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The Friday Morning Listen: Messiaen

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First posted on Mark Is Cranky:

Over the past couple of mornings I’ve been making my way through a most excellent essay by Jonathan Franzen (a.ka. Mr. PissOffTheOprahReadersClub) on the topic of birding. Actually, being a Franzen article, it’s of course about way more than birding. I’ve read one description of Franzen’s New Yorker work as something like ‘tediously autobiographical’. Well, since my whole Friday thang can be tediously autobiographical I’m not surprised that the essay resonated so much with me.

Anyhow…back the the bird thing. At one point Franzen got around to describing how birds were so endlessly fascinating because of their seemingly infinite variations in species (and hey, I’d have the exact text for you but it’s not available online and my copy of the New Yorker is laying in a pile at home). His statement struck me as being very close to why I’m so in love with music. Even pieces of music I’ve listened to hundreds of times seem to show something different during the next repeat. Sure, some bands/albums/songs have more musical nooks & crannies (and thus more possibilities for discovery) than others but, overall, it’s a big ‘ole listening world out there. Endless.

Now, the birding essay (entitled “My bird problem: Love, grief & a change in the weather”) reminded me that as much as I love birds (and I really do…man, I can sit out on the back porch and watch the chickadees and nuthatches for hours) and their songs, there’s no way I’d ever be a birder. First of all, my color blindness prevents me from accurately identifying the things. Don’t get me wrong, I can tell blue from red & stuff. But depending upon the available light, shades of brown, green and gray tend to look like shades of…shades of gray, green and brown. The other (and perhaps most important) thing is that I can be so taken by the birdsongs that I’d be distracted from the identification chores. Though I think it’d be fun to play up the birder stereotype (birders out there, please don’t take offense) and don a pith hat and binoculars, I just don’t see it happening.

So just for fun I thought it’d be nice to haul out my trusty copy of Messiaen’s “Oiseaux Exotiques”. This piece of music is one of many discovered on the radio, causing a pull-the-car-over-and-pray-for-a-DJ-announcment incident. Thankfully, I happended to be listening to WGBH out of Boston. Robert J. Lurtsema may have had a voice that was perfect for a Saturday Night Live makin’ fun of public radio voices sketch. He was also passionate about music and birds (his show opened with a nice birdsong fade in). Robert J. did not dissapoint me that day, and my collection is all the better for it.

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About Mark Saleski

  • As always, a good Friday Morning Listen. Even when read on a Monday morning, it still works.

  • hey, i aim to please…well, i aim anyways.