There are two music programs, which have become a tradition I enjoy each year. One is the Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Concert. The other is BBC's Last Night at the Proms, which comes each September.
The Proms is a summer series of concerts, featuring a wide variety of music types. The final night includes some featured pieces of music, but also a number of pieces which are repeated each year and have become a fun tradition. The audience joins in with raucous singing, clapping, and bouncing to the beat (this is held in Royal Albert Hall in London, so there is no disco dancing). The music is great, even if the lyrics might be out-dated (Britannia no longer rules the wave!), and the atmosphere is infective. The concert is beamed to Hyde Park (and venues in major cities), where tens of thousands enjoy the show and add voices to the choruses. This is entertainment at its best.
Yesterday, I wrote about my (re-)discovery of my lack of scientific knowledge and limitations as a profound thinker.
Today, I must admit to a further weakness, which I recognized/remembered while watching an excellent BBC program on the history of the symphony.
I cannot begin to understand how anyone can turn the notes of the music scale, C-D-E-F-G-A-B-[C] (how can there be two different Cs?), into Beethoven’s 9th. I would have as much trouble with Row, Row, Row Your Boat. And, why is an orchestra made up of those instruments, in those numbers, and in that seating arrangement?
Fortunately, I am able to appreciate and enjoy the genius of others. Of course, not all “music” falls under this description. Rap is not music, it is bad noise, and it takes little genius to cobble those “lyrics”.
I recall three attempts during my life to be “musical”. My mother forced me to learn to play the piano, at which I balked. I refused to practice and disappeared at lesson time. She wisely gave up. In junior high school, some fool suggested that I learn to play the French horn. I do not recall the circumstances, but it surely faltered on the lack of a horn and my parents’ inability or unwillingness to pay for one. The final foray was as a member of the choir in private school. This was the result of peer pressure to join my mates. What else was there to do at boys’ school? From the best I can remember, this also did not last long. Since then, the only instrument I play is one that makes music for me…
_ I like to think the song that defines me is “18 til I die”, not because I feel young for my age, but rather because I was just as boring at the young age. Through the years, my eclectic taste for music has remained unchanged and difficult to classify. I pick and chose what pleases me and feel no need to explain. (The only genre I loath is rap and have yet to hear a single verse that does not sicken me...but that is another issue.)
Occasionally, I like a popular song, which many might find peculiar. For example, I like several songs by Adele. Given her popularity, I can feel “hip”. I was pleased to learn that she had won so many prizes at the recent Grammy Awards. It made me feel like the song mentioned in the first paragraph...until I noticed a piece in the New Yorker about the leading female vocalists. It read:
"Adele’s impeccably sung collection of unperturbing soul, “21,” released in February, will almost certainly be the year’s biggest-selling album. Her career is likely to be long, because she is selling to the demographic that decides American elections: middle-aged moms who don’t know how to pirate music and will drive to Starbucks when they need to buy it. The rest of the population has Gaga and Beyoncé."
I guess that I made a mistake, because I cannot identify with the demographic described here. I will have to keep my likes to myself, out of fear of being misunderstood or guilty by association.
_ One of the better annual traditions is the New Year’s Concert from Vienna. The Vienna Philharmonic is a fine orchestra and puts on a wonderful concert each year. They celebrate Austrian music with a lot of Strauss (there were a bunch of them), but honor a different country each year with a few selections. The broadcast is sprinkled with videos of landscape and ballet dancers in various palace ballrooms. In a world gone crazy with rap music and music videos, the concert/program is comforting.
To give an indication of the traditions which the Vienna Philharmonic is attempting to maintain, one must merely seek female members of the orchestra. It’s a bit like playing Where’s Waldo. This year, I discovered two, one of which played the harp (I don’t recall every seeing a guy playing a harp...other than Harpo). The second one played a cello. My guess is that two are required in order to share a room when the orchestra travels. Worse than having a female in the group would be to have one enjoy a single room.
No, this is not about Mitt Romney or any other politician.
I vaguely recall writing something about the possibility of having a favorite anything, because of the wide variety of choices. If I didn't write this, then the point should be obvious.
Unfortunately, I changed my mind on one subject. I do have a favorite piece of classical music, which I can hear repeatedly. It is Schehearzade by Rimsky-Korsakov. I have been listening to it for years and never tire.
Some of the less-watched cable channels, which air re-runs of older favorites, also run some of the seedier advertising. This is the result of low cost-per-thousand price and audience demographics. Since I usually record my favorite programs, I fast-forward past these messages. Still, I cannot avoid the graphics.
Recently, advertising for a subscription to a set of music CD’s caught my attention and made me wonder how these can survive. They must make money or would not be run. I have seen this many times in the past, and they seem to repackage the same songs with different covers. I’m certain that many old people purchase the set, not remembering an earlier purchase. It has to be aimed at older viewers, because young people buy music on iTunes
This practice of buying sets of music, reminded me of the encyclopedias of my youth. Now, no one (or someone really dumb) would by a set of books with knowledge, when they can click on Wikipedia. But, there was a time when salesmen darkened front doors and convinced residents that their children could not succeed in life without the benefit of having an expensive encyclopedia in the house. My father fell for the sales pitch, and I did enjoy discovery afforded by every delving into a volume. I do not recall a single fact, but my horizon must have been broadened. I’m sure that this set of books still collects dust and mildew in the family cellar.
I admit buying a set of music CD’s from Time-Life a few decades ago, when music was less easy to source. My favorites from the past were unavailable in Europe or ridiculously expensive. Home computers were a glitter in the eye of someone clairvoyant, and the internet was a military-industrial secret. I also bought a set of history books for my children, which neither touched. My interest in history was not in genes passed along to the next generation. From where I sit, I can see those books gathering dust.
Salesmen, subscriptions, and bad deals will be with us as long as humans roam the earth. Some of us will be too soon old and too late smart, and some will never be smart...which explains why salesmen, subscriptions, and phony deals will survive.
Warning: biased opinion!
I like music with a pleasant, recognizable melody from several different categories. One might call my musical "taste" eclectic. I appreciate good lyrics and understand the difficulty of crafting an excellent song.
That is only one explanation for my thorough dislike of rap "music". I would even go so far to admit that I loath it. But, not only do I dislike the melody (I give it the benefit of the doubt by using that word), I share Mark Twain's aversion to wailing cats. He did not mind the sound; it was the terrible grammar that he disliked.
It is amazing (and disturbing) to hear words not uttered in polite society blared over the airways. This is a particular aggravation during summer months, when car windows are rolled down and car radios are turned up. In non-English speaking nations, I'm certain that parents do not know what their children are hearing (if the children even do). It is treated as a cultural import from god's favorite nation and given music chart status.
If people knew what the lyrics really conveyed, they might ban its play. But, people in the US understand the words and let the crap poison the airwaves...
It's official. Americans that watch television have boring (or no) taste in music.
I have just run through the highlights of the American Idol, which is the first time that I have ever viewed this program.
The best performer did not win; the most boring one did. Others had better voices, more range, more versatility, and more personality. But, they had no chance, because Jesus helped the guy win.
So, we know that historical figure's taste in music. Boring...