More Than a Catchy Tune

My musical tastes favor Mahler over MBD, anytime. So why do I love this new tune and its video treatment so much? Probably because it succeeds in taking something as somber as debilitating childhood illness, and turning it into a paean to community chesed. (Oh yes, did I mention that the chesed organization it extols is Kids of Courage, co-founded by my son Ari? Whatever.)


[Hat tip to Dr. Martha Simon, Los Angeles/Yerushalayim]

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4 Responses

  1. Baruch Gitlin says:

    That’s terrific! I almost never bother looking at stuff like this, but when a Mahler fan recommends it, attention must be paid.

  2. micha says:

    For two people who agree so often on the important things, we spend a lot of time debating quibbles. Sometimes heatedly. Mahler? Feh! Music took a nosedive ever since Beethoven basically ended Classical Music and started the Romantic period.

    I say that as a joke (even though it is how my tastes run), but more as an excuse to share this quote by R’ Dr Nathan T Lopez Cardozo:

    Those who carefully study the music of Johann Sebastian Bach will be surprised to discover that the great musician dealt with music as the rabbis dealt with the law. Bach was totally traditional in his approach to music. He adhered strictly to the rules of composing music as understood in his days. Nowhere in all his compositions do we find deviation from these rules. But what is most surprising is that Bach’s musical output is not only unprecedented but, above all, astonishingly creative. According to many, he was “the greatest composer of all.” … What we discover is that the self-imposed restrictions of Bach to keep to the traditional rules of composition forced him to become the author of such outstandingly innovative music that nobody after him was ever able to follow in his footsteps. It was within the “confinement of the law” that Bach burst out with unprecedented creativity. This proves, against all expectations, that the “finiteness” of the law leads to infinite riches. What Bach proved as nobody else was that it is not in novelty that one reaches the deepest of all human creative experiences, but in the capacity to descend to the depths of what is already given. Bach’s works were entirely free of any innovation, but utterly new in originality.

    This type of conventional creativity we do not find in Beethoven. Beethoven (in his later years) broke with all the accepted rules of composition. He was one of the founders of a whole new world of musical options. But it was his rejection of the conventional musical laws which made him less of a musical genius. To work within constraints and then to be utterly novel is the ultimate sign of unprecedented greatness. This is what Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832) the great German poet and philosopher meant when he said:

    In limitation does the master really prove himself And it is (only) the law which can provide us with freedom.

    Bach, then, was a “halachic” giant of the first order. He realized that it is not true that when one adopts a well defined scheme one forfeits an inner life experience of great spiritual profundity.

    None of which has to do with folk music. I can admire music’s power to inspire the masses even when it isn’t the most powerful composition in its own right. For that matter, it seems that if folk music is to be repeatable and to “stick in the head” and motivate, it has to have a certain simplicity.

    JC Bach (or even Mahler <grin>) is trying to do something so different than Yitzy Bald set out to do, I find they each have their very different appeals.

    Just keep on shepping naches!

    [YA – The both of you are hopeless yekkes! Me – I’m a mongrel. Only one side is yekke. I drift in and out at will. Lots of room for the heart, not only for structure. And I learned in litvish yeshivos. Put it all together, and you get Mahler! Austrian by birth; lots of romantic influence, but dripping with the cynicism of a Litvak]

  3. Raymond says:

    I think that the magic of music is not only in its inherent beauty, but in what we associate with it. The song posted here is certainly not classical in the Bach/Mozart sense, but is nevertheless meaningful because of the kindness of the cause with which it is associated. Or think of the music of the late, great Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who may have not had the best voice in any objective sense, yet touched so many of our hearts and souls. On a much less sublime level, there is a whole bunch of modern, popular music very meaningful to me because I associate it with fond childhood memories (e.g. Simon & Garfunkel, Carpenters), that means absolutely nothing to the new generation. A

  4. Baruch Gitlin says:

    Now, this is much more fun than endless debating about the yeshiva students draft exemption and other such weighty items. I’m glad I checked back. Micha, that’s a great quote from Rabbi Cardozo. But I beg to differ slightly – I think Bach and Beethoven were both geniuses – Beethoven, in fact, studied Bach’s music closely, and held him to be a supreme musical genius. But although I think that’s a great point about Bach achieving unsurpassed beauty within the existing rules, I believe that Beethoven’s genius in mastering the rules, then breaking out of them to pioneer new forms, was no less great. Two different types of genius, separate but equal. I’ll leave the implications, if any, regarding our approach to yiddishkite, to better minds than mine.

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