Sunday, January 6, 2008

Music and Bugs

This morning on Weekend Edition Sunday on NPR, there was a discussion of music in cartoons of the 40s and 50s, particularly the Warner Brothers ones. One of the points made is that today's children are not exposed to classical music as casually as we geezers were in our childhood. The Cleveland Orchestra has had two concerts playing the Bugs Bunny cartoons synchronizing live music with projections of the actual films.That has brought a whole new audience to the concert hall. Other orchestras around the country are doing the same thing. For many people Bugs and Elmer introduced them to the classical repertory painlessly.
There were those great cartoons, of course, but also mentioned was the variety of radio programs featuring that kind of music. Many of these programs were quite popular: "The Firestone Hour", "The Bell Telephone Hour." You could also hear the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony every week during the year. Since I grew up with music loving parents, I was exposed to this music regularly and took it for granted.
Some of these programs later moved to television and you could watch Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony (Can you imagine today's NBC, home of "The Apprentice" having its own symphony?) or watch and listen to Leonard Bernstein explain it all to you on those Sunday afternoon specials.Those things created audiences for live performances, too.
Then there was the Met every Saturday afternoon from October to May. My father would pick up a 2 pound bag of Planter's Peanuts in the shell in the morning and feast on them while listening to Lily Pons and Jussi Bjoerling, among others. Since he accompanied the peanuts with a bit of Bourbon, he usually missed the final act, but that was his Saturday pleasure.
Some modern parents, having heard that classical music, especially Mozart, is supposed to make their infants intelligent, have dutifully started playing his music while the baby is still in the fetal stage. Unfortunately, most of these people don't listen to or even like this kind of music themselves so that's the only chance the kid has to hear it, and probably wouldn't even recognize it in the unmuffled by amniotic fluid and fat cells after they're born.
What a world, what a world, as Margaret Hamilton laments in "The Wizard of Oz."

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