Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Greatness of Music: Two Films

My No. 1 Son and my No. 3 son were home yesterday. All of us love music, an important part of Western culture. My sons are so much like me, they love the same things I do, even when we discover them completely independently of each other.

No. 3 brought two DVD movies with him, "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "Amadeus." Both are great movies to watch if you have a music student in the family or just love music yourself.

"Mr. Holland's Opus" is about a high school music teacher whose instruction and inspiration touches many lives. "Amadeus," of course, is about the life of Mozart.

The latter film is only loosely based on the life of Mozart; it is mostly a work of fiction. In it a jealous Vienna Court Composer, one Antonio Salieri, prays fervently to Jesus to make him a great composer. However, his prayers go unanswered and his career, though successful, never rises to the level of greatness. When he realizes he cannot achieve greatness like Mozart, he believes that God has betrayed him. He burns his Jesus image in the fireplace and plots to undermine Mozart.

"Amadeus" has some great moral messages. God is not a genie in a bottle who grants wishes in exchange for loyalty or faith. Salieri was an accomplished man in many respects, wealthy and respected. He should have had an "attitude of gratitude" for the many blessings he did enjoy. Instead, he became bitter and obsessed with what he didn't have.

Greatness is not an end in itself, but a by product of the passionate pursuit of an interest, whether it be music, science, business, sports or art. Son No. 1 loves the guitar as much as I love the bass. We both strive to master our instruments, not to achieve the accolades of strangers, but to satisfy a love for the music and the instrument that creates it. Of course, we hope to play for audiences and hope they will enjoy the music. But our first goal is to please our own souls through the creative expression of music. The goal is not to become great, but to become as good as we can.

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