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Monday, Sep. 1, 2014

Music? Noise? -- A Tutorial

Monday, June 6, 2011

An intellectual is someone who can listen to the "William Tell Overture" without thinking of the Lone Ranger. (John Chesson)

In addition to not being an intellectual, I also admit to not being a music expert, but many of you are in obvious need of help. Some of you are going deaf, others think tunes from the 1980's are oldies, and the rest of you may be confused.

At one time there was no music, but as man and language developed music evolved. Some believe the Gregorian Chant (plainsong) of fourteen centuries ago was the first real music. Polyphony came later, then secular songs, followed by Ars Antiqua. You could look this stuff up. No, I don't care either.

Monophony is one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords. Polyphony uses two or more independent melodic voices. Homophony (really!) is singing or playing chords. PhonyMusi describes a goodly chunk of today's "music." Or not.

The Neanderthal bone flute is estimated to as much as 82,000 years old and is the oldest confirmed musical instrument. Lyres and Harps were other early (sometimes) melodic noise makers. The Parkinson Collection at the Plymouth County Historical Museum in Le Mars is an amazing display of approximately 500 instruments, including harps, percussion instruments, roller organs, reed organs, music boxes, and much more.

I remember when the Parkinson's (Schubert or Carol) brought pieces of their collection to schools. Although I'd rather have been playing ball, it was better than the WCTU presentations.

The invention of the drum, guitar, and the piano were very important breakthroughs and are the grandfathers of many instruments that we hear today. In the beginning they were used without words or were background support for vocalists. Now there is a competition to see who can be loudest.

Ballads are my favorite, telling a story, often sad. They have long been popular among us simple folks. Concerts had their beginning around 4500 B.C. during ancient Egyptian festivals and religious rites and ceremonies and political fests also featured music and dance.

Outdoor concerts in the USA really kicked off during the depression in 1934 in Massachusetts, drawing huge crowds. The Berkshire Festival and the Tanglewood Music Festival have continued as annual events. Recovering from the depression found Glenn Miller and others delivering wonderful instrumentals and melodious sounds came from the mouths of Bing Crosby and others.

It was about 1953 when an unemployed plumber, Herbie Schmitz Schmaltz of Kiron, learned that several of his cousins had been laid off from their butcher shop jobs, so he changed the make-up of bands. Previous bands had clean cut men and women who dressed alike and provided background music. Herbie invented the garbage band. The participants tried to see who could look the worst, dress even worse, and play loudest while stoned. Thus, music as it had been known was dead. Noise became music. Music had become noise.

In 1956 a singer named Elvis developed a bad case of jock itch. Ed Sullivan liked to watch guys with jock itch, so he put Elvis on his television show and the rest is history. Gyrations, prancing, and many other activities totally un-related, un-necessary, and un-becoming to music became necessary for "artists." The word artist used to be reserved for people who could draw, paint or sculpt. It now includes anyone and everyone who does something halfway right. A baseball shortstop was recently described as, "A master of the diamond, a real artist."

So, it isn't enough to be described as a singer, drummer, actor -- no, as soon as they are booked into the neighborhood bar they, too, become artists.

In 1969 the infamous Woodstock Festival an estimated crowd of 500,000 people were entertained with music and an unknown quantity of Mary Jane. That event had a big influence on both American music and culture. Legendary "artists" like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Santana and the Who were a few that performed. The mostly hippie audience sent a message to the world that everyone could gather together to enjoy music, get stoned, and celebrate peace.

Concerts prove that if you use fireworks, noise and elaborate sets, the performers do not have to be sober. You have to feel for the musicians, for they apparently are not well paid. If they were they would be able to afford more clothing. Concerts have become an increasingly effective tool to relieve rich teenagers, and those who feel like teenagers, of a lot of money. Spending 10 to 40 times or more the cost of preparing a healthy meal at home, millions of people each year gather in crowded conditions to sweat while going deaf together.

Don Paulin 7557 30th AV, Norwalk, IA 50211. 2carpenterdon@gmail.com. 515-201-7236 - 30-

By Don Paulin
Been There, Done That