Friday Firesmith – Aida

The man in 119 started all of this, really, back in 1987, which was one of those years where a lot of music stuck in my head, and a lot of things happened that would echo for decades in my life. Two years before this, I embarked on a quest to expand my culinary experiences. I started eating spicy food as a means to explore the different foods of faraway cultures. I grow Carolina Reapers today, and I’m more or less blazing a trail for new foods myself.

Mostly, my younger years were a time when I was told what music I liked. My parents bought me records when I was a little kid, Disney stuff and that sort of thing, and then later I listened to whatever they liked because children did not have opinions on clothes, food, music, or anything else. I grew up with a very weird streak in music and I have no idea why; Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, and that sort of thing were the eight-track tapes I bought when I had my own money and could spend my own time. But the vast majority of music that was being created for commercial radio was three point five minutes long and as derived as it could possibly be. Things only got worse as the main delivery system for music, commercial radio, became a stronger force in music.

Oddly, digital music only seemed to strengthen the 3.5 minutes long formula drive popular music. Genre aside, there is no distinguishable difference in artists, songs, albums, such as they are, or musicians. How a singer looks, who that singer is sleeping with, currently, and how their music is advertised means a lot more than vocal strength, musical ability, and quality of the art.

But let’s stop for a moment or two, and examine what’s happening inside your head as you’re going down the road and listening to the radio. If you drive for an hour a day, and I drive a hell of a lot more, in that hour you’re going to get forty-five minutes of music in three-point-five-minute clips, and fifteen minutes of commercials in one minute or thirty-second clips. Your mind is being trained to latch onto to incoming information for these time periods. Thirty seconds, sixty seconds, or two hundred and ten seconds. Let’s take the classic rock song, “Night Moves” by Bob Seger. The single version of this song is two hundred seconds long. Segar repeats the song title fifteen times at the end of the song. Inside of the song is the tale of young love, seemingly lost, and then a lot of repetition. Your mind likes this song. But you’re training your attention span downward.

Back in 1987, and in the years that followed, I started paying more attention to content than hooks. I started trying to find meaning in the way music was created rather than how much of it was simply background noise. I went out and bought a copy of Verde’s Aida, and decided to listen to how music was once created and performed.

You might want to set aside about three hours of your life if you want to try this. Aida is not for the faint of heart. It’s a love triangle gone horribly wrong with betrayal and treason, lust and love, war and death. It’s a musical experience, unlike anything you’ll find in American popular culture today.

I do a lot of writing with classical music in the background. Sometimes, I stop to consider what was happening when a piece was written, how the composer went in one direction over another, and decided to put one instrument in or perhaps take one out.

I wonder if the rise in Alzheimer’s disease has something to do with how we treat our brains. You would expect for any organ to wear out if subjected to repetitive conditions, like carpal tunnel syndrome. I wonder if years of blasting two hundred and ten seconds of musical junk food into our minds cause a certain deterioration. Hours of television, binge watching shows, and sitting there, being fed someone else’s creations while neglecting our own ability to release your mind is little more than keeping a dog chained to a tree in the backyard, and wondering why he looks so sad.

Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

15 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Aida

  1. Interesting take on music and the brain. I was brought up listening to AM radio and what it produced, and the extent of my knowledge of opera and other exotica came from Bugs Bunny and Ed Sullivan. I didn’t have much exposure to anything else until university when I babysat for a Mennonite family who listened to CBC Canada. My biggest musical eureka moment came when I heard Beethoven’s Figlio Perduto for the first time, just the music without lyrics, and felt my heart being pulled out and nailed to the wall. Needless to say I’m much more open to new musical experiences now.

    • Mini, despite his popularity, Beethoven’s music is quite good. The 7th doesn’t get the attention it deserves, and Figlio Perduto is a fine piece of that.

  2. Where does the man in 119 come in?
    When most of the classical pieces were written many of the instruments we have today weren’t even dreamed of, and the ones that existed are drastically changed. So I don’t see how it’s possible to know what the composer heard, what he/she intended us to hear.
    Even Tchaikovsky’s cannons sounded different than the Boston Pops.

    Figuring out what the composer was writing about, trying to say, requires spending time in the library with the history books and they frown on playing it there unless you have ear buds.

    Lyrics in a foreign language? Fugetaboutit.

      • Are you saying Natalie Merchant singing Verdi Cries, started you listening to classical music? Or was it the spicy food that caused you to listen to 10,000 Maniacs? Or you bought Aida because you were alone at breakfast?

    • Elagie, I know full well what Alzheimers is as I have watched someone die very slowly from it. I think the link Paul provided will give you some idea what I was trying to say. I was not suggesting that pop music was a single source or cause, nor was I suggesting that better music might cure the disease. The way we treat our brains has to affect what happens to them in the same manner that how we treat out bodies affects our muscles; garbage in garbage out. I was not suggesting I’m an expert not was I trying to sound like one on Bits and Pieces.

      However, I am acutely aware of what this disease does to people, and even more so aware of how it affects families and loved ones. If I came across as flippant I apologize to you. That was not my intent.

  3. An interesting note on Polymaths is: Bruce Dickerson lead vocalist of Iron Maiden is considered a modern day polymath as is Dr. Brian May of Queen. There are several people that are not necessarily polymaths that you would be surprise to learn that they all have a background in music.

    • David, I knew about May but I am surprised about Dickerson. Yet I am totally not surprised that a common thread of polymaths would be music. I wonder anyone else has noticed this?


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