Music Can Heal

Here’s another post on music. This one got started while watching Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival 2019 last night on the Iowa Public Broadcasting Service channel. It’s great pizza and beer music. It was the fifth event of its kind since it got started in 2004. Part of the profits go to support the substance abuse treatment center in Antigua, founded by Clapton. Although inpatient treatment programs are currently suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a virtual intensive outpatient treatment program is available.

I don’t mean to belittle Crossroads with the pizza and beer remark. I’m leading up to something and there is nothing wrong with enjoying music of any kind along with pizza and beer. Clapton and Peter Frampton did a superb job doing an old Beatles’ tune, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Clapton did the original guitar solo on that one, which I didn’t know. Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt rocked out Bob Dylan’s “Everything is Broken.” Many of the artists were older than me (I’m no spring chicken although they are definitely not retired). However, a newcomer, Lianne La Havas, delivered an outstanding cover of “I Say a Little Prayer for You,” originally sung by Dionne Warwick, later by Aretha Franklin.

It was great fun listening to these old songs. Most of them, except for “I Say a Little Prayer for You,” did tend to remind me of all the trouble going on in the world now, including the pandemic, political vitriol, and violence. Come to think of it, we could all use a little prayer right now.

I thought about posting the YouTube videos of a few of the Crossroads Festival songs. But I noticed that one of the YouTubers carried a large number of deleted videos, possibly due to copyright infringement issues, and they’re relatively recent. I figured the posted videos might not last long.

This brings me to an old (meaning much older than the 1960s) classical work I heard recently, “Vaughn Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.” I saw it on the Light Classical cable music channel I wrote about a couple of days ago, the one about Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

This one actually woke me up while I was sleeping on the couch. I frequently fall asleep to most classical music, partly because it helps me relax. However, the Vaughn Williams Fantasia didn’t just calm me—it also energized me. I’ve heard about the quality of music that can do that for people, but I was a bit skeptical. I have since looked for YouTube versions of the work, trying to find the same one I heard on the cable music channel.

I’m pretty sure I found it. It’s the one recorded by the Philharmonia Orchestra (London, UK) just last month, October 2020. I’ve listened to a couple of other highly praised recordings you can hear from a YouTuber called 2ndviolinist. One was by the Boyd Neel String Orchestra conducted by Boyd Neel in 1936. The other was done by the Halle Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli in 1946. Both are widely thought of as masterpieces.

The Philharmonia Orchestra players are all spaced at least 6 feet apart, adhering to the social distancing required to reduce transmission of COVID-19. If I close my eyes (or even if I don’t), this doesn’t make me nervous as I listen to the oceanic sonority of the music itself. Many comments about the recording attest to the beauty of the piece, making it a soothing treasure in our troubled times.

I’m less worried about the possibility of the video ever being deleted. I felt the same way about the one by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. It isn’t just because they’re old and copyright issues may be less of an issue. It’s more because they’re probably universally viewed as vital for healing our souls. At least I hope so.

Grab a pizza and a beer—and enjoy music that heals.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: What’s in a Name?

Last night I was half-dozing while listening to our cable light classical music channel. It was the usual lineup of 200-year-old white males of the 3-B variety—Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. You see a photo or artist’s rendition of a guy in a powered wig, often looking depressed or constipated, alongside of short biographical blurbs. Many of the blurbs I mentally correct for grammatical or spelling errors.

Suddenly, I was struck by what I thought was a mistake in the name of the artist—next to a photo of a Black man. The name was Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Even now I initially started to type Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which also didn’t make sense, because he was not a composer. He was a famous 19th century poet who wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan, and other works I learned from my English Literature professor, Dr. Jenny Lind Porter (that was her real name; no mix up with the Swedish opera singer, Jenny Lind).

I learned a lot from Dr. Porter, although I didn’t learn anything about Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who was a famous 19th century composer in England. He happened to have been of mixed racial parentage, like I was. His mother (Alice Hare Martin) was white and his father was black—exactly my situation. His father (Dr. Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor) didn’t know about Samuel and they never met. I knew my father—and probably picked up some of his bad habits. Alice gave Samuel the name Coleridge because she was a fan of the poet. My name is Jim, but people often call me John, which was my father’s name.

How I got confused was a simple mental transposition of the last names. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a white man who was hooked on laudanum and wrote great poetry. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a mulatto who was not hooked on laudanum and wrote great music.

