Classical Music and Me · 5 February 2011

I do not listen to music much when I drive to work. As a matter of fact, I do not listen to anything because I thought the speakers in my truck were dead. When I turned on the radio the other day, I was just checking it out to see whether I could finish listening to an audio book I checked out from the library. I pushed one of the station buttons to see if I could get more that the crackle I heard upon turning on the radio. To my surprise, the speakers worked! The music playing on Classic King FM was the Overture from the opera, The Barber of Seville. As I heard the strings play a familiar tune, all I could think of was Bugs Bunny massaging Elmer Fudd’s head with his feet. I laughed and in my head and I started to compose this piece about kids and classical music.

I always used to think that I started to like classical music when I was in college. It was nice to study with the music on. There were no words unless it was opera, but if it was opera, the words were in Italian or German, neither of which language I understood. So I could study to classical music without the fear of losing my train of thought when I started to sing along. In reality, my exposure to and appreciation of classical music started long before I ever sat in a college dorm room studying.

Like many people my age, I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons. Those cartoons often had classical music playing in the background. Or even as the main audio of the show. If I remember correctly, the show where Bugs Bunny massages Elmer Fudd’s head with his feet has little audio except the Overture from The Barber of Seville. It is clever how Bugs Bunny’s massaging toes move to the strings playing. While it is obvious that I associate the music with the cartoon rather than the real opera, I still appreciate the music. Maybe more so because I have great memories of the song associated with the images in my head.

That day in the truck, I still had images of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in my head when I heard the announcer say the name of the song and where it came from. When I heard “The Barber of Seville,” I immediately had another video clip come into my head. That clip was from watching Our Gang on Saturday morning TV as a kid. Which of course means that it was of Alfalfa singing, “I’m the barber of Seville… Figaro, Figaro, Figaro.”

I never really realized how much classical music was in my brain. Especially as soundtracks of cartoons and TV shows. But in my mind, I still see and hear a certain Gilligan’s Island episode whenever anybody quotes the Shakespearean line, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” I still see and hear the cartoon interpretation of Peter and the Wolf when I hear French horns. And I still see Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and Alfalfa when I think of The Barber of Seville. These are surely not how the great masters who wrote those works of art imaged their creations would be remembered, however, that those pieces are still played and remembered in many forms is still a tribute to their greatness.

I wish that I had something profound to say about classical music and kids. I wish I could definitively say that listening to classical music makes kids smarter or more obedient or calms them down. But I am no expert on music or child psychology. I am just a person who appreciates classical music in all its forms. One day I am going to see a live production of The Barber of Seville. I just hope when I hear the songs of the opera and see the show, I do laugh inappropriately when I see video clips in my head of Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and Alfalfa.

© 2011 Michael T. Miyoshi

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