Music Has Charms to Soothe the Savage Beast- or to Rock On

Reflections on Music in Our Lives


Music as Culture, Art, Meditation, and Communication

This blog focused on music somewhat in a posting some months ago, but as America begins to emerge from COVID isolation, this seems a good time for some additional, different reflections. The quote about the charms of music in the title of today’s blog is certainly true – and it has a long history. The wording varies a bit in its historical variations.

Many think Shakespeare is the author. Au, Contraire! It is largely agreed by historians that the author of the version we have heard over the years was 17thCentury poet William Congreve, in a poem published in 1697.

But it goes back much further. The evidence is pretty convincing that he drew the phrase out from the ancient Latin epic poem Pharsalia, written by the Roman poet Lucan. So too is my add on phrase – not only to soothe, but to fire up and rock on.

Suffice it to say we have long recognized the power of music to affect us in profound ways. You are reading this from a guy whose sole instrument is the kazoo; even I get it.

Music in the Age of COVID

Music, as it always has in the past, found new roles and new fans during the COVID pandemic. And technology helped. We went to virtual concerts, large and small. Symposia were held. Lessons were taught; I cannot imagine how many people took up or restarted on an instrument during this year of isolation.

Music sites offered us unlimited playlists and we seemed as a people to use all of them – a lot.

As much as all this helped us out, we missed the old ways. We went to a small local concert last week – the first time we have done such a thing in over a year.

Good safety protocols were in place, and it was outdoors. What a pleasure it was to absorb the work and focus of live musicians and to experience the reaction of others to what we were hearing and sharing. The communal element was most welcome.

So, music seems to work its magic when we are alone and when we are with others.  Powerful stuff.

Favorite Instruments

When we joined the symphony guild here in our hometown, one of the first questions asked of me as a newcomer was asking what my favorite instrument is, and why. I said the French horn. I chose it for its clarity, unique sound, and strength as an instrument.

In truth, I likely also chose it because I NEVER get tired of hearing Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, which features the French horn so beautifully up front. I think it may be the best piece of symphonic music ever written by an American.

Our local symphony has Fanfare on the program in the coming year. You can bet I will be there for that performance. Just in case you have forgotten what a powerful piece of music Fanfare is, click on this video link and enjoy. If you are like me, you probably will click 2-3 times, every time.

But I find a new temptation these days. The cello has presented itself to me in so many ways by so many artists in recent years. I am astonished at the range of music and emotion such an instrument can deliver from the hands of a talented musician.

Yo Yo Ma started the trend in some ways, but so many others have followed, with remarkable diversity and artistry. More on that in a moment.

Cross Overs and Videos

 I have also become quite the fan of cross overs – artists playing WAY outside their normal repertoire, playing with others from different backgrounds, and blending all that in unimaginable ways. Videos bring all that to life for us from all over the world.

 Here is an excellent example of this sort of thing. There is a great two-man group known as 2 Cellos. They hail from Eastern Europe and have been playing publicly for a decade now. Their range is beyond description – and they have fun.

They play the classics beautifully, do pop, theater, rock – you name it. I will provide a link to their web site shortly – check them out, watch a couple of videos.

But for today, allow me to leave you with one of their videos that just cracked me up. It starts as a period piece built around classical music. It morphs into rock, going from Brahms to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.

They have several videos like this. Always, the setup is fun, and the music is excellent. On this one, watch the audience’s faces.  Have fun:

Find out more about 2 Cellos at

One more for a stunning mix of old and new. Cameron Carpenter is a young American artist who came out of rural Pennsylvania to reinvent organ music. He lives in Berlin now, tours the world to sold out crowds.

We have seen him perform live and felt like we vibrated for two days afterward. He also does a full classical repertoire and about everything else imaginable as well. Take a look  and a listen to a short piece.

I Hear You

Sometimes music is the only language we can speak to each other with good results. Let us not forget that. Encourage musicians, patronize the performing arts. And for goodness sake, enjoy yourself.

                         Bill Clontz

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4 replies to Music Has Charms to Soothe the Savage Beast- or to Rock On

  1. I’ve been touting Cameron Carpenter for a long time. The first organist to win a Grammy in many years. Love his smarts and his Chopin’s Revolutionary

    • I don’t think there has been anyone like him since E Power Biggs, many decades ago.

  2. I host a local Classical music radio show and learn so much do to research for my show. Such as the Earth Harp and and the Luray cave organ that plays on stalagmites. I listen to music almost all day. My favorite vocal song is Come Along by the Pentatonics.

    • Yes, another great group. I, too, enjoy Pentatonics very much. Was concerned when they lost a member of the group some time ago, but the new guy fit right in.

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