Music by Choice:
by Barie Fez-Barringten
As life, the art of music is continuous, omnipresent and varied. Music can be chosen, judged and selected. Every human being is an artist of music and has a valuable gift. Each of us should be encouraged to choose our own music, and, as any art, enjoyed when approached with responsibility and joy. The singing sounds of the voice are the first and most primal forms of music. Scientist says that we sang before we spoke. It is no wonder why music and song play such an important role in our lives. Any sound we utter in a melodious way is a song. When we add words, we sophisticate and hone our expression and bring both sides of our brain into a kind of cooperation of thought, and feeling. We can say and feel simultaneously.
We engage our heart, mind and intellect. Both sides of our brain may be operating and we feel healthier. Music and prayer have similar effects. Art and intellect jibe to perfect them in us to an agreeable metaphor. Some even use song to analyze, remembers and thinks. Music plays a big part in our maturation, social and mental growth. It is for this reason that when we think of our lives as speakers we include the sound of music. Even people who cannot hear with their ears perceive music including composers who are deaf that composed music. Music is also the expression of joy and sorrow while being the beam of light on which we can soar and create. Like our best friend, we take music for granted as an integral pat of our life. With music we know who we are and develop an identity with the world. We can choose with whom we want to be and the music we want to affiliate. Music gives a language and sound by which to communicate and authenticate our identity amongst our own culture distinguishing us from other cultures. In this way music tells who we are in a world which is some time strange and familiar. Music is metaphorical insofar as it makes the strange familiar by being a bridge between our soul and our context. As such, it is what we call life and our consciousness of life. Often with words, there may be music with which we identify and recall the places we’ve been. In this way, music is iconic and symbolic. By our music, we live in our time and relate our time and our music to other time and places.
We know our nation and place on the planet by our music and the sounds we sing; our music gives our family and home identity. Music has been a symbol and theme as well as our status in our society. Some think they are either the classical or the country sort. In fact, we can be both and hopefully many kinds of music. Music and its complexity are who we are and what we can be. By our music, as by our work and arts we prove, test and make our lives authentically individual, unique and identifiable. It is both the expression and reality of the self. In this way music defines and authenticates our identity. Music is the expression of our heart. When we paint, write, dance, act, vocalize and sing we are in an optimal creative state. It is why combinative art movements like the Renaissance and the Bauhaus promoted interdisciplinary education and creation. Some of us are professional or amateur musicians, composers, singers and conductors while most of us just listen or sing along. Music has rallied social movements and heralded the change is cultures and societies. Music has played a personal role in my life. For example, in 1950, I was the audiovisual monitor in my Junior High school responsible for all the stage lighting and sound effects. I also decorated the stage. It was an extension of stage design I did as a child using a Marcal tissue box, cutouts and a flashlight. I was called to mange the stage for a PTA meeting in the auditorium; and while the people were entering, assembling and gathering I played as loud as I could over and over "How Highs the Moon" performed by Les Paul and Mary Ford.
Several appreciated what I was doing but then came a message from one of the teachers that I could continue playing the record but much lower. I could just not understand how they could want it lower. It was meant to shock and be played loud and brashly so as to reel you up and cause you to accelerate and soar. At least these are all the things I felt when I listened to this revolutionary sound. The guitar itself was played with a beauty and competence never before heard enhanced by echo effects and multiple sound tracks pioneered by Les and Mary. Les made many recordings of Mary’s voice and re-played them on different tracks simultaneously so we hear both her voices at different octaves along with his guitar at different reverberations and spans of echoes. It was marvelous and so exhilarating. We were all a party to a change of sound and a new way of expressing ourselves. Electronic in music was on the top of the table and ready for cloning and reinventing. The music was loud, ear shattering, and the sounds were sounds for sound sake. Music had caught up with art; the impressionist’s movement in music was beginning.
We could expect to see further and clearer departures of sound, music and voices departing from content and content interpretation to the creation of feeling and expressions of emotions Singers such as Johnny Ray sang "Cry", and blasted the airwaves with emotion and fire. We no longer listened to the interpretive voice articulating every phonetic syllable and nuance of every sound but a holistic rush and avalanche of powerful crescendos of gushing emotion washing our senses. The senses were now the target, not only our hearts and minds. These new sensations matched the speeds of cars, flying airplanes, credit cards, recreational sex, color television, networks, affluence, etc. America was globalizing and needed the sound and focus on oil and energy to bring it to fruition. Les Paul by his art facilitated this metaphor. Music was my medicine to sooth, calm and feed the right side of my brain. I’d listen and memorize the songs by playing and writing down the lyrics. I’d then practice and sing them.
I stuttered when speaking but I would not stutter when singing and I’d sing boldly. In this way, I learned the words and music to hundreds of songs. To this day I can sing them if you mention a lyric or title of one of them. This included the themes of radio programs and commercials, introductions and themes. These were my urban folk songs. I filed my records and wrote the titles of the contents on the outsides and the jackets. I always polished these records. Some got worn out and I learned how to melt them down to make bowls and dishes. The records also inspired me to become a disc jockey. And I’d practice with these records to announce and play. Recently my lifetime best friend visited me after a forty-year separation, and, he too remembered my collection and the hours we’d spend singing and memorizing each song, which he still remembers. I collected classical records composed by Ravel, Verde, and Debussy. I even made a painting of Daphne and Chloe showing a ship caught in storm at sea with a boy with a lantern on the shore trying to aid in its rescue. It was really the boy looking to the ship to rescue the boy from the rocky shore. The boy was I looking for our ship for deliverance. In my neighborhood, there were music stores, which had speakers out side so we could hear the music as we walked. Every evening we would walk past these music stores and stop by to hear the latest.
