Let me root, root, root for…SOMEONE!!

Posted on August 18, 2010

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This past Sunday I went to a Rockies game. The game itself was great, but I’ve gotta say…the Rockies had some pathetic fans in their sold-out house.

While I spent 8 innings trying to encourage excitement and enthusiasm out of all those around me on a potentially historic occasion (Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez was going for a franchise record 18th win), no one seemed to care. I’ve read articles about what it was like at Fenway Park when Pedro Martinez was pitching in his prime, and I went to the Rockies game on Sunday expecting to share in a similar experience.

Needless to say, I experienced nothing of the sort. Apparently Rockies fans didn’t get the memo about how to support a historically good pitcher in a historically impressive season.

Then, this happened (after Ubaldo was out of the game): Brewers 3, Rockies 5, top of the ninth, two outs. Suddenly, like good little jumbo-tron watchers, the “fans” rose to their feet, providing unexpected proof that they were in fact alive. Everyone was reacting to each pitch with great energy. Of course, Rockies closer Huston Street proceeded to load the bases, Clint Barmes missed a wind-blown infield fly that would have ended the game, and the score ended up tied 5-5. All that cheering must have messed with their heads.

So you’d think that with the game now in jeopardy and the Rockies needing some encouragement after shooting themselves in the foot, that the crowd would continue cheering them on. Right?

Nope. In an act of sheer shamelessness, they sat down.

I couldn’t believe it. First they wouldn’t cheer for history, and now they won’t cheer for their team when the game is on the line. Surely once the top-half of the ninth finally ended and the Rockies got up to bat, the crowd would respond again.

Nope.

Thankfully for the Rockies and their fans, outfielder Dexter Fowler’s hustle in the bottom of the ninth not only allowed him to turn a single into a double, but to score from second on a base hit by Tulo, ending the game in walk-off fashion. The fans seemed to be in favor of this outcome, but relatively speaking, it had to have been to be the worst crowd celebration of a walk-off hit in MLB history.

They were probably just upset that they missed free tacos by one run.

I was so angry. It was a good game, and the only time people collectively cheered like they cared was when they thought they thought the game was about to be over, and when they were told to by eletronic boards around the park.

But then I thought to myself: how often to we do this in life? Probably too often. We tune into things to see how they end, we show up late to concerts to avoid the opening act, we go to the bathroom when the artists on stage start the set of their new stuff.

Why? How much more would those fans have enjoyed that game if they cared for the other 26 outs with the same passion? If someone paid $30 for their ticket to that game, they got $1.11-worth of the baseball experience they could have had (if my math is right). In this economy, that’s a lousy value.

This kind of “wake me up when it’s (almost) over” mentality can infect so much of how we experience life if we aren’t careful (even the things we really like). It can affect how we read. It can affect the way we express ourselves. And of course it can, and does, affect the way we listen to music.

If it’s short and simple (one out of a baseball game), we sign up willingly, for better or worse. If it’s long and more complex (an entire game), we might sign up, but we also might not really invest a consistent level of energy into the complexity and length of it all. It’s not that we aren’t capable- it’s just that we pick and choose our moments when it’s ok to be complex. When we read, we can move seamlessly between the simple and the complex because we’ve been reading more and more challenging chapter books for enjoyment (or if you’re like me, against your will) since we were in the 3rd grade. We do the same with movies. When it comes to music however, we all know how to listen to the 3-5 minute song on the radio when we’re in the car or listening to the iPod, and we know how to grit our teeth and listen to a song that’s not our favorite because we hold out hope that the next song will be one that we like, but a lot of us have been listening to more and more complex music that lasts for longer than five minutes (or 3 hours, like a baseball game) since…well…never. So when we’re asked to move seamlessly between the two, or to just get a taste of the complex, we don’t know how to. We’ve never been taught.

But we love snippets of it. For example, we love the famous melodies from say, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture where the canons are blasting, but we can’t bear to listen to the stuff that comes before it. We have no use for it. So we cut and paste.

I love me some canons too, but the 1812 Overture in its entirety (no complete Youtube clips- here’s part 1 and part 2) is such a great piece, and most people never hear the whole thing (and it’s not even that long). And when they do hear it, my guess is that more often than not, they’re not really listening until the canons come out- the musical equivalent waiting until there’s two outs in bottom of the ninth inning of a baseball game to give a crap.

