Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Growing Up Classical. . .

If you ask anyone of my generation, they learned their music from the cartoons.  And the music they learned from those cartoons was in great measure classical or opera.  Who can forget Bugs and Elmer Fudd while the Barber of Seville played a supporting role in the humor?  Who can forget Bugs at the piano playing Liszt?  It all reached its zenith in Disney's magnificent Fantasia but that work hardly stands alone in the history of cartoons and classical music.  It was the way we learned it without even thinking about the music itself.  The scores became ingrained into our minds and we were attracted to it immediately.  The love stayed as we grew up and listened to classical radio stations (usually public) on our car radios.  But, as you might have noticed, it is not the same today.  Not only do the cartoons use contemporary sounding commercial music but the radio stations have not so slowly disappeared from the radio dials across America.

One place where you continue to hear classical music is the movie theater.  Some of the most poignant moments in cinema history have been accompanied by the classical greats.  From the opening of Strauss in 2001 A Space Odyssey to the stark battlefield scene in Platoon with Barber right down to the classical pieces composed for the screen by such as John Williams, music is not background but part of the script and a key player in the end result.  They are vastly different in style and sound -- from Raging Bull - Intermezzo from Cavelleria Rusticana (Pietro Mascagni) to There Will Be Blood - Violin Concerto in D major (Johannes Brahms) to Apocalypse Now - Flight Of The Valkyries (Richard Wagner) to Five Easy Pieces - Prelude in E minor, Op. 28 No. 4 (Frédéric Chopin) to Philadelphia - La Mamma Morta, from Andrea Chénier (Umberto Giordano) to Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation - Turandot (Giacomo Puccini) -- and that is a very short list from the top of my memory.  

Alas, classical music is disappearing from the ears of our children, youth, and young adults.  It has been replaced by an ever changing sound track that will probably not endure as these musical giants from the past (and present) have provided a music that spans the generations.  I lament the loss not for myself but for those who come after me.  It is not a matter of appreciation as much as it is exposure.  Sometimes, however, I wonder if we are even listening anymore and the muzak has become merely background noise.  That which can and does and should enliven and ennoble us leaves more than silence in its loss.  We are the poorer.

1 comment:

Wurmbrand said...

This was a fun posting relating to a pet observation of mine, that kids can take spontaneously to classical music if they are just exposed to it in the course of their amusements. My favorite example from personal experience is being a young person watching the TV broadcast of the "Yellow Submarine" cartoon movie. There's a lot of soundtrack music going on between the sequences with the Beatle songs. So there I sat with my tape recorder on. I particularly liked a few seconds of the soundtrack music. Eventually I learned that they were a quotation of the beginning of Bach's Air on the G String.

Dale Nelson