do you want to hear
some interesting music …
is called ‘symphony’
In the movie ‘Out of Africa’ which Wikipedia calls an American epic romantic drama film, there is a scene where Robert Redford sets up a spring-driven record player and when a bunch of baboons wonder over, Redford pulls a string and the record player plays the adagio of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major.
Redford’s character, Denys Finch Hatton, says, “Think of it: never a man-made sound… and then Mozart!”
Two things about this this morning.
One thing that didn’t come to mind until I pasted that quote into place.
I live along the Atlantic Coast and while it is much more quiet than Atlanta, with the traffic that there is on the streets and in the sky, I don’t go long without hearing a man made sound.
I think of Michael Palin’s British epic travel drama documentary, Himalayas.
There is a scene where Palin approaches a hut high in mountains (and I mean high) far far far away from the maddening crowd.
The setting is much like those cartoons of people who trek far into the mountains to ask the wise man for advice and no one, but NO ONE, is within a billion miles so the wise man lives in abject silence.
An old old man comes out of the hut and wants to sing a song for Palin.
Palin’s team starts recording and has to stop because of the man-made sound of a commercial airliner or maybe a Fed Ex transport delivering Amazon Prime Next Day to Nepal, that can be heard flying far overhead.
(A minute later the old man sings his song and then asks Michael Palin to sing something and Palin responds with the first song that pops into his head. 40 years after it was sung for the first time on TV, this old man of mountains got to hear Michael Palin sing, ‘I’m a lumberjack and I’m Okay.)
I am going to pay attention and see how long I can go with out hearing a man made song.
The other thing on my mind about movie scene is that, sure, it was a bit of an A-HA moment but we are taking about baboons out in Africa.
I was just reading this morning that in People’s Republic of China, since the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Mozart’s and Beethoven’s music had both been banned.
A generation grew up without ever hearing ‘western’ classical music.
Western classical music was decadent, prurient, bourgeois and listened to by blood-sucking capitalists.
I don’t know about that but I was a kid back in 1960’s and I liked it and in all the notes about my bad behavior that I brought home from school, I never once was accused of being decadent, prurient, bourgeois or a blood-sucking capitalist.
That would have been one heck of a note to bring home!
Then in 1972, Richard Nixon went to China.
A year later Henry Kissinger learned from Chinese leaders that they would like to invite the Philadelphia Orchestra to China. Nixon rang its music director, the Hungarian-American conductor Eugene Ormandy, who immediately sensed history in the making: “That’s wonderful. You honour me, honour the orchestra,” he responded.
The article I was reading was a review of an upcoming documentary about the 2 week tour of China by Philadelphia Orchestra titled Beethoven in Beijing.
The reviewer writes:
In the autumn of 1973, Tan Dun, the Oscar-winning Chinese musician who would go on to compose the soundtrack for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, then a teenager, was sent to a rural commune in Hunan province to plant rice. China was at the height of the Cultural Revolution. One day, Tan heard a sound from a loudspeaker in the field.
“Do you want to hear some interesting music? This is called ‘symphony’. The Philadelphia Orchestra is in China,” a friend said to Tan. It was the first time he had heard about a “symphony orchestra”, and it was striking. “I think it was something by Beethoven – the Sixth or the Fifth symphony.”
Until then, Tan had never known of Beethoven or Mozart, but he was deeply touched by the performance blasted from the loudspeaker. When he returned home, he told his grandmother that he would like to learn more about it.
I cannot imagine.
Readers of the this blog will recognize that I am in awe of the fact that through the World Wide Web there is not a piece of recorded music that is not available to anyone anywhere at anytime.
(I know I know, hyperbole)
And of music.
I think of Fran Lebowitz saying, “… whenever I hear it, I instantly become happier. This is true of almost nothing! That’s a very important thing to do for human beings. Music makes people happier, and it doesn’t harm them. Most things that make you feel better are harmful. It’s very unusual. It’s like a drug, that doesn’t kill you.“
In some ways I wonder what it would be like to never have heard Beethoven in your life.
In some ways I am glad I that I don’t wonder.
And in other ways I am happy as there is always music I haven’t heard.
With that in mind I leave you with this.
I heard it on the radio the other day and spent the next two days tracking it down.
I bet if you listen to it you will instantly become happier.
It won’t harm you and it’s very unusual.