Often, I‘d hear something on the radio and race to the store to scoop it up before it was all sold out. This was especially true for my two favorites Johnny Ray and Joni James. Of course, I was a favorite customer of these record shops, who would give me discounts and help me top select very good classical and instrumentals. I entered a talent contest at a local theatre and sang a cappella a 1947 Frank Sinatra song, Mammoiselle and won a years supply of "Bologna" bubble gum. Feeding my musical passion was a close friendship with the famous New York disc jockey Ted brown and his wife, the redhead. The disc jockeys of the day were Martin Block and his "Make Believe Ballroom"; "Listen to Lacy" on 1010; the "William B Williams show" with William B Williams (his theme: You are the One dazzled my spirit; composed and played by Aquaviva and his orchestra). He’d start each show; with his candidly friendly announcement saying: "Good evening world, this is William B Williams", punctuated by the start of the theme, You Are The One; it would fade and he’d start to talk. It was just so thrilling! And late night; music from "Midnight to Dawn"; sponsored by American Airlines whose theme was "That’s All" and Music Makers whose theme was Harry James’ Music Makers. Each show had a fantastic theme and of course I tried to own them, as well. At 15 I was awed by what I was experiencing and had to do what ever I could apply what I learned. I could be a disc jockey and play this music, I could become a musician, and I could decorate, design and draw. I just knew I had to express my self artistically. I was fifteen and adolescent and so was the nation. We were reinventing our selves and learning about what was possible. The music was on the radio, in the car and at home and on the streets coming out of the speakers at the music stores. Many of them were played at dance places: Palladium, Roseland, Birdland, "Y", community buildings, school gyms, and country clubs.
It was urban, metaphoric, romantic, literate, and conversational. Each song told a story and encapsulated an emotional concept. The music and the media were precursors to the culture of media, which spread language and ideas across contents, and cultures. I could learn Italian songs and Chinese people could learn American songs. These modicums of culture, cultural nuggets were shared at home and abroad; consumed like paper back books and magazines. In the forties, I did not need to go to the clubs to discover a new hit, the hits came to me on the radio and I could own the record by buying at the local store. The caring and the love just emulated and pervaded the way we felt about the music because it was the anthems, folk songs and emotion of the coalesced culture. As it embodied the love of the society toward the soldiers during the war it also combined our love toward each other, our culture and society as a whole. It was an emotion well beyond families, neighborhoods and groups. It stood for who we were as a people and gave us a national, social, and emotional identity. It was important, made our lives significant, and connected. It formed the ambiance of our context and the explained our heart. Any one or another of the persons singing, playing and entertaining could be our sister, mother, girl or friend next door. It was an extended family that transcended urban and rural contexts. Singers like Francis Langford, Bing Crosby and the Andrew sisters led the way and each of the below songs were the mantras of the culture. Eventually, the war passed, the soldiers returned and the economy picked up. Industries changed and the solidarity of the nation behind its defense changed and so did the music.
It was replaced with folk songs, do-op sounds and the creativity of our culture took its next step. Things were changing and change had impact upon our life and context. Values and standards were rapidly crashing and being replaced by unknown and dangerous alternatives. Society was presented with choices and not every one made the same choices. Cultural differences were in their early stages of development. In my anomie-world it was music that brought comfort and solace. When styles changed and I was disoriented music was constant and reliable; especially the classics, ballads and those old time Gershwin, Porter, and Berlin hits. Ballads such as: "Is It Any Wonder" by Joni James is a prime example of a song which absolutely nobody on this planet will remember except me; and a few other of anomie’s victims; yet, I know every word and intonation, every instrumental up and down. Today, it is not desired, yet Joni and the sound of her voice ring clear in my mind’s ear and this song resounds with a steady and balanced world in which I live and maintain my equilibrium. It one of, literally thousands of songs I have memorized from radio commercials, program themes and records I bought and played, this and a thousand other such songs, commercials and "sayings" fill my head and can be recited to rebalance the chaotic world. Seeing the world empty of these songs I know I am in anomic stress. Such memories and the ability to recall songs quicken that we are destroying our culture in the world and are cataclysmic in our view of the world around us. Such a view is biblical and reifies the book of revelation prophecy of the end times. When the music ended, culture’s impact ended and along with culture the memories of the feeling s of the past ended. It is a dilemma where both paths have an equal amount of benefits and desirability.
I resolved the dilemma by seeing the world without the anomie of governments replacing one with another. I rather look for the constants of God’s creation and not the cataclysmic end time’s world, a world destroying its past to make way for new and more people, growth, devaluation and degradation. However, while attending public school I learned to play the Ukulele, the Arthur Godfrey style, and in High School, I played the sousaphone at concerts and marched in parades including the yearly Christopher Columbus day parade. I also learned to play the piano, harmonica and accordion by ear. Art has always thrived in anomie’s adversity and oppression. In the midst of anomie composers, musicians and conductors make music where they live and harbor steadfast standards and values.
Music may not always be exuded by professional artists but by the necessity of expression. Voice is sounding breath, the audible sign of life. In my beginning there was music and song; the first things I did was make sounds of music; my fist words were “sing-songy”. I sang constantly; I still do. Movies, radio and TV are filled with music. Part of my first exposure to classics was Grand Canyon Suite; Phillip Morris; Lone Ranger, Peer Gynt suite; Captain Video, Wagner; Lux Presents Hollywood; Porter; etc. Mitch Hennesey, played by Samuel Jackson co-starred with Geena Davis in the "Long Kiss Goodnight" says: "I sing my thoughts cause it reminds and helps me to remember what needs to be done". Mitch adds: "I can figure out my thoughts when I speak them"; this partially explains the most ancient urge and imperative of humans: to utter back to our creator and peers our needs, passions, and ideas. Voice itself is the sound of one’s soul and the heart of the vocalist. My joy in hearing, mimicking and repeating songs was to touch and be touched. All forms of music, particularly "pop" are social. Music allows for a society, culture and world to agree and be in one accord. We can all "oo" and "ahhhh" at the same thing.
