Oct 25, 2007

Variations On A Theme That Someone Threw Away And For Good Reason

Music. Be it the soundtrack of your life, or just background noise there's no escaping music, whether it be on the TV or the movies or your humble radio. Here of late it's been nagging at me lately how tied to certain visceral reactions music is in my life.

Part of my job is filing the previous day's paperwork trail, and to fill what is an otherwise rather dull part of my day I use the built-in MP3 player on my cellular phone to liven things up. It can hold 100 songs max, so I tend to rotate out things pretty fast, but certain pieces of music linger longer than others. Those are the pieces of music that can send my mind reeling to a scene in a movie or a certain bit of the past, real or imagined.

Ennio Morricone filled Sergio Leone's westerns with memorable, sometimes downright eerie music that evoked the wild, wide open spaces of the 1800's West. I've got the piece of music titled "Ecstasy of Gold" on my phone, and every time I hear it, no matter what I'm thinking of or tied up with I'm immediately seeing "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly," and the image of Tuco racing frantically around the cemetery. I can see him desperately searching for Arch Stanton's grave, hungry for the bags of gold hidden, unbeknownst to him, in the grave next to that one. I can see the camera following his desperate flight, the gravestones and markers blurring into a grey wash, and then my mind brings me further back, to some long ago after-lunch Sunday sitting with my father in the living room watching the 'Mother Of All Westerns' for the first time.

Vangelis is good like that, too. I think anyone who survived the 80's is immediately reminded of the white-clad slo-mo runners on the beach from "Chariots of Fire" any time that certain ringing, echoing piece of music is played, but my preference runs to the movie "Blade Runner" and the soundtrack to same. The whole thing, not just bits and pieces. Hearing any one of the numerous cuts from that album brings me immediately to the movie's scene, be it "Blade Runner Blues," "Tears In The Rain" werein Rutger Hauer rhapsodizes about attack ships off the shoulder of Orion or the music backing the flat monotone of Harrison Ford muttering to his photo enhancing software.

The very first long, sensual clarinet slide at the opening of George Gershwin's "Rhaposdy in Blue" always harkens me back to the first time I managed to really smoothly, skillfully let the clutch out on a manual transmission car. The tone warbles at the beginning like an engine starting, then bumps just a little bit as the shifter is engaged and then it sliiiiiiides up, climbing for the top of the RPM gauge, reaching for the target for a shift to second. Both the smooth operation of a clutch and that long musical glide seem to have a sweet certainty, an elegance that once internalized has never lost it's power.

It also makes me think of a sort of dream-induced, bygone 1930's era New York, filled with beautiful old cars, gentlemen in fine hats and ladies in layered dresses, all out taking the air. And speaking of that, how about the most perfect twenty one notes in all of music? I'm talking about, of course, the opening bars of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer." It's been used in probably a thousand different ways if not more, but it's simplicity, it's gentle heart and it's lilt never fail to make me think of an even more bygone time. I can see it as clearly as if I had lived there--a time and place when radio was in it's infancy and things like cars and television sets were a distant dream.

It makes my mind open to images of dapper gentlemen in gaily striped day suits, straw boater hats jauntily askew on hair slicked to perfection, and their ladies, dressed in the many layered sundresses of the times, both walking along the Coney Island Boardwalk, her parasol open to keep the sun from her pale skin, and he turning to buy her an iced sherbet. I can hear them making plans to attend a vaudeville act that evening, and my mind's eye pans back to take in the quiet elegance of the time.

Speak to me--what music takes YOU where?


Stucco said...

For the record, Vangelis' best work was the soundtrack for Kurioshi Kurahara's film "Antarctica". It's a hell of a sad story about sled dogs left to die by some Japanese scientists that had to flee the pole in haste, and then somehow when they returned the following spring, some dogs were still alive. If you are a dog lover, you may just want to listen to the soundtrack...

Batgirl said...

How in the world did you pull this post from the future??? I'm totally amazed by you right now.

Irrelephant said...

Stucco, I'm more of a cat person but if that damned penguin movie made me a little weepy then I for sure don't need to be hearing anything that might make me think of abandoned dogs. Thanx and all, but I'll pass. *grin*

Batgirl, brava on the sharp eyes! You've discovered my dirty little blogging secret--I'm a time trav...no.

When I get a post idea I log on and may jot a line or I may write several paragraphs and then save it for later development or deletion. To keep those drafts (I've kept some a looong time now) up on top of the post list I change the post date to the next year or so; that way they don't get lost in the shuffle.

Damn that sounds boring.

Okay. Truth is, I'm a stranger from a far distant future, where Blogger has taken over The Internets, become self-aware and filled with wiki-knowledge and is intent on eradicating all mankind because of it. I've stolen a time buggy to come back here and post certain key words into blogger's databanks so that the future freedom fighters will know what Google's weak spots are.


Nancy Dancehall said...

I knew it! I KNEW it!

*scribbling down the words, 'dapper' 'Rutger' 'Tuco' 'bygone' 'boater'*

What music DOESN'T transport me? Sometimes the same piece will transport me to two different times and places at once.

Irrelephant said...

Er....Nancy? What you writing there? Should I worry? And I forgot to mention "Tannhauser." *G*

Two, eh? Doesn't that cause a headache?