Monday, April 10, 2006

the song

I watched a documentary tonight called Rock School. The documentary tells the story of a youth project in Philadelphia that attempts to turn teenage prodigies into rock stars. It was an interesting documentary and, as a youth worker myself, who is into the arts, I found parts of it very inspiring.

But one of the things that bugged me about the “youth worker” in charge was that he was adamant about the fact that only certain music was real music. That, while bands like Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd played real music, bands like 311 and others did not.

Now don’t get me wrong, it would make me really, really happy to see Britney Spears retire. But to suggest that she doesn’t contribute to “the song” is to sort of miss the point of music.

In the film Dead Poet’s Society, Robin William’s character asks his students what the purpose of poetry is and, after some really intense and intellectual answers, he informs his all male class that the purpose of poetry is to woo women.

Music is many things. Intellectual art. History. A piece of the writer’s soul. But most of all, music is something that should move you. It exists to stir us, to make us cry, to make us dance, to make us smile, to make us laugh, and even to motivate us. If Britney Spears does that for you, then great! Because that’s the point!

To suggest that music exists for only one purpose, or that it is only music if it falls under your definition of music, is to sort of miss the point. To miss the joy. It’s to be short sighted.

I think I feel the same way about politics. To suggest that one party is God’s party, or has it all together, is to be short sighted. It’s to miss the point of politics.

One of the things that I appreciate about the U.S. version of politics is that a lot of checks and balances exist. Yet it seems that, when one of those checks or balances rises up to check or balance “our guy”, we immediately become defensive. Instead of hearing them out, we rise up to defend our guy. But maybe we should listen. Maybe we should consider whether or not there are any truths to the accusations.

And the same thing is true among parties. To suggest that one party has it right, and the other party is useless, is to sort of miss the point of politics. Parties exist because, in fact, none of them have it all figured out. They need each other to check and balance, to remind the other of the other important issues.

I don’t know, maybe I’m trying to make two subjects correlate that really don’t. 15 years of sermon illustrations will do that to your brain. But it seems to me that, in both music and politics, there is no room for boxes or singular definitions. It seems that we must be open to the fact that political parties, just like musical genres, all contribute to the song.
I’d like to think that, while I’m very picky with my music and my politics, I’m also eclectic, finding the important voices in any genre.

Comments on "the song"


Blogger surrendered said ... (1:52 AM) : 

i think that's the most beautiful short essay on politics i've ever heard. seriously.


Blogger phondjo said ... (6:16 PM) : 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Blogger Larry said ... (2:02 PM) : 

I wonder if politics and music can be used for metaphors for life?

Isn't the problem in our Christianity or life in general that we try to catagorize everything, every person and every event? Isn't life, if it is to be enjoyed, an out of the box experience.

Great post Tim.


Blogger Bret said ... (4:43 PM) : 

People need permission to be who they are. . . to pursue their hopes and dreams. . .

I believe that we need to respect everyone and value every genre of music. . . no comment on the politcs. . .I'm not much of a politician. . .




Blogger Steve Bussey said ... (4:25 PM) : 

Hi Tim,

Neat piece on music in youthwork. I would tend to agree with you on the importance of getting away from an elitist view of music - using taste to distinguish what we consider art.

Do you know the name of the doc.? I would love to check this out.

Also, in regards to 'the dance' of politics - I would totally agree. Often, our concept of dialogue on political issues gets reduced to going to polarized corners of a boxing ring and fighting a position as opposed to thinking critically about an issue. Too often, we take our cue from shows like CNN's Crossfire - where it's less about dialogue and more about defending one's position.

It really saddens me that so much of political conversation these days is less about give-and-take and more about proving points... This sounds a lot like the guy who thinks his music is the only tasteful music!

Thanks for making me think.



Blogger Pete said ... (3:32 AM) : 

I attended a lesser known music school for a couple of years where a music theory prof was furious that half of his his freshman composition majors named their favorite composer to be "John Williams".

At the time, I chuckled and agreed whole-heartedly - ignorant freshmen! Since then I've been reformed in my music taste. I'll listen to (and appreciate) just about anything, these days. I have some lesser known Zappa tunes arranged for brass quintet in my collection, and I happen to think 311 is refreshingly original and unique. (And yes, I do have a bunch of Army brass band in the mix, and I occasionally enjoy cranking it to ear piercing levels - there's that DORK in me again, Tim!)

Regarding politics, could not agree more. Far extremes of parties are all way, way off. Like so many things in life, "the answer" lies somewhere in between and can be often a shifting target.

Nice post! (And Britney needs to go for sure - enough already!)


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