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Thursday, 24 May 2012

How Do We Appreciate The Arts?

By Jackie Harrison

I am not a music major but I love music, almost any kind. Pieces without words can affect my mood but those with words, especially the words of religious songs, stir my emotions the most.

I marvel at the genius of composers like Beethoven, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner and Mozart during their time and wonder why we have none like them today. It boggles my mind to think that Beethoven, when he was completely deaf, composed his last work.

When I think these opera composers could tell a story through music, writing every vocal and instrumental note, I am in awe. I played memorized pieces on the piano but even though my fingers played each note and chord automatically, I could not recite the individual notes I played. The mind is a marvelous thing!

I try to figure out how music and other arts are judged. Is a painting of penguin feet walking across a canvas selling for hundreds of dollars good art? Is a photograph of an ugly old sofa in an austere room worthy of first place in an art show? Are clever metaphors, often used by the news media, and lofty descriptive words by writers really good?

Do some people fake appreciation, trying to appear elite? Perhaps being different, often called original, is the key; yet many prefer the accepted "norm" or works of the ancient artists.

I can do without the current singing fad of what I call screaming and warbling up to the pitch. Once the high pitch is found, the singers hang onto it forever like they are proud they found it. Rap music, even though I can't understand half the words - and I am glad- fascinates me only because it is difficult. I've tried doing it and I can't.

It is strange to me that nowadays most performers can't sing a song in a simple way and have it appreciated. I liked the Frank Sinatra and Karen Carpenter styles. We watch and listen to blasting sounds, falsettos, strobe lights, sexy gyrations from half-nude or weirdly dressed bodies and call it good. What happened to shows like The Lawrence Welk Show?

I like country western music, the real kind, not the "Hollywoodized" versions. Many are "hurting" songs like Ruby and even Goodnight Irene. When I taught DUI classes, I warned the students who liked to drink not to drink and listen to country western music. It would make them drink more.

Even though his contemporaries didn't think much of Rachmaninoff's music ( probably jealous because his pieces were too difficult for them to play ), I appreciate his music. I can always recognize his music by the heavy octave chords, followed periodically by soft melodious tunes. His Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, from which the popular song, Tonight We Love, was taken, is a good example.

I must say I like George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue. I love the section where one can actually experience the wheels turning on the train he reportedly was riding in when he wrote it.

When I listen to unfamiliar classical music sung or played by professional musicians who seem to want to show off their skills by performing odd pieces during their concerts, I don't always enjoy it. I would much prefer my favorites, at least one or two of them. However, I can still appreciate the skills, techniques and interpretations.

I guess it is good thing that I am not a professional critic.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Hello Jackie. I too, love music. No one in my family actually read music, but it was always played and sung in our home. My brothers, as my father did, play by ear, and rather well, I might add. They can hear a song, and figure it out on the piano and guitar. My brother once said if he had a choice, he'd rather lose his sight than his hearing, because he couldn't live without music.

Very thoughtful, Jackie. I think we both have been privileged to live through some interesting passages in art and music. All I know is the kind I love excites my soul, and the kind I hate....well I would like to give it my sole!!

If we're lucky screaming and warbling "music" will play out it's cycle before our ears and nerves do.

Jackie - One of the few stories here that actually made me ponder. I makes you wonder how some people can tolerate the noise.
You hit the nail on head about all types of music. The phony stuff they call country or what passes as POP today. What gets me is watching the kids on TV actually know the words to this junk
Thanks for reminding us.

I have no formal training in music, arts, or literature. But, over the years, I have come to appreciate what moves my heart and soul, whether this is a song, a piece of painting or photography, or a book.

For example, I love classical music and hate rap, heavy metal, and other fads of the moment. In art, I love the works of the old masters, including Dali and Picasso. As for literature, sorry I don't read fiction at all but love to read works of the late E.B. White, Henry Mencken, and G. K. Chesterton.
Among those living, V. S. Naipaul is my favorite. If we talk about columnists, Charles Krauthammer and Kathleen Parker are clearly the best. (No, not Maureen Dowd, nor Krugman and company at that NY sheet.)

In short, I believe our tastes for a lot of things are a product over many years of what we are exposed to, including the home environment, parental training, education, peer influence, attendance in art and music festivals, the books we read, and some unknown intangibles.

By the way, I have listened to Jackie play the piano, and I feel enchanted every time she plays Rachmaninoff and Liszt. As for her paintings, which are a riot in colors, well... I will reserve my comments for another day.

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