The subjects, moods, and modes may vary but music and songs provide each person with a link to his society. In so doing it provides sense of relationships and place in a context. We can identify a street, neighborhood, area, village and city by the song’s slangs, accents, references and tone. Sounds exude context and personas, songs work to overcome anomie, stress and feelings of depression and alienation by their connotations imagined or real. Not only national anthems, but also songs like "East Side, West Side"; "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and singers like Ink Spots, Sarah Vaughn, Tony Bennett, etc. conjure feelings about times, places and events. Listening to a voice on a record, which is clear and audible, allows me to be touched and imaging the throats and vibrating chords of the mechanism making the sound and the all the parts of the body that must be at work to produce what I am hearing. I hear the tone, timber, inflections; the way the mouth, tongue, and lips must be shaped to produced the sound. It is a very intimate and profoundly personal exposure.
The person singing makes themselves vulnerable to listeners and on record to be heard and imagined thousand of times. Each syllable and sound is so refreshing and each lilt and inflection teaches about the person emotion, heart and feelings. We can imagine about the words, places, what the singer wears, period, and place of the song and singer. Feelings, which the person may only have when singing the lyrics and words, but at that moment the world is in the sound of the voice and words being sung. It is a close and intimate experience of creative artist and patron. I have enjoyed so many of these experiences. Many times I have never even actually seen the person who sings the song, and yet I know the person. My mother would sing to my brother and I when we would cry, or if we were sad, or if she said something she regretted, she’d sing. Like Fanny Brice, she used song to poke fun and often to cheer us up by singing something silly. The silly song made us know that she was kind and good and we should not be afraid. She’d often sing when there was storm or when we were in the dark. Because of personal, social and political importance songsters have been in most cultures for a very long time. The minstrel actually means one who serves as a servant from the Latin: ministerium.
There were people who earned there living singing. In medieval times, the servants who sang were allowed to do so from the servants gallery above one end of the "Great Hall". It was called the "Minstrel Gallery"; even David served songs accompanied on his harp to King Saul. The songs revived the presence of the Holy Spirit and reminded Saul of his relationship to God. Songs are the keys to our heart and soul. Song writing, culture, urbanization and a form of globalization have been inexorably entwined since recorded history. And, in my life have been parts of every thing I do. When studying or reading I must stop the music, but in all of my most creative acts music has accompanied my activity. Vaudeville is replete with feelings and emotion put to song such: "take out the pants" and other lines sung when speaking would not win response. Singing was such an important part of early Christian worship that its ritual and music developed together and became almost inseparable. It borrowed music from other religions and from existing secular tunes and slowly developed a form of liturgical chant. Pop music so popular when I was a child was invented in a Firenze, Italy where In 1963 I spent a month. Though their purpose was to recreate ancient Greek drama, the Florentine Camerata effectively established a completely new manner. Florence was a long ways from man’s first utterances which were at first like the singing of birds and the roaring of many animals and the crooning of babies, explanative, not communicative--that is, they came forth from an inner craving of the individual without any thought of any fellow-creatures. Our remote ancestors had not the slightest notion that such a thing as communicating ideas and feelings to someone else was possible. I have enjoyed attending concerts played in various countries in there original costumes, arrangements and theatres; such as operas in Italy, operettas, in Vienna; Mozart in Munich; Arab chants and dancing in Saudi Arabia, etc. I have found understanding and appreciating music to be like appraising antiques and fine art. In so doing one can see antecedents and structure to the progressions and relationships. It was always with joy that I discovered eastern, tribal, oriental, chanting, renaissance, baroque, jazz, folk, etc.
I could see the influence of the culture and the romance of the people. Like gourmet food the music expressed the realities of the people and there culture. I am neither a musicologist nor a musical anthropologist but music has been an integral part of my life and the bible teaches me that God inhabits the praise and worship of His children. I believe that there is some thing very powerful in music and its affects on people. I believe that while in speaking men found their thought but in singing their identity, they were making metaphors and inventing themselves and there identity. They would cry and utter sounds and these sounds would be into expressions of feelings and soon these feelings communicated feelings and reminded the singer about what he feels. The metaphor made the strange familiar and connected the man to his inner and outer context. I also, realize that the songs I know and have experienced are but a fraction of God’s full array of human expressions. I have noted that men’s beliefs and deepest concerns and ideals have affected music. Music has also been affected by technology as today’s electronics, amplification, digitizing, etc. Music from India, China and Alaska can be accessed on the Internet as well. Music has been the expression of the craft of instruments as violins and string instruments: Brass, percussions, etc. It is only recently that classical guitar was accepted and solo cello could be heard. Just as we mix and match furniture classical and jazz, folk and tribal and other admixtures can be heard. As I studied the history of art, architecture and interior design I also studied the history of the music that accompanied each period. Museums collect the instruments and the sheets of some of the music played. Each period had its' own technology, culture, philosophy, and customs. I cannot imagine how poetry, music and vocal expression can be separated. I regard composers and musicians as ethereal artist and muses. Indeed doing the work God has called them to do. As David soothed King Saul so do musicians give us all a great gift? In our culture, we pay and worship them as apostles and expressions of our ethos. In 1937,
I began my quest in New York City and have not stopped since. Some sort of popular music has existed for as long as there has been an urban middle class to consume it. What distinguishes it above all is the aesthetic level it is aimed at. The cultural elite has always endowed music with an exalted if not self-important religious or aesthetic status, while for the rural folk, it has been practical and unselfconscious, an accompaniment to fieldwork or to the festivals that provide periodic escape from toil. But since Rome and Alexandria, professional entertainers have diverted and edified city dwellers with songs, marches, and dances, whose pretensions fell somewhere in between. Moorish and Turkish invaders as well as gypsy singers and dancers assured that Asian and North African usages would color this style, which also showed considerable national variation. If you go to Spain and see the flamenco dancers and the enjoy the practice of clapping to rhythms you will be doing what the Arabs do without musical accompaniment to drums while men only dance. I have seen this performed many times in Spain and Saudi Arabia. You have not lived till you’ve enjoyed gypsy violinist in Hungary and zither players in Austria, harmoniums in Pakistan, flutes and gongs in china, "fidlin-singin" in Ireland, and Swahili chorales in Africa, etc. In the USA as capitalism and urbanization took hold the theater proved an influential new source exemplified by the especially seminal John Gay's ballad opera The Beggar's Opera (1728). Even more important, however, was the gradual availability of printed music, and with it the earliest attempts to uplift the masses with musical instruction.
