... Why music? For your spiritual bank
Margy Burgess, a Melrose treasure through her prodigious talent for composing original music, suggested that some of us speak on what music means to us.
Sounds easy, huh?
In my miserable case, musical note progression speaks to me of the perspectives in both my life and in my make-up. When I was born, I arrived with an inventory which included the affiliation to or with serious music. My folks weren't particularly into music although my Pop loved Fats Waller and tried to play the banjo. We had a wind-up Victrola during the 30's on which we played Strauss waltzes and I got very familiar with the Blue Danube and Tales From The Vienna Woods.
After that, forget it! I heard nothing of serious music for years other than my grandma tuning in the Texaco Opera on Saturdays. My Ma got a big charge out of my imitations of opera singers but it wasn't until I was 14 years old that I heard any of the classical music that made a difference in my life.
What a revelation! In succession, I discovered Debussy, Ravel, Stravinski, Shostakovitch, Mahler, Brahms, Dvorak, Berlioz, Verdi, Beethoven, Bach, Gershwin, Vaughn Williams and a gazzilion others; all of whom changed my life permanently.
Each composer set down note progressions unique to his/her inner make-up. None could write for the others. Mahler, perhaps the greatest orchestrator ever, set down what was in his soul in works titled, Das Kinder Toten Leider, or Songs Of The Dead Children after three of his kids died of sickness. He wrote, "Das Leid Von Der Erde", Chinese poetry to his own perspectives and devastating. His songs of a wayfarer are like nothing else. I first heard Canadian contralto, Kathleen Farrier, sing those songs and since they were unlike anything I had heard before and interesting, I became very well acquainted with them.
French composer Claude Debussy was another great master whose compositions spoke to millions. He wrote music in a language telling of the beauty of tranquility, innocence with the electricity of life. So did Maurice Ravel. In all cases, the composer tried to condense the spirituality of innocence in sound. The major ones succeeded. They composed to speak to us.
In his "Requiem" Dvorak sang the passions in the Mass so well that in singing it, the notes often dissappeared from my sight as I, too, sang it.
Rachmaninoff wrote an entire genre of Russian religious music whose performance was forbidden by the awesomely terrible Stalin regime. That great music has now been introduced to the church-going Russian people by American chorales using the great basso voices so loved in Russia. In his, VESPERS, the fifth song, 'Now, Lord, Let thy Servant depart' goes at the ending so low that Rachmaninoff was asked where he expected to find singers who could sing it. Eventually he did and that music has been a measurement for Russian religious music ever since.
My point is that serious music is a great way to organize one's perspectives and upgrade your lives through a reconciliation available nowhere else. Try it. If you don't, you're just cheating yourself.
Music for the eyes!
January 7, 2000