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December 2014
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Skoffin' Up Food For Thought
The Whole Experience
Roger Skoff writes about music.
Article By Roger Skoff


  Music amazes me. Ever since I was a toddler, and had no choice at all in what I was exposed to, I've been surrounded by and steeped in it.  My parents, of course played what they wanted to hear at home or in the car, or took us to places where the music was supplied by the venue and even they had no choice. I've heard music of just about any kind imaginable; vocal or instrumental; sung by a single person or by groups up to the size of the massed choruses of the Mahler (#8) Symphony of a Thousand; and played by anything from nothing at all just a person or a group singing a capella to a full symphony orchestra; to the double orchestras that Handel, Mozart, Vivaldi and others wrote for (and even a number of collaborations by rock bands and symphony orchestras, like  Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic, for example); all the way up to the four massed instrumental ensembles of the Berlioz Requiem.

Danny KayeI've been surrounded by music and influenced by it for my whole life: From, in earliest childhood, the voice of my mother singing to me, to those later, but still childhood years of Tubby the Tuba, Peter and the Wolf, and Hans Christian Andersen, when, not yet ten years old, my musical heroes and favorite performers were Danny Kaye, Wilfred Pickles (the best Peter and the Wolf narrator of all), and (for "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" ) Burl Ives. A little after that, but while I was still in grade school, I was introduced to Grieg's Peer Gynt suites and Scheherazade, by Rimsky-Korsakov, and when I slept, I dreamed of revels in the hall of the mountain king or of being caught with Sinbad in a storm at sea. I also, at some time in those years, saw and heard, for the first of many times, Walt Disney's Fantasia, and, to this day, when I hear Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, I think of winged horses and the thunder of Zeus; Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours evokes visions of balletic hippos, ostriches, and alligators, and Moussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain can bring to mind nothing but a mighty peak transformed with a grotesque evil and yellow-eyed face, bat-like ears, spreading leathery wings, powerful shoulders, arms, and grasping hands, and that whole monstrous figure surrounded by flights of demons in orgiastic frenzy – all ending and being resolved and replaced with a chorus and a gorgeous female voice singing Schubert's Ave Maria to the accompaniment of a full symphony orchestra.

When, at twelve, I was introduced to high fidelity sound reproduction and became ― to my enduring delight ― a Hi-Fi Crazy, hopelessly in love with, for the first time, not only the music, itself, but the sound of it, my musical tastes changed. Perhaps it was that initial sound of Bach on a Bozak; perhaps it was just that, on the very limited gear (at first just a Silvertone radio/phono combination) that I had available for my own listening at home, the music of the baroque sounded best, but until stereo discs came along [1957] and added The Dukes of Dixieland and Nejla Ates belly-dancing to the music of Mohammed El-Bakkar and his Oriental Ensemble on the Audio Fidelity album "Port Said" to my musical  scope, I became a total music snob, listening to early music, only, and even held that anything written after the death of Handel wasn't music at all.

Stereo changed all that, and added not only the Dukes and the Dancer, but jet planes, ping-pong games and steam locomotives to my regular listening fare, which soon came to include practically anything at all as long as it was well-recorded.

The one thing I didn't listen to was the "pop" music that my contemporaries were making a rock 'n' roll lifestyle. In 1954, the year of my twelfth birthday, Sh-Boom made the hit list in versions by both The Chords and The Crewcuts, but, although I heard it everywhere, I never bought – or even wanted – a copy. Same thing with Little Darlin' by the Diamonds (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah); by the time it came out (1957) stereo records were out, too, and the Diamonds never had a chance. In fact, though I'm now a devoted fan of the whole "doo-wop" thing, I never really noticed it as a kid, and it took me until I was well into my 40s to "get into" and truly appreciate groups like The Chords, The Diamonds, The Coasters (Why's everbuddy always pickin' on me?) and The Hollywood Argyles ("Alley-oop-oop, oop, oop oop").

What I was doing as a teenager, when I wasn't listening to my stereo or to Skip Weshner playing folk, ethnic, and classical goodies on the radio was (at least after I was about seventeen) smoking cigars, wearing a suit, and trying anything else I could do to look old so that I and my pal, Marvin (who really DID look old) could sneak into "Over 21, Only" Jazz and Folk music clubs like "Cosmo Alley", "The Renaissance", and "The Troubadour", and dig the sounds.

I didn't really connect with the music of my own time until The Beatles came along, and then... THE BEATLES!  still IMHO the greatest rock band of all time, followed at some distance by Pink Floyd, whose Dark Side of the Moon album still lights my fire (yeah, I like The Doors a lot, too) and whose The Wall is, again IMHO, the greatest opera of the 20th Century.

Of course, it, too, has runners-up: Carl Orff's "Die Kluge" (Die Geschichte von dem König und der klugen Frau) [1943], for example, is also a wonder and a glory, but compared to either of those two, Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors [1951] is child's play and Alban Berg's Wozzeck [1925] is unlistenable. (Although, to my ears and personal bias, Wozzeck is unlistenable in any case, and Berg and the whole "Twelve Tone" School, commencing with Schoenberg, could easily have been done without, entirely.)

The Lone RangerUntil now, I have been writing about the music I've chosen to listen to, but what about the music that's thrust upon all of us, almost without a break? There is, for example, the background music of every movie and every TV show, (even the radio; do you remember the William Tell Overture as the main theme for "The Lone Ranger", or Liszt's Les Preludes, as the "Meanwhile, back at the ranch..." music?) that either sets the mood, gives us a clue of what's about to happen, fills voids or indicates the passage of time, and even, if necessary, by the words of a song, tells us the story the director is trying to convey.

There's also the music of commercials: Ever since 1926, when the first singing commercial was introduced ("Have you triiiied Wheaties?"), we've been, at every moment of our lives when we are exposed to public communication, immersed in an endless sea of commercials, and some of them, either because they've been based on a popular tunes or have been played for us so often that they've become icons in their own right, have become parts of our culture and our daily life.

Music is something that we grow up with; that accompanies all of the great and small events of our lives; that we make; that we listen to; that we talk and write about; and that upon which, if we are audiophiles, like most of us reading this article, we lavish goodly chunks of our time and money. We can't avoid it; we can't fight it; we can't ignore it. It's part of the whole experience of our lives. So why not just sit back, relax, and...


Enjoy the music!














































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