Monday, June 22, 2009

Harmony and melody in an urban setting

Harmony in music is the simultaneous use of different pitches to make chords. Harmonics are wavelengths or frequencies related to one another by simple proportions.

A melody (from Greek μελῳδία - melōidía, "singing, chanting"[1]), also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity. In its most literal sense a melody is a sequence of pitches and durations, while more figuratively the term has occasionally been extended to include successions of other musical elements such as tone color.

In my opinion, an appreciation of these two simple definitions as it relates to music and life is the key to connecting with people, surroundings, sounds, purpose, place and peace. Personally, emotionally, spiritually, it all adds up to the balance and beauty of harmony and melody. May the grace of God give me the ability to understand and proliferate these vague things and ideas that bring harmony and melody and peace to this life. And the wisdom to pass this down to the next generation.

This city was designed with harmony and structure and care in mind. The street grid, the eventual street car network, the walkable/connected neighborhoods, etc. Man, it was beautiful, harmonious, melodious and in tune with a quality human experience. But somewhere it all started to go down hill.

The "greatest generation" set forth policies and practices that abandoned and choked off St. Louis from the emerging suburban municipalities and lifestyles. The baby boomers continued to run for the hills and pastures (read "yards and cul de sacs") throughout the 1960's through 1980's, taking with them their large incomes, high educations, and high health/living standards.

Left in St. Louis are the new comers, old property heirs, criminals, complacents, urbanists, gentrifiers, toughs and dreamers. Chances are, you are one or more of the above. We are in the on deck circle. We are going to be the next group that defines and changes the face of St. Louis.

How will we fare? As the boomers die off, how will the Generation Jones and Gen X and Gen Y'ers set course and influence the long, varied history of this fine city? I hope we don't cut and run when the going gets tough(er). I hope we stay and fight. I'm hopeful. Yes we can.

If nothing else, I hope we hold the city to a higher standard than our parents and grandparents did.

Some of the mistakes of our parents generation (and prior) should NEVER be repeated. The butchering and shitting upon the once fine/intact street grid is a sin. The dismantling of the street car system was a sin. Suburbanizing the city was shortsighted (St. Louis Centre, Marketplace, etc). Allowing sexually transmitted diseases to spread so rapidly, as a result of ignorance, was a sin. Allowing the public schools to decline so far was a sin. Allowing the high school drop out rate to climb to astronomical levels was a major failure. Allowing thugs and thieves to operate unencumbered by the police and govt. in large swaths of this town was a failure. Letting petty crimes go unreported was a failure.

We've got to do better. We need harmony in our police force, schools, government, businesses, non-profits and most of all: the citizenry. We need melodious connections between our streets and neighborhoods and people. We have to step it up and best the previous generations that made the city lose out to other places and stagnate over the past 50 or so years. We need to change the history from a downward spiral to a place that has unlimited hope and potential. What are you going to do? My humble personal plan will be articulated in a future post.


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  3. Sorry about the deleted posts, I guess I should proofread before posting.
    Interesting, with the religious overtones. I would agree with your comments about the greatest generation but I think the separation of neighborhoods and the flight to the burbs came as a result of the automobile. Every generation from the earliest days of the city have been traveling further west to find some sort of calmer, tranquil setting. Lafayette Park was once in the country and the people of the Central West End went there to escape the foul smells and encroachment of industry. Moreover, the Mill Creek Valley had over 1,000 units without indoor plumbing in 1947. Harmony and melody seem to come in fragmented bits. There are moments of melody and harmony like in the brief Gaslight Square days and then moments of cacophony like Cherokee Street in the 1980's. I agree it is time to step up and advocate for a re-emergence of greatness that St. Louis once was. The whole metroplotian area should be connected. Places like St. Charles shouldn't be allowed to say they don't want the Metrolink. We should connect not disconnect. The first step toward progress is staying informed and embracing a new way of doing things that will foster harmony and melody for all the communities connected to St. Louis.

  4. I went to Harmony grade school, and it sank into the swamp. But the second one, well, it sank into the swamp as as well. But the third one stayed up and that is where I completed my education. And where I first met Melody, She was a green eyed Irish witch. As for the original trolly system, those things were diesel driven smog machines. And before that the horses were the original meth labs. Methane that is.

    We're all social creatures probably decendants of some time of ancient Hound Dogs. Sniffin butts and layin on top of each other, thats why we live so close to each other but does not explain the invention of beige vinyl siding.