Tag Archives: music

I’m Just Not Getting It…

Good morning everyone!

Professor Greenberg and I are winding towards the end of our exploration of the    Concerto, which means that we have entered the weird world of “classical” music for the 20th century.  I am trying really hard, but I’m just not getting how the cacophony of sounds I am listening to  are supposed to morph together to make the music something that I either enjoy hearing or something that I should understand intellectually.

sergei prokofiev

We listened to Russian composers of the 20th century the other day.  The details of some of their lives are fascinating, from the sad Prokofiev, who decided to return to Soviet Russia under Stalin from the West, only to have his music condemned in 1948 and die a broken, frightened man five years later, (are any of us really surprised that move didn’t work out?) to the defiant Shostakovich, who managed to get his message out in spite of Stalin and his condemnation (although in Shostakovich’s case, timing was everything – he lived until the 1970’s, and so was able to publish a great deal of his work in post-Stalin Soviet Russia.)



Music that did not meet the Soviet “ideal” was the type of music that Soviet Russia condemned and banned from performance.  Soviet Russia proclaimed that “good” Soviet music should be accessible, be based on Russian folk music and not contain elements found only in the “decadent” West.  The failure to meet this “ideal” led to the condemnation of works by Shostakovich, Prokofiev and several other leading composers of their day in 1948.

But this is my problem – I can’t tell a difference much between the cacophony of “approved” Soviet music and the dissonances of freely expressive compositions, although one set is dismissed as music written by hacks, and the other set as the work of geniuses.  (I did like Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, but that was written for children and I last heard it when I was about 12.  It was outside the scope of this lecture series.)

I am dutifully listening to compositions based on something called the “twelve-tone” method, and not getting them, either.  Professor Greenberg will inform me that something is very lyrical, haunting and beautiful, but I don’t hear it.

I don’t necessarily think this is due to a lack of effort on my part.  Anyone who spends at least four days puzzling out the lyrics to TTYLXOX by Bella Thorne is certainly willing to put the effort into understanding more serious music.  I just am not getting it.

There is one exception – Bela Bartok’s music.  While I would not plop in a CD of Bartok’s compositions for fun listening riding down the road, I do hear the beauty in his work.  Bela Bartok’s music, though, was based on the folk music of Eastern Europe and the harmonies and dissonances contained therein, filtered through sound, Western compositional techniques and a dash (or more than a dash) of genius.  In other words, he was not consciously trying to combine pitches in ways that no-one had ever heard before, but simply expressing himself.

For myself, while I am open to new sounds and, as I said, am trying to understand them, I think I will stick with the baroque (ie., Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann), the classical (ie., Mozart and Beethoven) and the Romantic (ie., Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms) when I am selecting music to listen to for my own enjoyment.

What kinds of music are you interested in?  Do any of you like (or understand) music from Prokofiev forward?  Can you help me understand it?  Will I make it through the last three CD’s of the lectures on the Concerto?

Tune in next week, same time, same channel, to find out!

Have a great day everyone!


Radio Disney, Missed Lyrics, Shakespeare and Galileo

Good morning everyone!

Riding to and from school with Kayla the last couple of weeks has led to my reacquaintance with Radio Disney, which plays music that appeals to tweens. You know you have been listening to Radio Disney  too much  a lot when you feel a great sense of accomplishment upon deciphering the lyrics to Bella Thorne’s song “TTYLXOX”.

Bella Thorne ttylxox

TTYLXOX Title Cover, from www.disneydreaming.com

The song’s refrain is the following:

Be, be, be my bff,
Cause IDK what’s coming next,
LMHO with the rest,



The first challenge was recognizing that “Be, be, be” was not the acronym “BBB”.  That accomplished, the acronyms remained to be deciphered.  This was difficult, as the acronyms come from the texting world, which I am not a comfortable part of.  After too much thought on the matter, and surprisingly without the use of the Internet, I have deduced that “bff” stands for “best friends forever”, “IDK” is “I don’t know” and “LMHO” is “laughing my head off”.  FN.

Cell Phone

The Kind of Cell Phone Kayla Would Want, from http://www.letsgomobile.org

Kayla, who has never texted officially in her life due to her parents’ cruel decision not to let a 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10-year-old have a cell phone, informed me the first time we heard the song that “TTYLXOX” stands for “talk to you later, hugs and kisses.” I didn’t ask how she knew that; there are some things that a parent is better off not knowing.

There are even songs I like on the channel that she doesn’t! Our practice is to turn the radio down when a song is on that we both don’t like, but if either one of us likes a song, the radio stays on.


William Shakespeare

One new song that she doesn’t like but that (I think) I do is by Gotye and called “Someone that I Used to Know.” To the American mind, the name of the singer would be read as “got ye”, which I assumed was the Shakespearean version of “got you.”  I was disappointed to find that no Shakespearean references were intended.  According to the DJ,  the name is pronounced “go-tee-a”, with the emphasis on the first syllable, and the “a” being the long “a” sound in “hay” and “May.” It’s not a particularly uplifting song, but it has an interesting accompaniment.

The singer, Gotye

The singer, Gotye

I suffered the same disappointment last year with a song  by Taio Cruz called “Dynamite.”  I thought it contained the words “Hey-o, Galileo” which, even though they didn’t really make sense, was pretty cool to me because it mentioned one of the pre-eminent scientists in history.  Alas, I learned later, to the giggles of my daughter and the laughter of my husband, that the lyrics were “Hey-0, Gotta let go.”

Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei

Kayla and I both had a good giggle when the DJ referred to the fact that “Justin Bieber’s boyfriend is coming up next.” No, Justin Bieber (a tween singer) does not have a boyfriend; Justin Bieber has a song named “Boyfriend.”

The Cover for Justin Bieber's Single, Boyfriend

The Cover for Justin Bieber’s Single, Boyfriend

I am getting even with her, though, for the imposition of Radio Disney on my life.  I have a number of lecture recordings through The Teaching Company that cover many different topics.  The current set I am listening to is called “The Great Concertos” by Professor Robert Greenberg. If I haven’t finished a lecture CD by the time I pick her up, she has to listen to the remaining part of the lecture.  This means she has the opportunity to listen to discussion of and excerpts from the works of such composers as Vivaldi, Bach, Beethoven and Mendelssohn, as well as information about each of their lives.  Strangely, these lecture portions don’t appeal to her as much as Radio Disney does.

Johnn Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach

Have a great day!


FN.  If you listen to the song, it sounds like Ms. Thorne is singing “I TK” instead of “IDK.”  No worries; I have an interpretation for that acronym also.  “I TK” would stand for “I totally know.”