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[ZZ]What is music?

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What is music?, 25 June 2001
Author: Low Man from Lafayette, IN


The Gods Must Be Crazy is a 1980 comedy film, written and directed by Jamie Uys. The film is the first in The Gods Must Be Crazy series of films. Set in Botswana and South Africa, it tells the story of Ken, a Sho of the Kalahari Desert (played by Namibian San farmer Nǃxau) whose band has no knowledge of the world beyond.

As a professional musician, there are two things that happen in films that are likely to make me quite angry. One is a general concern, and the other is a more elemental notion of the nature of music. This movie deals with both quite well.

图片 1

The film is a collision of three separate stories—the journey of a Ju/'hoansi bushman to the end of the earth to get rid of a Coca-Cola bottle, the romance between a bumbling scientist and a school teacher, and a band of guerrillas on the run.

The general concern deals with seeing somebody playing an instrument in a scene. It is very rare to see somebody in a film that really looks like they are playing the instrument they are holding. I will grant that it is unrealistic to expect a leading player who has devoted his/her training to the art of acting to be fully proficient on an instrument that a role may require, but more often than not, they are simply given the instrument without any sort of coaching on how the instrument should be held or where their hands should be when the instrument is making a certain sound. When this happens in a film, my ability to suspend disbelief goes right out the window never to return. This is not limited to lead players, however. Often a band that is supposed to be playing music in the background is made up of actors that have no conception of the operation of the arcane devices they are holding. To add insult to injury, the soundtrack seldom matches up to the instrumentation of the band. This movie does an admirable job at keeping things believable in this regard. The instruments are held correctly. The hands of the actors move as they should. With only a few exceptions, the instruments you hear are the ones that are on screen. Even in terms of historical ideas of ornamentation and execution, this movie has done its homework. It seems that most moviemakers regard music as trivial, and thus, they make little effort for accuracy where it is concerned. This movie, perhaps, works harder at it because of its subject matter, which leads me to part two of this diatribe.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Ken and his tribe of Bushmen relatives are living well off the land in the Kalahari Desert. They are happy because the gods have provided plenty of everything, and no one in the tribe has unfulfilled wants. One day, a glass Coke bottle is thrown out of an aeroplane and falls to earth unbroken. Initially, this strange artifact seems to be another boon from the gods—-Ken's people find many uses for it. But unlike anything that they have had before, there is only one bottle to go around. This exposes the tribe to a hitherto unknown phenomenon, property, and they soon find themselves experiencing things they never had before: jealousy, envy, anger, hatred, even violence.

What is music? That is the central idea of this film. There is also a story involving a master viol player and his young student who seduces and abandons his eldest daughter, but it is simply a frame for the central question. If you attempt this sort of thing, you are on dangerous ground as far as I am concerned. It is an attempt that isn't made very often. Movies like Amadeus and Farinelli, entertainment value notwithstanding, are more about the personalities involved, and music is the frame rather than the central question. Others, like the contemptible Mr. Holland's Opus, boil the answer down into some trivial concept like "Let the music play you." The answer is not that easy. Speech may not even be capable of expressing it. That is the struggle of this film. The young student is quite talented. His technique is immaculate. The master sees and admits this quite freely. He is even unconcerned that the young student is taking some of his ideas and using them in his own music for publication. He has nothing to teach him as far as technical matters go. His struggle lies in making him a musician instead of a glorified musical acrobat. In this framework, it would be easy to degenerate into the flaccid trivialities that Mr. Holland's Opus embraces, but this film does not do that. It even lines these idiotic platitudes up in order to shoot them down. (In a scene later in the film when the young man returns to the master's villa to hear him play before he dies, the master asks him, "Have you learned that music is not for kings?" "I have learned that music is for God." he replies. The master answers, "No. God can speak for himself.") It is a tangled and complex question. All of the simple generalizations are systematically lined up and exposed for the twaddle that they are.

PART 1 Summary

The birth of Trevor, a mixed baby whose biological father was a Swiss/German, was a crime under apartheid in South Africa. Consequently, he spent most of his childhood indoors.

Born and brought up in a religious family, Trevor was imbued with Christian culture. Every Sunday, the family had to commute between home and three churches. When South Africa's apartheid regime fell apart, two black groups Zulu and Xhosa jockeyed for power and triggered bloody clashes. One Sunday night, on the way back home from churches, Trevor's mother, a Xhosa woman, had a quarrel with a Zulu driver, who threatened to teach them a lesson. She threw Trevor out of the minibus and leaped out herself, with Andrew intact in her arms. Thanks to their excellent running ability, they escaped a near-death.

