Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hobbies, Old and New and Revisited

I love how one hobby can lead to another.

Or how about when you have something you enjoy, but really know little about, gradually your interest in this certain something wanes.  Then along comes a related thing 20 years later that connects somehow to that past interest.

Or what if your teen aged children show interest in some pop cultural phenomenon from your youth, or back further than that even.  And they begin to know more songs or music or groups from "back in the day" than you yourself do.  And so you join them in learning.

Now what if all these things collide.

OK, yeah, I have something specific in mind.  The story will probably end up longer than I want.  They always do. 

When I was young, I really was too busy playing to pay attention to culture.  My older sister was the cultured person.  She could draw and talk about books and historical places.

I envied her.

But not enough to take the time to learn any of these things myself.

She also followed pop music.  She listened to Casey Kasem's weekly top forty after church each week.

I only embarrassed myself if I tried to talk about such things.  I generally knew just enough to put my foot in my mouth.

When I progressed through my high school and college years, I discovered social life and that, pretty much was all I did.  Some of the youth knew about pop culture.  Some of the youth knew about historical culture.  I had a great memory.  I could I listen and soak things up, but I always felt a bit like a "culture plagiarist".  I could remember what others said and talked about, and I could spit it back out, but it wasn't my own.  I didn't really know anything about what I was repeating.

During my time at one of the several colleges I attended, I took voice lessons.  I loved the Italian arias I had to learn.  The melodies were beautiful and the tones that I could only dream of producing were haunting.

But that lasted only one short year.  I later studied Italian, in the hopes I'd be able to appreciate the songs and even opera itself someday.  But my study of Italian, too, it seems, was short lived.

Now pan forward in time, about twenty years.  I really like bonnet movies.  Yeah, those girl ones that have all the old time language and dresses and romance.  My two favorites are the BBC Pride and Prejudice and the 1995 Sense and Sensibility.  And in those two movies, the female heroines both sing lovely arias.  After a little research, I  found the vocal scores to Marianne's songs in Sense and Sensibility. These are both original vocal arrangements by Patrick Doyle, written specifically for this movie.

Later I discovered that the aria Lizzy sings at Pemberly, in Pride and Prejudice, is an older song.  It's from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, which you've probably heard of in it's English title, The Marriage of Figaro.  It's Cherubino's song, Voi che sapete, or "You Know what Love Is", or as it's translated for the movie, "You Who Have Tasted Love's Mystic Spell."  I found music for that in a 1913 collection of music we picked up used, The Ideal Home Music Library. This song is in Volume VIII, Songs from the Opera.

And so things come full circle.  An interest I had in college, but had no context in which to pursue, has now been revived because of a literary and even pop cultural interest in my adult years.

And on a final, kind of funny, tangentially related note, I found a piano book of pop songs in the same used bookstore.  The Very Best of the Superstars.  Abba, John Denver, Kris Kristofferson, Helen Reddy,...One of my favorites in there, "Bohemian Rhapsody", the rock opera by Queen.  I don't have it down pat yet; there are lots of key changes and accidentals.  But I'm getting better.  The harmonies and intricacy of the music touches me somehow.  And one of my great pleasures is when my son, Jeremy, who is a senior in high school, comes in and sings over my shoulder as I muddle through it.

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