Friday, December 9, 2011

A New Musical Direction

My love for classical music (by which I mean the repertoire from baroque to the moderns and even some minimalism – along with orchestral film scores) goes back 35 years. The classical repertoire is so vast that one can barely acquire a deep knowledge of it in the course of a lifetime. Consider, for example, the many fine works by otherwise well-known composers that are rarely played, various pieces by Schumann and Liszt. It occurred to me early on that if I was to know enough repertoire, I would have to limit my time with other genres. That’s OK, because much of what I heard from the pop world didn’t appeal to me – particularly what is referred to as the Top 40, to say nothing of Rap and its various offshoots. True, there are a few things in my collection that are nowhere near the Classical repertoire: dance mixes, some Madonna, even some 70s disco. But those are exceptions and as often as not, only serve the purpose of speeding up my workout. Also, I don’t really care for music with lyrics of any kind (opera is a relative blind spot for me, although choral music is not). I’m more interested in the melodic/harmonic lines which often contain emotions too deep for words to convey.

But I’ve spent so much time studying scores and listening to music that, I must confess, it seldom makes a direct connection to me on an emotional level anymore. Instead, my emotional response is filtered through my intellectual understanding of the music.

By happenstance, I put a documentary called Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, into my Netflix queue – mostly based on the fact that he was shown singing Jacky. It arrived last week, and I watched it Monday night. For someone who started off singing in a boy-band, Walker has taken a remarkable journey. Songs such as Big Louise and Two Ragged Soldiers are melodically ambiguous, harmonically complex, richly orchestrated, and utterly heartbreaking. It has been a long time since any music made such an immediate emotional connection with me.

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