In this context, the role of popular music as a bridge between rural and urban culture shifted significantly: what began as adaptation evolved toward standardization, as the folk tunes that had always been assimilated to urban uses were written down by well-meaning educators and rendered conventional and genteel in the process. So more formalized music could be written, disseminated and repeated by many others. You make up your own, or sing another’s tune. Music lessons also encouraged a standardization of vocal technique that would continue almost unimpeded until the invention of the microphone. Out of this evolved seasonal Christmas and other holiday, family and special occasion music and anthems. Music that transcended our human peculiarities and presented a sense of societal righteousness making us part of the cheering and singing "in-crowd. The audience, spectators and crowd took ON new meanings as the media projected its messages beyond the venue to all of society who had a receiver. As "Mardi Gras" and "Carnival" , the message was mass forgiveness and sanctuary in a sea of commerce and consumption. Composers, musicians, conductors and all that are part of the entertainment and performing arts are the apostles of urbanism.
What ever they sing, play, act, dance, etc. promulgates the urban image, they deciple the world’s flesh-mind to adopt and abide in the city structure, to abandon the more personal and isolated independence of agriculture and faith for commerce and industry. Entertainers, artists, art and architecture are in the business of making of metaphors of people’s lives. I am what I consume, perceive and own; I own art and occupy architecture. I expect these artifacts to give my life significance and be the landmarks of my identity. They are an address to find my way home and a beacon so that others can also find me. A pivotal figure in popular music's evolution into an industry is Stephen Collins Foster. Foster was the first modern professional songwriter and master of the new American style. Although his work consisted primarily of parlor ballads, his relatively few minstrel-style comic songs are the basis of his enduring fame. While tunes like "Old Folks at Home" are more indebted to Irish models than to the Afro-American music, with which he had a passing acquaintance, they are thought of as "plantation songs."
Such tensions and confusions between the vulgar and the "genteel", often equated with black and white, pervade modern popular music. His music seemed folksy and rural, but it was written, planned and designed for urban consumption. Rural values cloaked in urban dressing. This tension is also evident in the history of dance. Until the 19th century, "popular" dancing was the pastime of aristocrats, who regularly adapted folk rhythms and movements to balletic techniques devised to complement the refined music of the court. The face-to-face couple dancing typified by the waltz and later around 1815 the polka began to change the courtly tradition. While most dancing continued to take place at balls sponsored by the very wealthy, public dancing spaces gradually multiplied, and with them dance orchestras obliged to serve the common crowd, which especially in the United States was not always content to emulate the upper class.
At first, African influences appeared in Latin America and the Caribbean and worked there way outward, but soon they began to make direct impact in the United States. What began by people expressing themselves with body movements without music translated itself into games and a social phenomenon. Dance developed from being a personal and spontaneous expression to the family and a domestic event to a communal with ways of people sharing and agreeing on their common joy and relationship. Many couples originally met in these places coming from different boroughs, cities, states and countries. For example, my parents met and courted at New York’s Palladium. Dancing in turn affected songwriting, which remained popular music's chief form of expression, way ahead of her time in 1960, Long before the, so-called flower children on Height Ash bury a girl named Barbara Allen form Boston and Maine taught me to dance separated with personalized and artistic gestures. The urban colossus of the media was about to be launched. One final change was under way during the same pre-World War 1 period, and it would eventually subsume all the others: the marketing of sound recordings.
The urban mind and its artifacts were about to be disseminated out of urban centers and distributed as was manufactured consumer products. Once the disc that replaced the cylinder in 1902 made records affordable, it was only a matter of further technical advance before they could be used to disseminate pop songs. The crucial breakthrough came in the 1920's when improved microphones opened neither recording to voices that were trained (like that of Caruso, the first recording star) nor naturally penetrating (like those of Al Jolson or Sophie Tucker). Soon microphones would make unnecessary the diaphragm control that for centuries had been essential to the production of effective volume in public spaces, inspiring the crooning style introduced by Bing Crosby and enabling various intimate, conversational folk vocal techniques to be adapted commercially. Augmented by radio, records accelerated the spread of oral traditions and diminished the industry's dependence on vaudeville and Broadway. What's more, records created a new kind of audience. Listeners who hoped to recreate in their own home sounds they had heard elsewhere purchased sheet music, but records were sold to listeners who just wanted to hear those sounds again. They were a giant step for passive consumerism in music. But they also encouraged connoisseurship. Before this could happen, however, there was a time for what much regard as the golden age of pop music.