Trevor was raised in a world run by women, who had devout faith in God. They prayed all the year round. Trevor was often leaned on to communicate better with God by praying in English. Those women's loyalty to God sometimes bordered on superstition. A case in point: Trevor's mother once founded a turd in the rubbish bin which in fact belonged to Trevor and she suspected that a demon had insinuated itself into her house. In order to dispel the demon, she assembled the family and the neighbors and called upon them to pray.

Being a mixed-colored child, Trever was treated different by his family and other people. He once accidentally perforated the eardrum of his cousin but got away with it as his grandmother did not know how to treat a "white" child. Thanks to his multilingual mother, Trevor picked up English, German, Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans and contrived to bridge the race gap by replying to people in their language. At the age of eleven, he left Maryvale to go to H. A. Jack Primary, a government school where children of color were segregated from the whites. A handful of white kids made up the majority of the smart classes, the A classes, while almost all black kids were arranged in the B classes. Trevor talked to some black kids in African languages during a recess and they clicked straight away. He went to the school counsel and asked for a switch to the B classes where he had a sense of belonging.

As the second girl and tomboy in her family, Trevor's mother was unwanted by her parents and ended up being sent to her aunt's farm where she toiled and moiled until she got a job at a factory. The silver lining in that period was the access to a mission school where she learnt to read and write in English. She raised Trevor in a way opposite to hers. For example, she gave him a name with no meaning, taught him English as his first language and read to him constantly. When apartheid cracked, they moved to a colored neighborhood named Eden Park. They got a secondhand car and drove it to explore the country. Albeit materially poor, they were rich with experience.

Since it has caused the tribe unhappiness on two occasions, Ken decides that the bottle is an evil thing and must be thrown off of the edge of the world. He sets out alone on his quest and encounters Western civilization for the first time. The film presents an interpretation of civilization as viewed through Ken's perceptions.

So what is the answer? This film knows, but if you don't have some inkling of the answer, you may come away from this film with nothing more than an interesting story set in the music world of 17th century France. I have no idea if the historical details of the story are accurate, and it doesn't matter a jot if they are or not. This movie is about a difficult and complex idea that few have even attempted to tackle, let alone delineate it so beautifully. If the question can be answered for you, this film will do it.

PART 2 Expressions

  1. What happened with education in South Africa, with the mission schools and the Bantu schools, offers [ZZ]What is music?。a neat comparison of the two groups of whites who oppressed us, the British and the Afrikaners.

neat: formal, a neat way of doing or saying sth is simple but clever and effective

a neat summary of the main issues

In the end we found a very neat solution to the problem.


That's a really neat idea.

I liked working for him -- he was a neat guy.

  1. My mom was the problem child, a tomboy, stubborn, defiant.

tomboy: 假在下;男孩子的调皮姑娘

When I got acquainted with Steve, I was  real tomboy.

  1. She’d tag along when he’d go drinking in the shebeens.

tag along/ on with sb: to go somewhere with sb, especially when they have not asked you to go with them

Kate tagged along with Mum and Vicky.

  1. She was always being swatted away by his girlfriends, who didn’t like having a reminder of his first marriage hanging around, but that only made her want to be with him all the more.

All the more/ better/ easier etc: used to emphasize how much better, easier etc something is than it would be in a different situation

Clayton’s achievement is all the more remarkable when you consider his poor performance last season.

The job was made all the easier by having the proper tools.

  1. The homelands were, ostensibly, the original homes of South Africa’s tribes, sovereign and semi-sovereign “nations” where black people would be “free.”

ostensible reason/ purpose/ aim: seeming to be the reason etc for something, but usually having the real reason or purpose

The ostensible reason for his resignation was ill health.

She stayed behind at the office, ostensibly to work.

6. For starters, despite the fact that black people made up over 80 percent of South Africa’s population, the territory allocated for the homelands was about 13 percent of the country’s land.

for starters: spoken, used to emphasize the first of a series of facts, opinions, questions

Well, for starters, you'll need to fill out an application form.

  1. Back in Soweto, my mom enrolled in the secretarial course that allowed her to grab hold of the bottom rung of the white-collar world.

But the highest rung of what’s possible is far beyond the world you can see.

rung: 本意是阶梯上的一级阶梯,引申为 a particular level or position in an organization or system

Humans are on the highest rung of the evolutionary ladder.

