IMO: Blues and Rachmaninov

As a person not schooled in music, it doesn’t stop the instinctual draw to the beauty of different genres. Music is like wine. Either it tastes good or it doesn’t. Your palette is in charge of you, not the other way around. Like wine, I like how music speaks to me regardless of whether someone says this is excellent or this is garbage.

With music, I enjoy different viewpoints. Why is this piece good? How did the artist create it? The appreciation grows, and my initial like turns to love. Time plays a part. A song I loved at twelve makes me cringe when I hear it today. Basically the entire Carpenters collection. So what? At twelve their music depressed me and somehow that made me happy. Anyway, when I investigate a genre of music, learning about the layers of its history and composition alters me at an emotive level. Rachmaninov is a friend of mine. In fact, his music invades me and becomes a part of who I am. Even if, like me, you can’t play a note.

Blues

I don’t claim to know much about the Blues other than it is the great influencer. I can tell you a famous name like Muddy Waters who played an important role. But I couldn’t tell you why, other than when he migrated to Chicago, he influenced others to play like him. Blues influenced Rock and Roll. I have listened to Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin,  Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan all my life. They all link their beginnings to previous blues greats. In the historical timeline, who is first? .

On Netflix last night, I watched a brief documentary (48 min) about Robert Johnson, a legendary Mississippi Delta Blues player called ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads. I enjoyed hearing from other blues artists like Taj Mahal and music scholars who researched Johnson’s life and attempted to explain his importance. Surrounding the biography was the legends about him. The supernatural slant gave it a flavor that coincides with African American mythologies. Then, add to the mix Robert Johnson is a member of the 27 Club. Well, you can see how the man and the myth are a theme within the story.

It was his actual technique with the guitar which interested me. With huge fingers, he managed to sound like three players playing at once. Dexterous fingers illustrated. Though Robert Johnson recorded only one record of approximately 29 songs, his tragic life earned him the right to play the blues. He influenced a host of subsequent blues musicians.

Blues is a world where the gritty aspects of life are made better by its escape. Blues has a life of its own and the artists and the audience are connected. When I listen to blues, I’m on a trip where my mind and heart sit side by side. It’s a fine journey.

Rachmaninov

In the same 24 hour period, I switched from Blues to classical piano. Sergei is my man. In chapter one of my recent book, Fritz Lang’s wife, Thea von Harbou, is an accomplished pianist killing time on a set at UFA studios. My anti-hero, George, discovers her playing Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor. As she bangs the death march, she swears at her husband in sync with each chord. It was a challenge to write the scene expressing the beat of the piece.

This morning I discovered “Rousseau” on Youtube. It visually shows you the chords and their beats. It’s stunning. What a great way to experience classical music! Different genre, another trip. Add the visual to the auditory–it made me experience Rachmaninov on a different level. He wrote this piece apparently when he was only 19. He had a dream, the story goes, where he marched forward to a casket. He opened it up and it was him inside.

This prelude best describes what my mind and heart feels like inside. It’s loud in here.

And you? What do your mind and heart sound like as if it were set to music? 

27 thoughts on “IMO: Blues and Rachmaninov

Add yours

  1. My musical soul is combined of soul music, Jazz, and Flamenco. (And emotional torch songs, but three is enough.)
    So here is my selection, to illustrate. Two versions of the wonderful ‘Concerto D’Aranjuez’

    And a definitive Soul Song. A version of an old ballad. Sublime

    Best wishes, Pete. x

  2. First, I love your voice. I must read more of your blog.
    Music is like food. Across the world we all need protein, carbo hydrates and the other stuff. How they are prepared and presented is as exciting and varied and evolving as the magnificance of music. Can’t live without it. I couldn’t dine on Indian or korean every night any more than I can restrict myself to one genre of music. Like your Carpenters record, it all depends on when you happen apon them for the first time.

    Anyway, I know you’re busy, but when you get a moment have a look at my story about a Blues singers who’s influence is almost infinite.
    https://matteringsofmind.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/as-we-set-sail/

  3. First thing that music does to me is to transcend me to a particular time. It certainly sets the mood, overpowering the present. It embalms, soothes, and sometimes makes the pain deeper, thus helping in release of emotions in a catharsis of sorts.

    The very fact that you are listening to music indicates a break from the reigning chaos that the world is. It opens up paths that turn to freeways where one can cruise to one’s heart’s content.

    1. Well said, said the poet! Thank you very much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. 🙂
      How I wish I were a musician. I have to admire them all from afar and give thanks for making my life infinitely richer with their gifts.

  4. You sound as if you might be ready for “Dangerous Moonlight” a b/w English film from1941, the music from which is on “Addinsell: Warsaw Concerto etc” and “Warsaw Concerto – romantic piano classics from the silver screen” the latter CD with extra, added Rachmaninov!

  5. Thanks to my father, I enjoy most all genres of music (except maybe rap and super hard jazz). So it depends on my mood that can have me switching from classical to oldies rock – whatever strikes me. Not much of a helpful answer, is it?

    1. You are fine, GP. I’m happy to hear you appreciate music. The mood definitely plays a role in what I’ll listen to. Conversely, what I listen to changes my mood. 😉

  6. I don’t listen to Classical that much really, But my appreciation is greatly enhanced if I can watch the Artist playing. Then it’s amazing to me. The talent. The Art. Yeah.

    Death in a dream? Hmmm … ? Interpreting dreams incorrectly can be dangerous. Death in a dream is often not a negative in my dreams. Usually just means the end of something. Which can be a Positive. YAY!

    For many the fear of death colors our interpretation.

    But it’s not my dream. And I’ve learned the hard way not to interpret other people’s dreams for them.

  7. You certainly do have wide tastes in music Cindy. Yes I remember the greats of each era as I grew up (still doing that 🙂 ) Now and then I resurrect the Carpenters for an evening of nostalgia but like you say we’ve all moved on haven’t we? What about Fats Waller, had much to do with him?

  8. Hey Cindy, nice post. I’m no expert on these things but I reviewed a Queensland Symphony Orchestra performance last year where Rachminov was played. I think we discussed it at the time. This Netflix special looks interesting too.

    1. I remember the post! In the 24 hour period, my musical tastes swayed a lot. I really liked the visual of the playing. I always wanted to play the piano with competence but it didn’t happen. Seeing my favorite pieces played was a trip for me.

I ♥ comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: