Another pledge drive by PBS and tonight it’s the program, “Andrea Bocelli, Amore, Under the Desert Sky”.
I suffered through listening to their presentation of “Great Performances: South Pacific” the other night because because we don’t have cable so I don’t know what’s on other television but if we have the television on and a DVD isn’t playing then it’s PBS that’s running because when the television is cut off H.o.p. makes sure it’s on PBS and thus when it’s cut on by H.o.p. it’s turned to PBS, which is something he’s grown up doing not so much because he thus far accepts my disdain of television but because commercial television is kind of scary to him, and since a little child he’s avoided it. If Marty has a show he wants to watch, he retires to the bedroom and H.o.p. closes the door and avoids the room.
Maybe you liked “Great Performances: South Pacific”. Did I like the movie as a kid? Would I now? I didn’t like it as a kid not so much because of the music but because I didn’t like the leads, I didn’t believe Mitzi Gaynor as some plucky mid-American, didn’t get the French guy, didn’t believe any of it really, and I’ve not tried it out as an adult. Still, I don’t get “South Pacific” without the staging, and here was PBS telling me that this was our “classical” music and how important it was our children got to hear it performed at Carnegie Hall blah blah. It was running in the other room while I was working and I was thinking, “Boy, that’s certainly some flat, uninviting performance, doesn’t convince me at all, I don’t believe a word of it” but I left it on, despite the fact no one was watching, because because I was too lazy to cut it off.
And at some point this week I passed the television, which was again being watched by no one despite our apartment being small enough that the television on in the front room means it’s unavoidable as an old Drive-Inn movie screen staring down at the cows in the next field (somehow we still manage to avoid) and there was Andrea Bocelli singing, without sound, because at least the sound was off, and I admit I’m clueless enough that I was fooled, I caught a brief glimpse of the background set which looked kind of real and I thought it was some performance somewhere in Europe and thought to myself well the Europeans sure like it American don’t they or vice versa.
Well I discover tonight that the show was filmed at Lake Las Vegas, a resort with a fake Italian setting. This time the sound is turned up and I don’t turn it down because I’m trying to absorb why millions of people love this, I don’t get it, simply don’t get it, and I’m torturing myself with not getting it (and the fact that the on/off button on the one year old television stopped working last week and tonight I can’t find the remote control). The overdone orchestration, no feeling to it at all. And if Bocelli has any feeling for a song, I can’t tell it either, someone whose singing I don’t care for and am ever amazed whenever I hear about how huge, how popular he is, which I very rarely hear about because I’m not tuned into the media that sells him. To me it’s all bad dinner music that isn’t easy on my ear. But I leave it on for some reason, though not because I’m entranced, and not because I haven’t thought to pull the plug, I guess because I’m waiting to hear if it ever possibly gets good, if there is anything I might like at all. I look up on the internet to see if there’s anyone else who dislikes his music and if they do they’re buried by the fans. Lots of static about Bocelli performing on “American Idol”. Believe it or not but I’ve never watched “American Idol”, not one episode. I’m just not turned in, so not tuned in I hardly realize it’s going on out there.
These arrangements! Agh! How to describe it? I can’t. The only thing that comes to mind is Fellini’s “Juliette of the Spirits” and the scene where the boat of the barbarians is being drug along by the guy on the beach, Juliette looking on, but instead in my head there’s appeared Juliette looking on in stunned amazement as PBS drags “Amore” past in that boat, chandeliers clanging. That is the only thing that grabs me and it only exists in my head. And I’m seriously surprised that when I’m trying to dream up a way to describe this music and PBS’ presentation of it, that Juliette of the Spirits appears, not to compare Amore with the boat of the barbarians and Suzy and her entourage, but to contrast the sense of humor of Suzy’s barbarians–that are somehow equal parts exotic and K-Mart–and the oh too flatulence inducing seriousness of Amore’s production values. Reminds me of a nice but very prim young woman with whom we once ate dinner, whose intestines were surprised by the beans.
God I suddenly miss Nino Rota’s music. Am going to have to dig up “Juliette of the Spirits” or “8 and 1/2”.
Back to PBS selling me how much we all adore Amore and Andrea Bocelli.
“Listening to him play Neil Diamond, on the piano…” the host gushes.
Oh. Ok. I think I’m getting what’s going on here.
And they’re talking about how amazing it is that Bocelli can sing without the added dimension of sight-reading helping him.
Yeah, now I get it.
(What in the world is going on in their brains, that it’s amazing Bocelli can sing without being able to sight-read?)
Oddly enough, and I’m not sure if this is something I like or don’t like about myself, but if I was in someone else’s environment, someone I liked, and this music was naturally a part of their environment, something they liked, then I wouldn’t like it any better but I’d get it as far as their envionment goes and would accept it and wouldn’t quibble about it and might even enjoy it as far as being part of the overall environment of the person, part of their setting. Well, I wouldn’t quibble so much, perhaps. If it was Neil Diamond then I would be in misery, as weasels ripped my ears tearing my smile to pieces.
This from probably the only person you’ll ever virtually meet who actually does enjoy Schoenberg.
Now PBS is telling me that the 50s music is no longer being heard on commercial radio and how we can’t let our history die, we can’t let it be erased. Songs like, “How much is that doggie in the window?” I have no argument with Nat King Cole singing “Mona Lisa”, but how they can talk about that and “Oh my pappa” in the same breath, I don’t know.
This from a person who actually likes Dean Martin singing, “When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that’s amore…”
And I’m wondering why in the world PBS, for their pledge drive, isn’t instead featuring, as works which must not be forgotten, Schoenberg and John Cage and, well, Gavin Bryers.
I go to Amazon because I’m looking for something by another composer whose name I can’t remember. I check out too Bryers’ “Sinking of the Titanic” to see what versions they have of it. I look at “Customers who bought this item also bought”, thinking the other composer, whose name I can’t remember, might show up there, and the results shown are:
* Bryars: Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet ~ Gavin Bryars
* Aria: A Passion for Opera ~ Tito Gobbi
* Trout Mask Replica ~ Captain Beefheart
* Prison Songs (Historical Recordings From Parchman Farm 1947-48), Vol. 1: Murderous Home ~ Various Artists
* I Have Heard It Said That a Spirit Enters ~ Bryars
* In the Wee Small Hours ~ Frank Sinatra
* Solo Monk ~ Thelonious Monk
* Texas-Czech Bands, 1929-1959 ~ Various Artists
And yes, that’s a snapshot of part of our music collection.
Ah, blessed silence. I found the remote buried under H.o.p.’s drawings and cut off the television. For now. Marty called, is on his way home from the studio, and is saying he’s thinking of stopping and getting a cheap DVD player since ours is going bad. I tell him to pick up a copy of “Juliette of the Spirits” as our videotape of it is worn out.
Lake Las Vegas? Somewhere around here is our copy of Sugar’s “Copper Blue”. Time to pull it out and listen to “Hoover Dam”, which can only be appreciated at appropriate volume.