  1. My mother wanted her child beholden to no fate. She wanted me to be free to go anywhere, do anything, be anyone.

behold: (v.) to see or to look at sth

be a sight/ joy/ pleasure etc to behold

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 爱人眼里出施夷光

The beauty of the garden was a pleasure to behold.

feel/ be beholden to sb: to feel that you have a duty to sb because they have done sth for you. 受制于...; 对...负有任务

  1. There came a point, in the months before Mandela’s release, when we could live less furtively.

furtive: SYN secretive, behaving as if you want to keep sth secret

There was something furtive about his actions.

She opened the door and looked furtively down the hall.

  1. It was modest and cramped inside, but walking in I thought, Wow. We are really living.

cramped: a cramped room, building etc does not have enough space for the people in it

The troops slept in cramped conditions with up to 20 in a single room.

cramped muscles: unable to move properly and feeling uncomfortable because there is not enough space

  1. We always had food. Mind you, it wasn’t necessarily good food.

mind you/ mind: used when saying sth that is almost the opposite of what you have just said, or that explains or emphasizes it

He looks very young in this photo. Mind you, it was taken years ago.

I love hot weather, but not too hot, mind.

There are also plot lines about shy biologist Andrew Steyn (Marius Weyers) who is studying the local animals (which, because of his nervousness around women, he once described as "manure-collecting"); the newly hired village school teacher, a former newspaper reporter named Kate Thompson (Sandra Prinsloo); and some guerrillas led by Sam Boga (Louw Verwey), who are being pursued by government troops after an unsuccessful attempt to massacre the Cabinet of the fictional African country of Burani. Also taking a share of the limelight is Steyn's Land Rover, dubbed the Antichrist (also "son of a mlakka") by his assistant and mechanic, M'pudi (Michael Thys), for its unreliability and constant need of repair. Also part of the chaos is a fresh safari tour guide named Jack Hind (Nic de Jager), who has designs on Thompson and would often steal Steyn's thunder.

PART 3 Reflections

Nelson Mandela once said, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." Languages have served to help Trevor bridge the race gap, cross boundaries and navigate the world. As far as I am concerned, languages pave a path to different cultures and shapes me into a better candidate for practicing law.

I am a multilingual speaker of sorts. My mother languages are Mandarin and Shanghainese. I have acquired fluency in English and Korean as well as intermediate level in Spanish. I was once in the middle of an interview in a law firm, peppered with questions like, "What do you think makes you special? " "Why should we choose you over others who have similar backgrounds?" "Well, I can also speak Korean and a little Spanish" Darting over the countenance of the interviewers, I knew that I had screwed up the interview. One of the interviewers said it word for word "Okay, but that's not what we need." Upon reflection, if given another chance to reply, I would say that law, at its core, is the study of language and the in this sense, being multilingual gives me an edge over other competitors in the field of law.

I have viewed language as the vehicle for transmission of different cultures, the medium of expression for different thoughts and the basis for human society. I am enchanted by foreign languages as disparate as English, Korean and Spanish, which have given me a window into other cultures and taught me to value the shared, profound humanity. Law in essence is the study of the way languages can be used to establish and modify the framework for human interactions. The law codify the rules through language and use it as a tool to change society.

Ken happens upon a farm and, being hungry as well as oblivious to the concept of ownership, shoots a goat with a tranquilizer arrow. For this he is arrested and jailed for stealing livestock. M'pudi, who lived with the bushmen for a long time, realizes that Ken will die in the alien environment of a prison cell. He and Steyn manage to hire Ken as a tracker for the 11 weeks of his prison sentence, with the help of M'pudi, who speaks Ken's language. Meanwhile, the guerrillas invade the school where Kate teaches and use her and her pupils as human shields for their escape by foot to the neighboring country. Steyn and Ken manage to immobilize the guerrillas as they are passing by and save Kate and the children. Steyn allows Ken to leave to continue his quest to the edge of the world.

Ken eventually finds himself at the top of a cliff with a solid layer of low-lying clouds obscuring the landscape below. This convinces Ken that he has reached the edge of the world, and he throws the bottle off the cliff. This scene was filmed at a place called God's Window in the then Eastern Transvaal, South Africa (now Mpumalanga). This is at the edge of the escarpment between the Highveld and Lowveld of South Africa. Ken then returns to his band and receives a warm welcome.

1. bushmen的世界里从未“有罪”、“坐牢”、“时间”等词语,再一次证实它是上天,缺憾从70年份早先那么些天堂不断被外部侵扰和潜濡默化了。

  1. Steyn平日发的二个音是“ayiyayiyayiyayi”,可爱无比,那是南非共和国土话“my godness”的意思啊?

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