First, Tin Pan Alley became self-consciously artistic. Inspired especially by Irving Berlin and his classically inclined contemporary Jerome Kern, a younger generation of composers--George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and Harold Arlen are only the most famous names--brought unprecedented harmonic inventiveness to the structural confines of the now standard verse-chorus song, which they jazzed up with American rhythms and undercut with flip humor and jaded savoir-faire. It was these composers who inspired some to call musical comedy the first purely American art form. Keeping in mind that most of the songs were sung by interpreters and not the composers, what I was hearing was the way the singer interpreted the song. More were the singers exuding his or her personality and emotion.
I’d hear a person’s voice in melody deliciously styled to catch my attention by subtle innuendoes, inflections and unique pronunciations of words and phrases. Most phrases were taken out of common usage and one could only imagine those contexts, as one perceived the content of the song and its references. The way in which I heard the songs and the singers I am sure had so much to do with my age, gender and New York urban context. I’d often close my eyes trying to picture the way the singer looked leaving the content of the song and focusing on the lilt, pitch, tone and persona. Word and phrase pronunciations and slang were so important in hearing the song. The most popular songs made expressionists statements and exuded persona. They were short encounters with a singer’s heart. Like novelties, they excited and attracted for a brief moment. They did not overly-demand attention and could be played as many times; often re-exciting the same fascination and sparking with even more interest.
They were easy to accept and digest. One could easily emulate the song and I’d even emulate the interpretation. I could tell the original from the copy and the original forms the second and third different interpretation. Often, the first interoperation was the best as songwriters, wrote songs for personalities and their abilities to pronounce words and provide accents. Like the novelty depends on volume sales to a wide scope of public taste so did the songs and the singers were hired on their ability to sell records to the maximum number of people. You either had it or you did not. Often, it was and unknown, who made some new song popular because she learned, practiced and melded with the author, the content and their bands. Sound effects, record quality played, and important role in songs popularity. When I think of each singer and song I hear and feel a persona, picture a context, visualize a face, see a place and mostly hear the lilts, tones, harmonies, sounds, and expressions. They are unique and haunting. They come to me in the day and the night. I know the names of the singer and match them with there song, the song, which made them famous and attractive. Why I know them and remember them. I don’t really know them but their name there, sound and their association with a song, band and composer. Some of my favorites include Hogy Carmichael, Sigmund Romberg, and Franz Lehar. Sigmund Romberg was born, July 29, 1887, Nagykanizsa (Szeged), Hungary and died sixty-four years later on Nov. 9, 1951 in New York City.
Romberg emigrated to the U.S. in 1909. After getting a few songs published, he came to the attention of the Schubert Brothers. They engaged him to score a show, which was performed on the stage in Vienna and Leipzig. His music and the performances revived the early days of radio when I would hear Richard Tauber and others sing Lehar’s works. It is the cultural radio I remember. It is from the merry widow I sing the birthday song in church: "Happy birth day, happy birthday just for you; Happy birthday and may all your dreams come true , As you blow out the candle, one light stays aglow; He’s the light that lights your life where ere you go." I did not compose all of it; just the part about Jesus. It was sung every Saturday morning on the radio on the kids, Buster Brown shows by Sparky: "I’m Buster Brown, I live in a shoe; hi, I’m Sparky I live in there, too". Franz Lehar was born on April 30, 1870 in Komarom Hungary after the success of The Merry Widow, Franz no longer needed to worry about composing for a living. I later was so thrilled to see the live performance of this an other Lehar’s works performed in there original costumes and playhouse in Vienna. In 1840, Richard Strauss stated that "The danger, which threatens our whole cultural level by Lehar and his companions and to which it has already succumbed for the most part, can not be settled anymore with noble disregard."
Lehar was passionate and unabridgeably romantic depicting our social incompetence, dysfuntionalisms, ironies and mishaps. Much in the way his English counterparts Gilbert and Sullivan did between 1871 and 1896. It was a great time for fun and social theatre. The three characters I most enjoyed were Franz Lehar, Strauss and HG Wells. These three epitomize the romantic talent and vision I find romantic, poetic, and entertaining. They were able to create characters and reality of love and convention. They had vision and could translate their own time and the future with joy and information. As my persona and life vary so my taste in music includes Sarah Vaughn, the Clancy Brothers, Merriam Makeba, John Coltrane, Jane Powell, etc. I could never get enough and consumed musical voices at a very rapid pace. I needed to exercise the other side of my brain, make metaphors and establish relationships. Radio and records extended my world from my room to the outer limits of my imagination. Learning and singing them helped me speak. I would buy the record; and play it repeatedly; writing down and memorizing each word and melody.
When Joni James sang "Why Don’t You Believe Me" it set the music industry on fire. I must have listened to her singing this song over a hundred times, hearing her every breath, inflection, and pronunciation of every syllable. They were sounds for a world of beauty, power, and technology and amplified out of the normal way of hearing. The few times she appeared in person, she was little and frail, and yet she loomed as a goddess. What she did with the sounds and the meanings were deeply special and like the flickering candle always led you to seek yet more and another of her interpretations. Most of her songs I was hearing for the first time, yet they were composed by others, as Hank Williams (Cheatin Heart).
