‘Sgt. Pepper’ Is the Greatest Album Ever — Unless You Don’t Think So

Robert Fraser /EMI Records LTD

On its 50th anniversary, is it finally time to stop expecting a silly, catchy album to be an unassailable cultural totem?

Tomorrow sees the release of a deluxe reissue of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, almost exactly 50 years since it first hit record shelves. It’s a major anniversary of the greatest album ever made. If that claim makes you roll your eyes, don’t blame me: It’s what the culture decided a long time ago. The record that featured the Beatles on the cover dressed up as a fictional band, Sgt. Pepper has been considered a masterpiece for as long as it’s existed.

Case in point: In the December 1967 issue of Esquire, music critic Robert Christgau wrote, “Partly because the 10-month gap between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper was so unprecedented, the album was awaited in much the same spirit as installments of Dickens must have been a century ago. Everyone was a little edgy: Could they do it again?” Although Christgau loved the record, he pushed against the ecstatic, blanket hosannas that greeted its release.Sgt. Pepper is not the world’s most perfect work of art,” he declared. “But that is what the Beatles’ fans have come to assume their idols must produce.”

In the 50 years since, Sgt. Pepper has only remained an unassailable musical totem. In 2003, Rolling Stone polled journalists, critics, musicians and others to put together a special issue commemorating the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” Sgt. Pepper topped the list. Nine years later, when the magazine revised the list, Sgt. Pepper was still number one. Summarizing the record, the staff wrote,is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. … [T]he 13 tracks on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are the pinnacle of the Beatles’ eight years as recording artists. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were never more fearless and unified in their pursuit of magic and transcendence.”

Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison

With that kind of description — and with that kind of imposing history behind it — how could anyone approach Sgt. Pepper in 2017 with anything other than skepticism? As much as people like discovering new music, we tend to resist when it’s being shoved down our throats. It’s very hard to love something — to really embrace it as ours — when everybody else has already laid claim to it.No wonder that when NME made its own list of the greatest albums in 2013, Sgt. Pepper landed all the way down at number 87, the snotty write-up noting, “Considered the ultimate achievement of recorded music at the time, the gleam has dulled on Pepper’s medals over time, its psychedelic visuals and flower power sentiments turned corny at the edges.”

I’m not here to argue over whether Sgt. Pepper is the greatest album ever, or even the greatest Beatles album ever. (For what it’s worth, I don’t — and, not that it matters, but I probably prefer The Beatles.) But I would like to suggest that evaluating something based on other people’s belief that it’s the Greatest Thing Ever is a really bad idea. There’s no such thing as the Greatest Thing Ever. Such talk does a disservice to new listeners. And, more importantly, it does a disservice to the Thing in question.

Here’s what I mean: Pretend I told you that some mystery album I was going to play you, which you’d never heard, was the greatest album ever made. Before you heard a single note, what would you be thinking? Your expectations would be pretty high, right? Would you maybe start imagining what the greatest album ever would sound like? Maybe you’d begin constructing in your mind a list of sonic criteria that would be necessary for a record to justify to such a lofty buildup. You’d think about your own favorite albums — the ones that have meant the most to you and have been touchstones for the most important and meaningful moments in your life. Then you’d think, “Okay, what I’m about ready to hear has to surpass all of those albums. After all, this is the greatest album ever made.” Now imagine that, if you’re not totally sold on the record after one spin, that you’re going to be badgered by people telling you that it really is the greatest album ever made and that you just don’t get it.

I don’t care how open-minded a person you are: There’s very little chance you’re going to love that album. The deck is stacked against you. It’s a problem all cultural totems have: Once we decide as a consensus what the greatest movie/book/album/sitcom is, it gets encased in amber, its merits frozen in time. The piece of work is no longer breathing and open to exploration and discovery — it’s now an unimpeachable art object. And who can love something described as an “unimpeachable art object”?…

more…

https://melmagazine.com/sgt-pepper-is-the-greatest-album-ever-unless-you-don-t-think-so-f546a8a6b3d6

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A Laboratory for Feeling and Time: Pioneering Philosopher Susanne Langer on What Gives Music Its Power and How It Illuminates the Other Arts

The Gnomes: "He played until the room was entirely filled with gnomes."

“Music is ‘significant form,’ and its significance is that of a symbol, a highly articulated sensuous object… Feeling, life, motion and emotion constitute its import.”

“Music is at once the most wonderful, the most alive of all the arts… and the most sensual,” Susan Sontag wrote in one of the most beautiful meditations on the power of music. Aldous Huxley, in his immensely poetic reflection on why music moves us so, recounted “some exquisite soft harmony apprehended by another sense” as he listened to Beethoven in the dark. This sensorial splendor of music is what Helen Keller, deaf and blind, articulated in her exultation upon “hearing” Beethoven’s Ode to Joy with her hand.

