Archive for February, 2010

A Fifth Of Beethoven

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

A Fifth of Beethoven

Arguably one of the most widely know pieces of music to date is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in C Minor.  It’s classic motifs are used in movies, jokes, television, and any other form of media.  An extremely popular adaptation to the classic composition is a song called A Fifth of Beethoven arranged by Walter Murphy in 1976.  This song did not reach its popularity until the next year when it was featured in Saturday Night Fever at the height of disco.  This song epitomizes the era of disco due to the funk beat creating a back drop for the melodic tune Beethoven created almost 200 years before.  The song takes the most memorable parts of the first suite of the symphony and creates a collaboration of motifs from Beethoven and melodies that Murphy creates himself.  The melody still travels from instrument to instrument like in the original but the dynamics are taken out of the cover.  The passion and romanticism that made Beethoven’s symphony genius is lost behind the loud instruments Murphy uses to accompany the string melody.  However, this isn’t partially Murphy’s fault, due to the times, instruments popularly used, and the public demand for music to sound and feel a certain way, Murphy ultimately chose not to venture away from the norm similar to Beethoven and other musicians of that time period.  In Conclusion, the adaptation of Beethoven’s fifth symphony became extremely popular because it appealed to the mass population since it combined famous, classical music with popular and catchy beat that everyone could dance to.

022210 Balibar QQC.

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Quote:  “Nationalism and patriotism are the religion of modern times.” paraphrased (95)

Comment:  I’ve always been taught in history classes that patriotism is good, nationalism is bad.  Patriotism is a simple celebration of where you’re from, a pride in your nation.  Nationalism, however, is evil and starts wars.  To be honest, I’ve never really seen the difference between the two except that at some point, the good parts of patriotism turns into big, bad nationalism.  As Balibar points out what the defining characteristics for what constitutes the boundaries of a nation are, I still don’t see the difference.

Borders can’t be defined by race, religion, language or class, since there are such a large amount of differences in them everywhere.  From a previous post-colonial literature class I had, one of the things I remember is that Nigeria has over 150 language dialects within its country alone.  Somewhere along the line, though, a community and a common national identity was formed and the population become Nigerian.  Is this when patriotism begins, when you have that common national identity in place?  When does nationalism begin then?

Some of the visual representations of China that we have seen thus far, like the Landsberger posters, I suppose would lean toward the idea of nationalism.  They are definitely patriotic, a little too patriotic.  Is it the involvement of the military on the posters that turns it from being simply patriotic to nationalist?  To be willing to use force to prove your patriotism?  Is it patriotic to want Taiwan back as part the official Republic of China, but nationalist to want them back while pointing large artillery in their direction?  I’m not sure.  All I am sure of is that someone who isn’t patriotic toward whatever they feel their home country is, to most people, may as well be viewed as a traitor, and someone who is too patriotic is considered a nationalist.  So I suppose the key is to find a balance.

Questions:  Within.

020710 Braester QQC

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Quote:  “Memories are unstable and given to interpretation in different keys.” (204)

Comment:  This article was interesting not only as background to the Cultural Revolution and the way it is remembered, but also as a psychological study of how any human remembers the past.  Braester notes how for some, the ‘sunny days’ of the 1960s and 1970s were actually not such a great time in China, but that the nostalgia for the days when they were teenagers overrules any events that may have taken place.  An interesting parallel that Braester makes to one of the movies is that they say the present was in black and white, while the memory was shot in color (205) because the present is a faded memory, but the stereotypical movie shot of a flashback in most films I think does the reverse of this.  Because the flashback is a memory, they are in black and white and not colored because details such as color are lost over time.  After thinking about the two sides of the argument for a little, I am inclined to lean towards the side that considers the past more colorful than the present.  Bad memories seem to disappear slowly over time, while the good ones become exxagerated, glorified, and added to.  Like the character Xiaojun on page 204, a memory can play tricks on you so that you remember things that never even happened.