I had never seen any composers of African American descent on the cable music Light Classical channel—and we’ve been cable subscribers for many years. I have to wonder whether I just have not been paying attention or whether this is a recent phenomenon and a sign of the times.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and his wife, Jessie Walmisley (a white woman), had two children. They named his son Hiawatha, after the native American in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, The Song of Hiawatha. It turns out Hiawatha (also known as Ayenwathaaa or Aiionwatha) was a real guy, an important Native American leader. Longfellow’s poem is actually about the legend of Hiawatha, which is probably not connected in any plausible way to the real life of Ayenwathaaa or Aiionwatha. Some speculate that naming their son Hiawatha might have been related to Hiawatha never knowing who his father was, which Samuel might have identified with.

The Coleridge-Taylors also had a daughter, who they initially named Gwendolyn Avril. Gwendolyn then later changed her name (why not?) to Avril Coleridge-Taylor.

Both Avril and Hiawatha went on to have distinguished careers in music. Avril was a conductor-composer in her own right—which makes me wonder why I’ve not seen any women highlighted on the Light Classical cable music channel.

Samuel was an influential and respected musical, cultural, and political leader. Sadly, he died young, of pneumonia. He was 37 years old.

I hope this helps you feel a bit less confused about all the names in this story. If you’ve got it straight, please drop me a note explaining it—so I can finally get it sorted out.

Sources I used were the Wikipedia entries for Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Samuel Taylor Coleridge as well as the Royal College of Music web presentation on Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. The photo of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is in the public domain, to my understanding.

Pleiadian Zombie Turkeys

We noticed the wild turkeys hung back close to edge of the woods this morning. They didn’t move out across the open land or trot across our back yard like they usually do. It’s easy to imagine that they might be more wary because they know it’s Thanksgiving Day.

Usually a dozen or so get out foraging in the early morning. I’m not sure if a dozen counts as a rafter, which is another name for a flock of them.

I’ve never heard them gobble, but you can hear them from as far away as a mile, or so I’ve read. I think the turkeys in our area might not be ordinary turkeys.

Maybe they’re more of a landing party rather than a rafter—of alien, zombie turkeys from the Pleiades. I would suspect that Pleiadian Zombie Turkeys (PZTs) can fly space craft about as well as any other alien species. That means they regularly crash them, if you believe the whole Roswell saga. I’m not sure why we think aliens are so much more intelligent than earthlings if they can’t drive any better than us.

The zombie aspect likely comes from turkeys who are slaughtered as the main course for the Thanksgiving Day menu and then are beamed up through a wormhole to the Pleiades, where they become zombified. After that, as PZTs they make regular missions to Earth to try to free their turkey brethren.

These missions often fail. It turns out that PZTs ae no better at rescue missions than driving spaceships. They can peck at assorted crap on the ground and scratch the dirt underfoot for more, which they could use as ammo for ray guns—except they can’t carry (much less shoot) ray guns. They can fly up to 55 miles an hour, leap tallish trees at a single bound, see poultry seasoning salesmen coming from a long way off—but compulsively dance in the dirt when they should be rescuing their brethren.

Well, that’s food for thought anyway. By the way, I’ve seen Pleiadian spelled a couple of different ways, so please cut me some slack today. Have a nice Thanksgiving.

Happy Anniversary

The basic definition of the word “anniversary” is the date on which an event occurred in a previous year. There are many events to which it can be attached. However, wedding anniversaries most often ring the bell, literally for those of us who got married at the Little Brown Church in the Vale in Nashua, Iowa.

Sena and I pledged our wedding vows there 43 years ago. We rang the church bell. If I posted the snapshot of that, my days would be numbered. I wore a suit tailored for a skinny young man. That outfit included the shoes. I had an afro haircut, which was the style back then.

Sena was beautiful. She still is. In the picture, she is laughing out loud as we ring the bell.

We stopped by the Little Brown Church about five years ago. We took a picture of the church bell rope. We didn’t ring the bell because there was no official person there who would have let us do that. The church recently reopened the church for services but because of the coronavirus pandemic, the web site cautions visitors about touching anything.

So, I have to try to imagine the bell ringing. I guess that’s fitting because many good and great things start with imagination.

We imagined moving to Ames, Iowa, where I graduated from Iowa State University in the mid-1980s. ISU has a pretty campus and the bells of the Campanile Carillon are there. We imagined a trip to Hawaii in 1997—and it happened. We imagined a trip to New York City in 2017 where we saw the Imagine mosaic memorial to John Lennon in in the Strawberry Fields section of Central Park.

Sena has a fertile imagination, which has led to many beautiful back and front yard gardens over the years. Some of the flowers remind me of bells.

Happy Anniversary. Let’s ring the bell.

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