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Since I was a child, I have enjoyed classical music. While I was doing my homework in high school, I would tune into the radio station of my home university to listen to Bach or Beethoven. It made me smart.

Even today, I listen to classical music when I am at work. I listen to classical music on Sunday mornings as well when planning my work week.

Although I had listened to classical since I was a child, I knew very little about it. I was aware of the composers and their famous works, but I didn’t know what made Bach’s work different from Beethoven’s. Even worse, I had no idea that what I called classical music was actually a misnomer. Below, we’ll talk more about that.

This year, I’ve decided to make a change. In January I started reading books about classical music, and listening to audio courses on the topic from The Great Courses. This has been a real revelation! It didn’t make my an expert but I now get more enjoyment out of classical music because I understand what I am listening to. It has made me more aware of what I am hearing. It’s been fascinating to learn about great composers such as Bach and Beethoven. Bach was a hard worker, and I appreciate Beethoven’s Romantic tendencies (he wrote once that he wanted “to grab fate by the throat”, what a thumos filled phrase! ).

Today we start a two part series that will introduce you to classical music. It is our goal to get you started on your journey of listening and appreciating the classical music.

This is a good segue into the first thing that I learned on my own listening journey…

Why Classical Music isn’t Classical Music

You probably called all music with violins, flutes, and pianos written by men who had powdered hair and German last names “classical” before you took this musical journey.

But, yes, it’s a mistaken term.

Classical music with a capital “C” is a Western style composed between 1750 and 1827. Bach was not a Classical Composer, but Beethoven was.

You can call it “classical music”, “Western concert” or “Western Art Music”.

With that said, I don’t worry too much about using “classical music” colloquially to describe the spectrum of formal, harmonically complex Western orchestral/instrumental music that people typically put under that umbrella. In this series, I will use it in that context.

Western classical music is usually divided into these eras.

The Romantic Era (1825-1900), The Classical Era (1750-1825), The Baroque Era (1600-1750), The Classical Era (2000 BCE to 1600).

Each period had its own unique style and innovation.

You probably think of music from the Baroque and Classical eras when you hear “classical” music. It’s not without reason! Vivaldi and Bach were among the most important Western composers during these periods, as well as Handel, Mozart and Beethoven. You’ll probably hear these songs on your local classical radio station.

A second thing about classical music that is worth mentioning is the fact that it’s often referred to as “pure” music — music created for artistic purposes rather than for money or for the masses. Classical music is often played in the background while you do math problems or think about Platonic forms.

Even the greatest wanted to be paid and famous. Many of the greatest classical pieces were composed to attract audiences and get rich. Some of it was even vulgar (Beethoven wrote a song that mimicked his farting digestive problems).

It doesn’t matter that some of the greatest classical music has been composed for fame and money. This does not diminish its importance. They also created art that glorified God, and inspired people to live with virtue. Great classical music transcends geography and time.

You will feel better after listening to it

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Sunday Firesides: You Don’t Have the Time, Not to Take the Time

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We talk about time a lot in terms of economics. We talk about our attention and how we spend time.

We think that we are being frugal and prudent when we decide there is not enough time to complete a certain task.

In many cases we can be terrible spendthrifts.

We don’t realize that everything we own is a loan. The interest that accrues on these loans can be a hundred times worse if we do not pay them back.

You may not have the time to thoroughly check your new product. . . How will you deal with angry customers, returns and damage to your PR that follow its recall?

You may be too busy to socialize in a way that will keep your depression at bay. . . How much can you accomplish if you are unable to get up in the morning?

You may not be able to get out and exercise every day because you are too busy at work. . . How will you get yourself out of a hole you create when you are in the hospital after a heartattack?

You may not be able to fit in date nights or trips for just mom and dad. . . How will you manage to attend sessions of marriage counselling? . . Separation can be emotionally draining and bandwidth-sucking. . . Meetings with a divorce attorney?

