Articles From the June 1994 Unification News


Culture as a Cure

Simon Kinney-NYC

Try this for a thought; 'When the Art of a civilization dies, the rest of civilization follows. True or false? Well, it takes no Machiavellian prognosticator to look around and imbibe the seemingly endless array of colorful expressions, known as the 'culture' of the modern world, Does the world of Art really help to shape the tide of history, or is it simply another clever and felonious 'nom de plume' for those who are less serious about taking responsibility?

Let's take a first case in point: the last four hundred years of Western Civilization. How does our pointed 'plume' figure in this rather expansive monolith of our heritage? Without question, every decade of European History during this period was besieged by a monarchical or hierarchical structure that considered imperative, the presence and preservation of an artistic mouthpiece; musical, theatrical, dramatic, literary and otherwise, as an important representation of themselves to the population 'en masse'. Why? Was it ego driven 'anima' ? Perhaps in some cases quite possibly it was. However, overriding such obstacles was something much larger and of much more universal significance, and that is it served as a creative mouthpiece through which God could project himself into the hearts and minds of humanity. From Bach's St. Matthew's Passion to Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, both expressions of eternal religiosity, we see something that impressed the consciousness of the populus at large, inspired by something higher than simply their own earthly ability. But given that this article is only a sneak preview, let's step into the present. Is modern popular culture any less relevant than that of the past? When I was at middle school, my music professor used to tell us that modern 'pop' music wasn't worth the time of day and had no real relevance whatsoever. I came to the conclusion that there were two possibilities with this particular person. Firstly, I thought he needed to have his head read; secondly, that perhaps he was deaf in both ears. It seemed that the latter was not really possible, given that he was teaching music. As for the first possibility, I couldn't really check it because I wasn't a mind reader.

Anyway, regardless, I found myself drawn to listening to 'modern' music at every given opportunity; not just for the music but also for what it was saying, because it expressed how we could gain greater happiness in a genre that seemed eternal. So, can popular culture change the way people feel and think? On the third of May, I found an article in the Los Angeles Times. There, in a conspicuously highlighted column on the third page was a piece about pop singer Amy Grant. Plauded by among others, Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush, Reagan and Clinton, Grant received the prestigious Pax Christi award from Minnesota's St. John's University. This award, which is presented annually and is always reserved for Academic Theologians, was given to her for her service to society through her music. If there are rumbles about the legitimacy of spending time in the creation of cultural models; musical, cinematic, literary or otherwise, we need to check the pendulum of reality; for even though God's will is eternal, times do change within it.

Bio: Simon Kinney is an Operatic Conductor and on the staff of the Manhattan Center.


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