Music class

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1) Two recent films set twentieth-century pop music in two very different contexts during the 1960s: one, the carefree world of California surfing; and the other, the Civil Rights movement. Each focuses on the creativity and mental illness of two very different artists. The first (Love and Mercy, 2015) tells the story of composer Brian Wilson (b. 1942), the creative force behind the Beach Boys who, along with The Beatles, revolutionized pop music. The second (What Happened, Miss Simone? 2015) profiles performer Nina Simone (1933–2003), who possessed arguably the most memorable pop voice of the twentieth century. Watch the trailers for these two films, and consider the following issues.

Who is the real genius—the composer or the performer? Which artifact will last longer—the notated song or the performance of it?

2) What role might mental illness play in the creative process? How might it enhance creativity? How might it destroy it? It is often said, “There is only a thin line between genius and insanity.” Take a stance, pro or con, regarding that assertion. Do you think it’s true that an artist needs to be a little crazy to accomplish truly exceptional things?

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