My Purpose

My Purpose

The purpose of this blog is to help people understand that music can be more then just entertainment, and what those things are. I want be able to help people with this blog. I don't know everything about music, I am still studying it, however, I will share what I have found. I hope you will be enlighted and edified by what I have to share. I worry that some people might turn a deaf ear to my blog if they read something on this blog that they don't agree with. I respect your beliefs. I don't agree with everything I read either. But I know you can find something that can help and interest you, if you just keep reading.

"Quotes Worth Mentioning"


When asked where his inspiration came from, Johannes Brahms said, "I immediately feel vibrations that thrills my whole being. These are the Spirit illuminating the soul power within, and in this exalted state, I see clearly what is obscure in my ordinary moods: Then I feel capable of drawing inspiration from above, as Beethoven ... Straighway the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God, and not only do I see distinct themes in my mind's eye but they are clothed in the right forms, harmonies, and orchestration. Measure by measure, the finished product is revealed to me when I am in those rare, inspired moods." "The powers from which all truly great composers like Mozart, Schubert, Bach and Beethoven drew their inspiration is the same power that enabled Jesus to work his miracles. It is the same power that created our earth and the whole universe"
("Talks with Great Composers", Arthur M. Abell)

"Give me power over he who shapes the music of a nation, and I care not for who shapes it laws"
Napolian Bonaparte

“Intellectual enlightenment consists of instruction in the arts, numbers, history, speech, and government. Music consummates a man’s life, giving his rituals meaning. Music has a trensforming effect on its listeners, and should be the first principle of government.” -The Teachings of Confucius.

I quote some remarks between,Gene R. Cook, and Mik Jagger made a few years ago:
Cook: "I have the opportunity to be with a lot of young people. Many say your music does not affect them adversely in any way. Others say it effects them in a very bad way. What is your opinion? What is your impact?”
Jagger "Our music is calculated to drive the kids to sex. It's not my fault what they do. It's up to them. I'm just making a lot of money.”
Cook: He was in Mexico making a profane and pornographic music video because the cost is 1/3 there. In addition it is easier to produce such videos there at the moment. He explained that though such videos with explicit sexual behavior is illegal on US national television, it soon will be, and they want to have the videos ready. Now not only audio pornography can be portrayed, but they can view it as well. He was making more money this way."
Jagger:“It doesn't matter what you do in life, there are no rules. There is no god. You can take whatever you want. It doesn't matter."

"To encourage literature and the arts is the duty which every good citizen owns to his country."
George Washington

"Music has the power of producing a certain effect on the moral character of the soul, and if it has the power to do this, it is clear that the young must be directed to music and must be educated in it."

(more qoutes to come)

