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From My Window

Issue Date: September 30, 2021

Diversity

Janie Thibodeau Martin




I had pretty consistent taste in music most of my life. I am very fond of the music of my youth; it prompts memories and is comfortable in its familiarity. The popularity of subscription radio channels devoted to strictly 50's, 60's, 70's, etc. music testify to this common preference. There is even a channel devoted to the 1940's but I have to believe the audience for that one is shrinking drastically.

I got my first taste of giving something else a chance in a surprising way. I stay at my brother and sister-in-law's home in Madison when they travel, to care for their house and pets. They have a radio in their kitchen which is tuned to a local National Public Radio (NPR) channel, and it features mostly symphony music in the early morning. I didn't mess with the tuning, since that is their preference, but I always turned it on as I made my coffee. Bit by bit, I found it grew on me. Symphony music made for a serene background for my morning thoughts; my brain wasn't distracted by lyrics. Not only did I begin to look forward to listening to it; I began playing it in my car on long drives.

I am not a student of symphony music, but surprisingly when I listen to other music now, I hear the symphony influence in unexpected places, like the music of Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, and the Moody Blues, all favorites of mine. Some of the symphony music seemed quite familiar and I eventually connected it with the background music in many cartoons and Disney movies from my childhood.

A very popular commercial that used symphony music is the old United Airlines commercial featuring "Rhapsody in Blue," a lovely piece. (I didn't know the name of the music but when I googled "United Airlines song," it showed me the name. My daughter would tell you this was an effective commercial because I remembered the music and also the name of the company being advertised. When I tell her I saw a cute commercial, she asks what product or company was being advertised. If I can't tell her, she says "That wasn't a good commercial, Mom." She works in advertising, she has insight I do not.)

Another commercial that has music I love is Pacific Life insurance, featuring a stirring march-type piece called "Tail Slaps." It is accompanied by amazing footage of whales doing tail slaps in exact time to the drumbeat. I gather this piece was written specifically for the commercial, but it is so catchy, with its compelling drumbeat, I always stopped what I was doing to watch when it was on TV.

Another classic piece was a Bugs Bunny Cartoon, called "The Rabbit of Seville," using the music from the opera "The Barber of Seville." Opera is probably one of my least favorite types of music, but I do like this piece. I looked the cartoon up on You Tube (you can find anything on you tube; it's just phenomenal.) I laughed as hard at Bugs and the hapless hunter Elmer Fudd as I did when I was little, but the music also draws me in.

Last week I was in Madison for five days. The NPR narrator introduced a symphony piece featuring cello music and shared the interesting fact that the featured artist uses a cello built in 1620. I challenged myself to think of any other item (besides a building) that is still being used for its original purpose that is more than 100 years old, not just sitting in a static display, in my world now. I couldn't name a single one, much less one 400 years old. It astonished me. Maybe some of you can think of something.

At the animal shelter I volunteer at, there are four radios in four different rooms, left on nearly all the time for the animals. Some volunteers reporting in to work make it a priority to tune whatever radios they will be working near to their favorite stations immediately. I can often tell who was in a room last by the genera of music. We have fans of Christian music, classic country, hard rock, contemporary, and even a polka lover. I make it my practice to leave the radios where they are set when I arrive, and find myself noticing something interesting in any and all music. I like being exposed to different things, and music is one place I am less "set in my ways" than I used to be.

Eating would be boring if we only ate one variety of food. Look at the popularity of Asian, German, Mexican and Italian restaurants. Tacos, stir fry and spaghetti are now staples of the American cuisine, even though their roots lie far from Wisconsin. (I was trying to remember when I had my first taco, and it was after I graduated from high school. That amazes me to contemplate.) Variety is truly the spice of life, and diversity of all kinds is healthy for our hearts and our brains.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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