An Unexpected Message
Hello again. Here’s another of my intermittent messages.
The most time-consuming part of my old newsletter was selecting, formatting, and uploading the images. That’s the kind of thing I just don’t have time for these days, but in this Easter season it’s good to look at some paintings by Arcabas.
The blog lately has been mainly devoted to quotations – I have some larger pieces in the works but they may take a while to be ready. The end of the term is at our throats and we are busy people. “We” being teachers.
I have had four fairly substantial essays come out in the past few weeks – which gives an erroneous sense of my productivity. I didn’t write them all at the same time!
First came “Injured Parties” in The Hedgehog Review, in which I try to think in new and helpful ways about harmful speech. (Paywalled – but why not subscribe?)
Then “Recovering Piety” in Comment – about a neglected yet necessary virtue.
Then “Something Happened By Us” in The New Atlantis, my first attempt at a demonology.
I’ve been reading Gary Giddins’s biography of Bing Crosby, and it’s really remarkable to learn how this one singer – later the squarest of the square, Mr. Norm Normcore – totally changed the course of music:
Crosby was the first white vocalist to appreciate and assimilate the genius of Louis Armstrong: his rhythm, his emotion, his comedy, and his spontaneity. Louis and Bing recorded their first important vocals, respectively, in 1926 (“Heebie Jeebies”) and 1927 (“Muddy Water”) and were the only singers of that era still thriving at the times of their deaths, in the 1970s. When Crosby came of age, most successful male singers were effeminate tenors and recording artists were encouraged to be bland, the better to sell sheet music. The term pop singer didn’t exist; it was coined in large measure to describe a breed he invented. Bing perfected the use of the microphone, which transfigured concerts, records, radio, movies — even the nature of social intercourse. As vocal styles became more intimate and talking pictures replaced pantomime, private discourse itself grew more casual and provocative. […]
He was, first and foremost, a masterly, innovative musician — an untrained vocalist of natural charm and robust power with impeccable instincts about phrasing and tempo. He pared away the rococo mannerisms of bygone theatrical styles in favor of the clean melodic line. Lyricists thought him a godsend because he not only articulated words but also underscored their meaning. Crosby, who never learned to read music and could play no instrument except rudimentary drums, had an apparently photographic and audiographic memory. He had only to hear a song to know it.
Finally: I got around to offering memberships at my Buy Me a Coffee page.