They shall not grow old

I saw Peter Jackson’s “They Shall Not Grow Old” last night in Washington at Gallery Place:

Peter Jackson directs this homage to the British troops of the First World War with never-before-seen-footage of soldiers as they faced the fear and uncertainty of frontline battle in Belgium. Digitally remastered and now in color, the footage has been studied by lip reading experts whose transcripts were recorded and used as audio for the film. Overlayed by a narrative of those who partook in the war from interviews made in the 1960s and 1970s, this historic revisiting marks one hundred years since the end of the Great War.

A few years ago a friend suggested that the easiest way to think about the World Wars of the last century is to think of them as a single, multi-generational civil war between Europe’s great powers and their colonial proxies. And that in thinking this way, it might be easier to think of the continuing conflicts and dramas of European continent of the present, and Anglo/Western nations more broadly, as continuing to work through the devastating long-term effects of that destabilizing civil war. I thought of that when watching They Shall Not Grow Old last night.

Incidentally, the title of Peter Jackson’s documentary is taken from Laurence Binyon’s 1914 “For the Fallen:”

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Classical music, new music

Vanessa Thorpe reports on classical music:

To many, the decision announced last week to launch Scala Radio, a major new station founded on the belief that classical music can appeal to younger audiences, will have come as a surprise. But research has shown clear indications of new listening trends, with almost half (45%) of young people saying they see classical music as an escape from the noise of modern life.

The new digital radio station will have DJ Simon Mayo at the forefront of its presenting team when it launches in March. Mayo, who left BBC Radio 2 last year, will be joined at Scala by the unorthodox orchestral music lover Goldie and Observer film critic Mark Kermode, who will play many of his favourite film scores.

The launch of a new classical entertainment station aimed at younger listeners is based on more than a hunch. Research found that a new generation of listeners was switching on to classical music through different sources, with 48% of under-35s exposed to it through classical versions of popular songs, such as the Brooklyn Duo version of Taylor Swift’s Blank. And 74% of people in the same age group had experienced classical music via a live orchestral performance at a film screening, according to analysts at Insight working for Bauer Media, owner of the new station. …

Jack Pepper, Britain’s youngest commissioned composer, will also be joining Scala. The 19-year-old said: “Classical music is surrounded by the misconception that it’s irrelevant, sterile and inaccessible. … the classical masters have shocking, entertaining, humorous and sometimes tragic life stories. A classical composer is a normal human being with the same ups and downs we can all relate to.”

The growing popularity of classical music among young people follows recent survey results highlighting young people’s use of art galleries and museums as sanctuaries and figures released last week showing rising sales of poetry among younger readers.

Commercial/pop music has become so pervasive that it might not be a stretch to think of contemporary classical music as a new alternative genre. In other words, what makes music “classical” is so generally foreign today that it’s functionally new.

Arguing well

Ian Lindquist writes on BASIS Curriculum Schools:

Founded in 1998 in Tucson by Michael and Olga Block with the mandate of providing rigorous instruction to enable Arizona students to compete internationally with their peers, the BASIS Curriculum Schools network now includes 27 charter schools, 5 independent schools, and 5 international schools in China and the Czech Republic. The original BASIS Curriculum model emphasized rigorous education in math and science and a lot of high-level learning in subjects considered off the beaten path for younger students, like logic, economics, and Mandarin. As a result, the network’s charters have, in the past few years, gained a reputation for excellence and now compete with some of the best schools in the country in the annual rankings in U.S. News & World Report and the Washington Post. Indeed, the top five public high schools in the country, according to U.S. News, are all BASIS charter schools.

BASIS will now attempt to address the reluctance among young Americans to enter into genuine intellectual debate. In the fall of 2019, the network plans to launch a program for grades 8 through 10 at its independent school in McLean, Virginia, emphasizing liberal education. …

At the center of the program is the belief that students benefit by learning how to argue respectfully and that such an education will make them better citizens. …

Peter Bezanson, chief executive officer of BASIS, reports that each history class in the new program will have 2 teachers who will convene 20 students around a seminar table. The teachers, whom Bezanson says will have different viewpoints on the historical material, will have one shared ideal: a commitment to encouraging students to debate, disagree, and discuss, and to model reasonable debate and disagreement for them.