Of all the artifacts of my breeding that inculcated compilation, thinking and allegiance to urbanism with its glitz and glory it was music. The music, players, singers, conductors, musicians and performances explained city life, relationships in cites and the glamour and excitement of the complexity and contractions of city life. Music is the urbanite libretto, mantra of the city and cosmopolitan worship and praise. Musicians, entertainers, composers are the gurus and maestros of the city’s chants and confirmations of the righteousness of dependency and support of joint infrastructure and cohabitation. As tribal and military leaders inculcate and control so do politicians and governments with social norms and mores wet to music and dance. Each human being can make sounds using vocal cords and instruments. These sounds are made to communicate and relate to others. I enjoy the presence of people and having relations with people. Relationships and communications can be for useful, emotional and spiritual purposes. Music are the sounds we elect to invade our mind through our senses. There are occasions we want to be surprised, learn, explore or be soothed. Other time we enjoy sounds, which provide a non-invasive presence of humanity distracting us from our own personal thoughts and being. Like holding hands and walking with someone you love. All music as art is a presence of humanity making sounds informing us that we are not alone.
God meant for us to have such sounds, he gave us ears, and a heart for sounds made with harmony and beauty. Sounds of instruments played by living beings let us hear man in a different and beautiful way. We are being serenaded and reached by another being. On the other hand, words in the form of speeches and lectures can be used to impose and subjugate. When one is speaking and the other, listening the listener willingly or unwillingly is stilled and stopped. It is a sociological filibuster. The listener’s life is suspended and held while the speaker, singer and/or orchestra engages the minds and hearts of audience and listener. When we let ourselves be entertained by music, radio, TV, movies we surrender ourselves and our thoughts and ability to analyze. We prostrate our emotions and heart and mind to the media and loose our selves in the moment. Men and women use conversation to compete and vie for dominance and power in relationships.
Children cry our to adults for songs of love and care. Yes, a song with the deed of caring. However, we let this power overcome us when we subject ourselves to entertainment. It is the purpose of entertainment to hold the attention with something amusing or diverting. A flickering flame the urban mind welcomes. It can be great medicine, which is easy to take. The last works of my former Yale professor, friend and world’s leading epistemologist, Dr. Paul Weiss was about the cognitive emphasis in speech. Likewise, I relate the cleshays of music, song and conversation to the irony and enigmas in our daily chores. I beleive it is one of the great lubricants of what would be an overly pedantic and intransigent society. We’d other wise be caught up in a morass of defining explaining ad-noisome every term, title and tat. Music and song change our view on the words and there meanings. It taps the other side of the brain and likewise the other side of our social context, our collective and not only our selves.
Our music and its cleshays remind us about our dependence and co-dependence for our societies and often our very own survival and welfare. It certainly has greatly aided me in assimilating in to places like Mexico, Spain, Italy, Puerto Rico, etc. I knew the dances, music, places, etc. I enjoyed watching Spanish, Arab and Italian singers and orchestras to see the antecedents of our styles and customs. As a melting pot of customs, cultures and vocabulary, so much of our music has derived from the Orient, Europe, Mid-east and elsewhere. Songs and communications are ways for us to "authenticate" our identity. We cry out for recognition first to our creator and then to others like us for relationships, protection and inclusion in the order of things. We proclaim and confirm our righteousness; we compete for resources, preeminence, and presence for self and our creator’s will to preserve and keep us. We understand who we are. Music edifies us. It feeds our soul. It builds us up and prepares us for the realities of the active parts of our life. Song distinguishes and our makes us significant. The apostle Paul encourages us to articulate and manifest what we want to express clearly and with verve.
This is the heart of music, communication and artistic expression; to exude metaphors beautifully and with a grasp on the best means that expresses the message. By doing so we represent who we are. Learning cleshays instead of studying the dictionary is one means of learning about a society but leaves now room for adjusting meanings to any and all circumstances. Later I was to learn that what I’d learned through songs applied to so many circumstances and greatly helped me socially. People tend to speak and think in cleshays and are comforted by cleshays expressed in song, poem, or conversation. Music is the emotional voices of people using instruments to make sounds describing their emotions and heart. We listen to music we hear people. In a lecture at Yale in 1967 Christopher Alexander said that his interest in electronic music made with synthesizers, etc were so satisfying so that composers could get the exact result each and every time the piece would be played. I guess I was one of the first electronic music appreciators in the world to buy Otto Ludings and other recordings made at Columbia University.
I still cherish them and they are very special and peculiar. But Christopher Alexander missed the point of music’s beauty and reality; even excellent electronic music is the composers heart using electronic interments to speak his voice and not through a person but directly from him to us through the electronic device. Even today’s computerized music has its own voice and we hear some calling and relate. As a child, I listened to classic music expecting it to culture and a-culture me; that is, to transform my lowly to some improved form of flesh. I wanted to be detached from the normal popular metaphors and emotions, norms and mores to classic quality. I expected to become attached to high-class wealth, power and appurtenances. Conversely, I expected to become detached from poverty the malaise of slums. I tried to live with God in what I believed was His godly creations. I thought that the reality class is spirit. I did not realize it then but I was trying to make spirit into flesh. I was trying to go through the created to the Creator. I am attracted to instrumental classics as groans, moans and utterances in harmony and accord. I keep listening to the sustained and complex emotion and sound of expression. As I keep focusing I am reminded of my flesh and my emotion. I compare listening to classics to ambulating in plazas, watching the flicker of a flame or listening to the flow of water.
