Monday, May 3, 2010


To quote Sir William Congreve (18 Century ): ‘music hath charm to soothe the savage breast.’ Or as the bible commands: make a joyous noise unto the lord. Take your pick. Music comes in a wide range of types: rock, country, pop, symphonic, opera, etc.

Of course from a physics point of view music is just noise, not different on an oscilloscope from a blast of pure random noise. Just listen to music from China or India or Japan or Peru or many other countries to get a taste of different forms of music. Music is generated by a wide range of instruments: piano, guitar, violin, flute and trumpet to name just a few and of course the human voice. Each type requires a great deal of practice and training to achieve great skill.

Some music is used for its snob appeal. Country music as an example is not considered to be on the same level as the symphony. Opera is of course the tops in vocal music. The opera singers train all their lives and we pay homage to the great tenors and sopranos accepting their huge egos. They live as Hollywood stars do: the Paparazzi following them relentlessly. Still they are technically not too different from the popular singers. The notable opera star Fredrica Von Stade remarked in a television interview that her singing was not any more difficult or required more training than popular singers; it was just a different form. Try that on opera buffs.

Of course country music is more visceral, more homespun, and easier to listen to and sing while taking a shower. The emotions expressed are sometimes a little silly, but so is the stuff of operas. The country musicians are perhaps not as technical as the symphonic artists, but the overall effect is pleasant. No country fiddler plays a Stradivarius. Pop music is somewhat the same, easy listening, and memorable. Some couples have a favorite song that they remember from their courting days and they call it their song.

Maybe music has both the charm to soothe the savage breast and to cause all of us once in a while to hum or sing a pleasant tune whether it is country, pop or an operatic aria, but its just noise if it doesn’t make our hearts beat a little faster.

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