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For the Love of J.S. Bach and Johnny Cash, Give Us Some Real Music

For the Love of J.S. Bach and Johnny Cash, Give Us Some Real Music

As I type these words, I’m sitting on a bench outside of a Hampton Inn in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s just before 5 a.m., and as I’m an early riser these days, I came to the lobby and breakfast lounge to do some work. There, the clerk informed me that the lobby was closed until 6 a.m. for cleaning, so I grabbed a cup of dark roast from their all-night coffee station and am working outside.

The bench is a bit uncomfortable, and the temperature is 59 degrees, but the real trial is the music playing overhead. Though there’s not another soul in sight, the music—jacked-up pop most appropriate for a workout in a gym—is booming away above the entranceway to the inn. If one were devising a means of torture for the likes of me, this noise would act as my iron maiden.

Many public spaces bombard us with sound—the grocery store, the fast-food joint, the mall—and large numbers of us contribute to this assault on our ears and senses with our televisions, car radios, and electronic devices. “The devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds,” wrote missionary, author, and speaker Elisabeth Elliot in Shadow of the Almighty. “He will not allow quietness.”

Given the constant blaring from our sound systems, we might rightfully conclude that the devil is having a field day in America.

Theology aside, it’s unlikely that our modern jumble of cacophony will disappear anytime soon. McDonald’s won’t be shutting down its piped-in tunes, and earbuds stuffing our craniums with racket and babble will remain in place.

But here are two suggestions that might ease our pain, improve the peace of our souls, and add a touch of class and culture to any enterprise.

We can rid our lives of extraneous noise by exercising control over our personal listening devices. In “Get Rid of Your TV,” Jerry Powlas tells us that he hasn’t owned a television in over 30 years, and his wife has never owned one. Instead of listening to the babble of the tube from supper to bedtime, read Powlas’s article and then follow his advice by turning it off, unplugging it, and maybe eventually ditching it. I gave up television almost a decade ago, and like Powlas, I can honestly say I have never missed it.

The same principle applies to today’s canned music. Few of the songs have any salutary moral effect, many are incomprehensible or repetitive, and nearly all of them will be forgotten by next year. Whether making supper in the kitchen or riding to work in the car, let’s turn off the top 40 and put on an enlightening podcast, Bach, or Johnny Cash or enjoy some of Elisabeth Elliot’s cherished quietness.

In the public square, businesses might consider substituting the gold of Western culture rather than the dross of the last 40 years. From classical music to the great American song bag, restaurants, hotels, and other places of commerce have at hand hundreds of years of music they might offer instead of today’s electric caterwauling and obscenity-laced rap.

Imagine sitting in a restaurant in the evening with Mozart’s piano sonatas wafting through the room. Imagine—this one’s a bit of a stretch for the imagination—a basketball game where Beethoven and Tchaikovsky accompanied the warmups instead of rap.

That these are possibilities became clear two evenings later when I stayed in a Hampton Inn near Rocky Mount, North Carolina. There, the music consisted of Christmas tunes and classic American songs, including a few tasteful ones from the last 50 years.

If corporate gives you the freedom to choose your piped-in music, or if you operate a small business, an insurance agency, say, or an independent restaurant, try playing some of the great works from the past. You’ll not only enhance the experience of those customers visiting your establishment, you’ll be striking a small blow for civilization itself.

Image credit: Pixnio-Marko Milivojevic, CC0 1.0


Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick

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  • Avatar
    Sebastian Max
    December 13, 2022, 12:44 am

    Unfortunately the low people of the world (the blacks, the Third Worlders), have no tradition or history of great music like Western Civilization has produced.

    Blacks appear to be receptive mostly to tribal thumping, and discordant cacophony as do all indigenous peoples. Probably this is because music was only used for two purposes – warfare and ritual. There is no "higher purpose" such as beauty, satisfying the aesthetic senses, or paying homage to the creator. In fact there is no evidence that primitive peoples actually HAD any "aesthetic senses" in the first place and there is lots of evidence against that idea…as evidenced by the sheer ugliness of their own appearances and the objects they create, which are frequently monstrous and disturbing, intentionally so.

    But being dragged to new lows by an unwanted , unapproved influx of invaders and interlopers from low cultures is now what passes for the new normal.

    Yet another abomination brought to us by the cultural Marxists (Bolsheviks, "the tribe", whatever you want to call them) and America haters of all ideologies.

    Look also at the takeover of the radio spectrum by unAmerican programming, starting with the fact that its mostly foreign languages.

    • Avatar
      Tionico@Sebastian Max
      December 13, 2022, 3:16 am

      You are very much mistaken regarding your claims concerning "third world" music. Seek out and listen to some things like Peruvian pan pipe music, Jamaoican steel bands, the harps and other plucked string instruments of Madagascar, the ancient traditions of Irish whistles and harps and pipes, the Scots bagpipes, flute and whistle variants amongst the japanese and northwest indigenous peoples, the amaing and beautirful music of the Hawaiians, polynesian instruments and music, and, well, you just need to get out more.

