“I look at the world through my ears.”

October 11, 2009 at 4:08 pm (By Amba)

See, Theobald Boehm is here even when he isn’t here:

When there’s some high drama, political or otherwise, I think of it in terms of opera. When some public figure is speaking, I’m thinking what musical instrument he or she reminds me of. When there is news of something involving a group of people, from Congress to the Tour de France, I’m always thinking of what kind of orchestra or other musical group they would be.

Weird.

Read on, and you’ll see — I should say, hear — Theo illustrate his statement that “the overtone series is music’s rainbow.”  You’ll also meet Hot Lips, a sexy jazz alphornist (“Riiiiiicolaaa!!”) whose lung power is far more impressive than the purported talent of the protagonist of Deep Throat.  (I know:  sad story, not funny.  Turns out alphorns, too, are less of a joke than you thought.)

Theo’s blog A Quiet Evening is an oasis in an alkali desert of political and religious recrimination.  And he’s vowed to keep it that way.

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19 Comments

  1. Sissy Willis said,

    Not exactly opera — or is it? — but President Obama’s much vaunted “soaring rhetoric” has always rung in MY ears as a close approximation of the bloviating,
    “Four score . . .” Mayor Shin in “The Music Man.” “It’s no laughing matter”:

    http://sisu.typepad.com/sisu/2009/05/how-scary-is-it-that-the-comedy-mask-that-is-president-obamas-public-face-has-the-nations-elites-in-thrall-we-keep-being-ha.html

  2. Randy said,

    While I’m not as usually impressed as many by Obama’s rhetorical skills, it would never occur to me to compare them to those of Mayor Shinn.

  3. Sissy Willis said,

    Randy: Thanks for spelling correction. Two n’s in Mayor Shinn. But as far as Obama’s rhetorical skills, whah?

  4. Theo Boehm said,

    Thanks, amba. I really appreciate the mention. It’s a real honor coming from you.

    Also, I’m not sure about the opera in Obama, either. There might be one, but I can’t think of an opera character or role with his particularly 21st-century mix of characteristics.

    To me, Obama sounds like a slightly out-of-tune bassoon played by a high schooler, and NOT the effect of some Sea God speaking that a good professional can convey, playing, say, the Mozart concerto.

  5. Sissy Willis said,

    Disagree re “his particularly 21st-century mix of characteristics.” Plus ca change. Politics as usual, this time Chicago thuggery at a national level.

  6. trooper york said,

    Theo has a great blog!

    A little high brow for me but still required reading.

    That’s why he should switch to the avatar with the cod piece. Just sayn’

  7. amba12 said,

    I expect it would raise his readership.

  8. Melinda said,

    To me, Obama’s speeches remind me of Nelson Riddle’s orchestra vamping until Frank would enter and start singing. Except Frank’s dead, and the band leader’s going, “uh-oh…Keep vamping.”

  9. Theo Boehm said,

    LOL, Melinda!!

  10. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Theo Boehm: Also, I’m not sure about the opera in Obama, either. There might be one, but I can’t think of an opera character or role with his particularly 21st-century mix of characteristics.

    I think Obama is the Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes. Interesting the first time you hear it, progressively more boring the longer it continues, or the more times it’s repeated. It also has the same emotional impact as one of his normal speeches (“I can’t believe I listened to this *again* I could have been reading a book!). Oh, and some people think each is brilliant.

  11. amba12 said,

    That in turn reminds me of the Boston Typewriter Orchestra,

  12. Rod said,

    “Also, I’m not sure about the opera in Obama, either. There might be one, but I can’t think of an opera character or role with his particularly 21st-century mix of characteristics.”

    Consider playing a tape of “Nixon in China” in reverse.

  13. amba12 said,

    Wow, that is extremely thought-provoking!!

  14. Theo Boehm said,

    Sissy Willis: I agree about basic Chicago thuggery. I have (now deceased) relatives who were gangsters and political hacks in St. Louis, so I have a feel for the style, at least. What is 21st century about Obama is exactly his postmodern style. No cigars and slicked-back hair. Puhleez! That went out in the ’50’s and been a joke for even longer. No, Obama is infinitely smoother. Throw in everything else about him, and you have something new & exciting from the costume dept. at the Same-Old Same-Old Opera Co.

    Jason: Ah, Ligeti! I’ve been avoiding him my whole life.

    Boston Typewriter Orchestra sounds like a period-instrument group. Are they playing at the Boston Early Music Festival?

    As much as I admire ‘Nixon in China,’ I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with Federal-themed opera. Makes me think of ‘Madame Buttersubsidy.’

  15. amba12 said,

    You guys!! Stop tickling me!

  16. Sissy Willis said,

    “… something new & exciting from the costume dept. at the Same-Old Same-Old Opera Co.” NOW you’re talkin’!

  17. wj said,

    How much of Obama’s reputation comes from the fact that his predecessor was a second year, and particularly unenthusiastic, piano student? One who really would have preferred not to be playing with the orchestra in the first place — but felt family expectations driving him to.

  18. Donna B. said,

    ‘Madame Buttersubsidy’ is cracking me up. Is that a reference or did you come up with it yourself? I admit ignorance. (It’s easier to admit it upfront than have it discovered)

  19. Theo Boehm said,

    Donna, I have to confess it’s not original. I heard it 20 years ago at a reception/party after a recital at the New England Conservatory. James Maddelena, who had sung Nixon in the premier a couple of years earlier, was there. A soprano who I knew a bit, was holding court on one side of the room. Sopranos famously have the reputation of being 5-letter words beginning with “b,” but this one was wickedly funny as well. She said, “Now that James has done Nixon, what role can I get in an opera about the Federal Government? Madame Buttersubsidy?”

    I nearly peed my pants. There were splats of Chardonnay and bits of crab Rangoon all over the floor.

    And she was just getting warmed up.

    I have several others saved in deep reserve from that evening that wild horses could not drag out of me, until, of course, their time comes.

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