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Volume 11, Issue 4: Meander

Shimmy Shimmy Shake

Douglas Wilson

Among the many other fine arguments for the use of the Authorized Version, I need to add the pleasure that comes from reading some of the most interesting phrases and sentences in our language. Take, for examples, “Regard not your stuff” (Gen. 45:20); “At Parbar westward, four at the causeway, and two at Parbar” (1 Chron. 26:18); and “their heart is fat as grease” (Ps. 119:70). Try to find anything like that in a “I Can’t Get My Locker Open Study Bible.”

A recent and very fascinating book entitled The Church Impotent argues that the feminization of the Church in the Western world is largely the responsibility of Bernard of Clairveux. The really interesting thing about this thesis is that the author, Leon Podles, makes a good case for it. The book is a new release by Spence Publishing, and it is well worth a serious read.

If you are like many homeschooling parents, your children’s capacity to read is by now far ahead of the number of good books you can find for them to read. On rainy weekends they roar around the house looking for stuff, and are reduced to some old Reader’s Digests they found in the basement behind the furnace. So get a hold of the catalog put out by Inheritance Publications in Pella, Iowa, or Neerlandia in Alberta, Canada. They have numerous titles which you really should want to make available to your troops. Have them read the biography of Lady Jane Grey (Crown of Glory), and then listen to them wonder aloud why more things are not named after her.

From the same outfit (Inheritance Publications, see above) you can get some really good music as well. For example, they have a CD of the Psalms of Scotland done by the Scottish Philharmonic Singers. This CD should make you want to sit down between two, big-league stereo speakers and say, as a member of Lynard Skynard once did, “Toyn it upp.”

We all know how important postmillennialism is, don’t we? And so any new title that beats this particular drum is gladly received. Answering the call, Keith Mathison has written Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope, and has assembled the material in a very helpful way. Those who want a thorough introduction to the subject have Gentry, DeMar, and now Mathison.

So here is a short defense of rock and roll. Keep in mind that this is a defense of rock as it could be, not rock as it is—the Platonic form of rock, not rock on the radio. Those who want more of these ramblings can buy my three volume work on the subject (forthcoming if I write it, and if Jones loses his mind and publishes it).

Rock is not at all musically complex, but this is not necessarily an argument against it. The form of a sonnet is not complex either, but some of the most glorious thoughts in our language come in sonnet form. Remember that the meter employed by Homer was basically strawberry strawberry strawberry jampot. Considered as rhythm, it is simple and repetitious, hardly the stuff of great literature. And yet it is the stuff of great literature.

The central problem with almost all current rock and roll is that the lyrics are dumb and stupid. If one ever wants to liven up a party, all one has to do is get hold of some lyrics from rock songs, and read them slowly aloud, as serious poetry. Those looking for source material on this can get Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs. The lyrics of rock songs are generally so bad that a kind of grandeur creeps into them. Couple this with the simplicity of the music, and you have the cavalcade of idiocy that we are pleased to call top forty.

But reasoning by analogy, the very simplicity of the music is what makes it (potentially)a good vehicle to carry something other than what it usually carries. This is probably best seen in some traditional blues, where the lyrics can be very simple and very potent. The lyrics can be as good as any lyric poem can be. But when done poorly, the lyrics are just silly, and when they try not to be silly, they can become pretentious.

But rock music can be the vehicle for decent poetry, and to the extent that it is, it should be taken seriously. One example would be Springstein on a good day. Take another example from Jethro Tull’s Heavy Horses.

Iron clad feather feet pounding the dust,

On October’s day towards evening

Sweat-embossed veins standing proud to the plough . . . .

These lyrics alone are a good poem, the music helps to carry the poem without submerging it, and the result is worth keeping.

So the conclusion of the “defense,” then, is this. Rock music will stand or fall as poetry. Evaluated as music alone, it will always fail in the same way that iambic pentameter alone would fail. Da dum da dum da dum da dum da dum. Everything rides on what is dropped into the da dum slot. The problem with rock is that they usually drop a da dumb into the da dum slot.

So despite the theoretical defense, all the early indications—despite the occasional exception here and there—are that it will not stand. The poetry is bad.

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