Countering the culture of death with classical music: one Catholic composer’s mission
BARRY’S BAY, Ontario, October 30, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky said it first. But acclaimed Catholic composer, virtuoso pianist and dynamic performer Eric Genuis agrees: beauty – in this case the beauty of classical music – has the power to save the world.
Genuis tours internationally with soloists and orchestras to spread his message of hope and joy through his music. In his presentation he also exhorts youth, and their parents, not only to learn to appreciate the beauty of classical music, but to guard against forms of music that might be described as belonging to the culture of death.
Genuis shared his insights into the importance of music on culture during an evening of beautiful music at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry’s Bay, Ontario recently, where he and a trio (violin, cello and voice) of very young but accomplished musicians moved the audience in turns to tears and laughter.
In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Mr. Genuis stressed that although he warns about the negative influence of some kinds of music on youth, he believes exposing youth to the beauty of classical music will have more far-reaching positive results.
“Most parents are very concerned at the nature of what their children are listening to,” Genuis said, illustrating the point with his own intimate knowledge of the music industry’s preoccupation with “who’s popular, who’s edgy, who’s cool, who’s good looking, who’s cute.”
Genuis noted that Plato said, “If I was given the choice to govern a nation’s music, or govern its laws, I’d govern the music,” because Plato “knew that music was more powerful to reach the people’s hearts.”
“If Plato is right,” Genuis said, “then there is something far more powerful, far more sublime, about music than the modern world is willing to admit.”
The modern music industry, Genuis maintains, has “nothing to do with beauty, inspiration, intelligence. There’s always got to be a gimmick, and, regrettably, music has declined to ‘How are we going to sell this’ and consequently, great music never gets heard.”
Genuis is a modern rarity, a classical composer who seeks to follow in the footsteps of the greats such as Mozart, Bach, Beethoven¸ Brahms, Chopin, Handel, and Haydn.
“What I’m trying to do with my music is compose and perform music that uplifts and inspires, and, while having the same spirit as these brilliant classical composers, is composed in a way that is appropriate for modern people. So I try to make my music accessible to people who have never heard, maybe never even seen, a violin.
“Which is fine - you don’t need to know about music to be moved by music. So the purpose is not to make a cultural statement, or a political statement, but to make beauty which feeds the soul. No matter who or what you are, we all have a soul, and the music is meant to go there, and revitalize our humanity.”
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Genuis told LifeSiteNews that he loves playing in prisons because the reactions of inmates, some of whom are hardened criminals, is amazing.
“These men who are killers and rapists, they cry at the concerts. They come in thinking it’s going to be something boring - they all come in with ‘attitudes’ - and then, after the third song, they’re weeping.
“And I think to myself, these guys have maybe never experienced beauty in their entire lives, and there is something about the music that is touching them, in a way that hope hasn’t touched them in a long time.”
Genuis believes that reform of prisoners will only be achieved through touching their humanity by inspiring them with beauty.
“If you really want reform in prisons, give them a violin - talking is not going to do it - teach them to create beauty, empower them with beauty,” Genuis said.
He remarked that he had received a letter from a maximum security prison in which the warden said that after the concert the prisoners’ behavior and attitude “had markedly improved.”
Genuis said, “the warden made it very clear that these guys will never see the light of day again, and yet why was their behavior improved? Because they were moved, for a minute, they were given beauty, they were given back their humanity.”
“So that’s what I’m trying to do,” Genuis concluded. “In the midst of a world where there is a lot of ugliness, a lot of distortion, a lot of ‘sex sells’ mentality, I’m trying to give people real beauty. Something that will move them in a mysterious way that is far deeper than modern ‘hype’.
Information about Eric Genuis, including his tour schedule, is available on his website.