. Their studies of cello had not made them into fans of Bach. And unless I am mistaken, Shinichi Suzuki didn’t include Rush in his violin books."
Many of these big name bands, especially Rush, have members who trained classically before transitioning to pop/rock. Neil Peart started his musical training at the piano and later transitioned into drums when he realized he liked them better. Ozzy Osbourne is classically trained. Hell, Lady Gaga is classically trained. The list goes on.
Many of those rock and pop icons you deem “cool” actually started as dusty classically trained musicians like myself. And a lot of them, if you bother to read anything they have to say, are grateful for their early music education, without which they would not be where they are today.
7. You say that nobody, except those with an exceptional gift for musicmaking, should be a musician. Disregarding your clear ignorance of how loaded the word “gifted” is when talking about musical education – some pedagogues argue that musical “gifts” are innate, while others, including Suzuki, hold that any child can play, love, and even excel in music – music isn’t just going to appear in a child’s life. It needs to be introduced. And who is going to do that if not a parent? If you don’t expose a child to music, she won’t even know if she’s “gifted,” to use your term.
8. You seem not to understand the difference between art and entertainment. Foosball is entertainment. There is no possible soul-enrichment you can gain from playing foosball for six hours a day. Music has meaning. It speaks. In fact, it communicates things we don’t even have words for. In the words of Shakespeare,
"The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.
Mark the music.”
9. “So what challenges should we be tackling, if not ballet and classical music? How about auto repair? At least one Oppenheimer should be able to change the oil, and it isn’t me. It may as well be one of my daughters. Sewing would be good. And if it has to be an instrument, I’d say bass or guitar. The adults I know who can play guitar can actually be seen playing their guitars. And as any rock guitarist will tell you, there is a shortage of bassists.”
Why aren’t you changing the oil in your car? You literally just said, “We can probably all agree that it’s worthwhile for children (as well as their parents) to try new activities.” Why don’t you try learning auto-repair?
And as for the claim you make about guitarists: for as many guitarists as you hear, there are just as many, if not more, who haven’t “made it.” You are generalizing based on your own limited experience. Please stop.
10. "For a while, a number of children in my neighborhood were taking ukulele lessons. I don’t much like the ukulele, and I think I successfully kept my daughters from knowing what their playmates were up to. But I was heartened by the whimsy of it all, and I kind of wish that the little gang of kids had stuck with it. Before too long, they might have gotten pretty good. At the very least, it might have kept them away from ballet."
I’m done trying.
Music, far from being “useless,” is one of the most profoundly beautiful and meaningful forms of communication we have.
This article is full of offensive, intentionally incendiary, and disrespectful crap.
this is my piano.
the phone rings and people ask,
what are you doing? how about
getting drunk with us?
and I say,
I’m at my piano.
I’m at my piano.
I hang up.
people need me. I fill
them. if they can’t see me
for a while they get desperate, they get
We’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.
I’ve never been this stressed out in my life.
But I’ve also never been this happy. Some reasons why I’m happy:
- I have 5 more days of coursework, and once this final paper gets turned in on Tuesday, my undergraduate college career will be over.
- I’m moving into Chicago proper next Friday.
- I am in a committed relationship with a rational, emotionally intelligent human being who respects my opinions, life decisions, career aspirations, and passions.
- I’m leaving for a music-filled trip to Europe in 24 days.
- Upon graduation, a close friend/colleague and I are applying for a job as musicians on a cruise ship, because when the fuck else are we going to get paid, housed, and fed to do the thing that we love whilst also traveling the world?
- I am looking forward to all of the postcards I will send this summer.
- I am also looking forward to posting ALL THE PHOTOS on this blog.
OMG. Rull life, guys. It’s happening.
P.S. student debt
What is the nature of the search? you ask. Really it is very simple, at least for a fellow like me; so simple that it is easily overlooked. The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life.
I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.
Chicago apartment with east-facing sunroom: acquired (for unbelievably cheap).
Roommate: Moe. No further words necessary. Because he’s Moe.
Graduation: in 5 weeks (fuck you, quarter system).
Amalfi: in 6 weeks.
Today thru the day I leave for Amalfi: a bunch of academic bullshit that doesn’t matter now and will never matter in the grand scheme of things.
Love is a striking example of how little reality means to us.
I was practicing Liszt today, and I finally got a really difficult octave passage perfectly right. I heard a “woohoo!!” from outside and looked out the window to see some guy standing in the parking lot, giving me a double thumbs up. Not gonna lie, I’ve been waiting for that to happen for four years.
things i learn at work
Sometimes, elderly people think they are entitled to be assholes because of their age.
I don’t care how old you are. If you do not treat me with respect, I will ignore you.
"By turn hilarious and haunting, poet Shane Koyczan puts his finger on the pulse of what it’s like to be young and … different. "To This Day," his spoken-word poem about bullying, captivated millions as a viral video (created, crowd-source style, by 80 animators). Here, he gives a glorious, live reprise with backstory and violin accompaniment by Hannah Epperson."