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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

It gets you right there

I know I promised Kitchen Draining Racks and they’re there, I promise, nestling in my frontal lobes, utterly fascinating. But last night’s TV programme on how music affects us must come first.

A dullish academic in Sweden listed several results (Happier, Calmer, even Angrier) but not, I’m glad to say, Collapsed With Laughter. I’ve never believed music, as opposed to song lyrics, can make us laugh, whatever po-faced advocates of the Bach double violin concerto and that wearisome Haydn symphony say.

But I do find myself agreeing with the vicar of a London church saying of funeral services: when the first hymn starts, that’s when people feel it’s OK to cry. Which was to some extent reinforced with a clip from the London Olympics when Scottish singer, Emeli Sandé (above), sang Abide With Me unaccompanied. “Good lyrics”, she observed and I bethought myself how tune and words combine:

Swift to its close, ebbs out life’s little day
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away

The programme was uneven and gave too much time to those with hobbyhorses. But two things stood out.

● Kindergarten children sitting on their mother’s lap (she wearing sound-blocking earphones to prevent the transmission of  her own reactions) responding instinctively to a quite complex piece of posh music, kicking their feet and in one case also thrusting the chest forward contrapuntally.

● In a home for the ghosts of people suffering from dementia a keyboardist plays an exceptional version of A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square and there are signs on those remote, cut-off faces that it’s getting through.

VR’s sister died last year and asked for a hymn recording without “others joining in”. We applauded her typically pawky choice. But she was gone and we needed catharsis.

6 comments:

Julia said...

Some music (without words) makes me laugh, but it could be the performers, or I'm imagining what the composer was thinking.

More music stirs me to dance though, or to feel like crying.

Roderick Robinson said...

Julia: Funny things can happen at musical events. Debra Voigt (Brunhilde) slipped and fell on the Met's gigantic wavy, plank device, though I did not see it; I wonder if Bryn Terfel (Wotan) helped her up. Our truly magnificent Stephen Hough (pno) played an encore and explained it was written by Paderewski, virtuoso pianist and later Polish prime minister; turning back to the keyboard he said, "This piece is by a slightly better known Pole." which I liked because of the flattery. Our equally magnificent Paul Lewis (also pno; terribly sexy, too, according to VR) stopped in the midst of one of the late LvB sonatas and apologised: "I felt sure I was going to sneeze," he said. "Go ahead and sneeze, none of us will mind," said an entranced member of the audience.

But none of this humour emerged from the music. "Till Eulenspiegel's lustige Streiche" is supposed to be a hoot musically, but it leaves me stone-faced. Nor does that meowing cat song duet any better.

Wanting to dance, yes but mainly from jazz, though you'll be glad to hear, knowing me you do, I don't try.

Feel like crying. Oh, over and over.I'm ready to play all the mourners and more for Dido.

Joe Hyam said...

Music moves sometimes because of associations and sometimes because a particular note or interval or combination of notes seems to vibrate, regardless of associations, somewhere between the brain and the base of the spine. My problem is that I don't know when precisely my feelings are driven by sentimentality or by some more profound in the measure of sensibility.

I am grateful to your robot check for the word "thuction" which I will treasure.

Ellena said...

Would you laugh or cry here?
She travelled with children in tow and sang while husband stayed here and played contrabass.
Natalie Choquette Lima Peru 2005 Nessun Dorma on youtube or Kalinka.

Roderick Robinson said...

Joe: When it comes to that physical restriction in the throat I don't think we can argue about sources: we are the final point in an inescapable process; sentimentality or profundity, it doesn't matter.

Ellena: Had to check this out early in the morning; I rise before VR (my wife) and must avoid making noises. But in a sense I didn't need audio to get your point. The cameraman with those deliberately shaky hands and that weirdly shrunken spotlight transported me back to the 1910s (early twenties) back into movie innocence. I'd have laughed, I guess.

Incidentally I am sure you're not old enough but back in the early fifties Jo Stafford (whom I admired for her solid singing voice and technique) did a song, possibly April in Paris, in which she deliberately made every possible error a singer can make. All the more persuasive, given her terrific voice. I did laugh at that, and the joke was musical.

Ellena said...

RR! Yes, but, Natalie makes no errors with her terrific voice.
She is proficient in exercise and terrific voice combined.
Ha, can't remember what I listened to in the early fifties. Possibly 'Wenn bei Capri die rote Sonne ins Meer versinkt...". I was on a different road from yours but same age. Do you now understand why it is so difficult for me to learn new tricks?