Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Effects of Music

Being a sensitive, empathetic soul, I am very aware of the effects of music. Sibelius is invigorating as one contemplates the chilly landscapes of Finland; Beethoven is heroically inspiring (or meltingly lyrical) as he charges across his musical landscape; Bach sternly or transcendentally calls us to remember our immortal souls and the dangers that lie about; Haydn engages us in a witty and learnéd conversation, wreathed about with smiles; Handel offers us ornamental brocades of golden octave threads; Mozart does most of the above invigorating us with lovely and unexpected turns of melody and glints of harmony as he charges our depths with agile and stimulating rhythms; Schubert takes us by the hand and turns and twirls us in an unending dance of joy; Berlioz haunts us with fever-dreams of romance hinted at by distant oboes; Wagner is a Panzer division of harmonic agony supported by quartets of tubas; Debussy is a feather of diaphanous emotion, a water-color of orchestration; Schoenberg is a tormented survivor of a suicide attempt by Western Civilization, only able to remain sane by strictly mathematical means; Cage is a deeply serious benumbed composer of durations and timbres with not the slightest feeling for harmony or melody; Boulez is a crystalline supercharged intellectual solution to a problem we should avoid at all costs; the Beatles, caught up in the whip-crack of history, delivered to us kaleidoscopic visions of kaleidoscopic visions; the Rolling Stones, always just a shot away, stuck to the best R&B east of, well, Manhattan; Bob Dylan, rolling down myriad hillsides of run-on pentameters was a net of allusions caught in a passacaglia of twelve-bar; and now we Rave and EDM ourselves across a grimy urban mediocrity of pre-programmed palsy, back-beat to an inch of our lives by the Loudspeakers of Doom.

All this provoked by this item in the Sunday Mail about how rowdy Scots at a McDonald's franchise in Glasgow were soothed by playing Beethoven,  Bach and Handel to them:
One customer of the branch – which is on one of the country’s busiest junctions – said: “I’ve been a regular at this McDonald’s for years and it has always been quite lively.
“In the past few years, things seemed to have just got out of hand a little. It’s often more about the large numbers of people hanging about outside rather than those inside.
“But you see some sights there – and late at night it goes to another level.
“We heard classical music being played the other night and it was actually quite pleasant.
“It’s better than the kind of rave music we’ve heard before so I think they may be on to something.”

Well, yeah!


Anonymous said...

Very nice post!

Perhaps a slight quibble about Bach's "sternness"... In that portrait he sure looks stern, but so much of his music is soft and gentle. Stern? How about Beethoven!

Speaking of which, I once walked in a mall and, lo and bold, the Pastoral symphony was being piped on the PA system. Never enjoyed a mall so much!

Bryan Townsend said...


But hey, about the quibble, I was writing in the white-hot fires of inspiration and not about to let a little accuracy slow me down!