To argue well is something like the opposite of quarreling or fighting or any of the sort of public trivia that contemporary news presents to the public. I think that arguing well requires the sort of virtues that Lindquist outlines, and it also requires a shared vocabulary, a shared commitment to the possibility of objective truth and, ideally, agreement on the telos of human life:

To prepare teachers for a classroom hospitable to debate and discussion, Bezanson plans to send teachers from the BASIS Curriculum Schools network to study at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, each summer. St. John’s is the natural choice for BASIS teachers because its course of study is grounded in the twin pillars of the great books and Socratic seminars. Seminar participants sit around a table and discuss the work at hand for two hours at a time. As a former St. John’s undergraduate student, I can attest that in this environment debate and disagreement thrive. And as Frank Bruni recently wrote in the New York Times, this is not because the St. John’s classroom is full of animosity, but because students sharpen their minds as they spend so much time interrogating texts.

Emily Langston, associate dean for graduate programs at St. John’s, says that the St. John’s classroom is based on two suppositions: “The idea that the text has something to teach us” and the fact that “we don’t all think the same thing about the text.” Indeed, “the idea that we can disagree and be respectful and, in doing so, learn from each other, is part of what community means.” Disagreement and discussion are the fabric of community, not its antithesis. …

Discussion based on a text in a seminar-style format helps students achieve aptitude and high-level practice in the four grammatical skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. These are critical and essential to any further education. They’re also, in many cases, requisite for a meaningful life in literate society.

Most importantly, seminars inherently teach how to be a citizen in a liberal society by teaching participants how to weigh words, and, in doing so, practice a standard of truth and goodness. Students learn to recognize words that demonstrate the truth of a point rather than trusting the authority of the one who speaks them. This inculcates a taste for demonstrable truth and persuasive argument and a distaste for propaganda.

Seminars allow students to enter into a shared space with their peers even as they disagree. There is no sarcasm, no withholding of oneself or one’s efforts from the group, which means that two people can disagree on almost every point of interpretation about a text while still sharing something fundamental: common and equal investment in the discussion. …

Around the seminar table is where citizenship is best forged—face-to-face, peer-to-peer. It’s an encouraging sign that BASIS, already a leader in K-12 education, recognizes a need to train students in habits that will make them good friends, neighbors, and citizens.

Governing in our own century

Daniel McCarthy writes that “America’s fundamental political choice now is between mild nationalism, resurgent socialism, or suicide by liberalism, whether of the libertarian or palliative sort:”

That being the case, how would the nationalist alternative work?

It would begin by rejecting propaganda about the end of the export economy. World population is still growing, and growing wealthier, which means there are more people around the world increasingly capable of buying goods made in America. We sacrificed some of our competitive advantage after World War II for the sake of Cold War strategy, and we were right to do so. But now the time has come to compete to the utmost, at once politically and economically, with our rivals, above all China. That means driving bargains to open markets for our goods while permitting access to our markets—still the most desirable in the world—on terms favorable to our citizens in full, in their capacity as producers, not just as consumers. The argument that the loss of manufacturing jobs to technology excuses the extinction of manufacturing employment is not an argument at all. What follows is that we ought to minimize the loss of employment due to every factor not technologically inevitable, such as ill-conceived trade deals. Tariffs are not an end in themselves, of course: They are a defensive measure and a source of leverage.

President Trump’s instincts are correct about immigration as well: It is in need of reform that puts citizens first, with emphasis on supporting higher wages for workers. Less low-skill immigration puts upward pressure on wages. And what if there just aren’t enough American workers to fill all the jobs? That’s good, too, because, other things being equal, it encourages larger family size. When parents see opportunities for their children in a world in which more labor is needed, they have confidence to have more children. This is why populations everywhere boom at the onset of an industrial revolution, and it’s a reason why frontier settler populations so often have such high rates of family formation. Get employment growing again for Americans who are not already on the top of the heap, and their families can grow again, too. …

The idea that economic nationalism is not compatible with free-market economics is absurd. The history of America from the founding to the New Deal belies the idea that nationalist economics is bad for business or growth. Its virtue is that it is good for labor and political stability as well. From growth, a contented middle class, and moderate political culture flow a strong country and stronger families and citizens. In the early decades of the twenty-first century, when nations and supranational institutions are in turmoil, those benefits are of existential significance.

