Everyone gives thanks in their own personal way. Some have many things to be thankful for. Some, sad to say, would be hard pressed to think of anything. My list would be a long one, beginning with my beloved wife and thirty year companion, Dyane Fancey, and continuing with my thirty-two year job broadcasting classical music on WBJC.
Today it occurs to me that we can all be thankful for music. Even some deaf people have experienced it. Beethoven famously wrote his greatest masterpieces without hearing them, and the great percussionist Evelyn Glennie is totally deaf, experiencing music as vibrations in her bare feet. Some musicians have even created virtual music for hearing impaired students.
Music has been called the most abstract art form. It can’t be seen or touched, but simply exists as invisible vibrations in the air. Musical instruments, notated scores, are the physical means through which these sounds are created. For the last decade at WBJC, I have been able to see a visual representation of music and speech through digital editing. But the sounds themselves, for which these objective tools exist, can only be heard and not seen.
As for the way we react to music, the emotions and thoughts these sounds evoke, philosophers have struggled for centuries to explain it. Some say it is personal taste, or that music inspires day dreaming. If music has lyrics, they become a factor in what the music conveys. But ultimately, all music has structure, all music has style, and all musical sounds are organized through the discretion of an artist’s talent. People who have never met, and may have very little in common, will hear the same piece of music, and have a similar reaction to it. How often have I broadcast Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, or Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez”, or in recent years, Simon Jeffes’ “Still Life at the Penguin Cafe”, and just waited for the phone calls from listeners who simply loved it.
I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without music. And as long as I’m alive I am guaranteed to hear more of it. Sometimes I hear several new pieces in the course of a single week. And what a pleasure and a privilege to come to work each day and share this music with all of you who listen to WBJC.
Being a musician is a joy unto itself, and everyone should take the opportunity to make music, whether as a professional musician, or singing and playing along with family and friends, or out of tune in the shower. I have made music as well as heard it, especially earlier in my life, but there are far more listeners than professional musicians. Indeed, all musicians are listeners too. So on this Thanksgiving Day, let’s all give thanks for music. The music of your life. The music of the spheres, as the ancients said. Or as Shakespeare says in “The Merchant of Venice”, “The man who hath no music… is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils.” Or as Beethoven said of his “Missa Solemnis”, “From the heart, may it go to the heart.”