School’s Out

“Most people stop for signs, but I’ve driven through it:
If it don’t touch my soul, then I can’t listen to it.” – Big K.R.I.T., The Vent

Music so often becomes accidentally, inextricably linked with moments from our lives – a first kiss, a worst day, a best friend a last goodbye – so why not use those tendencies to create meaningful, even philosophical, connections? We’ve talked about social change as a function of music before, but a listener’s interior, personal changes, while less immediately obvious, are equally important.

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates is credited as having said that “musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul – on which they mightily fasten – imparting grace.” And even today, music maintains an important role in learning, from Mother Goose rhymes in preschool to the Top 40 lyrics that become impossible to forget when the notes we’re desperately highlighting for finals seem impossible to remember.

In their song Waiting for the Beat to Kick In, which deals with subjects as diverse and as universal as sleep, kindness, serenity, anger, integrity, and inertia, the hip hop duo Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip state their mission thus: “Silently I step up with a subversive subtext, / Trying to feed the need for more than just remedial subjects: / Place my faith in the belief that the general public / Will open up their minds to more than just an industry puppet.” The idea, then, is to write – and to listen to – music that has meaning as well as entertainment value for the listener, something that will improve not only the hearer’s mood but also his mind, changing not just a day, but a life.

Happy listening – happy learning.

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Into the Light

“Meet me at the fork in the road, where the lost souls get indecisive; Meet me at the crossroads, so I can have someone to walk into the light with.” – Sage Francis, Crackpipes

As this adventure in blogging draws to a close, it’s time to look to other endings: death, while never exactly a pleasant topic, is a frequent one in art of all kinds. Music, visual art, and literature all try to explore what lies beyond the edges of our consciousness, what Shakespeare describes as “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns” – the place no one has been and no one will come back from.

But what happens when we die? Does the essence of a person decay with his body? Our favorite artists and philosophers say no. Slug says that “a soul is a soul, and a shell is a shell – the border in between is full of everything you felt”: the body is mortal, but the soul persists after death. His thoughts are echoed by Plato’s idea that “the soul takes nothing with her to the next world but her education and her culture.” Material things, including the body, are worthless to us at the point of death. The answer, then, is not in how you die, but how you live.

Talib Kweli states that “Life without knowledge is death in disguise,” which is almost identical to the thought motivating Socrates’s declaration that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” In this light, then, truth is the highest aim of life – to know, to continually learn, is to fully experience the world around us.

So learn something every day. Listen to the people around you to see if they have something to teach you. Don’t be a lost soul when your time comes to walk into the light.

Change

“Musical innovation is full of danger to the State, for when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them.”  – Plato, The Republic

My Facebook feed has been nothing but my actor/magician/visual artist/dancer/singer/musician friends arguing with my other friends about funding for programming like PBS and the National Endowment for Arts. (Don’t leave – I promise, I’m pretty tired of it, too.)

The big question is, why bother funding things like music and art when there are so many other, more obvious problems to address? The answer, repeatedly, is that art is one of the things that keeps us safe from those other problems – and, as Plato notes, from the State itself.

The idea of the anti-establishment or counterculture in music is nothing new – as long as there’s been something to protest, artists have written songs to express their concerns over the current culture.

Just like a lyric as seemingly simple as Weezy’s “My girl be askin’ why I don’t wear no suit and tie – I tell her that’s what they put on you when you die” hints at something much deeper than clothes, music is indicative of the tensions, emotions, and mood of the culture that creates it.

The backlash over Beyoncé’s 2016 visual album Lemonade came not from explicit lyrics or risqué costuming, but from her decision to pose, disinterested and defiant, on the roof of a sinking police car, reflecting the anxieties of an America still reeling from the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others at the hands of police officers. By aligning herself with the Black Lives Matter Movement, Beyoncé made a marginalized, almost taboo political topic the focus of mainstream, entertainment-based discussion: while not everyone is willing to engage in political debate, we all consume entertainment in one form or another, and ours is a celebrity culture. (After all, we did elect a reality TV star with no other qualifications as president last November.)

So music does matter. Art matters. Expression, innovation, and change matter, and for that reason, they have always been, and will always be, “full of danger.” Create responsibly.

Is Rick Ross Magnificent? Pt. 3

what up what up OG Aristotle all up in the blogpost about to create a pt 3 to a discussion that I told the kind people of Schooled of Athens would only take a pt 1. Its all good tho. graduated in 200 AD from the harvard of greece and im still trynna pay off these student loans. It isnt just mildly lyrically talented rappers that gotta eat too yafeelme which brings me to the discussion at hand. If you dont wanna read back on pt 1 and pt 2 cuz ya mind is too lethargic from all the sittin and watchin and eatin all day to now read a total of a thousand words or somethin around there then heres a summary and also a spike slap in the cheek bone. Seriously get yo ass up and pull ya self together mygod. I thought the romans were about the lazyiest a human could possibly get…draggin their sandals on the dirt roads w/ their fat little heads down as the city burns to the ground. You millennials are the worst. Heres your nice little convenient summary on a shiny silver plate: So basically we’re trynna decide if rick ross is magnificent as he claims. I say nah. in order to see why we gotta check off a few boxes on the road to conclusion. What we have discovered so far is that in order to be fully human being you gotta use rationality not just emotions, your mind not just ya heart, your brain not just ya dirty knuckles…so on so forth. This is where the concept of means come in.

with any human action there is a mean. That is…there is some sorta middle ground that everybody should aim for which lies between some sorta excess and some sorta deficiency. Take the human action of anger. If someone told you that the wu-tang-clan was made up of a bunch of phony wack garbage MCs and you played it cool like someone just accidently bumped your side on a busy sidewalk then that would be an example of a deficiency of anger cuz although I highly doubt this needs to be said but for whatever wild reason that it does…the wut-tang-clan is in fact made up of some of the greatest human beings ever to step in front of a mic. But if you reacted in the same scenario by head butting that poorly misunderstood person in the face and then slamming him into the hard concrete until there was enough blood on the floor to draw out the entire lryics of ‘aint nothing to f*** with’ next to that now unconscious and barley breathing body, then that would be an example of an excess of anger. In both cases when a person acts in a deficient or excessive way they are letting their emotions exclusively to make decisions. Which as we’ve come to conclude in pt 2 is not acting as a human being in the complete sense the same way the drug dealer sellin parsley is not a drug dealer in the complete sense. Contemplating about means as you make decisions forces u to use ya brain. In other words when u trynna to be deliberate and sensible with ya actions and daily decisions you can transform any emotional activity into a rational one and become more fully human yafeelme.

This process of means happens everywhere. At ya crib, on the block, at the trapspot, on the internet or….when ya pockets are fat and u trynna to decide if u should cop yoself a new baby jesus emblem with his eyes made of rubies and his hair made of diamonds or split some of that paper w/ the homeless foundation.\

hint hint hint

Ah shit…again and again. My mind and my word count way too high right now. Guess that means a pt 4? See u on the other side.