The ideal of Jefferson’s agrarian America (as distinct from its too often plantation-based reality) was a nation of virtuous yeomanry—small, independent farmers capable of providing for their families themselves. Abraham Lincoln’s vision was of a country in which working men, not only farmers, could improve their standards of life. In the twentieth century, the American dream became a thing to which every salaryman could aspire: a good job; enough money to buy a house, start a family, and retire; and the chance to watch one’s children rise to a higher station. In the twenty-first century, that dream has given way to delirium—feverish uncertainty about whether in midlife one will have to become an Amazon deliveryman or a Walmart greeter, and anxiety about whether one’s children will be tech-company winners or endlessly indebted gig workers.

We need to accept the responsibilities of leadership. That means governing in the century in which we actually live rather than the one shaped by our political heroes. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the world began to change, and our country with it. Those changes have accelerated and are now threatening to tear us apart. The way forward requires refocusing on the American citizen as the basic unit of the economy. This is the essence of a nationalist political economy, which we very much need if our country’s tradition of personal independence and limited government is to endure, a tradition in which government’s primary economic role is not to provide welfare but to safeguard the conditions that make productive work possible.

“Culture comes first,” McCarthy writes, “but like a final cause or end in Aristotle’s philosophy, it is first in priority, not necessarily first in time or action. We need to bring this truth forward, for we’ve forgotten it over the past few decades.” McCarthy’s piece is worthwhile for perspective on something that millions of Americans across the political spectrum feel: that fundamentals are at risk of breaking in our body politic.

What makes Dan McCarthy a consistently interesting writer is that he’s concerned with what so many political and cultural writers ignore: first principles.

Cuomo, and using both carrot and stick

Ross Douthat on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent legalization of abortion up to birth and the problem Cardinal Tim Dolan faces in New York:

In the case of Dolan, Cuomo’s right to be blasé. New York State still has millions of baptized Catholics, but the faithful are divided and adrift and accustomed to tuning out messages from their bishops that don’t fit their partisan preconceptions. (This goes for messages that criticize Donald Trump as well.) Dolan has tried to answer secularization with gregarious good cheer, but a bingo-hall winsomeness would be no match for cold indifference even without the church’s scandals.

And yet it remains the case that deep inside the ransacked, decaying basilica that is American Catholicism, you can find the only vision that might transform the abortion debate, so that we don’t end up with a permanent red-blue divide, in which the Supreme Court allows conservative states to pass restrictions but liberal states are radicalized toward eugenics and infanticide. …

That vision … would put the goal of outlawing abortion at the center of a web of pro-family policies — adoption support, child allowances, wage subsidies for breadwinners. The goal would be to make the end of abortion seem less utopian by making the burdens of motherhood less daunting, and to link the pro-life cause to a larger revolt against sterility.

… the Catholic Church should act as though this vision, their vision, is more than a wouldn’t-it-be-nice synthesis in bureaucratic documents, a generic humanitarianism that informs the smorgasbord of charitable programs mentioned in annual appeals.

Suppose that tomorrow Cardinal Dolan made two conjoined announcements. First, that Andrew Cuomo is excommunicated. Second, that a specific collection would henceforth be taken up at every Catholic Mass, every day, all year, to fund an annual family allowance administered by the Sisters of Life, available to any parent in the state who asked the church for help bearing and raising their child.

I have no idea how much money this would raise, no confidence in how effective it would be. But the church needs leaders who act as though they have confidence, not only in the church’s teachings, but in its capacity to vindicate those teachings on its own, rather than through supplication to indifferent or hostile politicians.

Confidence alone cannot arrest decline.

We need in America first to create and to see what a spectrum of life-affirming choice looks like in practice in our public life, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has handed Cardinal Dolan a golden opportunity to witness to both Christ and the public good, if he’s bold enough to do it.

‘Cultural Catholicism’

Rod Dreher highlights Fr. Matt Fish’s recent Twitter comments on institutional Catholicism, which I’m excerpting from Twitter:

For a number of years now, it’s been fashionable to speak about “cultural Catholicism” as a pejorative term, meaning the cultural features of a religion without a living faith. But in fact, for a faith to be living it must be cultural, it can only thrive and spread in a culture.

