Music in My Life

John McManamy Health Guide
  • In a blog from Disney World in August, I wrote:

    “The Sousa-Armstrong band is playing my favorite song of all time, Tiger Rag. Once, I was about to download 30 different versions of Tiger Rag into iTunes. Then, in a fit of better judgment, I figured I might be hypomanic and restrained myself.

    “What was I thinking? I reflect as I listen to the best tune of all time in the best place in the world to listen to it. When I get back home, I'll download FIFTY versions of Tiger Rag into iTunes.”

    I am proud to say that about a month ago I kept my solemn vow, And just to illustrate my level of restraint and good judgment, I restricted myself to 45 versions. No sense in getting carried away.
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    Tiger Rag was one of Louis Armstrong’s signature tunes, and one can literally track his career through this song. Seven versions by history’s most exciting musician into iTunes. Louis’ early contemporaries Bix Beiderbecke, Kid Ory, and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band all had recordings. Into iTunes.

    My candidate for the greatest composer of the twentieth century is Duke Ellington, who had his own Cotton Club era arrangement. The other great bandleader of the time, Fletcher Henderson, also swung it. Then there is Django Reihardt-Stephen Grappelli’s guitar-violin Hot Club rendition. iTunes, iTunes, and iTunes.

    You can’t talk about great piano players without mentioning Art Tatum. Tiger Rag was his show-stopper piece. Fats Waller also gave Tiger Rag a spin. So did Bud Powell from the bebop era. More iTunes.

    Okay, you get the picture. The point is when it comes to fun pieces, Tiger Rag has no equal. Musicians have a whale of a time playing it, and their enthusiasm is contagious. Low grade depression is my default setting, and I need all the help I can get.

    By now you guessed that I’m a strong believer in the healing power of music. It’s no accident that every culture on earth values music. There is music for literally every emotional and spiritual state. What I especially treasure about music is how it can instantly get me out of my head and lift me into another place. It can be the slow movement to Mahler’s Sixth Symphony. It can be Danny and the Juniors’ At the Hop. Wherever I need to be at the time, there is music to get me there.

    Music has been a constant throughout my life. When I was six going on seven, Elvis released Hound Dog, and I was never the same. I got exposed to Tchaikovsky at around age ten, about the same time I took up the trumpet. A few years later I switched to trombone. My musical talents were nothing to write home about, but through my efforts I did acquire the type of appreciation that has deeply enriched my life.

    Related to music is dance. About 20 years ago, I signed up for tap dance lessons. It’s fair to say I have the soul of a dancer. Unfortunately, I have the feet and coordination of Kramer from Seinfeld, which is God’s idea of a joke, ergo proof of God.

    Recently, I took up the didgeridoo, an Australian aborigine wind instrument. Again, there is a mismatch between my aspirations and my level of skill. Nevertheless, I derive considerable benefit in sensing my internal vibrations align with the rhythmic drone I manage to get going.

  • “In the beginning was the Word ... And the Word was made flesh.”
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    Think of the Word as vibration. Everything derives from vibration. We all dance the cosmic dance, in sync with the fundamental OM of the universe.

    Last week, I downloaded How High the Moon, but only 15 versions. No sense in getting carried away.
Published On: January 17, 2008