February 8, 2013

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Music is indeed the food of the gods and the creation of God

Cynthia DewesOne of my college roommates used to say she was “majoring in Berlioz and minoring in Beethoven.” I liked those composers too, but I was more conservative, majoring instead in Bach and minoring in Mozart.

We were both crazy about music, and we sang in choruses and just around the house for pleasure. We also listened to it a lot. I still do, but even when I’m not actively noticing what the piece is, I’m aware of it.

That’s the thing about music—it intrudes on my consciousness whether I want it to or not. If the music is something I don’t like, or if it’s badly done, it irritates me beyond all reason and I have to turn it off or change selections.

Being aware of music comes in handy sometimes. You gain knowledge that way, which helps when you’re talking back to “Jeopardy” on TV, or playing Trivial Pursuit.

Actually, I love almost any kind of music, with the possible exception of country whines like “D-i-v-o-r-c-e.” I like early rock music, the kind my kids were discovering in their teens. Of course, I can’t stand it played as loudly as they did.

One of our sons has a taste for pop music which is similar to mine. He once gave me a CD of the Crash Test Dummies. Later a little granddaughter came to visit so I played it for her. I grabbed her up and whirled her around the living room to its raucous blast. To this day, we are both delighted by the memory. Our son-in-law also shares my taste, and gives me CDs of artists that he likes.

For many years, we patronized the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra concerts, sitting up in the nosebleed seats. Now we stick closer to home, enjoying the remarkable musical presentations at DePauw University in Greencastle.

I was surprised to learn that some folks aren’t as interested in music as I am. Some of them have what we call a “tin ear,” meaning they don’t have a sense of pitch, let alone perfect pitch. They can’t tell when music is off key, flat or sharp. And they don’t even care!

One of our sons, who turned out not to have perfect rhythm, took up the drums in high school. Boy, that was fun. Other sons learned to play the cornet, and our daughter took voice lessons. She’s the one with perfect pitch, but we’re all on the same wave length about music whether we’re good at making it or not.

In Woody Allen’s movie, To Rome with Love, one of the stories concerns an Italian man who loves to sing in the shower. An opera promoter overhears the man’s thrilling tenor renditions of operatic arias and convinces him to sing on the concert stage.

However, the singer is so shy that he can sing well only in the shower. To solve that problem, the promoter arranges the stage settings so that the singer is seen singing his arias in a shower in every opera. The audiences love it and cry for more, but the singer retires from the stage, happy just to have shared his music with others.

Of course, only Woody Allen could come up with such a weird example of loving music, even though it seems vaguely plausible. And only a good and loving God could create this kind of beauty in music, just for us to enjoy and share. Music is, indeed, the food of the gods.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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