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Madonna will one day be studied in school

Fifty years ago, Elvis shocked America with his provocative hip gyrations and new style of loud, abrasive music that captured the hearts of the youth at that time: rock 'n' roll.

Now, 7th Hour Concert Choir is learning a choral rendition of "Hound Dog." Yes, we are singing exactly the same words that sent an entire generation of parents into frenzy, and rocked the very foundations of society as people knew it.

It was pure civil war -- parent against child, old against young, restless bull-headed forward thinkers against the proud preservers of the morality they grew up with. And it all started because one man decided to add a little swagger to a Lieber and Stoller song.

Now, we sing that very tune in our sweet collective choral voice, our faces turned to the heavens, halos revolving around our heads.

"Now, if you would please make it sound a little less square," our instructor asks politely, and we obey. We vary our tone a bit more and tint it with that rebellious intonation to add a touch of much-needed provocateur.

What happened?

Apparently, academia loves the old. Yesterday's subversives and rebels somehow turned into today's classroom material. We watch James Dean movies and pore over Salinger and incorporate The Doors into our classroom projects, without realizing that the message of these materials -- individualism, uniqueness, youthful angst -- runs totally contrary to everything our social environment stands for.

It seems that cultural phenomenon loses its controversial edge as time passes, at least in the eyes of the public and the academic. Walt Whitman is just another dead writer we study in Lit 101, not the scandalous poet he was in the mid-nineteenth, the only one with the nerve to directly approach the topic of sex.

But read "A Woman Waits for Me," and it still seems like the dirtiest thing you've ever read. Bob Dylan is generally considered by today's kids to be some centuries-old fuddy-duddy bluesman, but when our cross-country team broke into a rendition of "Rainy Day Women #12 and 35" on the bus last year, we still turned some heads.

Even Madonna -- the Queen of Scandal -- doesn't seem so scandalous anymore. Not because artists today expose any more skin or dance all that much more provocatively than she did -- they don't -- but simply because her music has been around forever.

People have had time to get used to her edgy ways, and I imagine Like a Virgin will find its way into the choral repertoire one of these days.

If anything, our culture has gotten less subversive over the years, so the theory of an ever-expanding plane of acceptable taste, a limit to be expanded upon by every successive generation is moot.

In 20 years, will kids be singing the Ramones and the Sex Pistols in choir? In 30, Nirvana and all that sad grunge madness? In 50, will our sweet collective voice be processed through a pitch correction machine and made to sound like a 2010 Top 40 hit?

Who knows? At the current rate, that's exactly what will happen. If so, then I'm glad I am a Concert Choir student in 2010, when the 1950s and '60s are just beginning to find themselves into the realm of academic culture.

Because -- as much as I may disagree with school taking my beloved rebel heroes and making them its own -- at least we're singing great music.

Nathan Kitzmann is a junior at Detroit Lakes High School.

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