      Don’t forget just WHO it was over a couple of centuries who tried (in vain…thankfully) to quash and utterly eliminate the traditional instruments music and dance of the Scots and Irish. Yup. T’were the ever so "prawpur" Brits.

      • Avatar
        Margaret Owen Thorpe@Tionico
        December 13, 2022, 5:27 am

        Agree, Tionico! I recommend to you – and to Sebastian who, as you said, needs to get out more – Susana Baca. She is a Black Peruvian, and her voice and her songs are rather like the finest birds of spring. I play her songs when I just need to lose myself in some other place.

      • Avatar
        December 14, 2022, 12:47 am

        Also, please look at the music of Hunnu Rock from Mongolia (The HU). All their works are sung in Mongolian language, but translations are available. They appeal to young people. as well as elders, but the message is Timeless: Be Brave, Love your family, Take care of Mother Nature, Be a good Mongolian, Teach Me (how to overcome difficulties).

        Sometimes the transliterations are hard to understand but the music is NEVER hard to understand, and it’s always uplifting. The members of this group, all classically-trained musicians, work hard to honor their home country as well as the human race, and they NEVER misbehave like some of the pop culture American rock groups do. When interviewed, they emphasize their mission to improve the experience of humans everywhere, and their duty to honor their country and their compatriots.

        The HU are well worth listening to and following.

  • Avatar
    William Gillin
    December 13, 2022, 12:59 am

    Right on! I can’t stand the noise that supposedly passes for music in many public places.

  • Avatar
    Kalikiano kalei
    December 13, 2022, 1:05 am

    I read your comments here with considerable interest, Jeff, since musical tastes in America have become so highly charged with racial and political overtones, these days. In fact, anything and everything that was composed by white Europeans seems now to be uniformly regarded as ‘products of that Evil white colonial race…’ by a certain Woke segment of younger society. Tragically, most of the so-called ‘music’ favored (hip-hop and rap included) by critics of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, et al, is about as far from being a thoughtful expression of serenely bucolic genius as President Biden is from reality!

    This past week I was discussing how American tastes in music over the post war (WW2) decades have changed with a good friend over some espresso. We agreed that real musical/lyrical genius seems on the verge of extinction, when you compare the songs of the 70s and 80s with today’s puerile, scatological effluence that passes for same. And that’s not to say that rap and hip-hop (for example) are not entitled to a place on the stage of public consideration, but only after all the overt anger, hostility, filth and intrinsically abusive misogyny they are filled with has been filtered out first.

    Sadly, far too many Americans have become so brainwashed/conditioned (I would have phrased it ‘socialised’, but that’s too mild a term for such an insidious process) by high-pressure commercial media and advertising that they don’t seem to feel at ease unless there is some sort of radio or television noise constantly blaring nonsensically in the background of their lives. Ditto for their total disregard for the marvelous, healing benefits of ‘quietude’ and silence; in ‘hurry-hurry’ America, silence almost seems to be regarded as a threat of some sort, by many.

    Music for me has always been a very serious thing. In order for me to really listen to music AND enjoy it, it has to have my full and undivided attention. But it also has to challenge the mind and soul. The idea of ‘noise’ being used to fill up empty spaces in our lives is therefore truly anathema, by that reckoning alone!

    Most Americans seem to think nothing of the extremely high levels of pure ‘noise’ they are daily subjected to and surrounded by in their lives. Immensely irritating and highly annoying, noisy leaf-blowers are high on my personal list of personal dislikes (they ought to ban them and issue old-fashioned rakes to violators), as are hopped-up cars with altered noise-muffling systems (they belong on a race-track, not in a quiet neighborhood). Interestingly, most engineers well understand that ‘noise’ is symptomatic evidence of machinery not working smoothly and efficiently, but this fact falls on deaf ears when it comes to the senses of the hoi polloi, among whom high-volume noise has become weaponised as an overt expression of power and dominance, useful for oppressing others.

    To me, one of the most wondrous experiences of my life was listening (with my wife), walking arm in arm not far from the Vienna Staatsoperhausen with my wife, as the heavenly strains of fin de siècle Strauss waltzes filtered through the quiet evening mists of Vienna’s magnificent Ringstrasse, one glorious evening! Try that with some Eminem laying waste to your eardrums! Sic transit gloria mundi!

  • Avatar
    December 13, 2022, 1:17 am

    Sitting in my little basement office with Beethoven’s 9th playing softly in the background. Little John Jameson in the glass. Peace!

  • Avatar
    December 13, 2022, 3:26 am

    I killed my TeeVee set back in 1972 and have not missed it for one nanosecond. I never listen to radio. I have a wide ranging collection of several hundred CD’s and spin those for enjoyment. Just now amlistening ti a recording of some traditional New England contra dance music.. fiddle, some piano, mandolin, guitar, accordion, flute, all played massterfully and tastefully (with GREAT emotional expression and skill).


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