eclectic examples of edification: how an 89-year-old man taught me to love music

I had a professor who claimed, in a very aggressive manner, that the artistry of our generation was dead, and that we were ruining the way the world was. He was 89, he could barely hear, and he was overly confident in his lackluster ability to read lips. He cited Nicki Minaj and Tiesto – he claimed music carried no significance or emotion as of late.

He blamed our cell phones and our fast paced lifestyle. He suggested we lacked curiosity and drive. The course,

“Philosophy in the Arts,” explained “Whitter’s Law,” a self-proclaimed theory constructed by the professor. In short, he believes in order to be appreciated and understood, music must be listened to many times as to allow yourself familiarity and room to grow around the sound. He explains how music can create an ‘oceanic feeling,’ or a moment of pure bliss defined by an overwhelming feeling of togetherness: a wave of euphoria.

Yet my professor asserted that we were not capable of achieving this level of emotion and insight. He insisted we listen to long winded symphonies, his music of choice. These were not horrible by any means and they struck the audience of students as pleasant, but did not deliver a feeling of edification. He claimed we did not understand the music. We agreed.


Alas, who needs classical music? The background of dramatic films? Elevators? The only exposure people born after 1990 really had with classical music was from these means. Unless you participated in a school marching band, a hobby that seems to be dwindling in popularity, you probably did not know much about the dense world of classical music.

So because we do not understand the music, we rejected it. We sat in class, looking apathetic and bored, only perpetuating my professor’s impression that we lacked curiosity.

However, good music still exists in 2017; I found myself more and more bothered by my professor’s boisterous banter about our generation: his popularized examples did not reflect the mass majority of music in the making, just the tip of a very dirty and polluted iceberg. I eventually raised the courage to speak on the manner. I told my professor: “you are wrong and we are better than you think.” He yelled, he demanded my reasons and to reject his rationality.

So I wrote him a playlist. I told him to look up a funk band called “Lettuce,” a group of nine with brass instruments, keyboards and electronic influences. The band is famous on the festival route, and masters of their creative crunchy craft. They can jam for hours, delineating from their track listing and simply improvising groovy noise. It was definitely not in the wheelhouse of my symphony toting professor.

I assumed he would hate it. I prepared myself emotionally to be publicly chastised in class – I had just mustered the will to speak nonetheless. I stayed up all night the evening prior. I considered skipping, I considered dropping, I considered packing my bags and joining a religious cult in the forest.

I was pleasantly surprised when he came in the next day with a spring in his step. This was unusual of the 89-year-old man.

- Stephanie Khairallah


He exclaimed that this was just as much classical music and his own Bach and Sibalis. He claimed the energy of the music made his old bones shimmy and his heart skip. His strict intimidation seemed to crumble away in excitement over our common appreciation for something, even if it sounded different from what he was used to. I was shocked he could wrap his head around the stuff.

Underneath the “fire beats,” and the iTunes top 10 downloaded list, there is a world full of the artistry and experimentation in music. ‘Good’ music is hard to find because good artists often lack the marketing teams or the money and management to manipulate the media. Music has become buried under sales goals and target demographics. he art of music exists, it simply will never be as profitable as churning out another Taylor Swift song. Therefore you will never hear good music as often. ‘Good’ as in created with artistic intentions, that is, good as in capable of eliciting the edification my professor begged us to find.


Yet the accusation that our generation lacks the proclivity to create art is underhanded and offensive! An allegation that is simply uneducated and unaware of the dense and elaborate communities behind the façade of commercialism.

Technology has allowed for music to break off into tangents – hundreds of genres and subgenres riddle the battlegrounds of YouTube and SoundCloud. Music has not become myopic or cheap, it has developed into the opposite; the industry has become a non-restricting world with every resource at the touch of a button. This does not make music simple and stupid, it creates the opportunity to research and develop a sound with qualities and dimensions previously unobtainable.

I am trying to imply that our generation is still capable of an edifying experience with music – we still create art and experiment with sound. Bad modern music is played the most often because it is commercialized to do so specifically. Of course Anaconda is horrible, it was written by a team of marketers to sell the implication of sex to children with the purpose of making money, not creating art. The more often a song is heard, the more money it is to make, obviously.

Yet there are still people exploring instruments and rhythm and harmony. Besides the strict structure, where is the difference in conducting an orchestra verses a solid jam? They both require a group of like-minded people, working together and exploring their talents to create sound that evokes emotion for an audience who recognizes the dedication and creativity which built it.

EDM and gypsy folk might make no sense to someone who did not grow up with the sound – but classical music shares a similar confusion to a generation raised otherwise. These genres are completely different and exactly the same. We clash generationally because we do not understand one another. We hear a boring gruel in their classical clashes and they hear random explosive noise from ours.

Yet, we must not let ourselves close ourself from understanding perspective. We must allow our ears to be open. Listen to the classical song, even if you think it is long and boring. Allow yourself to recognize and appreciate things you may not inherently understand. We have the unique ability to learn and to listen to as much of whatever we might want. My professor left with a list of local bands. I left with a Bach CD.

Get weird with it – experiment, explore, edify.


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