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Old 31st January 2009   #1
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Default ''When Hooligans Bach Down'' (article)

This post may initially seem to be a shade off-topic, but since this forum discusses the clash of beauty and modernity in general, it actually fits the theme.

- - - -

The City Journal is a notable publication focussing on cultural and social isues. Its best contributor is probably Dr. Theodore Dalrymple.

In his most recent article, Dalrymple makes a fascinating observation about an English locale that he recently visited:

Staying recently in a South Yorkshire town called Rotherham—described in one guidebook as “murky,” an inadequate word for the place—I was interested to read in the local newspaper how the proprietors of some stores are preventing hooligans from gathering outside to intimidate and rob customers. They play Bach over loudspeakers, and this disperses the youths in short order; they flee the way Count Dracula fled before holy water, garlic flowers, and crucifixes.

I find this anecdote about the beautiful music of Bach being able to repel punks and street scum quite encouraging. I can just picture the spiky-haired louts, with their grotesque piercings and disgusting tattoos, running scared of Bach's lovely tones. It speaks of the instrinsic power of Beauty, and how it functions as an antidote to the ugliness and degeneracy of the modern world. Dalrymple's holy-water comparison is highly apt.

As he further writes:

There is surely something deeply emblematic about the use of one of the great glories of Western civilization, the music of Bach, to prevent the young inheritors of that civilization from committing crimes.

Dalrymple's anecdote presents a remarkable case of the noblity of Old World culture challenging the depravity of the modern world. It is very much analogous to how plus-size models, as an embodiment of Classical beauty, clash with androgynous straight-size models, who embody modern decay.

Here's the article URL:

Last edited by HSG : 9th December 2009 at 20:03. Reason: Link updated
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Old 18th February 2009   #2
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Cool Re: ''When Hooligans Bach Down'' (article)

That's awesome -- and hilarious! What other "weapons" can we use?
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Old 25th February 2009   #3
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Default Re: ''When Hooligans Bach Down'' (article)

Lovely! And so apt. But I must say that Count Dracula was a classic monster, and unlike street scum, his decadence had certain poetry.
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Old 30th December 2009   #4
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Default Re: ''When Hooligans Bach Down'' (article)

Dalrymple's anecdote is intriguing. Its theme is very Lovecraftian: i.e., that there is a power in the Old Things, a power that degenerate modern man may not understand but apprehends nevertheless, and shakes him to his core.

The other vignette that Dalrymple relates in his article is similarly compelling:

I was sitting in a café where other customers were chatting, playing cards, or having a drink. The radio was on, tuned to a station that relayed idle chatter and banal popular music (you are lucky these days if popular music is banal only). But suddenly, and for no apparent reason, it played the first movement of Mozart’s clarinet quintet, transforming the café into what Leys called “the antechamber of paradise.” The customers stopped what they were doing, as if startled. Then one of them stood up, went over to the radio, and tuned it to another station, restoring the idle chatter and banal music. There was general relief, as if everyone felt that the beauty and refinement of Mozart were a reproach to their lives to which they could respond only by suppressing Mozart.

The measure of a culture consists, in large part, of how it reacts to beauty. It is not Mozart or Bach who are judged by the tastes of either these boorish café-goers, or the street scum. Bach and Mozart are stable reference points of greatness. Rather, it is these listeners, and the culture in which they live, that are judged by their reactions.

Do people today feel ashamed before great beauty? Is beauty a reproach to them, and therefore they flee it? How sad if that is the case. What a tragic condemnation of a culture if this is the reaction that beauty engenders in its citizens.

Rather, beauty should inspire the public--and a great culture is one in which an appreciation of beauty permeates down to the lower orders, as was the case in Classical Greece, in Ancient Rome, in Elizabethan England (where Shakespeare was popular entertainment), and in 19th-century Europe (where Beethoven was the most famous man of his time).

Dalrymple's word choice is especially significant when he describes the negative reaction to great music as a case of "suppressing" Mozart. This is an apt turn of phrase, and invites comparison with the fate of Classical femininity. Plus-size beauty is similarly suppressed in modern times, banished from public view, as if it were a reproach to society, a painful reminder of how much lovelier women were once allowed to be.

But that should not be the reaction to beauty, and only in a culture suffused by resentment would it be. Rather, in a healthy society, full-figured femininity--like the splendor of Mozart, and the wonder of Bach--would be celebrated. It would be a source of inspiration. Women would not envy but honour those goddesses who live among them, and feel ennobled that they are a part of their world. Men who worship them from afar. Rather than nursing a "sour grapes" mentality if such goddesses were forever out of their reach, they would be inspired to know that such divine beauty exists, and is incarnated in human form.

In an organic, religious culture, such beauty would be interpreted as a manifestation of God's glory. In a secular but dignified nationalist state, such paragons of loveliness would treasured as the best flowering of the blood of the people.

Our vacuous, value-deprived culture needs to rediscover a grand Ideal, so that such noble feelings of awe and reverence can be revived once more, because the greatest creativity flows from such feelings. Without ideals, we will never again create anything of lasting greatness, and we will be reduced to a materialist existence devoid of meaning. Our names will die with us, and we will have contributed nothing of significance to the legacy of human history.

Two shining examples of a very young Chloë Agnew singing Bach (musical beauty and feminine beauty in perfect harmony). First, the lovely "Ave Maria":

Second, the great chorale "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring":

Small wonder that the "punks and street scum" run scared of this music, shamed as they are by its lyrical splendour and sacred wonder.

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