Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas music, ghouls, egg pastina and rodents

I went out earlier and got a new lithium battery for the remote control of our loony Bose music system which has no controls on it. No remote control, no music. But now I have glorious music. I'm sitting here totally immersed in Handel's Messiah. And I mean immersed. That thing can put out some sound when properly goosed by a remote control with a nice fresh battery. Fortunately all the windows are closed and our house is about a hundred yards from our nearest neighbor or the police would be here already.

Music I've learned, like many things in life, requires discretion. You can get a pretty weird look from a UPS driver if you forget to turn off the machine and he gets a blast of Pavarotti booming something unusual like Leoncavallo's Mattinata at about a hundred decibels when you open the door, especially if he's been knocking for a while and has heard a less refined voice joining in with the master. Have I ever mentioned that when in a proper mood I can accompany Pavarotti pretty darn well. Unfortunately I never perform in public, so you will never get to form an opinion on that score.

Linda isn't sympathetic to my firm view that classical music needs to be played at concert hall volume to be appreciated; and she tends not to appreciate certain of my somewhat idiosyncratic musical tastes. So it's only when I'm in the car or when Linda's not home that I can properly appreciate the Messiah, of which there is only one despite the starry looks in the eyes of some of Barry's adherents. Just coincidentally, "Are we like Sheep?" just started, not that I'm trying to cast any aspersions on The One's followers. But I'm here to tell you that Barry is not "The King of Glory," no matter by how many voters he "Unto us was given." He ain't "my Redeemer" and thankfully he shall not "reign forever." "Incorruptible," indeed!

Nonetheless, this is the Christmas season, so I heartily wish "Blessing and Honor and Glory and Power be unto" that supercilious big eared bast. . . er. . . fellow, at least for the duration of his four year term.

But let me not get started on Barry. Linda will tolerate The Messiah at reasonable volume, but she definitely lacks appreciation for sung Latin Masses even though I've pointed out that the beginning of the end of Western Civilization will one day be marked by some Muslim scholar as the date when Vatican II blithely betrayed us all by ordering the atrocity of vernacular masses. I never put on Masses when Linda's home because then things start to get a little strained around here well before the Kyrie Eleison booms forth; and the Kyrie is almost always the best part.

Maybe to truly appreciate sung Masses you have to have been an altar boy. I used to volunteer for funeral masses just for the music, especially the Kyrie. Well, maybe filthy lucre also exerted some influence; but I also liked the Kyrie in the Mass for the dead a lot - still do. A very good baritone worked the funeral circuit in those days. Nothing is better than the Kyrie with incense in the air. I've often been tempted to buy some frankincense so as to make it possible to enjoy something a bit closer to the full experience right here at home.

I once served as one of perhaps fifty altar boys at a funeral mass down in Philly. I can't remember who the dear departed was, probably some crooked politician. But we sent him off right. He got the full package, the acoustics of a big cathedral, the Archbishop, two Auxiliary Bishops, eight or so priests who included a couple of great chanters, a full choir properly up in the choir loft where they belonged and a baritone and soprano who were probably moonlighting from their regular jobs at the Metropolitan in New York. That day there was truly made a joyful noise unto the lord. Well, perhaps it was a lachrymose noise; but the principle is the same.

I've often wondered if my appreciation of funeral music has a genetic component. Pop and Aunt Carmella often discussed the fact that their oldest sister, Aunt Mary P, was a "ghoul" who invariably attended wakes with a similarly inclined friend whether they knew the dear departed or not. When she wasn't attending wakes Aunt Mary P made great chicken soup. Uncle Chick liked to put a little ketchup in his bowl when we had lunch together after watching Hopalong Cassidy and the other westerns on Saturday mornings. They had a TV before we did and they lived conveniently next door to our house on Penn Street. Aunt Mary dressed her pastina soup egg drop style rather than with butter as Mom did; but putting up with her alien pastina was a small price to pay for enjoying Saturday morning cowboys with Uncle Chick. I still sometimes put a touch of ketchup in chicken soup when I'm not being watched, and I think of Uncle Chick. I also think of Aunt Mary P, in her black veil, walking past Aunt Carmella's house a friend, headed down to enjoy a good wake.

But I seem to have strayed. And Pavarotti doing Ingemisco from Verdi's great Messa di Requiem has brought me back. As I said, Linda isn't home today. So the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei will boom forth in several versions at the very limit of the Bose's volume. Oh, yes they will! I may even put on the disk of sea chanties later to inspire me while I attend to the heavy labor at making dinner.

Meanwhile, since I'm in the Christmas spirit I'll pass on this heartening story to which Ken M alerted me earlier. Attending to the poor is a sacred duty, and this German politician is clearly alert to that duty.,2933,468525,00.html


Anonymous said...

My husband and I have had many "discussions" about his predilection for loud music...specifically bass.

At times I think that I have no one to blame but myself, because I purchased the speakers for him as a Christmas present (each speaker has a 15" subwoofer). The bass is so intense, that I am now of the opinion that such speakers should belong only to those who would use such power for good and not evil.

I exacerbated the problem by getting him a more powerful amplifier, because the old one didn't do the speakers justice. I don't know what I was thinking!

I remember the first time he played the soundtrack for "Jurassic Park". I believe the disk was produced by Telarc (which at that time was considered the king of sound engineering). If you saw the movie, then you will most likely recall the scene where they first hear the footsteps of an approaching T-Rex...the vibrations of the sound causing a ripple in a puddle.

Well, to say the least, the living room suddenly seemed too small for the sound of the footsteps. I was completely unprepared for the depth of the bass and jumped out of my skin...repeatedly. It was then that I noticed the cat; he was no longer sleeping, but was instead hunkered down on the floor in total panic, looking this way and that, as if he were waiting for something to stomp on him. My beagle began to fret and pace and finally ran out of the room to safety.

The expression on my husband's face, however, could only be described as ecstacy. :\

He also quite frequently treated me to the "1812 Overture". The sound of the cannons were his favorite (of course).

Over time, my husband began to crave ever-increasing levels of bass (perhaps he was going deaf), and, for the sake of the neighborhood, I finally decided that an intervention was in order.

I tried to explain to him that I couldn't relax to music that makes me flinch and recommended that he use his headphones. He was a bit insulted by my request, but complied. What worries me is that I can be in another room and still hear what he's playing. But at least he isn't waking up the neighbors.


Sully said...

I think I would like your husband a lot; and I would certainly have loved to be a fly on the wall for the scene you describe. Fantastic.

Long ago we had serious speakers but now we have a Bose system that really doesn't do heavy bass.

I can fully appreciate your husband's resistance to headphones. To a bass lover the gut rumble is as important as the sound that goes in the ear canal.

Back when I was in the Navy we wore very effective sound suppressing headphones when we fired the destroyers five inch guns; so much of the sound that got to our ears was via the shock wave of bass. And, belowdecks on the aircraft carrier you felt the bass note of the catapults slamming into the end of their tracks as much as you heard them. Similarly, you feel far off bomb detonations as much as you hear them.

Now you're making me think I've gotten complacent in my music appreciation. I should have the bass subwoofer for the Bose system. But I'm pretty sure Linda would put me in the class that does not pass your test "that that such speakers should belong only to those who would use such power for good and not evil."

Whaqt a great line!

Anonymous said...

Actually, my husband's friend has a sound system that puts most others to shame. He occasionally provides the audio for dance recitals, and his equipment is so powerful, that it can fill a large auditorium with sound. Needless to say, the plaster walls of the room where he used to house the equipment for his personal use were completely covered with cracks. That's another reason why I was concerned about the bass levels...because we have plaster walls as well, and my husband's not that great at spackling. :)

As for the bass aboard would have been music to my husband's ears, and I suspect he would have slept through it the way a baby sleeps through a lullaby.


Sully said...

It's surprising what you can sleep through, or at least what I can sleep through. When I was an Ensign on the aircraft carrier my bunk was on a bulkhead whose other side was the wall of a bomb elevator and the eight man stateroom I shared was right under the flight deck just aft of the catapults. I slept like a baby despite that bomb elevator and despite the regular catapult shots that shook the whole bow of the ship.

A useful skill, being able to sleep through virtually anything. If I don't set an alarm I'll sleep ten hours starting about a minute after I close my eyes. Occasionally that drives my wife crazy because she's a light sleeper. The fact that I will sometimes mention that some of us are privileged to sleep the sleep of the just doesn't help.

Mark L. said...

As a lover of folk, bluegrass, and classical music as well as a heavy dose of Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac or the E Street band, I always have to listen alone at home as not one of my family members appreciates it (although they don't complain as much about Stevie's music).

NOMAD said...

happy Christmas fests

Anonymous said...

A very Merry and Blessed Christmas, Sully, to you and yours and to those who read/post at this blog.