Audacious amount of audio appreciation

Melvyn Magree

I sketched out a couple of paragraphs on what I enjoy listening to now, but then memories flooded in about the wide varieties of audio experience I have had during my life.

My earliest strong memories are listening to the Saturday serials on the radio: Captain Midnight, Sky King, and Tom Mix.  My brother and I did get our decoder whatevers and write a few “secret” messages.

The Cleveland Public Schools did bus elementary students to Severance Hall for matinee concerts of the Cleveland Orchestra.  I don’t remember any particular pieces, but I do remember falling asleep.  But the fine arts were not completely lost on me.  I think it was WDOK that broadcast some classical music.  I remember trying to decide whether I liked piano pieces or violin pieces better.  I think it was piano: more notes!

Radio was not all music.  We can’t forget sports and news.  Jimmy Dudley and Jack Graney broadcast the games of the Cleveland Indians on WJW and then other stations.  I can’t remember much of news broadcasts, but I remember my mother’s aunt wanting to be sure she didn’t miss Walter Winchell: “Good Evening Mr. and Mrs. America … and all the ships at sea…”  She was so eager to hear every word of Winchell that she made us change the station five minutes before his program began.  One of my own favorites was “Ripley’s Believe It or Not”.

Then Rock ’n’ Roll exploded among teenagers.  I think I may have had a 45rpm of Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock”.  Elvis Presley followed with “Blue Suede Shoes” and “You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog”.  The British returned with another revolution: The Beatles!  I know I have an LP of “Yellow Submarine”, but my favorite song was “Strawberry Lane”.

The Boy Scout troop I was in had a scoutmaster who was a master of song.  We would probably do three or four songs at every meeting: “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”, “Marching to Pretoria”, and the “Worms Crawl In” among dozens of others.

I did try to join the choir in high school.  The music teacher played a note on the piano and asked me to repeat it.  End of audition!  Church choirs were far more generous.  Either it was not politic to turn volunteers down or it was just to increase the number of male voices.  Fifty years later I took voice lessons and made amazing improvement.  Thanks, Curt!

When I was in Italy, a taxi driver sold me a 45rpm with “Chi non lavora non fa l’amore” (“He who doesn’t work doesn’t make love”).  It was the lament of a striker who hadn’t worked two out of three days.  My real favorites in Italian pop were the San Remo Festivals.  Even after I moved to Sweden, I bought a few more.  One of the song titles I remember is “Baci, baci, baci” (“Kisses, kisses, kisses”)

Many people in the U.S. have talked about “dour Swedes”, but I met very few of these when I lived in Sweden.  Just listening to all the upbeat traditional dance music should dispel that notion.  One of my early linguistic mistakes was thinking that there was a popular song about crayfish (kräftor).  No, it was about no powers (krafter) could keep the singer away from his beloved.

Wherever we lived, we went to concerts and plays, either occasionally or by subscription: “Aida” at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome; operas in Swedish at Operan, symphonies, and park concerts in Stockholm; Philadelphia orchestra; Guthrie in Minneapolis; and Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra in Duluth.  This is only a partial list of what we found enticing enough to buy tickets for.  Reading the Reader Weekly listings, I bet one could find three musical events to choose from each night of the week.

Over the years we have accumulated a wide variety of music, whether on LPs or CDs.  Our stereo system seems to be failing, and so we listen to fewer LPs.  CDs we can play on our computers (for now).  The question is should we have the LPs converted, or is it cheaper to by new CDs or download the albums from iTunes.

When we drove to Madison, Chicago, or other points east, we would listen to Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR).  Besides the classical music, they had a program called “To the best of our knowledge” (“TTBOOK”).  It was mostly interviews with authors whose books related to the two subjects of the week.  Since I could also get an WPR station clearly at our cabin, I would often make a point of listening to some part of the broadcast.

Then I discovered that podcasts for TTBOOK were available from iTunes.  Now I listen to one hour in my car on the way to our cabin and one hour on the way back.

I use other podcasts to try to drown out the intrusive music at the Essentia Health Center: “Godmorgon Världen” from Swedish Radio, “Science” from American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the French version of United Nations Radio.

Interestingly,  I almost always have some aural accompaniment outside the house, whether MPR or a podcast, but I almost never listen to the radio in the house.

Enjoy whatever you like, but please don’t insist I listen too.  I shouldn’t hear your earbuds over mine, your car radio over mine, or your concert in the park over my stereo in the parlor.