PLEASE NOTE: It would greatly benefit the reader to follow blog postings from the first post to the most recent. Using the Blog Archive in the left column of the page to jump to the oldest posts. For now I will see if I can find a way to display the posting in chronilogical order, first post to the latest post.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Perhaps one of the best ways to examine the emergence of public consumption of popular entertainment in 20th Century America is to chronicle it through the life of one of the most successful musical and business minds of the era, Irving Berlin. Born Isadore Balin, on May 11, 1888, he left his Russian homeland with his family at the age of 5 during an upsurging of pogroms against the Jews. On September 13, 1893, young Isadore arrived in the New York harbor aboard the Rhynland, a Scandinavian cargo ship intended for the transport of cattle. The trip had been filled with sickness and even death, when the Baline family consisting of father Moses: aged 47, mother Lena, sisters: Sarah, 15, Sofre, 14, Chasse, 10 and brother Benjamin Baroke, 11, saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. That moment would linger in the memory of young Isadore (officially Israel) or Izzy throughout a lifetime. The family moved to 330 Cherry Street, a block away from George Washington’s first residence after he became president. The region was referred to by a contemporary as a “pigsty reaching up to the sky”. It was here on Cherry Street that Izzy became interested in Christianity in general and the celebration of Christmas in specific. In September of 1900, unable to continue his career as a canter, Izzy’s father took up house painting as a profession. He was 13 when his father Moses died of chronic bronchitis, brought about from his profession of house painting, putting him in continual contact with acrid fumes. From that point on, Izzy became the sole support of himself and his family. The following year, according to Alexander Woollcott, left school “sick of his own self worthlessness”. Through his work delivering newspapers and taking odd jobs, Izzy discovered he had greater success “peddling” tunes in the bowery region of lower Manhattan. He became intimately acquainted with the works of Irish-Americans Victor Herbert and George M. Cohan. They representing the two polarities of popular songs, the romantic, European tradition of Herbert and the popular new ragtime spark of Cohan. He began working at $5.00 a week plugging the songs of others for the Pastors in an Act starring the Three Keatons, in which Ma Keaton played the saxophone, Pa Keaton told jokes and young Buster (of silent Hollywood fame) was “tossed around by his parents nad even bounced against the scenery in a most entertaining manner.” In 1905, Izzy met Florenz Ziegeld, who convinced him to change his name to something more “American”. On Nov 16, 1911 he officially became Irving Berlin. Ziegfeld had been sent by his father, who ran the Chicago Musical College, to procure talent for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Expecting his son to bring back contracts with the great classical musicians of the age, he was outraged when young Flo returned with commitments with Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill, and the European mystic and beauty, Anna Held. By 1910, Irving Berlin was being paid $$6,000 in royalties for songs by publishers, and was being heralded the most successful songwriter of the year making $15,000 a year. In 1911 he introduced Woodman, Spare That Tree, and reintroduced Alexander’s Ragtime Band with words, which sold a million copies by the end of the year. In 1911 he was honored by the Friars Club, having the award presented to him by George M. Cohan. Demonstrating his lifetime shyness, Irving was uneasy about an acceptance speech, hence he composed, the night before, an acceptance song accompanied by orchestra behind a curtain. In 1912, exhibiting Berlin’s extraordinary understanding of popular culture, and recognizing the fact that popular tastes changed with the vagaries and speed of entertainment consumption, he wrote Everybody’s Doin’ It The song describes a dance that is referred to as “it” instead of the Fox Trot, Turkey Trot, etc, who’s life is doomed from the moment of inception due to changing tastes. Everybody’s Doin’ It, could be used beyond the short-lived fads of specific dances. In 1912, seeking to be “song pluggers” for Irving Berlin, two young ladies came to his office of Waterson, Berlin and Snyder on 38th Street to be granted a song to “plug”. The two women began to argue over who should get the song, and it soon deteriorated into a fist fight. Irving, who was painfully shy, became impressed by the young woman who rose victorious in the fight. Her name was Dorothy Goetz. He asked her out, and they were soon married. Irving took Dorothy to Cuba for a honeymoon. They returned to their new apartment on 72nd Street and Riverside Drive with many souvenirs. One unexpected souvenir was Typhoid, which Dorothy had contracted. She succumbed to the disease on July 17th, at the age of 20. Irving Berlin was devasted! He withdrew into a cloister of depressed solitude. He took no calls, saw no friends. After months, someone conveyed to him the message that Dorothy would not have wanted Irving to climb into the grave with her, and that he should use his creativity to work through his grief and in doing so help others. What came from that exercise was a wonderful song entitled When I Lost You. Reluctant to have his name associated with the song in publication, the song was published eventually with his name, and exacted the desired effect. This principle of working through grief through ones creativity has been helpful throughout history. Could I propose that when grief comes, and it is inevitable, that similar therapy is helpful. Though few of us have the gift of musical composition that Irving Berlin had, we all have creative gifts which can be employed in this therapeutic fashion. In September of 1913, while working at Willie Hammerstein’s Victoria Theatre, Irving met his son Oscar II., a relationship that would be very important throughout his life. After Dorothy’s death, Berlin went to Europe to seek inspiration for his music. He was fascinated by Franz Lehar’s popular masterwork The Merry Widow. His talent expanded and his style amplified, particularly in his use of counterpoint, as witnessed in his clever setting of Play a Simple Melody in 1914. Irving Berlin was extraordinary if not unique by the fact that he did not really read music. He played his compositions for “musical scribes” who noted it for him. He even used an unusual piano, which is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in the Americana exhibition, which by the movement of