It may seem that you do not have the time to devote to important relationships and activities in your life. Flip a few more pages in your ledger to check the numbers. There isn’t time enough in the world for you to regret it when the debt collectors call.

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Odds & Ends: May 17, 2024

Odds and Ends header v3.1

A vintage metal box labeled

Nuobell Adjustable Dumbbells by SMRTFT. I tried out several sets of dumbbells last spring to find the one that worked best. Nuobell was the winner. One year later, they’re still my favorite dumbbells. The dumbbells are expensive, but they’re worth it for the convenience factor. To adjust the weight you simply twist the handle. Kate and I have used them several times a day and we’ve never had any problems with the quality. Buy a set and begin a full body workout at your home.

Northwoods Baseball Sleep Radio This is one of the most bizarre things I have seen online in a very long time. Northwoods Baseball Sleep Radio features radio broadcasts that are full-length of fake baseball matches. All the games that Wally McCarthy calls (look at his profile picture; he’s serious) are entirely made up. The episodes sound just like a baseball broadcast on AM/FM radio. The combination of Wally’s play-by-play comments and the low din created by the crowd, combined with slight radio static, can be a very relaxing experience.

The majority of people’s musical taste is fixed. Adam Singer highlights Spotify’s research that found our musical tastes tend to solidify between the age of 13 and 16 years old. We stop looking for new artists after that. Adam argues that getting stuck in your musical routine can lead to you missing out on some great artists. To find new artists, you need to be open-minded and have patience. Spotify’s algorithm is a good start, but only shows you music that’s similar to your favorites. You can ask your friends to recommend bands that you may not have heard of otherwise. Kate’s ability to find new music and have opinions on how to create the soundtrack to your life, even as we age, is something I admire.

The Transparency Society Byung-Hul C., a German-South Korean philosopher. He is a very interesting cat. He writes about life in our fast-paced, technologically-driven society. It’s hard to understand his prose at times, but I find it fascinating. He doesn’t give interviews and protects his privacy. The Transparency Society is a book I’ve thought a lot of. Chan criticizes the modern obsession and drive for transparency. We tend to think that more transparency can be good for reducing corruption and other issues. Transparency can also be used as a tool to control and monitor people. He also claims that transparency removes the need to trust in a relation since you can simply follow your child with an AirTag, and not have any faith that they will do and go where that they promised. Secrets have power.

Quote of the week

Tell me about your relationship to pain and I’ll tell you who you really are!

–Ernst Junger

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The James Bond Workout

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You need to be in top shape if you want to have a “license to kill”.

What did James Bond do to work out?

In the James Bond novels we learn that 007 enjoyed all kinds of physical activities, including boxing, swimming and skiing. He also played golf, which was another way he exercised.

Bond, as a former Commander of the Royal Navy Reserve incorporated into his routine some calisthenics that he had learned in the military. He may have even been inspired by the Cold War HIIT exercise 5BX.

From Russia with Love shows these influences. Fleming described a calisthenics workout that his agent did, which was topped off by a “James Bond Shower” in that book (one of the five best Bond books).

The only way to get rid of boredom was to kick yourself out of it. Bond sat on his hands, did 20 slow press-ups and lingered over each one to ensure that his muscles were not resting. As his arms began to hurt, Bond rolled onto his back, placed his hands by his sides and performed the straight leg lift until his stomach muscles screamed. After touching his toes 20 times, he got up and did arm and chest exercises, alternating with deep breathing, until he became dizzy. He was panting from the effort, so he went to the large white-tiled shower and stood under the glass cabinet for five minutes.

We’ve shown you a quick and simple bodyweight exercise. Chair dips work the chest and arms. If you like, you can create your own arm and chest exercises. If you are a spy training for the challenges of international espionage, it is highly recommended that you perform this portion and the others in a tux, with a martini and pistol at hand.

Ted Slampyak is the illustrator.

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