My heart relates to other hearts. Classical music includes sounds of voices or dance in motion of calm and peace; of people who have chosen to discipline and express their heart away form the world’s chaos, strife and pleasure. It is spiritual and worldly indexed. We can simultaneously beleive and know both the sounds of our flesh and spirit. When I listen to such voices my own heart and soul is fed and itself relates to the sounds and source of the sounds. Our mind strives toward the instruments, musicians and the instructions they follow. We intuitively want to know the meaning of it all. In so discovering the created framework and context of the piece we seek to find its harmonies, balance, symmetry, structure, cohesiveness, correspondence, similarity to others, evidence of author’s presence, performers peculiarities and the perforation of the presentation, John Cage was one of my guest speakers at my lecture series at Yale: "Architecture, the Making of Metaphors" with his titles like 'Space Themes', 'Lunar', 'Spacestation' and 'Delta 6' gives you a good idea of the futuristic vibe contained.
Like cage, I spent my youth at a radio finding and enjoying the sounds between radio stations; it was another music to my ears. Songs and singers are icons and objects of worship. They are metaphors of lifestyle, quality and personality. We replace theirs’ for ours. We can posses, covet and focus on songs as our identity and acceptance. The songs and their messengers tell us what is right, personify “righteousness”, and shared values, s ongs become standards, classics by which to measure our own behavior. It is the classic, which is the metaphor. It is the class we belong and follow. The song fuses all we expect and our expectations for our context. The song explains and enhances our context. Draping and perfuming our context with the aura of the reality we expect imagine and desire. The song is our context and by metaphor the reality of who and where we are in time and space, our behavior, context, achievements and "Right". We’re in! Songs are the anthems of our flesh and our spirit. They preach to us and we gather around them as a moth to a flame. Songs provide us a catalyst to identify with others who share our context. We also identify with the author and performer. Songs and singers are impersonal and yet open the door to see another person’s heart and mind.
Songs "confirm" language, emotion and social norms. Songs and singers is our best friend in a world in which we are always alone. Songs celebrate and explain "flesh" and our world. They confirm and reiterate. They speak for us and provide a media to express our being. It is our song, our sound. It is our reality. The psalmist says, "God inhabits the praise of His people". We identify, assume and become what we sing. The song becomes the context. We yearn for God and sing secular songs we get the world and its context. It is worship gone astray. World’s songs comfort us by reinforcing and reflecting the status quo of our emotion and perceptions about ourselves and the world about us. God’s gift gets used for flesh. It can nurture our spirit and soul as secular music nurtures flesh; and it does not matter if it is classic, pop, rock, country, blues, etc. For example, "Just One More Chance", originally sung by Bing Crosby is one that I can sing and whistle (as he did). It is a way of singing a familiar song that every body in my context already knows should know and can know. It is away of bonding to the people in the context. There is instant agreement and a kind of peace (an absence of strife). It is the tool of all religions, movements, nations, schools, etc.
The song, as all metaphors, makes the strange familiar. I sing this song in unfamiliar circumstances and a familiar song replaces the circumstance. I am part of the familiar and not the strange. Sing a familiar song in a strange country. My bonds to home comfort me in the unfamiliar. The sound of urbanity is heard in its minstrels. Urban centers of mind and context contain concert hall, symphonies, ballet, theatres, dance and dance halls, night clubs, etc for the performance and engagement of urban chants, sing along, and group participation in the urban icon, metaphor and art. I can sing to a person to communicate my love and attachment and dependence on them and the body of similar thinking persons (they). Music is an extension of sound talents used for animal communication, such as bird songs. Birds must be able to analyze the pitch, melodies, intervals, rhythm and harmonies of bird songs to determine if the song is of the same species; if the song is a territorial, or mating call, and which individual is singing. Humans add more complexity with left-brain symbolism that can analyze music into chromatic scales, the "key of D major", choruses, four-part harmony, etc.
Music is a lasting, portable and timeless metaphoric context. It can be carried to any period and reawaken memories of a specific time, place, person or event. Its references and specific metaphor vary impacted by current specific contexts. It can make the current strange new circumstance familiar, or, enhance current event by past knowledge. The strange is made familiar by singing about one thing in terms of another. Over half the movies and radio programs I saw and listened to for the first twenty years of my life (1937-1957) included violin, piano or symphonic concerto background and incidental mucus. The other fifty percent were themselves musicals before or after Broadway adopted, written, or rewritten especially for the movies. The rest I learned in school’s "music appreciation classes, the local music store dealers who would advise me, attending ballets, symphonies, ballet, operas, operettas, Broadway musicals, and the streets of New York. Most of the actors had been vaudevillians, stage, and radio actors many from Europe and produced, written and directed by Europeans.
It is no wonder I know so much about European places, customs and languages, Songs and culture, mores and folkways and slang and nuances. I also was able to make the architectural connections when visiting those places I had already seen. At any time I can imagine the music, movie scenes, radio programs, etc where I first heard the music by many of these composers. Later I learned to appreciate their music and made new associations with places, people and situations. Making these associations was one of the reasons I wanted to be a radio professional. When I played in my high school orchestra, I was particularly excited to be the one playing some of these composer’s pieces. When we were in Leipzig’s "music firtel" I prayed that we could find young musicians studying the classics to write and play modern praise and worship music in a classical way. In this spirit I was able to find a couple of quartets to bring to Saudi Arabia. I hope others will hear what i heard and we can share our emotions about the song. Then they will know that I was there and I will know that they were there. WE can share our feelings about the song, sound, singer, its meaning, etc. We are longing for relationships where songs, movies, and other forms of entertainment makes us into a party confederated on some point as a handle and bate for conversation and untimely agreement and confirmation about our being and identity. I am because I can see my reflection in what is around me.
