Tuesday, March 30, 2004

I listen to CBC Radio Two as a general rule when I'm in the car. On the way in to work this morning, they played the Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah op. 47 by Camille Saint-Saëns. I was inspired to turn it up, and I smiled. This is not an easy feat for me in the morning, this smiling thing, but I just couldn't help it. Just like practically any selection from Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, the music just got under my skin and tingled, until I was compelled to increase the volume so I could catch nuances. Oh, and when the timpanis started at the end! Is there any joy more pure?

This led me to think back to when I was in junior and high school band. We never played anything like Bacchanale or Beethoven's Fifth or Ninth or even Copland's Rodeo. For five years straight, I played the same arrangement of Sleigh Ride, until I got so sick of it that now, nearly a decade since the last time I played it, I can't stand to hear the song at Christmas. Twice, once in junior and once in senior, I played The Dragoons of Villars, which was challenging and lovely and unrecognisable, but most of the other students hated it, so once it had been performed, it was dropped. Whenever the teachers tried to get us to play a piece that was difficult, or not recorded previously for mass consumption, most of the students either couldn't play it, or didn't want to. It was far too easy for the teachers to give up rather than fight almost 100 surly students. So, for the most part, the band teachers had us play contemporary pieces, with relatively simple arrangements. I understand their reasoning for having us do The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and other Disney film soundtracks. We knew what it was supposed to sound like, which made it easier to practice, and easier to bring together as a group. But it did very little for our appreciation of the art form of music, and that appreciation is something I'm just beginning to get. Now, Mendelsson speaks to me on some primal level that I can't interpret, Hildegard of Bingen has me almost believing that I speak Latin, Vaughn-Williams haunts me with the Antarctic, and Pärt has taught me what beauty there can be in dissonance and conflict. I live in daily anticipation of what new jewel I will discover on the drives to and from work, fencing, and errands.


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