Monday, December 15, 2008

The Meaning of Christmas Music

Given that one of the most sacred of Western holidays has already been irreversibly commercialized, will we ever know the true meaning of Christmas music?

By: Vanessa Uy

I’ve just found out recently that even people who claimed themselves to be devout and / or pious Catholics can’t seemed to provide a good enough definition – to me at least – on what is Christmas music. Given that there won’t be an overarching “easy solution” to this intransigent problem any time in the near future, should we – in good confidence – just resign ourselves to the fact that the true meaning of Christmas music is, well, meaningless? But before all of us resign to this somewhat distasteful inevitability, here are my various representative candidates on the true meaning of Christmas music and what they bring into the Christmas music debate.

On the “over-commercialized” Santa Claus-is-invented-by-Thomas-Nast front, Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” (written by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells) has been well-established as all secular joy and seduction set in the Yuletide Season. Which, to me at least, another “very appealing” tentacle of America’s infamous commercialization of the most holy of Western holidays, which unfortunately was deemed “desirable” by more than a billion non-Americans around the world.

Modern Rock and Pop and Heavy Metal-based Christmas music (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, A Very Special Christmas, Just Say Noël, etc.) might not be everyone’s cup of tea despite of its relentless widespread popularity. But given that over 90 per cent of them donate a significant portion of their proceeds to charitable and humanitarian organizations of their choice, do they pass muster as Christmas music?

Given that most devout Catholics – even priests – under 40 that I know of “choose” not to use their brains for the enjoyment of Classical Music (like the works of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, etc.), will they ever view Medieval period Liturgical drama music as Christmas music? Their Friedrich Nietzsche and Prof. Richard Dawkins loving counterparts already have. But to me at least, ”Hymns for All Seasons: The Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge” surely passes muster as “old school” Christmas Music.

Given that there is already a growing consensus that Santa Claus is a native of Kyrgyzstan and possibly an observant Sufi Muslim, will the Islamic Devotional Music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan be ever considered as Christmas music? Well, our local Sufi community seems to be unabashedly performing live concerts of Qawwali or Islamic Devotional Music during the Yuletide Season since last year.

Or what about those Christmas music with a nautical / tropical Caribbean cruise vacation theme – especially one’s by Jimmy Buffett? Well, Jimmy Buffett’s Christmas Island had never been my cup of tea even though I’m a very big admirer of the artistic merits of his musicianship. Questioning Buffett’s Christmas Island’s relevance as Christmas music might cause me to anger “Parrotheads” around the world. But given most Americans and Europeans with money choose to go to the Bahamas or other tropical vacation locales during the Yuletide Season, then the validity of Jimmy Buffett’s “version / visions” of Christmas surely has validity.

There you have it, despite the onslaught of commercialization Christmas music has never been easier to define. Much less accept the idea that it is utterly devoid of any semblance of meaning. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have this Death Metal Christmas music Website recommended by a friend that I have to visit.