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The Core Curriculum

“Turn Turn Turn” Pete Seeger, 1959.

Relates to: 

This famous songs is an improvised melody over major chords written by Pete Seeger in 1959 and performed by the Byrds shortly thereafter. The lyrics are taken directly from Ecclesiastes III:1-8, except perhaps for the optimistic intention at its end “I hope it’s not too late” regarding the idea of peace. The melody is nearly a lullaby. It’s comforting, soft, and only slightly sad. This comforting interpretation of the words belie the troubling philosophical problems inherent in them: If there’s a season for everything, when is the time for war? Casting stones? Sewing, keeping silence, speaking? Peace? It seems that there’s a time and place for every opposite and contrary states of affairs. If you think war is good, there’s also a time for peace. If you think freedom is good, there’s also a time for slavery. If you goodness is good, there’s also a time for badness. But this is confounding! How are we ever to know truly when it’s right to do anything? Is war good? Is good good? Seeger’s song makes it seem a simple business, but an angst lurks close to the surface.