Some Reflections about Music
I’m going to take a diversion today from my normal routine of nostalgia and venture over into the world of music; perhaps even laced with a bit of cynicism. I’m not a trained musician by any sense of the word. I’m not even able to read music, except to know that when notes move up on the lines of the staff, so does the pitch. But this is not to say that I don’t enjoy or recognize good music when I hear it; because I do.
In order to escape the drivel found on network and cable TV, and when I’m not watching Turner Classic Movies or the History channel, I tune into Sonic Light Classical or Beautiful Instrumentals on Direct TV. When I was younger, I didn’t much care for classical or operatic music; but of late, I have acquired a taste for it. I think this transition came about because my youngest daughter is a classically trained flutist.
The Light Classical channel features opera , as well as orchestral music. I like opera, but there are opera singers and there are opera singers; some, of whom, in my opinion, are easy to listen to, and some not so easy. A case in point would be some of the operatic sopranos. I personally put sopranos into two categories; those who produce sweet tones, and those, whose tones are not so sweet. Some of those not so sweet, I dare say, sound like a screaming hog stuck in a barbed wire fence.
What do I mean by sweet tones? Sweet tones are those that pleasure the senses in much the same way as the crisp ringing tones of a bell, or the taste of a sweet orange and a succulent crisp sweet apple, or honey in your tea. These sweet soprano tones literally send goose bumps up and down the spine. Julie Andrews, though not technically classified as an operatic singer, but who is highly trained, produces sweet tones. Carol Lawrence is another.
There are some operatic singers who have mastered this art as well—producing those sweet tones that are mellow on the low end, and ring like a bell on the high end. When we lived in Havasu City, there was a retired opera singer who attended our same church. If memory serves, she was a Mezzo Soprano. She had one of those big powerful booming voices, but when she brought those notes up from her larynx and sent them through the various cavities in her skull, the resonance of those notes brought goose bumps to be savored for hours.
Sopranos who lack sweet tones affect the senses akin to that of lemon juice or vinegar. These ladies have powerful voices and are on pitch, but their tones are what I would describe as hard—and there are no goose bumps. Maybe it’s due to their training, I don’t know. I’ve heard that in the early days of opera, in order to project into the far reaches of the large opera houses, and be heard above the large orchestras, singers had to literally force the notes to a very high volume. I think this might be what takes away the sweetness.
Unfortunately, I think many voice teachers still train singers today under that old tradition. With the advent of electronic amplification, this forced projection no longer seems necessary. I believe those singers who are fortunate enough to be trained in the art of properly using modern amplification, give us much sweeter tones.
As for male opera singers, I think it’s the tenors who get the bigger parts, but my personal preference leans toward baritones. However, I do like the late Luciano Pavarotti. He, too, mastered the art of developing sweet tones. But Hans Gregory Ashbaker (Hans Aschenbach as he is know in Europe)is the operatic tenor that gives me the real goose bumps. He was born and raised in my old home town of Soda Springs, Idaho and has become a renowned operatic star and conductor throughout Europe. I believe he now resides in Germany. When he softens on those high notes, chills run up and down my spine, and when he reaches down into the lower register, his notes have the deep resonance of a rich baritone, also producing goose bumps.
Last but not least, I have to express my view of so-called rock music. I expect I’ll get considerable flack from younger readers for my next comments, but I don’t even consider rock as legitimate music. To me, it’s nothing more than irritating noise.
I read an article several years ago; written, I believe, by a music professor. He said rock music had a profound subconscious effect on the Central Nervous System, because it has an added beat every so often. He likened it to putting a runner on a tether. The runner starts running, settles into a comfortable gait, then reaches the end of the tether which gives him a sudden jerk back. He then has to start over again. This professor said that extra beat in rock music has the same effect on the Central Nervous System.
Maybe that’s why we have so much road rage. 🙂 People drive the down road listening to rock for hours on end until it has their Central Nervous System in such subconscious turmoil that they lash out at other drivers.:)
He also said that merchants should take note of playing rock in their places of business. He said rock has a tendency to rev people up, thus spurring them to keep on the move. Consequently, if they are in a store where rock is playing over the intercom system they will have a subconscious tendency to leave the store sooner. By the same token, he said if classical or elevator music is playing they will linger and shop longer in the store.
Most rock stars, (both male and female)in my opinion, have weak untrained voices with absolutely no tonal control. They can’t carry a tune across the room in a bucket, so they literally scream into the microphone, and are hailed as music icons. Those performers bring out the worst in me, and I try to avoid them, because when I’m in a situation where I’m subjected to their torture, I want to yell at the grandkids, kick the dog, throw the cat against the wall, smash the TV or radio; and after all that, slit my wrists. Oh…well, to each his own I guess.
Now back to something relaxing. If you’d like a one or two hour respite from today’s harrowing world, you might enjoy reading some of the adventures in my book Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. Buddy takes you back in time to a simpler slower era of ten cent movie tickets, ten cent double dip ice cream cones, five cent Hershey bars, and five cent Coca Colas. You can obtain a free copy by clicking on the “free download” button at upper right of this page. Enjoy.