Question:  Can we really blame the people who were involved in the Cultural Revolution for feeling nostalgic over the good old days when they were “seventeen or eighteen–the most beautiful time in one’s life” (199), since most people generally fall into this category no matter where they were or what historical events were happening?

Wagner vs. Mozart

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Mozart and Wagner are arguably two of the greatest composers ever to live and compose two completely different styles of music.  Mozart’s songs are technically and musically brilliant and genius, yet their doesn’t seem to be any depth or personality in his music.  When one listens to Mozart, one can easily understand how special the song is, but its hard find any personalbility in Mozart’s work.  One finds it hard to relate to Mozart’s piece due to how genius it is, the lack of emotion in the song, or for some other reason.  Conversely, Wagner’s compositions thrive on emotion, and sometimes goes over the limit with too much emotion.  Whether the underlying tone blasts tense, dark, and angry emotions to the back row of the opera house, or delicately soothes the coldest heart with a romantic love melody, Wagner pours all of his emotions into every piece he writes.   Even with these clear differences in taste, the reason for what style they compose in is suprisingly similar.  Both composers seem to employ their experiences, personalities, and external forces in their music they write.  Mozart’s possible lack of emotion or distance between the audience and his music could be accouted for in the fact that his father took care of his money in life and when Leopold died, Mozart was not able to care for himself financially and had the personality of a child.  Wagner similarly had money problems but the difference between him and Mozart was that his personality was more developed emotionally and he was therefore able to express his emotion through his compositions.  In Wagner’s social life, he was emotionally involved in politics and philosophy.  He wrote papers about Anti-Semitism, and would boast about his genius intellect for music and thought at any chance he got.  Wagner and Mozart’s life outside of the music world played an influencial role in their opposing music styles, nevertheless, they will both stay cemented in the hall of fame of classical composers of all time.

Landsberger Poster.

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010


The caption for this piece is “Everybody helps a hand to destroy the Four Pests, 1960.”  This poster stuck out to me because it is one of the few that depict an unhappy crowd on it.  The main characters, man, woman, and child, are seen debugging some of the pests that Mao ordered to be destroyed (although it seems the sparrow is missing).  They are all in action, but the first one that stuck out to me was the young boy ready to bring down the flyswatter with force.  This shows the force that the CCP was hoping to enact by this ruling.  The woman with the poison suggests that the enemy bugs will be taking out by any means necessary.  Finally, the man on the right is cleaning up the mess that remains (if this was done at the same time in America, the woman would probably have the broom).

After thinking for a minute about this, I came to the conclusion that this poster could be taking on more than just the “Four Pests.”  The insects here are treated as an enemy, they are beaten down while the crowd of people enjoy victory from above.  If the people can rise against these pests with such victory, and the pests are an enemy of the people, then the same method that are implied can be used to defeat any enemy into the same submission as these insects whether natural, domestic, or foreign.  Any enemy will be met with force and technological warfare (biological if necessary, as in the picture), and then the results will be cleaned up by the winner, in this case, the Chinese.

020110 QQC

Monday, February 1st, 2010


“Painting the image of Mao Zedong in ways that departed from the approved version could earn the artist condemnation as a counterrevolutionary, as was the case with a Mao-badge designer from Inner Mongolia who altered the profile of Mao to face right and not left.” (Evans & Donald 4)


I never thought about the level of preciseness that would go into the creation of these posters that is forced upon the artist by the CCP.  The idea of an artist having their natural ability as a creator stripped from them entirely in order to make exactly what the Party wants somehow shocks me.  I understand the Party would want a certain image and message contained within their picture, but it seems that showing a different angle would not stop this.  This is not an isolated event, as Chen points out another example in his chapter, “the portrait of Mao in their classroom showed only his left ear, a “serious political problem” on the part of the artist who had thus dared to insult the great leader” (104).


The portrait of Mao is held as sacred as a religious icon, so my question is in this era of accessibility in the media added to the ease of making unbecoming Photoshops on a computer, would this and could this still be as strictly enforced if things were still run the same.