Archive for Thursday, September 25, 2008

Love of music gives a lifetime of pleasure

September 25, 2008

I doggedly took piano lessons at my mother's insistence every summer, but alas, I remained at best a pedestrian plunker. My music teachers always placed me in the loudest group in choirs to drown out my toneless howlings. However, I was then, as now, stubborn. I never did become a notable performer of music, but persisted in my love of it - even though my real ability lies in the depth of my appreciation for it. I justify my hold on the world of music by being a really appreciative audience for those who can sing and play with skill and artistry. After all, where would performers be without an audience?

My tastes in music are hardly exclusively high-brow. I love music of all kinds from all sources - from classical to pop rock, from instrumental to vocal, from featured singers to choirs. I have a difficult time telling anyone what I do or don't like. I just know it when I hear it. Some of my favorites include people like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, James Taylor, Joan Baez, Allison Kraus, Leonard Cohen and others who compose and sing, but I also like Luciano Pavarotti, Kathleen Battle, Chanticleer and classical music of all composers. Bluegrass, blues, rock 'n' roll, folk music also rattle my cage from time to time. I even tolerate a little rap once in a while. My life would be considerably duller and sadder without my collection of music.

I think that music is universally understood in all languages. Even if one cannot understand the words, the underlying melody and beat evokes emotions that convey the meaning of the music. Music can energize one and it can soothe the soul. When I was eight, I came down with a form of rheumatic fever that forced me to spend a number of months bedfast and isolated from my siblings. There was no television available where we lived, and I wasn't allowed to read, although my mother read to me occasionally. My principal companion was a radio by my bedside and a small yellow canary in a cage. There were no classical music stations near us. Liberal, Kan., had a pop station. There wasn't any rock 'n' roll around in the early fifties. Guymon, Okla., came in crystal clear and was my parents' favorite because of its farm news, but I listened to the country and cowboy music. Roy Acuff was a big star on that station. I enjoyed listening to the "Wabash Cannonball," because if I closed my eyes, I could feel like I was actually traveling.

One of my all-time favorites, which I heard many times while I was growing up, is Woody Guthrie's "Oklahoma Hills." Stevens County is located near the Oklahoma Panhandle and this song was a favorite of disk jockeys in Guymon. When Guthrie writes about riding his pony in the Oklahoma hills on the Indian Nation, I can close my eyes and imagine I'm on my little paint pony riding in the gentle rolling landscape of our south pasture next to the Cimarron River covered with sagebrush, yucca weed and buffalo grass. I often hum the melody to myself as a calming potion.

I often hear people talk about music describing certain songs as being their song, or in the case of couples, "our song." Music has that power to take us out of our place and into another more enjoyable, peaceful place and time.

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