Wednesday, 18 July 2012

You hum it, I'll Play it

Music has always been a part of my life, at one time it was my life.

Because of that, I delayed doing a lot of the things most people do, so I was late settling down to marriage, late buying a house,  very very late deciding whether or not to have children.

Had it not been for music I would have been a totally different person, and who knows, that might have been a good thing, but the one thing I was always sure of was just what I meant by music.

Most people, even of my generation, were exposed to the beginnings of 'pop' and then rock and roll with all its later sections and sub-sections, but I never was.

My parents listened to classical music from time to time, and my father had a 'repertoire' of about 10 pieces of music which he either sang (badly) or whistled (sometimes in tune).  He made up his own words to the odd classical songs and mauled beyond recognition orchestral music (mainly Mozart).  Nevertheless if I had the radio on the third programme he would almost always recognise what was being played or sung and knew who had written it.

The introduction of pop in the 50's caused prohibition at home, and if anyone wanted to listen to Sinatra, or the older crooners from a previous genre the reaction was immediate and there was no court of appeal, "turn that racket off, or go up to your room" was the usual reaction.

When I started to sing at school, it was not actively discouraged but the usual reaction to an outburst of song was "stop showing off", so I really only sang outside of the house until I was in my teens, when various people told my parents, "she has a good voice, she should join a choir".

The fact  that I did sing and went on singing, choirs, opera companies, even briefly, with a  local band (swing), and at another time, a folk-group, was mainly because my parents were growing  with the times and starting to open up to other ideas.

Probably because of the early narrow musical field I'd been exposed to, for a very long time I was a musical snob and regarded anything other than classical music as second-rate and not really music at all.  I remember being quite shocked when listening to "Desert Island Discs" to discover that some quite well educated people chose pop songs among their records.  Somehow I had formed the opinion that only the uneducated would choose to listen to "that sort of stuff".

Much later when I began to have singing lessons with a very famous and well-respected teacher I had to begin to adjust my thinking and recognise that if a song, or a piece of music was good of its kind, it qualified as music.

My snobby narrow-mindedness gradually changed to a grudging acceptance of most other genres, but I still chose to  listen to opera, orchestral, or song recitals and choral work.
Ballet music also became a favourite, and it was not until I had a jazz trumpeter in my life that I began to listen and eventually to love jazz.

By this time, my parents had advanced so far that their Christmas present to us for quite a few years was a trip to a West-end musical and a meal for the entire tribe.

So now I had added musicals to my list (well, some musicals anyway), and I learnt to appreciate the merits of the wonderful Leonard Bernstein among others.

That was pretty much it, until TV became a bigger part of my life as I got older and in recent years the Andrew LLoyd Webber series of hunts for stars for his various shows has got me more  or less hooked.

The current Superstar competition has introduced me to even more very varied styles of music and singers and while I still have no real liking for the very loud rock style or incomprehensible lyrics of some of the competitors, some favourites are beginning to emerge.

I have already decided in my own mind which two singers are the best on offer and have also decided, just in case Andrew can't make up his mind, that they could share the role jointly a week at a time.

My good friend the Vernacular Vicar includes a U Tube favourite on a side bar on his blog, and I am getting a further education.  (Not necessarily one I enjoy every time), from that.  So just what is music, who decides, and is there a cut-off point, or do we just go on opening our ears and minds to every new thing while hearing lasts?

Sounds like a good idea to me.


  1. I would love to be able to sing and play the piano - I can hold a tune and have sung in Salvation Army choirs (bottom alto) and my voice is adequate enought to belt out songs/hymns whilst leading the singing in various residential homes BUT my voice is still not good enough to be a performer.. so I envy you your musical talent :))

  2. Not a fit object of envy Judith. Once maybe, but now it is merely another, very low (nearly bass) voice in our local church choir.
    Nevertheless, a voice is a gift and should be valued as such.

  3. Like you I've been watching the superstar performances.....and it just reinforces the age gap! I hate it when they start screaming......young men with lovely voices and suddenly there they are our day we would have been told that it would ruin our voices....but they all do it....
    My favourites are emerging....its all very interesting!

  4. We must compare notes Jean. I'm not prepared to stick my neck out too far, but the initials of my favourites are J and R!

  5. Good post, Ray. I have enjoyed watching my son (the jazz trumpet player) go through his own continual shifting and discernment about what music he likes/doesn't like and what's good/not good. It's a lifelong process, I'm sure. My husband is usually open to anything the kids are listening to, while I'm slower to appreciate (and sometimes never do) certain genres or artists or styles. I guess any of us who have any training have learned something about discrimination, which can be a double-edged sword, making us too rigid at times. At least, I say that's my excuse.

  6. A thought-provoking post, Ray. I'm someone who loves classical music above all else, but also enjoys a wide range of other music, from rock to jazz (preferably trad) to blues and even a bit of country and folk. Our daughter and her 2 sons are all ver musical and both sing and play a range of instruments, so there is always music when they are around.

  7. Hi Penny. Yes I think there is quite a distinct difference between rejecting out of hand some types of music, and true discrimination. After all we are blessed with several senses which we can use to advantage to choose our favourite genre.

  8. There surely is room for all types Perpetua, and I don't think it in any way wrong to decide against a specific type of sound, but I do believe we should at least listen before we choose.
    If it is possible to embrace absolutely all music, maybe that is the ideal path, but not one I could follow.

  9. Sadly, I have lost my voice as I have grown older. For me, making music is about feeling good, or feeling better. I agree that much screaching today is definitely not music, but I do like having the choice.

  10. Hello again Freda, I used to have the same feeling about music, but these days it makes me sad more often than happy, so I don.t listen as much as I did.
    The 'screeching' is awful, but if it is at least on pitch I can just about bear it. It's when it is totally unrelated musically to what has gone before and what comes after that I really pull down the ear-flaps.

  11. I've just watched one of my two favourites knocked out of the "Superstar" competition. He was lovely. Gorgeous voice and he looked good too.
    However, not all is lost, there is another frontrunner for me who sang very well tonight, so we'll see.