Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hearing Elvis for the very first time

I am a music fan. I cannot deny it. I love music. Not all kinds of music. Rap isn't music, it's more of a social statement with a backbeat. And I don't ascribe the word music to a "song" with lyrics made up entirely of the "N" word and the "F" word.

I will admit I'm not a fan of jazz or Dixieland. It's not awful like Rap, it's just not my cup of tea. But I will listen to just about anything.

I have many MP3 files of my favorites. I use WinAmp as my player because it is superior to any media player. I could go into a long dissertation about how Windows Media Player destroys cover art, but that is a discussion for another time. What I want to talk about is Minilyrics. I have mentioned this product in blog posts before. It is fun to see the lyrics appear as the singer sings each line. It completes the song.

However, today I decided to create the lyrics for Elvis' version of Don't Be Cruel. I went through my steps, assigning a specific line of lyrics to a specific time in the song. When I played the song back to check that the lyrics matched, I was startled. I was watching the lyrics appear, but when Elvis would sing the line, it was disconnected somehow. I would see and hear the words, but something was...well, missing! And then it dawned on me.

Elvis' vocal style is so unlike anyone else. Yes, the words to the lyrics you see are correct. Yes, you can sing along. But there is just something WEIRD about reading the bland and unemotional lyrics at the same time you listen to Elvis put his heart, soul, and passion into every syllable. It's like listening to someone describe the contents of an Ansel Adam's photograph. Yes, technically there is a mountain, and sky, and clouds, and a lake, and shadows, and flowers, and all manner of nature. But when you actually see the photograph you realize the narrator hasn't told you anything about it. The contents are there but the distinction between what you see and what you observe is monumental.

This is what Elvis brings to music. It's like I heard him sing for the very first time.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Greatest Generation

I always think about the people that were born around the last decade of the 19th Century. They were close to their early teens when Orville and Wilbur Wright taught us to fly. They were around 80 when Neil Armstrong took us to the stars. They saw both the beginning of flight and its ultimate expression in space. They were in awe of the wood and fabric and wires doing what up until that time, only God's creatures could do. They experienced the power and majesty of metal and chemicals and fire shot into the vacuum of space — a place were none of God's creatures could go.

But they are all gone now. And even though we have the photos and movies of these things, they lived through them when both were new. Only they had the experience for the ages.

My mother's mother was one. And, until the day she died, she knew how special her place in history was.

I don't know if there will ever be another leap in technology like those 70 years. Think about that — less than 70 years from first flight to walking on the moon. Think of all the people that tried to fly before the Wrights. All of those centuries of dreaming and scheming and trial and error and getting SO CLOSE but falling at the finish line only to see two bicycle dealers pull it off. And then someone snaps their fingers and Neil Armstrong is walking on the moon.

Sometimes, it's like a vacation post card. Wish I was there...for both.