Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bach in School

J.S. Bach ended his musical compositions with "S.D.G." -- Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be the Glory.

Modern composers don't say who they seek to glorify, but their music is dark and discordant.

Walter Block has pointed out that Libertarians believe that voluntary contracts can involve apparent limitations of our liberty. Can you imagine a libertarian forming a contractual relationship which gives someone such comprehensive control that he has the power to tell the libertarian when she can and when she cannot breathe? "Breathe now." "Don't breathe now."

Well, yes, a libertarian can legitimately give someone the right to control her to that extent. In the case Prof. Block is considering, it's a contract to play clarinet in a symphony orchestra, giving the Conductor great power to control the actions of the libertarian.

On the other hand, such control can be used to foster fascist and collectivist thinking.

OK, here's what prompted this meandering discussion. is a left-leaning group of thinkers and activists that seeks to channel funds to their pet projects. A recent winner of the TED prize is Jose Antonio Abreu, who founded El Sistema ("the system") [I couldn't get Microsoft's browser to open that page; use Firefox] in 1975 to help poor Venezuelan kids learn to play a musical instrument and be part of an orchestra. 30 years on, El Sistema has seeded 102 youth orchestras -- and many happy lives.

Watch Jose Abreu discuss kids transformed by music.

He says,

A few years ago historian Arnold Toynbee said that the world was suffering a huge spiritual crisis.

Not an eocnomic or a social crisis, but a spiritual one.

I belive that to confront such crisis, only art and religion can give proper answers to humanity, to mankind's deepest aspirations, and to the historic demands of our time.

Art used to be a subsidiary of Religion. Bach's work is an example of art as a servant of worship.

Art can equally be a servant of the State. An orchestra can be a very collectivist endeavor, teaching the values of the State.

But being an energetic fascist is better than being a typical moderate American (Revelation 3:15-16). An American teenager mindlessly cruising through the neighborhood with a subwoofer registering on the richter scale is not as fully human as a teenager playing in an orchestra.

For the untrained, reading music is like reading algebra. But it is possible to inspire children to learn.

The Teresa CarreƱo Youth Orchestra is the national high-school-age youth orchestra of El Sistema, made up of the best young musicians from throughout Venezuela. You can see more expression of what it means to be a human being in the video below than in the mindless stupor of a functionally illiterate American public school student.

Drag the index to about 6:30 into the video to skip Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10, 2nd movement, which is the musical equivalent of bad LSD. Making children play this is next to child abuse. (Liberals like are frightened by Bach and other Christian music.)

Federal control of schools is destructive of the creative energy that elevates students like this. Not that governments cannot command high levels of artistic energy -- just that the price is too high.

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