The 1812 Overture has more than one great melody, and more than one great moment. The piece actually starts with the same hymn melody that’s used during the canon part, but it’s soft and prayerful, and it’s played by some of the lower stringed instruments instead of everyone and their mom plus uber loud brass (the melody is from a Slavic hymn, chosen by Tchaikovsky to represent the prayers of the Russians before the French invasion). Then, when you actually hear the canons in their proper context- after the prayers, after the strife, after the French invasion and the Russian army’s response, after the Russian folk music- it’s even more exciting. Permitting the shooting off of weapons of mass destruction out of context without the escalating tit-for-tat that eventually becomes warfare is…well…very Kim Jong-il. You don’t want to be like Kim Jong-il, do you? Good. I didn’t think so.

Now that I’ve probably offended someone, I’ll bow out for the week. In review, don’t listen to music or live your life like the Rockies fans did on Sunday. Enjoy each inning, each at-bat, each pitch- for better or for worse- and you’ll have no regrets.

Music I DARE You to Listen To

If you’re out there and there’s nothing you love more than a great novel, there’s no reason you couldn’t feel the same way about what we call a “major (a.k.a. freaking long) work” of classical music. If you don’t feel that way about major works, it’s probably because of one of three reasons:

1. You haven’t found a piece of music that you can connect to

2. You haven’t had enough practice listening (the stamina issue)

3. You’ve spent hours and hours listening to classical music, and you’ve found that it just doesn’t do it for you (I suppose this is possible, but if you’ve literally listened to say, over 75 hours of classical music by choice and you’re still a hater, I’d like to buy you a drink for your efforts.)

Listen intentionally to this music over the next week (including the 1812, if you never have). Maybe you’ll find something you can connect with. Don’t watch the gyrating conductors. You don’t increase your listening stamina that way. Just listen.

Dare: Rhapsody in Blue, George Gershwin. Another famous piece that most people only hear 30 seconds of in airline commercials, but is such an a great piece in its entirety. Reminds me of Tom & Jerry cartoons sometimes. Or of course, the second Fantasia. Recordings vary greatly, prompting famous musician/conductor/conducting critic Gunther Schuller to recently say, “No more famous work has been more mishandled, bowdlerised, dismembered and misinterpreted.” For that reason, I’m giving you a link to a very old recording- one from Gershwin’s time. In fact, Gershwin himself is on the piano. Schuller is right- newer recordings of this work sound nothing like the link I’m giving you. Weird.

Double dare: New World Symphony, Antonin Dvorak. For the first time ever, An Authentic Cadence is asking you to listen to a major work- in this case, a symphony- in its entirety. If you’ve never listened to a full symphony before, this is a great one to start with. Yes, the “New World” is America. More on this another time. Lots of famous moments, but I want to encourage you to listen intentionally to the whole thing if you never have before. Beautiful softs, exciting louds, and everything in between. It’s four movements, and some of the movements are cut into more than one link like the 1812 was:

Mvt. 1

Mvt. 2, part 1

Mvt. 2, Part 2

Mvt. 3

Mvt. 4

And I must say: that’s an extraordinary mullet on that Irishman.

Physical challenge: Symphony No. 3, Mvt. 2– Henryk Górecki

This may be as close as I ever come to guaranteeing that you’ll like one of my physical challenge recommendations.I put this in the physical challenge category because it’s by a Polish composer you’ve probably never heard of, so you’ll probably be skeptical. This piece is so beautiful and so accessible, but many of you will be sad about what I’m about to tell you: the words that you hear the soprano singing (in Polish) were taken from an inscription made by an 18-year-old girl inside of a Gestapo jail cell. This second of three so-called “Sorrowful Songs” in this symphony is a prayer offered in the midst of suffering. The words can be found here. If this is what our prayers sound like to God- especially in tough times- I now know why he likes them so much. It moves incredibly slowly, but enjoy that. Let time stop. Some of the early parts of this piece sound a little dark (understandably so), but don’t you dare turn it off. Let it evolve and grow and do what it wants to do. Stick with it.

If you like this, I suggest you buy the recording on iTunes. Just this movement is only $0.99 (crazy). Ten bucks for the full symphony.

You stay classy, Planet Earth. Thanks for having the stamina to read through this really long post. See you next Wednesday.

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Posted in: Music, Sports