Saturday, August 2, 2014

My Indoctrination To Classical Music or "What's Up Doc?"

In my Music class I was assigned to write two pieces about how music relates to me.  This is the first of the two:

            I was exposed to classical music at a very young age  and  did not realize it until many years later.  The soundtracks of nearly all of my childhood cartoons were orchestrations of classic compositions by many of the greatest composers of all time.  This is probably a combination of the ease with which cartoon action can be coupled with classical movements and the fact that much of this music is public domain and no royalties needed to be paid. 
            Cartoons of that period tend to have a fluidity that lends  itself to the various crescendos and diminuendos that are present in  classical symphonies.   I did not realize it at the time but the background music revealed to me when Bugs Bunny was outsmarting the hunter, Elmer Fudd, was often Beethoven.  Pastoral serenity before the encounter might be" Moonlight Sonata" followed by the inevitable chase  and resulting violence fueled by his "Fifth Symphony".  And when Buggs eventually knocked Elmer unconscious  we would hear the soothing refrain of Brahms' "Lullaby vocalized by Elmer's rhythmic snoring.   I have long since forgotten individual episodes of these programs but the music stayed in my head and eventually I identified it and learned to appreciate and enjoy it for what it is. 
                Even one of my favorite childhood  westerns, The Lone Ranger, opened and closed  with Rossini's "William Tell Overture".  Once again, the title and composer realized many years later.  Even though it has been well over 50 years since that program aired, I cannot hear that particular piece without thinking of a hearty "Hi Ho Silver".  Rossini shows up again in a number of cartoons and it was not uncommon for eight year  old boys to be singing "Figaro,  Figaro," though we had no idea that it was from  a famous opera, "Barber of Seville" .     
                Of course in the feature animated film, "Fantasia", the music was more important than the animation and I never really appreciated it until I was an adult.  It is probably the all-time classic marriage of cartoon and  classical music artistry.  I still enjoy seeing it today.  Probably even more than I did as a child.
                A cereal commercial from my youth featured Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" complete with canon  fire.  I  had no idea  until much later that this piece  was  written to commemorate Russia's defeat of Napoleon.   It has  become a popular companion  to Independence Day fireworks displays.  I do not remember the name of the cereal but I will never forget the vibrant music.   I was in my twenties when  I first heard Dan Fogelberg's "Same Auld Lang  Syne"  and there it was again, slowed down and subdued, but unmistakably Tchaikovsky.  
                Who could have imagined that my introduction to what my mother would call "high brow music" would come from such sources?  I think subsequent generations were robbed of that  enriching experience.  Though classical music still appears in today's culture through commercials, movies, and use in modern music, it is not nearly as prevalent as in my childhood.  The subliminal exposure to it had a lasting effect on my future appreciation of music that I may not have had access to in my rural childhood upbringing by bluegrass, blue collar, parents.
                Though I am not a musician, music is a very essential part of who I am.  I have a very eclectic taste in  music and enjoy many genres.   Classical music strike a chord in me in a way that no other music does.  At its  softest,  it is as emotional, often  without words, as any heartfelt ballad carved from the heart of James Taylor  or The Beatles.    On the other hand, when it is rousing and dynamic, it can make the hair stand up on the back of my neck and energize  me  every bit as much as the  frenetic guitar riffs of Jimmy Page or Eddie Van Halen.     
                So it seems my Saturday mornings sitting too close to the television were not wasted.  When the Roadrunner was torturing the hapless Coyote, I was a sponge soaking up culture.


Lori Poyer said...

Wow! I certainly learned a lot from your piece. I never knew how much classical music I listened to as a kid. Sure, I know the music but didn't realize that it was from many different classical composers. Thank you!!

myrtle beached whale said...

Wow, someone read it? Thanks Lori.

Anna Taylor said...

Great piece! I loved (still love) all those cartoons, too. And I can't hear Georges Bizet's opera Carmen without remembering Gilligan and friends performing a musical "Hamlet" set to that music.