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A Short History of Long-Haired Music: The Classical Era, part 2

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If you missed our previous installments, check out A Short History of Long-Haired Music archives

As with the beginning of most epochs, two dandies didn’t wake up one morning in London and have the following conversation over breakfast:

Bertram: I’m tired of the same old Baroque rigamarole day in, day out. Let’s call everything from this day forward, The Classical era.

Oswig: I say, that does have a nice ring to it Bertram… Heavens!

Bertram: What is it Oswig?

Oswig: Look at the front page! Another smallpox outbreak.

Bertram: Dreadful, indeed. Kindly pass the salted meat, would you old boy?

Likewise, there was no one event in 1750 that signaled the dawning of a new musical style. The Classical era can’t claim the equivalent of the now famous July 4, 1976 concert by the Ramones at the Roundhouse in London, which put punk rock on the musical map. Perhaps this is because Johann Sebastian Bach never came up with a catchy song title like "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue.” If he had, maybe things would’ve been different. (Though, to be fair, he did compose a chorale, punkishly entitled, Es ist Genug!—which is German for “It is Enough!” Clearly a man well ahead of his time.)

But like the punk rock movement, the Classical era was rooted in rebellion. In punk rock’s case, artists like The Sex Pistols and The Clash were fed up with songs like “Hotel California,” with their really really long guitar solos and elaborate chord structures. They’d seen enough of Peter Gabriel prancing around stage dressed in a giant sunflower costume, leading Genesis through songs that sometimes occupied the entire side of a record.

Likewise, around 1750, musicians and composers began to move away from the heavily ornamented baroque style made famous by Bach. Young composers, including Bach’s own sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel and Wilhelm Friedmann, began to mimic the esthetics of ancient Greece, resurrecting the bygone culture’s clean, uncluttered style.

For the next seventy-five years or so, the music of the day became more about simplicity, beauty, and balance. Composers like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart considered form and proportion just as important as melody and harmony. The birth of rococo art and architecture, which coincided with the birth of one of the period’s most talented composers, Franz Joseph Haydn, had an influence, as well.

The rococo style began in France under the reign of King Louis XV, who ruled from 1715 until his death in 1774 from smallpox. Louis’s mistress, Madame du Pompadour, had an enormous influence on his aesthetics, as did Philippe, Duc d'Orleans. Between the two of them, the young king was led away from the monumental grandeur of his predecessor, Louis XIV, toward a lighter, more delicate and refined look.

At Versailles, rooms were made smaller and new furniture brought in. This seemed to be the trend at Versailles every time different king took the throne. Each successive Louis felt the need for a complete palace makeover. Had reality TV existed back then, the producers of Queer Eye for the Royal Guy surely wouldn’t have wanted for material.


Louis XV’s new rococo-for-cocoa-pops style was inspired not by the instant chocolate milk it created afterward but by decorative tree branches, flowers, coral, seaweed, and seashells. That’s where the term rococo comes from. In French, rocaille means “rocks and shells.”

In the rococo paintings of French artist Antoine Watteau, there’s a similar return to simplicity. Inspired by Classical Greek and Roman art, Watteau sought a more whimsical look reminiscent of the old wine, women and song days. Scantily clad mythological gods and goddesses pranced through open fields. Rotund ladies lounged along riverbanks, laughing, no doubt, at each other’s thunder thighs. Men cavorted about idyllic country settings in powdered wigs, a sensuality to their expressions that stood out in sharp contrast to the seriousness of the heavy religious subjects fashionable under the previous Louis.

Not unlike a new Banana Republic spring collection, Louis XV’s new look was all about fun and frivolity using soft, muted pastels and light neutral colors. From France, the zippy rococo style spread throughout Europe faster than a smallpox epidemic. When it arrived in Vienna, composers quickly figured out how to translate it into music.

[Be sure to tune in next Wednesday for Part 5 of this series!]

If you missed our previous installments, check out A Short History of Long-Haired Music archives.

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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