Friday, October 28, 2005

In which David is driven to the Rite of Spring by Ravel's Bolero

A few days ago Leslie and I were driving home. The radio came on to the opening flute solo of Ravel's Bolero. I intoned (in my best WFMT-style-stuffy-classical-music-announcer voice) "And now our daily performance of Ravel's Bolero."

Turns out that Bolero improved my experience of driving down California Blvd. in Pasadena, very pleasant. At the end the announcer said (in her best perky-I-used-to-work-on-a-Classic-Rock-station voice) "We get a lot of calls for that."

This reminded me of two times in my distant past when Stravinsky's Rite of Spring became the Perfect Driving Music.

I was on California Highway 1 in Big Sur, the twisty-as-a-television-commercial-for-an-expensive-car highway squeezed between the sea and mountains. As I drove and listened, a storm rolled in. The waves and clouds and wind and music combined perfectly.

The second time I was driving on Chicago's freeway system for the first time, not knowing exactly where I was going. Rush hour. Cars were cutting and swerving, signs were whooshing past. Everything was grey and gloomy. The Rite blended in with the impervious metal and cement of Chicago just as well as it had with the imposing rocks and ocean in Big Sur.

Both trips included a bit of danger. Neither was an easy drive for me. But in spite of environmental differences, the music had a nearly identical effect.

Speaking of Ravel's Bolero - there was an article in the recent Wired magazine about a deaf man who can only hear because of a computerized implant in his brain. He desperately wants to listen to Bolero. The software isn't good at distinguishing pitch so he tries to upgrade the software in his head. I bet it makes you appreciate your own hearing.


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6 comments:

S said...

I recall a conversation or two while riding in RicerCar in which you fervently wished for the day to come when the Rite of Spring would be considered passe. Has that glorious day arrived? If so, is it all that you had hoped it would be? If not, do you still hope it comes? Regardless, would you like to play tennis? And what of the mobile home crisis??

docker said...

RicerCar was my yellow 1974 Chevy Vega, often used to drive to and from graduate school. It's also the car I was in for the two Rites of Spring.

I do remember those two drives vividly. That's because of the power of the music to blend with the surroundings.

But I don't remember wishing the Rite was passe. What were we listening to? Did I mean I hoped it would become "classical music" - as in standard rep? If so, I think that's already happened. Would've been true back in 1976 too.

Wouldn't tennis be difficult to play over the Internet?

S said...

Aren't there 3 comments on your blog?

docker said...

Wouldn't the answer to your question be 'no'?

Anonymous said...

I heard the opening bars of the Rite of Spring as a cellphone ring while walking through the old castle in Prague.

Susan Worland

S said...

I've been told by a friend in the song-writing biz that the top 5 pop tunes on the London charts are, in fact, ringtones and not pop tunes in the conventional sense at all. I'm guessing that 'The Rite' isn't one of them.