After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.ALDOUS HUXLEY
When I was a little girl, the record player inside a wooden cabinet was one of the few adult items that I was allowed to play with. Records by Burl Ives and Tom Lehrer and Peter Paul and Mary still evoke a powerful memory. A couple years later, to my parents’ dismay, I went nuts over The Beatles.
Opera, art song, popular songs. My favorite instrument is “the first instrument,” as jazz vocalist Phil Perry named it, as we were talking one day before a concert. The human voice communicates emotion in ways that go far beyond either words or music alone. Though I like to try describing the effect it has on us, I’ve given up trying to explain how or why it should be so powerful.
My preference for singers tends to be the higher male voice, whether they’re operatic tenors or pop stars with a wide range, someone like Freddie Mercury. (Okay, there’s no one like Freddie.) Female voices? I like the mid-range, like a mezzo-soprano, or an ethereal higher voice as one often hears in traditional songs, native to a specific country or culture. But I could list examples of voices outside those ranges that I enjoy, so really, for me, it’s just about the voice.
More forms of music
But then I’m also fascinated by other instruments. Piano, violin, marimba, bandoneon. On their own or in a trio or in an orchestra, they all cast a spell. With no musical training, I can still enjoy the artistry and skill of the performers creating a whole experience that’s greater than the sum of the parts. I admire the investment of time and effort it takes, across a lifetime, to be able to play the instrument and to understand the complexity of the music.
More than anything else, I’m intrigued with the way music impacts us. How it makes us smile, cry or feel connected to those we know well and those who are strangers, yet joined in ways that defy description.
I’ll be posting opinions, memories and recommendations, some current and trending, others examining the legacy of music across worldwide cultures.
Consider this an open invitation to join the dialogue, ask and answer questions, and share your favorites.
illustration: turntable playing 33 rpm vinyl record