We always exist in a culture, which never fails to shape and form us even as we shape and form it. An embodied belief and practice of the faith is necessarily cultural, and the creation of the cultural forms, practices, symbols of a religious culture are signs of a vital faith.

What happened, with the collapse of the Catholic Church in America (and the West), is that we gradually adopted a different culture, the forms, practices, symbols of a different religion. This religion was itself in decomposition, as Protestant culture became secular materialism.

Similarly, many of us were taught to see the transition of American Catholicism, from a “ghetto” existence and practice, to a bold mainstream one within American culture, as evidence of health and success. But I think it was the opposite, the beginning of a terminal illness.

The remedy to the collapse of Catholicism in America (and in the West) is the creation of a new culture, in which the faith can live in all its embodied and communal forms, practices, symbols, artifacts, traditions, etc. The remedy can only be maximally integral, as a culture.

This cultural matrix is a necessity, because it is necessarily the way human beings live. A faith that’s only a choice on Sundays, or in occasional voluntary moments throughout the day, is a deracinated faith, uprooted and left on the ground to die. …

 

Said it before, and I’ll say it again: working for the Catholic Church in America in 2019 feels something like working for Blockbuster Movies in 2005. We’re still arguing about how we should display the DVDs, and meanwhile our current model and customer base is about to collapse.

Simply put: every diocese is full of parishes that have much smaller, now mostly older, congregations, in aging buildings with less money, and in a few short years we will hit the bell curve with both people and money. And we’re barely talking about it.

Our schools are closing, and those that remain are becoming “private” schools for those who can afford them, as we struggle to understand what “Catholic Identity” means for a student body, most of whom do not attend Sunday Mass.

The average knowledge of the faith in most Catholic communities is at a low point, though it will probably get worse. Meanwhile, the practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation has virtually disappeared, as have other traditions that had culturally marked Catholics in the past.

No need to expand the laundry list. And the parishes and communities that are doing well are precisely exceptions that prove the rule. The point is, rather, how are we (especially Church authorities and leaders) not talking about this, addressing it, figuring out a plan?

As bad as 2018 was for the Church, with respect to all the tragic revelations about covering up child abuse, this problem is far more serious, for it concerns the very disappearance of Catholicism as a community, or at least a massive change unlike anything in her history before.

If you believe I’m exaggerating, just ask your diocese for the data from the last 40 years on weekend head-counts, offertory, and sacramental numbers. The change will shock you. And the numbers are about to hit an even steeper curve. …

What we have here is the dying, if not decomposition already, of a large, once impressive, Catholic culture. What is needed is the birth and growth of a new Catholic culture. How the two relate I do not know, but can only guess.

Dreher underscores: “This year — 2019 — half of all Catholic priests in America will reach the minimum retirement age of 70. If you are a Catholic, and you are not preparing yourself and your family now for life in the desert, you are wasting precious time. The future of all Christians in post-Christian America is going to be more or less monastic…”

René Girard and metaphysical desire

Cynthia L. Haven writes on René Girard:

Armed with a copy of the Iliad and a shovel, Heinrich Schliemann set out to find Troy in 1871. Two years later, he hit gold.

He was vilified as an amateur, an adventurer and a con man. As archaeologists refined their methods of excavation in the subsequent decades, Schliemann would also be deplored for destroying much of what he was trying to find.

Nevertheless, he found the lost city. He is credited with the modern discovery of prehistoric Greek civilization. He ignited the field of Homeric studies at the end of the 19th century. Most important, for our purposes, he broke new ground in a figurative, as well as literal, sense: He scrutinized the words of the text and believed that they held the truth.

“I’ve said this for years: In the global sense, the best analogy for what René Girard represents in anthropology and sociology is Schliemann,” said the French theorist’s Stanford colleague, Robert Pogue Harrison. “Like him, his major discovery was excoriated for using the wrong methods. The others never would have found Troy by looking at the literature—it was beyond their imagination.” Girard’s writings hold revelations that are even more important, however: they describe the roots of the violence that destroyed Troy and other empires throughout time.

