Homage to a generation (The unexamined life is not worth living)


Not many of us spontaneously sing songs anymore.  The young web generation, that I am lovingly a part of, has forgotten what it was like to sing because you felt like it, or dance because the voice wouldn’t (or couldn’t) suffice.  This has all fallen prey to the desire to be cool, and we all know that cool people don’t sing or dance.

Cool, when referring to a person, used to mean learned with an earned perspective of experience.  Cool was unique, focused, and unabashedly itself.

But cool changed.

Cool has gone through a series of metamorphoses, but seems to have landed in a new world where the constitution reads:  To be cool, one must not rock the boat of indifference.  One must keep their passion for something pure completely hidden.  Cool must be like everyone else.

It is forgotten that although we “Idol”ize singers and street performers and rightfully acknowledge their expression, but we only admire those traits in someone else’s hands.  It is seen as something that “they” do or “that” person does.   One must not express one’s self or learn to perform their passion.  That just isn’t cool.

It seems that the current popular culture has forgotten (or just simply has never been told!) how focused Miles Davis was, how himself Cage was, or Martha Graham’s unique thoughts about movement and that it could change the world.

Those people were cool.  Very cool.

So why is this an homage?  Because tonight was the last graduate bibliography course a tremendous musicologist will teach.  It seems very specific to my pursuits, and to explain this fully would take more time than I have, but nonetheless I shall try to make it come full circle.

Dr. Michael Meckna is a musicologist professor here at TCU that has decided to retire after this academic year and it is bittersweet to see him go.  Those of us in his graduate workhorse class of Research and Bibliography, have spent numerous hours (and more yet) on his course.  It is challenging and immense, but without a doubt gratifying.

Although important, I am not concerned with his course as much as with his person.  Dr. Meckna is known for extreme brilliance and a soft-spoken vibrancy that can be comforting and exciting at the same time.   He comes to every student recital and listens to all who perform.  This is a microcosm for a trait I’ve rarely seen from a college professor: a real and genuine interest in students and their work.

He is known to rather spontaneously sing a song in any variety of languages that was common and known to generations past.  Sadly, we of the graduate web generation rarely recognize them.  Our story about these songs will not be based around childhood experience, but of Dr. Meckna singing them in a three-hour Thursday class.  He has no apprehension of showing a group of left-footed students a dance, or telling a Haydn ghost story on Halloween.   For some, that may have been the few dance steps they have been taught in their life or the only dance performance in their life.  Some of us forget that Haydn was a person, not just an “old dead white guy.”  As Dr. Meckna said hilariously, “some people think Bach was born old.”

More importantly than all, Michael Meckna is himself.  He loves music, scholarship, teaching and sharing those skills and experiences with others.  When I learn from this college professor, I get a sad feeling that I am staring at the last remnants of a retiring generation.  One that sang. One that danced.  One that understood leadership and respect came from being unafraid.

He will be around in the next semester and I am sure will never be too far from Texas Christian University, but there is one thing that is for sure in all of this about Dr. Meckna:

He is cool.

His last night class (sorry morning class) after 20 years of teaching this course.
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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Homage to a generation (The unexamined life is not worth living)

  1. Felix

    Well said, sir.

  2. Parissa

    I am one of those few that act like I’m in a musical. Not in a variety of languages, unless you include “Frère Jacques,” because I’m not that well-versed. I used to make fun of my mom for doing the same thing when I was younger, but now when I hear something that reminds me of a song, I just (quietly) belt it out. This amuses the people at work a great deal. (I also hum to myself alot when I shop. )

    Sadly, though, it is a lost art. It’s good that you got to know Dr. Meckna for a little while, at least.

    • I’m glad you still sing for no reason! Keep it up! I know sometimes I would be embarrassed by my father when he sang for no reason. But it’s funny how time gives perspective .

      Also very impressed by your French accent mark.

  3. Jon

    This picture says it all…a semester fought in the trenches but we always had fun. No doubt im happy that the course load is almost totally over, but for those thursday nights spent in the library with a quirky music professor, there will be no substitute.

  4. Darrin Hicks

    Dr. Meckna is without a doubt a wonderful man, and a passionate student/educator of music! No other teacher of mine has ever appreciated my terrible love for puns like he does. (He is far better than a “Decent Docent”.) He will be sorely missed. (And so will his “card catalogue” necktie.)

  5. Pingback: Quiet Moment…In the Library |

  6. Kevin

    With all due respect, I am inclined to disagree on the generalities in this post, though this may be my idealism pushing its way through and not necessarily reflective of the world at large. I, and my closest friends, tend to regard someone as “cool” when they are who they are and do not try to be something else. I respect someone who lives their life according to what they love. I, as an example, love music. I love to sing all the time, I love to dance, I love to play, I love to write, I love to conduct, etc. I try not to step on people’s toes while doing it, but in 3 1/2 years at MTSU, I do not feel uncomfortable walking around the music building doing any of these things. I even conduct or sing while outside the music building, and I do not feel uncomfortable. Let ’em judge. Cool is relative.

    Having said that, I find myself in an extremely fortunate position. I exist within circles that understand the power of devotion, the beauty of individuality, and the enormous potential within the human soul. It isn’t cool the way the masses define it, but for those who subscribe to what is “cool,” life is spent trying to please others regardless of one’s own likes or dislikes, hopes or dreams. I imagine it would be supremely unfulfilling, and ridiculously expensive as fashions change every week. Those of us in music understand the longevity and stability passion brings to existence, and the richness of participating in something that is outside of one’s self. That, friends, is cool. Just like Dr. Meckna. 😉

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