Lynette Abel  / Aesthetic Realism & Life

 Aesthetic Realism seminar:
What's More Important:
to Appreciate Rightly or Be Praised?,
part 2
By Lynette Abel

 The Meaning of Honest Appreciation
and The Sound of Music

Rodgers' and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, released as a film in 1965, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, has been popular all these years.  I think the large reason it has affected people is because of what it says about the meaning of appreciation, and also about fascism.  Fascism, I learned from Aesthetic Realism, begins with that in a person which says, "my job is not to appreciate the world but to have other people kowtow to me, make me the most important thing, while I can treat them anyway I want."  Mr. Siegel described it as the ego made iron.  This ordinary contempt, taken further and nationalized, led to the extermination of millions of human beings in Nazi Germany.

     The film, adapted from the book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, is based on the life of Maria Kutschera Trapp and takes place in Austria at the time of the Anschluss, the Nazi annexation of that country in 1938 just prior to WWII.  The plot, in outline, is as follows: Mother Abbess of the Nonnberg Abbey has arranged for Maria, a young Catholic postulant who seems discontented at the convent, to take a post for a time as governess for the seven children of a retired Austrian Navy Officer, a widower, Captain Georg von Trapp.  In time the Captain and Maria fall in love and are married.  But then he is ordered to serve as an officer in the Third Reich, something utterly abhorrent to him; so the family, with only a few possessions, risk their lives as they flee on foot over the mountains to Italy.

     In his definition of Appreciation from Definitions and Comment, Being a Description of the World, Mr. Siegel writes:

 "The general trend of unconscious and conscious appreciation is from narrowness of the self to grandeur, from skimpiness to multiplicity.  The trend is towards Existence or the Universe itself.
 I think these sentences describe why the opening scene is so moving.  It begins in silence with a sight of the majestic Austrian Alps on a late summer afternoon, amid green valleys and blue lakes--we get a sense of wide existence.  Then we see one self--Maria, stretching out her arms--swept by the vastness and beauty that surround her.  As we’ll see, Maria is in a struggle.  She hopes to care for something large, but is dissatisfied with herself in the Abbey; there is a kind of order that she feels restricted by.  I think Maria stands for the desperate desire in people to get out of our confined, narrow selves and to appreciate the universe rightly.  She wants to put opposites together in herself--opposites Aesthetic Realism shows make for beauty in art, and in the art of music--narrow and wide, freedom and precision, the limited and boundless.

     As Maria sings the title song, we are moved, because technically it puts together these very opposites.  In talking with my colleague, the composer, Edward Green, I learned that the reason that first phrase sounds so expansive is the words "The hills" go out from the dominant, the 5th note of the scale which has a sense of boundary, up to the 6th note of the scale, which is the interval that most has the feeling of openness.  This is The Sound of Music sung by Julie Andrews.  [Music]

     When Maria first arrives at the home of Captain von Trapp, she learns she is the 12th governess his children have had since their mother died two years earlier.  Their father has run the house in a military fashion--using whistles, giving orders, and Maria is instructed to drill the children in their studies and to adhere to strict discipline.  Meanwhile, the children have gotten a triumph seeing how fast they can get rid of each of their governesses.  Liesl asserts: "I don't need a governess!" Brigitta states "Your dress is the ugliest dress I ever saw,"  And one of the children puts a live, wriggling toad in Maria's pocket.  Maria is shaken, but she also believes there is something better in the children than what they have shown, and they are hurting themselves being so scornful. 

     Maria also feels the children's lives are too regimented and she encourages them to appreciate new things.  When the Captain goes to Vienna to visit his fiancée, Baroness Elsa Shraeder, she takes the children on bike trips throughout Salzburg; they hike into the mountains, where they picnic, roll on the grass, climb trees, and Maria, thinking about what will encourage the Baroness and the Captain when they return, teaches the children how to sing.  And they become much happier.

Go to page 3 - conclusion


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