Like Schliemann, the French academician trusted literature as the repository of truth and as an accurate reflection of what actually happened. Harrison told me that Girard’s loyalty was not to a narrow academic discipline, but rather to a continuing human truth: “Academic disciplines are more committed to methodology than truth. René, like Schliemann, had no training in anthropology. From the discipline’s point of view, that is ruthlessly undisciplined. He’s still not forgiven.”

I have appreciated Harrison’s analogy, though some of Girard’s other friends will no doubt rush to his defense, given Schliemann’s scandalous character—but Girard scandalized people, too; many academics grind their teeth at some of Girard’s more ex cathedra pronouncements (though surely a few other modern French thinkers were just as apodictic). He never received the recognition he merited on this side of the Atlantic, even though he is one of America’s very few immortels of the Académie Française.

For Girard, however, literature is more than a record of historical truth; it is the archive of self-knowledge. Girard’s public life began in literary theory and criticism, with the study of authors whose protagonists embraced self-renunciation and self-transcendence. Eventually, his scholarship crossed into the fields of anthropology, sociology, history, philosophy, psychology, theology. Girard’s thinking, including his textual analysis, offers a sweeping reading of human nature, human history and human destiny.

He overturned three widespread assumptions about the nature of desire and violence: first, that our desire is authentic and our own; second, that we fight from our differences, rather than our sameness; and third, that religion is the cause of violence, rather than an archaic solution for controlling violence within a society, as he would assert.

He was fascinated by what he calls “metaphysical desire”—that is, the desire we have when creature needs for food, water, sleep and shelter are met. In that regard, he is perhaps best known for his notion of mediated desire, based on the observation that people adopt the desires of other people. In short, we want what others want. We want it because they want it.

Girard is probably best known for his theory of mimetic desire; at least, that’s why I know him. I’m reading a lot more about him this year.

‘I can walk with someone’

Elise Italiano Ureneck writes on her experience moving to Boston, and neighborhood life:

There is no shortage of weighty issues that need to be tackled — human trafficking, drug addiction, sexual abuse and corruption for starters. I often find myself feeling paralyzed by the depth and breadth of the burdens that people bear, of which I am made aware every time I reach for my phone.

My new reality—traveling on foot—has made me consider the merits of scaling back the scope of my responsibility, perceived or expected as it may be.

Excluding my newsfeeds, my world has gotten a lot smaller in radius. It extends only as far as I can walk in a day or as far as the subway can take me. And that reality has created opportunities for encounters with people in the flesh, whose burdens I can alleviate and whose joys I can share.

My regular route to the grocery store now puts me in touch with elderly pedestrians, many of whom need a hand carrying items or help crossing the street. I can’t fix the loneliness epidemic of an entire aging population, but I can walk with someone for half a mile to his bus stop.

And while I cannot rectify a complex and comprehensive epidemic of homelessness, my husband and I can stop every week after Mass and give a cup of coffee to Pat, a homeless man who hangs out at our T stop and likes to take jabs at my sports allegiances.

This is a good follow-on from yesterday’s piece on social and cultural trust. Ureneck provides an example of what greater personal concern looks like in practice, of the sort that can knit communities back together and provide the sort of trust and resiliency that makes a place great.

‘Here we have to schedule them’

Lenore Skenazy writes on “American overparenting,” but I think what is hit upon more fundamentally here is America’s lack of social and cultural trust:

“My daughter always says, ‘Oh, I wish we could have more playdates like in Brazil!'” says Claudia Jorge, whose family of four recently relocated to Havertown, Pennsylvania. “Here we have to schedule them; there she just goes and knocks on the neighbor’s door.”

Tully, the 11-year-old, makes a similar observation about American playdates. “In New Jersey, the parents were watching us all the time. It was kind of weird.”

Jenny Engleka raised her daughter in Mexico, Panama, and Germany before moving back to New Jersey a few years ago when the girl was 12. In Hamburg, she recalls, “kids are traveling all the time by themselves” starting at age 6 or 7. But here, children’s activities are far more likely to be both structured and supervised. “Your weekends are filled up with soccer games. Even for kids that are mediocre players, they’re still quite involved.”