I thought about all of this recently — or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I felt about it — as I listened, with my whole being, to a friend perform music that seemed to emanate from her whole being. I wondered what it is about music that we feel in our marrow, that invites us into some other dimension of time, magnetizing us to the present yet containing within itself all that ever was and ever will be — a place where the symbolic and the real, the abstract and the acutely alive, converge into something larger.

That peculiar property of music may have been what prompted Susanne Langer (December 20, 1895–July 17, 1985), one of the first professional women philosophers, to call music an “unconsummated symbol” in her trailblazing 1942 book Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art. Langer revisited the subject a quarter century later in her final work, Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling(public library), exploring what makes music different from all other forms of creative expression and how, paradoxically, understanding the source of its power illuminates the other arts.

Langer writes:

Music, like language, is an articulate form. Its parts not only fuse together to yield a greater entity, but in so doing they maintain some degree of separate existence, and the sensuous character of each element is affected by its function in the complex whole. This means that the greater entity we call a composition is not merely produced by mixture, like a new color made by mixing paints, but is articulated, i.e. its internal structure is given to our perception.

And yet music, Langer argues, is not quite a language, as it has frequently been called (although the two worked in tandem to help us evolve.) Unlike language, where words function as its primary forms of fixed meaning and association, music allows us to fill its forms with our own meaning. She considers this singular role of meaning in music:

Music has import, and this import is the pattern of sentience — the pattern of life itself, as it is felt and directly known.

Let us therefore call the significance of music its “vital import” instead of “meaning,” using “vital” not as a vague laudatory term, but as a qualifying adjective restricting the relevance of “import” to the dynamism of subjective experience.

With this lens, Langer offers a sublimely compact and insightful definition of what music is, how it differs from language, and what it does in and for us:

Music is “significant form,” and its significance is that of a symbol, a highly articulated sensuous object, which by virtue of its dynamic structure can express the forms of vital experience which language is peculiarly unfit to convey. Feeling, life, motion and emotion constitute its import…

more…

https://www.brainpickings.org/

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ARIANA GRANDE AND THE ILLUMINATI BETA KITTENS OF POP CULTURE

by Buck Rogers, Staff Writer Waking Times

Terrorism is part of the new zeitgeist, and it serves a litany of political and social objectives for government, as does occult symbolism which is introduced to our culture by Hollywood and the beta kittens of the Illuminati-controlled music industry.

Symbolism and Sacrifice

In the case of the recent Manchester attack, the intriguing matter of Illuminati sybolism is overtly present, given the fact that the attack took place at an Ariana Grande concert, a performance artist who is unquestionably part of the Hollywood/Illuminati cult of mind control and social engineering.

This is the segment of pop culture which includes the network of over-sexualized young celebrity women trained to perform self-demeaning and occultish acts for enormous audiences. These are the ‘artists’ who receive the most support from the music industry, the greatest production budgets, the most airplay, the most press and the most gossip. These are the artists who are often seen adorned in Illuminati symbolism and often photographed with one eye covered in homage to the ubiquitous image of the all-seeing eye at the top of the pyramid.

The term ‘beta kitten’ refers to the ‘kitten programming’ applied to young females who’ve been selected to serve as mind controlled slaves by members of the occult elite, as outlined in MK Ultra and Project Monarch. Their role in pop culture today is to normalize occult symbolism and teach subservience to darkness. Watch this Lil’ Wayne video to see what a Beta Kitten is all about.

 

Grande was in Manchester for the UK performance of her ‘Dangerous Woman’ tour when an alleged suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of young Grande fans as they exited the show, killing 22 people on May 22nd. Grande herself was not harmed.

She is very much a part of the entertainment industry’s arsenal of cultural programming weapons. While she may very well be talented and beautiful, her career is the product of her handlers. In 2014, it received a boost from the major players in the music industry, at which time she began being photographed with one eye covered.

She is seen here covering one eye with a cookie.

And a few more examples:

 

 

 

 

 

The one eye photo is a very common sign of allegiance to the powers for whom these pop stars work for.

Several of Grande’s music videos also demonstrate her connection and service to the Illuminati and to their predictive programming and occult symbolism. In her popular video, ‘One Last Time,’ an apocalyptic scene unfolds as the entire planet is bombed with giant meteors.

