Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore: Master Teachers

In the assignment description for these blog posts, Dr. Stein declares, “There is no particular
length requirement on these, but there should be sufficient development of your ideas.  I always encourage completeness of thought and adequate explanation of your ideas regardless of length.”   Quality or quantity?  In this case, Dr. Stein has taken the side of quality.  When it comes to establishing the likability of a book, movie, or song, often there is a difference between the quality of the artifact and the number of times a person is willing to expose him/herself to it. For example, there are many books that I love because they expand my thinking and open my mind or heart - quality books.  These favorite books can be treasured, but one reading is all that is desired.  On the other hand, there are books that I could read multiple times and still enjoy the experience – quantity books.  The Book Thief vs. Harry PotterThe Help vs. Twilight.  (Man, I could read Twilight over and over, but watching the movie once was sufficient.  It must also be pointed out that I read all of the books before their movies were made; I am not a bandwagon Hollywood reader.)
I must admit that the movie that I own and play repeatedly is Music and Lyrics, starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore.  The movie is not my favorite, but there is something about it that never gets old. 

While studying this week’s readings, Hugh Grant was my brain’s illustration.  You see, music is not my favorite element of pop culture.  Instead of the listening to music while I drive, I choose NPR. 
Instead of  playing Tayor Swift on Pandora while I clean, I play Young and the Restless on my DVR.  Sellnow (2014) speaks of  “messages couched in music” (pg. 171) but I prefer messages expressed in conversation.  Music and Lyrics gives me the opportunity to dabble in all of the elements covered in our assigned readings without ever having to follow Sellnow’s counsel to, “read the chapter when and where you can access technology that will allow you to actually listen to the examples…” (pg. 170).  Frequent viewing of the 2007 romantic comedy provided all of the demonstrations I needed.

            In his article, “On Music, Culture, and the Human Brain,” Hadju (2011) cleverly detailed the music industry’s response to our country’s economic meltdown.  While artists like Neil Young and Young Jeezy published work that was meant to send a message, Hadju pointed out that there is “the value of sheer entertainment as an escape from hardship” (pg. 90).  Amen!  I usually pop my Music and Lyrics DVD into a computer and set it up next to me when I have to tackle an arduous chore.  Using Hadju’s terminology, the movie is the soundtrack for my labor meltdown.  Painting bedrooms
, organizing closets, and cleaning garages have each led to the presentation of this fun film.  I don’t feel sorry for myself when I have to work, if I have something joyful to distract me.  Adorno said it this way in the year 1941, “Listeners are distracted from the demands of reality by entertainment which does not demand attention either” (pg. 70). 

            In the movie, Hugh Grant is a pop star from the early 80s.  While he is no longer relevant to much of the entertainment world, there are still many that revere what was.  Bermingham states that “culture must always build on the past, and the past always tries to control the future” (pg. 44).  This is the premise for Music and Lyrics, as our hero struggles to redefine himself.

Snellow’s “Music Perspective” of incongruity is demonstrated beautifully in Music and Lyrics.  While in the beginning our has-been singer uses violent lyrics in a release pattern, later the softer words in the ballad musical genre are thrust into an intensity pattern.

I like that as participators in pop culture, we can have different types of favorites, none of which must fall within Adorno’s highbrow, complex, and sophisticated levels (pg. 66).  While some moments in life may call for a quality song, there are other times (like when there is a long car ride with a giggling tweens), when quantity must be the champion.  Music and Lyrics repeatedly makes me smile, and allows me to experience different categories of popular culture.

Question: Can you think of a song or film that you love because of the high level of quality?  Can you freely admit that sometimes quantity is important, even if researchers like Adorno claim that, “no such mechanical substitution by stereotyped patterns is possible in serious music.”? 

Sub-Question: Upon watching the film in its entirety can you recommend to Dr. Stein that Music and Lyrics should take the place of all four readings because the same principles are covered with many more laughs?

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