And once they’re in a league, there isn’t much wiggle room. You come, you play, mom drives you home. In Germany, says Molly, the 13-year-old, if someone wants to stay and keep playing lacrosse after practice has ended, she just does. “My sister’s gotten a lot better at lacrosse since she’s been able to go on her own time without bugging my parents about it.”

If the coach is still around, sometimes she—or he!—will take the kid home.

Trust is still normal in most of the world. And something about that trust allows kids to expand. Abby Morton, who raised her kids in Thailand for two years while she and her husband worked there as teachers, still remembers the recycling project one of her sixth-grade students brought in. He’d taken some scrap metal and fashioned it into a working crossbow. “It could shoot a spear!” says Morton, now back in Boston. So she took the class outside and let them try it.

But in the home of the brave, a kid can’t hold a pencil on the school bus.

It’s obvious enough that physical security, surveillance, and locks are inversely related to trust. Strangely, those things are also sometimes inversely related to actual safety, in situations wherein there is lots of security, but those security measures are also frequently compromised or violated.

Generally speaking, I don’t think Americans realize how mislead we are in our media and entertainment culture into thinking that our nation is vastly more dangerous on a day-to-day basis than it really is. We seek an illusory sense of safety and peace, but risk further corroding the fundamental social and cultural trust that’s necessary to sustain authentic peace.

If you want peace, be peaceful. If you want trust, then trust.

American Youth Philharmonic

Enjoyed my first experience of the American Youth Philharmonic on Sunday at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts Center in Alexandra:

American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras (AYPO) is a youth orchestra program that strives to provide excellent instruction to the next generation of music leaders and educators in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Students receive training from esteemed coaches and conductors during our Monday night rehearsals, perform in small ensembles for master classes in our Chamber Ensemble Program, and give back to the music community by participating in the Music Buddies Mentorship Program. … Consisting of five separate ensembles — the Debut Orchestra, String Ensemble, Concert Orchestra, Symphonic Orchestra, and Philharmonic — AYPO provides talented young people an opportunity to perform in one of the nation’s premier youth orchestra programs.

Tim Dixon conducted the program, with Peter Sirotin and Oleg Rylatko as guest artists on violin:

Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture, Op. 36
The Russian Easter Overture—Svetlyi prazdnik, or Bright Holiday in Russian—is a vivid first-hand account of Easter morning service—”not in a domestic chapel, but in a cathedral thronged with people from every walk of life, and with several priests conducting the cathedral service.” This is the first major work by a Russian composer to be based entirely on themes from the obikhod, a collection of canticles of the Orthodox Church—a controversial choice that so offended Tsar Alexander III that he forbid having the overture played in his presence. Rismky-Korsakov uses three original chants, two in the contemplative opening section (“Let God arise!” and “An angel wailed”), and a third (“Christ has risen from the dead”) appears “amid the trumpet blasts and the bell tolling, constituting also a triumphant coda,” as the composer put it.

J.S. Bach: Concerto for Two Violins in D major, BWV 1043
The origins of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins are shrouded in mystery. One of today’s leading Bach scholars, Christoph Wolff, believes that this work dates from Bach’s years in Leipzig, where he lived from 1723 until the end of his life. His is a minority opinion, however, and most musicologists support the idea that it is a product of Bach’s time in Cöthen, where he was employed immediately prior to his move to Leipzig. He was there from December 1717 through May 1723 as Kapellmeister (music director) at the court of the music-loving Prince Leopold of Anhalt. Because Prince Leopold adhered to the Reformed faith, his church services didn’t require elaborate music; that freed up his music director to spend most of his time writing secular instrumental pieces such as sonatas, concertos, and orchestral suites.

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10
Many composers fumble with numerous first attempts before finding their voice. But some artists succeed in planting their flag early on with astonishing confidence… Written between 1924 and 1925, while [Dmitri Shostakovich] was a student at the Leningrad Conservatory, the [First Symphony] had to wait until the following year before its premiere—but even by that point, the composer was still a teenager. … In the First Symphony we encounter a young artist proudly, exuberantly, even cockily giving free rein to his imagination’s wild but purposeful impulses. Despite the obvious digestion of external influences—Tchaikovsky, early Prokofiev, Stravinsky (Petrushka in particular), even Mahler—a striking sense of a new voice already begins to emerge.