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It has been raining here for weeks. The rivers are overflowing their banks, school districts all over the region canceled classes yesterday because of flooding, and all of us who work downtown are watching the water rise anxiously.
It is difficult to escape a sense a déjà vu as memories of the 2010 flood that devastated our city resurface and fears that history could repeat itself arise.
As I drove into town this morning to produce our annual concerto competition, I found myself thinking about all of the music about rain that has been a part of my life.
In 2018, I found myself playing in a rock band for the first time in over thirty years. This is what happened!
The Dark Side of the Moon
The sound effects loop that Roger Waters made in his garden shed from coins jangling, paper ripping, and other cash-related sounds begins the B side of The Dark Side of the Moon, followed almost immediately by Water’s driving bass line – one of the most distinctive and instantly recognizable in the history of rock. Money was Pink Floyd’s most successful single from the album, and like many rock hits, it is based on a twelve-bar blues. The resemblance ends there, however: Money is set in the dark and serious key of B minor, with seven beats to the bar.
Money‘s three verses are a cocky paean to greed, a caricature of capitalist values. Waters lays the irony on thickly: clearly living one’s life in pursuit of money for its own sake or for the luxuries that great wealth can bring may interfere with the attempt to live consciously. Do greed and a distraction with materialism proceed from the irrational part of human nature?
The Dark Side of the Moon
Speak To Me
The opening track is a brief sound collage, little more than a minute long, which introduces and foreshadows some of the album’s themes in the manner of an overture. The opening heartbeat draws the listener into an intimate relationship with the music from the very beginning. It is nearly half a minute before snippets of sounds hint at what’s to come: clocks ticking (Time), a cash register (Money), the rotor sound effect (On The Run), lunatic laughter, and the first spoken words “I’ve been mad for fucking years, absolutely years” introduce the album’s primary themes as the sounds overlap, increase in volume, and build to a climax that features a woman screaming into
“All you touch and all you see
is all your life will ever be.”
~ Roger Waters, Breathe
Forty-five years after its release, Pink Floyd‘s monumental The Dark Side of the Moon remains the most important musical document on the human condition in the history of rock music. It is arguably the most important musical recording ever made to address its subject matter: universal humanist themes that include the finite compass of human experience, the passage of time, death, greed, conflict, insanity, and the irrational.
Modest Mussorgsky (1839 – 1881) was a Russian composer best known today for a few celebrated works, including Night on Bald Mountain – a musical depiction of a “witches sabbath” most often played on Halloween programs and other programs depicting musical grotesqueries – and Boris Gudunov, an opera based on a drama by Pushkin: the butt of one of the first classical music jokes music majors learn in undergraduate school:
Q: Why did Mussorgsky only write one opera?
A: Because one Boris Gudunov.
His most beloved composition today is Pictures at an Exhibition, which was originally written as a large suite for solo piano but is best known to the listening public as a large-scale symphonic work in its orchestration by the French composer Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937).
Chris Squire, who laid down the bass line for much of the soundtrack of my adolescence, died yesterday of leukemia. He was 67.
Chris and Jon Anderson founded Yes in 1968. The band has gone through many permutations in personnel and evolution in style since then, but Chris has always been at the heart of the group. His unique sound, approach to playing bass, and contribution to crafting the group’s compositions have been an integral part of what makes Yes Yes. When Billy Sherwood joins the band on stage as bassist at the beginning of their North American Summer Tour in August, it will be the first time that Yes has ever performed without Chris since the band was formed 47 years ago.