a lever in front of the keyboard, would transpose up and down. The lever would actually move the hammers up and down the strings, thereby transposing. At one point a young George Gershwin came to apply for the job of musical scribe and good man Friday. Irving turned him down with the explanation that he believed strongly that George would become a magnificent composer, perhaps even greater than he. He did not want to stand in the way of this talent from the development it deserved. Such supportive philanthropy is rare in history, but when it occurs it blesses many. Such behavior would come back to bless Irving Berlin in the future. Berlin became so well known throughout the world, that even the great Italian operatic composer Giacomo Puccini contacted him about a collaboration on an operatic work. Berlin was intimidated by the idea and it never materialized. Having been the victim of plagiarism and creative theft, Berlin was instrumental in the establishment of ASCAP, an American Society for the protection of Composers and Poets. It is from this period that copyright becomes a means of protecting creative ideas, particularly in the business of popular entertainment. In 1917, at the age of 29, Berlin enjoyed a success on Broadway with Yip Yip, Yaphank. Though the show has not survived into the modern repertory, one of the songs, Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning, did. During the seasons of 1918, 1919, and 1920, Berlin married his talents to those of his friend Flo Ziegfeld in supplying music for his Follies. In 1924, Berlin pubished A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody, which epitomizes the spirit of the times in New York entertainment. In 1924 Berlin scores a popular success with What’ll I Do?, a song that will find a resurgence of interest during World War II. In 1925 Irving met and fell in love with Ellen McKay. A strong and public antagonism from Ellen’s father toward Irving ensued. Succumbing to his eternal shyness, Irving nearly abandoned his pursuit of Ellen, until one night he called her in the wee hours of the morning and sang a song depicting his love for her. It worked and Ellen McKay became Mrs. Irving Berlin enacting one of the fairy-tale marriages of history. The song he sang to her would be published and be performed and recorded by many major artists of the day and beyond. When asked which recording or performance was her favorite, Ellen Berlin responded “the one that came over the phone in the middle of the night in 1925!” The song was Always. Songs of extraordinary success in the next few years were Blue Skies, (1927), How Deep is the Ocean? (1932) and Cheek for Cheek (1933) which was written for a movie entitled Top Hat, starring Fred Astaire, an artist whose career was principally enhanced by the support of Irving Berlin who recognized his talent as being unique and extraordinary. In 1933, Berlin would write Easter Parade, for Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, which sold more copies than any piece of sheet music to that point in history. In 1942, Berlin wished to make a positive difference in the war effort. Deemed too old (54) and 4F classification, Berlin put his energies into producing a Broadway Musical entitled This is the Army. Proceeds went into the war effort, and upon the closing of the show, many of the cast joined the war effort by joining up. This is the Army would later be made into a motion picture in which Irving Berlin sings the interpolated Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning, and Ronald Reagan appears in a supporting role. That same year, Hollywood produced a Motion Picture entitled Holiday Inn, the musical score of which was written by Irving Berlin. The show met with success and in particular one of the songs sung by Bing Crosby entitled White Christmas. Hollywood was so pleased with the success of Holiday Inn, that they asked Berlin to create another score for a sequel. The movie became White Christmas, in which the title song appeared again, much to Berlin’s concern that the piece was not as good as the public believed. White Christmas remains today, the song that sold more copies than any in history. The movie also gave the world Count Your Blessings. In 1945 Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein approached Berlin about producing another musical. Being 57, and the most famous composer in the world, he was not interested in the production elements of giving birth to another musical. The elements of procuring funding, designers, directors, cast members, rehearsal schedules, etc., were more than Berlin wished to endure. Rodgers and Hammerstein were willing to take over those elements if Irving would write the score. He was willing to proceed on the condition that Ethel Mermann would be available for the leading character. The collaboration became Annie Get Your Gun. The story is told of presenting the work to the “angels” (prospective investors) one evening. At the conclusion Oscar Hammerstein suggested that Irving needed to write one more song for the show which would convey the message of the show. Before Irving arrived home that night in a cab, he had written what would become the central song of Annie Get Your Gun, but also the theme song for Broadway in general: There’s No Business Like Show Business. This paradigm of competitive creative artists like Rodgers and Hammerstein supporting, even promoting the work of another composer is quite unusual. It seems to have worked to bring heightened success to all of them. In 1949 Irving Berlin set Emma Lazarus’ epic poem, The Great Collosus which is the motivation behind the Statue of Liberty. The song takes it’s title from the first line of the poem, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor. Though others have set this poem to music, no one has been able to capture the magic that Irving Berlin did. Perhaps the reason is found in the fact that he was the very personification of the promise of Miss Liberty to “lift her lamp beside the golden door”. He was indeed part of the “wretched refuse of the teeming shore”. This song was part of a musical entitled Miss Liberty. In 1954 Irving Berlin won the Congressional Medal of honor for a song he had written in 1918. The song nearly fell into oblivion had he not been prodded by singer Kate Smith to let her make it her theme song. Berlin refused to receive royalties for this song, but contractually destining the income from the song to what he believed to be the future of the United States: the Boy and Girl Scouts of America. The song is known as God Bless America. Irving Berlin remains the most published composer of history with a corpus of 1,700 songs. He is the very living proof that the American Dream is alive and well.

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