Walking into my house, I hear the sounds of laughter and music… not just any music and certainly, not just any laughter. The grandkids were sandbagged in for a three-day, three-night sleepover.
One might expect some raucous sounds of what is being passed off as today’s “music” to be blaring as I opened the door… curious as to what kind of activity that the then eight and six year-old sisters were into at the moment as a temporary distraction from potential chaos… but to my surprise and my delight, I immediately recognized the strains of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II from the score of the Sound of Music wafting through my home.
OK, I admit it… my wife and I are musical nerds, we know it. Heck, we met when we were cast opposite each other in a musical (Kiss Me Kate by Cole Porter, for the record).
But, the peaceful sounds of My Favorite Things and Do Re Me, were like music to my ears… no really… they were music to my ears. And it made me stop and think… about music, grandchildren, grand parenting and… yes… about life.
I wondered how else would these two young girls get to know about the beauty of the American musical theatre… if not for their Mimi and Granddad? (that would be my wife Kathleen and me, as if you hadn’t already put 2 and 2 together).
The story of the Sound of Music talks about the joys of life when children are exposed to singing as an expression of their unbound happiness. As Julie Andrews captures the hearts of the Von Trapp children… we discover that even in the oppressive setting of WW II… in a world of conflict and turmoil in which the story is set, music can often make the sun come out on an otherwise cloudy day.
My discovery of hearing two tiny voices chirping along with the movie soundtrack touched my heart. You see… this was another wonderful example in my life of creating a musical legacy in the simplest form… just as we had done with our two daughters… one of which is their mom. It’s called an appreciation and understanding of the difference between music and noise.
At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, (although, I’m pretty sure that that last statement qualified me already), I think the feeling that welled up inside me was pride.
Earlier in the day, I had watched Good Morning America in almost stunned disbelief as thousands of screaming young people were jumping and thumping to a monotonous rhythm that was neither musically interesting, nor particularly good.
This so-called phenom… the central figure of an aerobics class gone wild was making a triumphant return to the musical scene after reality had set in… and now, the world had opened their arms and their ears (which coincidentally, rhymes with her last name).
So, I decide to slow down a minute…. and I tell myself that each new generation embraces a new form of what they define as music… if only for the sole purpose of irritating their parents and forcing the question, “do you really think this is good?” or, “how can you listen to that noise all day?”
Pop culture seems to be created to test the last nerve of the previous generation. Pick a year, pick an era, and the music is at the focal point of how young people see themselves as well as how their parents label them.
For us Boomers, The Beatles knew how to shake it up baby when they led the British Invasion. Bob Dylan, who is still groaning into a microphone made more than a few people squirm. Heavy metal, acid rock, rap and hip-hop, Michael Jackson, and the rest of the roster all followed suit from days when the jitterbug to be bop, jazz and the Charleston were all called scandalous noise.
But I’ll stick with my premise that well-written and well-performed music is still the best. Give me a song with the fundamental key musical elements of a melody, rhythm, and harmony and I’m happy… (well, at least I’d be happier).
How about words you can actually understand? Yeah, lyrics that make some sense, or tell a story… and kudos if the choice of words is a little more than the level of a 4th grade valentine’s card… You know what I’m talking about?
“How can I start to tell you what’s in my heart, to make you feel… that baby, I’m for real.” Please!
Crosby Still and Nash sang a song called Teach your Children Well.
Great idea. Expose them to musical theatre and you will expose them to life. They learn that the likes of the Gershwin’s, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart and Rogers and Hammerstein… and more recently Stephen Sondheim and many others have not only already figured out a lot of the conflict that today’s young people think are problems that are exclusively theirs… but they’ve also set this pathos to music.
Call me old-fashioned, but I loved, not only the sound of the girls singing out to a tune that most of their friends never even heard before… but also, because they were smiling as they did it… all, by the way, while sitting in front of a fort that they had made in the living room with a bed sheet and a couple of well-positioned chairs.
These are the images that will live with me and carry me into senility one day. And, hopefully, these memories will stay with them too as we all grow a little bit older and a whole lot wiser.
Kids who love life… kids who love their families and who know good music when they hear it… these are a few of my favorite things.