Entertainment gave me some thing to say; things to say; put words and personality into my life. The ad says:" what would this world be like with out art; take the art away and what do you have? It is what diverts and fills the voids. It’s like a layer of color. And, interest. It redirects my thinking away from anger, frustration, tension, stress, pain confusion, and permits me to be disobedient and rebellious along with a world of others. Its sins comfort zone, the place where body and soul hide from God. God inhabits the praise and worship of His people. When we use His gift of communication and song to praise and worship Him he prevents evil from attacking and us from separating. The same mouth and heart that can sin and separate from god can praise and worship Him. I have learned to redirect my heart and soul toward God when I prey I can. I don’t always, and I slip away and the old songs play out in my mind and I share them with my friends and co-workers. Music is a means whereby cultures intuitively mix by sharing sounds, interments and technique.
The button accordion used by Germans in New Braunfels in 1845 was heard by a Mexican (Baco-Bahunto) who added his "charirigaresue" and with equipoise. Classical music in equipoise is thought to be a shadow and rendition of God’s peace; the peace that is beyond what we can see with our five senses; but which we know because the Holy Spirit tells us so. Equipoise in the arts and our culture is desirable and pleasing to our senses and fleshly nature. Chaos, dissonance and conflict may be interesting and challenging but not desirable. We can experience God’s peace in non-aesthetic chaos but without God’s peace the aesthetic equipoise can become very hollow and unsatisfying. Jazz, romanticism and impressionism are similar forms of expression. Jazz is expressive and improvised spontaneity of mind and heart used to identify empty rhetoric or insincere or exaggerated talk such as that's a lot of wind"; and "don't give me any of that jazz", while romanticism exalts individualism, subjectivness, irrationalism, imagination, emotions and nature - emotion over reason and senses over intellect. Sometime referred to as: "Art as Emotion", the goal of self-determination that Napoleon imported to Holland, Italy, Germany and Austria affected not only nations but also individuals.
Feeling became both the subject and object of art. The urban mind became myth, magic, art, culture, style and the stage upon which the urban life could be played. Romantic artist includes works by Agasse, Bayre, Blake, Constable, Delacroix, Delaroche and Turner. Romantic composers such as Vaughn Wiliams, Copeland, Gershwin, Rhaspegi, Claude Debussy, Ravel, and others. The Pied Pipers are without doubt the most popular singing group in the history of the big band era. The middle thirties saw the rise of the Andrews Sisters as exponents of close harmony singing, which was more or less a development of the classic vaudeville "barbershop" tradition. In 1939, a group called the Modernaires, consisting of eight men and a girl lead singer and made two records accompanied by a studio swing group. They also performed on radio with Tommy Dorsey, and while nine voices created intriguing harmonies it precluded a realistic chance of commercial success. The following year the group had cut down to three men and a girl and Dorsey was quick to appreciate the possibilities of the new Pied Pipers especially as his main competitor Glenn Miller was about to promote the Modernaires.
On October 11 1940, Glenn Miller recorded "Make Believe Ballroom Time" for RCA-Victor's Bluebird subsidiary label at the Victor studios in New York City. It would become the theme song for Block's "Make Believe Ballroom." And, all of this happened in my New York City. I had the impression that as music, New Yorkers set the trend for the nation. All other places were mere replicas and followers of what we did in our fair city. We were a mega power. "It is this mind in the continuous free flowing time that the metaphors of the mind leap and become realities. I understood who I was. I knew the mind of the moment and the one of this context of creation. In that mind I lived. According to Diane Ackerman of Cornell University we define consciousness by having many minds and identities. Each of the identifies are related to some context and reality we encounter in time. Music is a vehicle for expressing this reality. In other words, we make life real by singing many different kinds, types, tempos and characteristics of songs.
In a lecture series at Yale, Irving Kriesberg defined art as a metaphor for life. I extrapolated this to my field of architecture and gave a lecture series .I subsequently wrote many monographs about "architecture as the making of metaphors" and founded a New York not for profit organization called "Laboratories for Metaphoric Environments". If art is a metaphor for life then too must music be a metaphor because music is an art. In her book Diane Ackerman explains how that our lives have many and varied roles so does our life have many and varied tunes, songs and musical styles. Each one is as real at the moment as the other is. Just as varied and colorful are our moods, perceptions and emotions so too is our ability to produce, appreciate and resonate with music. My soul can resonate with a symphony at one time and or another with a ballad and other with primitive sounds of the tom-tom. I can love classical and country and my life is as balanced and complete as my emotion, so too have been the history and the development of music, instruments and combinations of instruments, voice and dance. It is like colors and the artist who uses colors.
As there are no good or bad colors or combinations so too it is with music. Musical instruments including voices of various cultures and societies yield music that all has different and distinct lives, lives, which are authenticated and reified by their art and music, So too it is with our praise and worship to God; our creator inhabits our music when we sing and play for Him. So too when we sing the blues, jazz, ballads or love songs; our very lives inhabit our art and song. Our lives are lived through our works, arts and the music, voice and actions we play, and produce. I can wake up in the morning with a tune from a radio program I heard as theme for my favorite show at one time and then in one hour be singing praise to God in another. I can hear sounds of music of Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Maranatha, Gershwin, Gaither, and Ravel in one part of the day and in the next Dolly Parton, Melanie, Mamas and Papas, etc. in another.
As my life varies over the course of the day so may the music that resonates with my soul, it is healthy and should be explored for each of us. Art and music are healthy expressions of our life and affect our spiritual and mental state much more than we may think. Music cheers, depresses and sobers. It can actual y make you well and revive a broken heart. There is never too much, and like a good friend, it is always there. Our thirst for music is never quenched and, as life, it is varied, continuous and timeless. We are responsible to use the art of music wisely and choose what is healthy and pleasing.
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