 

In Grande’s video, ‘Let Me Love You,’ Ariana gives herself up to Lil’ Wayne, who is a top male performer for the Illuminati. Watch for yourself:

There are other numerous Beta Kittens in pop culture today, including Miley Cyrus…

 

Lady Gaga…

 

Katy Perry…

 

Taylor Swift…

 

Beyoncé…

 

The list goes on and on…

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

The symbolic imagery of the Illuminati is everywhere in today’s culture. Targeted especially at the youth, it traumatizes and numbs their psyches with the symbols of domination, slavery, fear, and death.

Having become so desensitized to these symbols for so many years, however, their intensity must be increased in order for them to keep having shock value, and now actual terrorism is connected, becoming a form of ritual sacrifice under the banner of occult symbols.

Actress Roseanne Barr explains the MK Ultra mind control program, which rules Hollywood:

About the Author

Buck Rogers is the earth-bound incarnation of that familiar part of our timeless cosmic selves, the rebel within. He is a surfer of ideals and meditates often on the promise of happiness in a world battered by the angry seas of human thoughtlessness. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com.

This article (Ariana Grande and the Illuminati Beta Kittens of Pop Culture) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Buck Rogers and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

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In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs

“The garden of life is strewn with such dormant seeds and so much of art blossoms from their unwilled and unwillable awakenings.”

And now for something a bit out of the ordinary: When editor Andrew Blauner invited me to contribute to an anthology of essays by some of his favorite writers about their favorite Beatles songs, I did something I rarely do — I accepted, because a particular Beatles song happens to be a significant animating force in my family story.

The anthology is now out as In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs (public library), featuring contributions from wonderful writers like Pico Iyer (“Yesterday”), Rosanne Cash (“No Reply”), Rick Moody (“The End”), Rebecca Mead (“Eleanor Rigby”), Roz Chast (“She Loves You”), Jane Smiley (“I Want to Hold Your Hand”), and Adam Gopnik (“Strawberry Fields Forever” / “Penny Field”).

Here my essay, as it appears in the book.

YELLOW SUBMARINE
by Maria Popova

My parents fell in love on a train. It was the middle of the Cold War and they were both traveling from their native Bulgaria to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where they were to attend different universities — my father, an introvert of formidable intelligence, was studying computer science; my mother, a poetry-writing (bordering-on-bossy) extrovert , library science.

An otherwise rational man, my father describes the train encounter as love at first sight. Upon arrival, he began courting my mother with such subtlety that it took her two years to realize she was being courted.

One spring morning, having finally begun to feel like a couple, they were walking across the lawn between the two dorms and decided it was time for them to have a whistle-call. At the time, Bulgarian couples customarily had whistle-calls — distinctive tunes they came up with, usually borrowed from the melody of a favorite song, by which they could find each other in a crowd or summon one another from across the street.

Partway between the primitive and the poetic, between the mating calls of mammals and the sonnets by which Romeo and Juliet beckoned one another, these signals were part of a couple’s shared language, a private code to be performed in public. Both sets of my grandparents had one. My mother’s parents, elementary schoolteachers in rural Bulgaria who tended to an orchard and the occasional farm animal, used a melody of unclear origin but aurally evocative of a Bulgarian folk song; my father’s parents, both civil engineers and city intellectuals, used a fragment from a Schumann waltz.

That spring morning, knowing that my mother was a Beatles fan, my father suggested “Yellow Submarine.” There was no deliberation, no getting mired in the paradox of choice — just an instinctive offering fetched from some mysterious mental library.

Eventually, my parents got pregnant, got married, had this child. They continued to summon each other, and eventually me, by whistling “Yellow Submarine.” Although I didn’t know at the time that it was originally written as a children’s song, it came to color my childhood. I had always wondered why, of all possible songs saturating their youth, my parents had chosen “Yellow Submarine” — a song released long before they met. My father wasn’t much of a Beatles fan himself, and yet that spring morning, he was able to open the cabinet of his semi-conscious memory, fetch a melody he had heard almost twenty years earlier, and effortlessly whistle it to his beloved. The familial whistle-call became a given in my childhood, like math homework and Beef Stroganoff Sundays, so it wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that it occurred to me to inquire about how “Yellow Submarine” wove itself into the family fabric. The story of how that seemingly random song had implanted itself in my father’s mind is the archetypal story of how popular music, and perhaps all popular art, is metabolized in the body of culture. Once it has entered the crucible of consciousness, a song becomes subject to a peculiar alchemy — the particularities of the listener’s life at that particular moment transmute its objective meaning, if there ever was one at all, into a subjective impression. That impression is what we encode into memory, what we retrieve to whistle twenty years later. The artist’s original intent is melded with the listener’s personal context into an amorphous mass of inexpressible yet unforgettable unity — a dormant seed whose blossoming depends on the myriad factors fertilizing the surrounding soil. That the seed was planted at all may remain unheralded until the moment of its blossoming…

more…

https://www.brainpickings.org/

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Beethoven’s Advice on Being an Artist: His Touching Letter to a Little Girl Who Sent Him Fan Mail

“The true artist is not proud… Though he may be admired by others, he is sad not to have reached that point to which his better genius only appears as a distant, guiding sun.”

Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler

“The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself,” E.E. Cummings wrote in contemplating what it means to be an artist — a sentiment which intimates that the accumulation of learning, an inevitable byproduct of the process of growing up, takes us not closer to but further away from our creative source. Baudelaire captured this perfectly when he wrote: “Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will.” This, perhaps, is why some of humanity’s most fertile minds have traced the origin of their creative purpose in childhood moments of epiphany — Pablo Neruda in his anecdote of the hand through the fence, Patti Smith in her encounter with the the swan, and Albert Einstein in his formative memory of the compass.

In speaking with children, therefore, one might be able to get to the heart of art most simply and directly, unobstructed by the learned assumptions with which the act of living cloaks the act of creation.

That’s precisely what Ludwig van Beethoven (December 16, 1770–March 26, 1827) did in his response to a fan letter from a little girl.

In the summer of 1812, a young aspiring pianist named Emilie sent her hero a beautiful hand-embroidered pocketbook to express her admiration for his artistic genius. Touched by the gesture, 41-year-old Beethoven wrote back, offering some simple yet profound words of encouragement and advice on the creative life — an exquisite micro-manifesto for what it means to be an artist and what art demands of those who make it.

In a letter from July 17 of that year, found in Beethoven: Letters, Journals and Conversations (public library) — which also gave us the great composer’s stirring letter to his brothers about how music saved his life — Beethoven writes to Emilie:

My dear good Emilie, my dear Friend!

[…]

Do not only practice art, but get at the very heart of it; this it deserves, for only art and science raise men to the God-head. If, my dear Emilie, you at any time wish to know something, write without hesitation to me. The true artist is not proud, he unfortunately sees that art has no limits; he feels darkly how far he is from the goal; and though he may be admired by others, he is sad not to have reached that point to which his better genius only appears as a distant, guiding sun.

Although known for his explosive anger, a bout of which reportedly caused his deafness, Beethoven was indeed a man of multitudes, capable at times of tremendous tenderness and sensitivity. It is from that soft and human place that he adds, in this letter to a little girl of meager means and no social advantage, a touching note on the artist’s responsibility to humility:

I would, perhaps, rather come to you and your people, than to many rich folk who display inward poverty. If one day I should come to [your town], I will come to you, to your house; I know no other excellencies in man than those which causes him to rank among better men; where I find this, there is my home.

If you wish, dear Emilie, to write to me, only address straight here where I shall be still for the next four weeks, or to Vienna; it is all one. Look upon me as your friend, and as the friend of your family.

Complement this particular fragment of Beethoven: Letters, Journals and Conversations with Einstein’s advice to a little girl on being a scientist, Sol LeWitt’s electrifying letter of encouragement on being an artist, and Rilke’s timeless wisdom on what it takes to create, then revisit Beethoven’s passionate love letters.

https://www.brainpickings.org/

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How the Evolution of Pop Music Explains Hookup Culture

by John McDermott

If pop music is a proxy for the culture at large, then America has truly undergone a radical cultural transformation over the past 50 years with regard to dating, love and sex.

Namely, men have collectively turned into a bunch of commitment-averse, sex-crazed Lotharios, while women remain as lovelorn as ever.

A new study published in the journal Sexuality & Culture, which bills itself as “the most exhaustive analysis of popular music lyrics conducted to date,” finds that male pop stars sang about dating in just 59 percent of songs released in the 2000s, a 10 percentage-point decrease from the 1960s.

And male pop performers became more explicitly sexual over the same period. They referenced sex in 40 percent of pop songs in the 2000s, a fivefold increase from the more sexually modest 1960s, when sex appeared in just 7 percent of pop songs.

The researchers conducted the study by analyzing the lyrics to songs that appeared on the Billboard top 100 songs of the year from 1960 to 2008. They analyzed 1,250 songs in total, and their analysis shows that pop music reflects our increasingly lax attitudes about casual sex.

“If you look at the changes from one decade to the next, you definitely see guys singing about romantic relationships less over time, and that coincides with an increase of guys singing about sex,” says Andrew Smiler, the lead author on the study and a psychotherapist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “As racy as Elvis was in the ‘50s and ‘60s, he really can’t hold a candle to a lot of what we see today.”

