Jacob brought a Winslow Homer print of Snap the Whip to our household. The folks who gave it to him understood that to use this gift, it needed a frame. They couldn't get a nice one, but they got a complete one, and to this day it hangs on our wall in the same plastic casing.
It's interesting to me that framing, or at least matting, was a required part of the [two] art classes I've been in. Wall art isn't complete without some kind of frame. The frame enables it to be displayed on a basic level and appreciated on a deeper level.
Music needs a frame, too. It needs devices that make it easier for the listener to hear and for the listener to appreciate. Often music fails to move us simply because it was not presented appropriately. Here are a few conventions that can function as a frame for music. All genres benefit, but some more than others.
1. The live performance
The live performance is the ultimate frame for all music. Of course! It's the original thing! Whether it's an Irish music jam at The Barn, or a house concert with whomever, or a marching band at the football game, or a piano major's senior recital - we'll enjoy it in person even if we won't turn around and listen to a recording of it. A lot of us, myself included, have lost touch with the unique human dimension of live music; it's worth pursuing ways to bring more of it into your life.
One of the first symbols music students learn is the repeat sign. Its frequency reflects the fact that when we hear a bit of music, we want to hear that bit again. It's easier to listen to music a second time than a first time. My piano students love the folk songs in their books simply because they've heard them before. Generation after generation is faithful to the songs of youth because - it's what we know!. Artists often break through with a new sound when they apply it to a familiar cover song. And bands have success selling CDs at shows because now that the audience has heard their music - uh, they want to hear it again.
All music - up to a point - is better appreciated when we hear it again. Especially music from classical literature.
Classical music is like dark chocolate or wine: an acquired taste, but yours forever once you get it. We all know what it's like to get sick of our favorite pop song after a month of repeat play. I find the inverse phenomenon with a Beethoven sonata: I won't begin to like it until after a month of repeat play. (Good thing, too, cause they take me months to learn.)
This may be why many of us don't listen long to the classical radio station. Much classical music demands a heavier frame than radio to help our contemporary American ears appreciate it: our full attention, a stage, and familiarity. Otherwise, it's like trying to appreciate Michelangelo when his sculpture is in the garage next to the lawn mower.
3. Story behind the song
Stories prepare the mind in surprising ways. When you know the context of a composition, your imagination turns it into a soundtrack for some other thing, enhancing its power. This is why I like catching American Public Media's Performance Today radio program and the Classics for Kids podcast. This is also why the Battlescapes pieces resonated with people whenever I presented them in person.
George Winston's performances are very simple. Nothing on stage but the piano and himself in plain clothes. But his piano pieces have names that the audience instantly understands. "Woods." "Stars." And to go back to point #2, though his work was initially a breakthrough for solo piano music, being neither classical nor jazz, many Americans loved it because harmonically it was familiar: folk piano with a fresh twist.
Whether recordings are physical or digital, artwork helps the presentation. It whets the listener's appetite, preparing him visually for whatever vibe he's about to hear.
Which segues beautifully into announcing five winners of some artwork made for Battlescapes. To thank folks for sharing the news about the music, there was a drawing for a 16x12 glossy poster of a unique map rendering of the Harpers Ferry area. Congratulations to Jayme, Karen, Mirais, Robyn, and Alison! I'll send you the poster soon.
There are four more of these posters that will be included with the next four CD orders. Use this link if you like that offer or get in touch with me directly. If you're interested in buying a poster by itself, they can be ready in a week or sooner for $7 each. Let me know!
That's all. Have a great weekend and keep in touch!