Male pop stars went from telling women “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to dropping all pretense and singing “I Wanna Fuck You.” It’s the pop music equivalent of a guy ghosting you for two months only to send an unprompted 3 a.m. “u up?” text one night.

Female pop performers are more overtly sexual now, too, albeit to a far lesser degree. Among female pop performers, the proportion of songs that reference sex was at 6 percent in the 1960s, and remained between 16 and 21 percent from 1970 to 2000—about half the rate that their male counterparts sing about sex.

“We have this longstanding double standard in the U.S. regarding men women talking about sex. While we’ve had some sexual liberation for women, there’s still some very real risk of them looking bad [for talking about sex],” Smiler adds. “Women who sing about sex are labeled ‘dirty.’”

Unlike their male pop star counterparts, female pop performers have remained just as interested in dating as they did in the ‘60s. The number of female-performed pop songs with references to dating “stayed relatively constant across five decades,” between 78 and 83 percent, according to a release about the study.

https://melmagazine.com/how-pop-music-came-to-embrace-hookup-culture-ce79e4cf5d0c

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Now THAT was music

Resultado de imagem para Music fans at Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow, Scotland, 27 May 1984Music fans at Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow, Scotland, 27 May 1984. Photo by Daily Record/Mirrorpix/Getty

One grim day (when youth is over) you find that new music gets on your nerves. But why do our musical tastes freeze over?

Lary Wallace is features editor of Bangkok Post: The Magazine. He has written for the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Paris Review Daily, The Library of America Reader’s Almanac, and others.

Some of us are more susceptible than others, but eventually it happens to us all. You know what I’m talking about: the inability to appreciate new music – or at least, to appreciate new music the way we once did. There’s a lot of disagreement about why exactly this happens, but virtually none about when. Call it a casualty of your 30s, the first sign of a great decline. Recently turned 40, I’ve seen it happen to me – and to a pretty significant extent – but refuse to consider myself defeated until the moment I stop fighting.

I’ve been fighting it for more than 10 years now, with varying degrees of vigour and resolve. Sometimes the fight becomes too much – one tires of the small victories that never break open into anything larger – and the spirit flags. I continually if not consistently stay abreast of what’s deemed the best of the new – particularly in rap and rock and R&B (which I stubbornly and unapologetically refer to, like a true devotee of its 1960s incarnation, as ‘soul singing’). These ventures into the current and contemporary have reaped dividends so small, they can be recounted – will be recounted – with no trouble at all.

But why should I care? Why should any of us care? Maybe it’s about the fear of becoming what we’ve always loathed: someone reflexively and guiltlessly willing to serve up a load of things-were-better-in-my-day, one of the most facile and benighted of all declarations. If you take pride in regarding yourself as culturally current, always willing to indulge the best of everything wherever it’s found, such taste blockages can be pretty frustrating, even embarrassing. And that hoary old consolation for the erectile dysfunction of the slightly older – ‘It happens to everyone’ – is no consolation at all.

For one thing, it doesn’t happen to everyone. Musicians seem particularly immune, for obvious reasons, and so do certain types of journalists, for reasons touched on in the paragraph above. Still, it’s a very real phenomenon, as real as anything that transpires in the mind. Famously, something similar happens to us with sports, particularly spectator sports, and at a much younger age. But no one really feels too badly about that, because of the inherent meaninglessness of watching other humans engage in physical activity. It’s like ruing the day you ever stopped liking porn. But music is different. Denounce the music of the present day, and you’ve instantly become a walking, talking, (barely) breathing cliché, ripe for ridicule, a classic figure of parody and invective.

It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it could certainly happen to you.

It’s axiomatic in our culture that a sense of wonder is something to be encouraged in others and coveted for ourselves. But a sense of wonder is dependent on an ability to experience surprise, and if as an adult you’re still surprised by certain things, then you haven’t been keeping up the way you should.

Most of us stop responding to new music because we know better. You can read that sentence and its last word any way you want; it’s still going to apply. But even if we don’t know better, per se, we still know just as good, and so we know enough to understand that it’s been done before, whatever this is we’re listening to. All of which is another way of saying: you lose your virginity only once.

This is only compounded by another factor, and it’s something I’ve never seen or heard mentioned in any discussion of this topic. It has to do with the callowness (perceived and real) of musicians younger than ourselves. As something that by its very nature appeals to our emotions, music requires that we be emotionally engaged. This can be a very difficult thing to achieve on behalf of someone who hasn’t endured as much of the world as we have…

more…

https://aeon.co/essays/why-do-your-musical-tastes-get-frozen-over-in-your-twenties

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