I met Win (Winfield? Winfred? Never found out) at the Dover, DE, YMCA fitness center many years ago. He was in his 80’s at the time and has since passed away.
Win was an interesting fellow. A retired OB-GYN who had delivered hundreds of babies to Dover area parents, he was also a learned classical musician who played the violin. He and a close friend founded the Dover Symphony Orchestra and played in it.
Win was an atheist. We had some penetrating theological discussions, though, comparing notes on our views on the Bible and whether it was really necessary to be forgiven for our sins (since he didn’t believe he ever committed any sins). I must admit – I do enjoy these kinds of connections. Our conversations were always cordial. We were willing to start with admitting that we disagreed, and then we would pursue our respective paths to share with each other, not so much to try to change the other person (Win didn’t change my beliefs, nor did I change his), but we gave each other something to think about when all was said and done.
As interesting as that aspect of our friendship was, I have to wonder just how far we would have gotten discussing music. My guess is, not far. For one thing, I’m about as musically illiterate as they come when discussing classical music (I mean the “longhair” kind of classical music: Haydn, Beethoven, Bach – that crowd, not “classics” like songs from the 60’s and 70’s). Understand, I like to listen to classical music simply because it’s beautiful. I can appreciate the movements and the feel and the tempo changes. I’ve just never studied that genre to know exactly what’s going on and what makes it so masterful.
So then my mind starts playing games. Just as I don’t understand classical music (Win’s forte), I’m sure that he would never even be interested in spending time with the music that was popular when I was a teen-ager – my forte (if I have one). So I ask myself, where would I start to try to get Win into popular music? Where in the realm of pop music are there compositions that have an orchestral sound? I remember the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” (and other music by that group). Starting there I would then introduce other pieces that might not have such a full, robust sound but would still employ some of the instruments that are standard in an orchestra: strings and brass (“Bridge over Troubled Water,” maybe. I apologize for not being prepared to name more of them right now. Perhaps as I listen to the music in my collection I’ll hear some examples and add them later on). But the process would be just that – each step bringing Win further away from full classical music into contemporary “classic” music.
Then as I gradually progress thru each kind of music, moving from the most “serious” kind of popular music to the less sophisticated, I ponder whether I could ever bring Win all the way to appreciate the blatantly absurd offerings of that era: “Surfin’ Bird,” “Hound Dog,” “I’m a Nut,” etc. (How come I can come up with those examples with no trouble, but can’t remember more of the “heavier” music of that time? Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?) If I were ever successful in accomplishing that, then I would have managed to bring him further along than even I am myself, since I consider The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” to be about the most ridiculous piece of non-music ever recorded.
Ponderings. That’s all this is. One “what if” after another. I picture myself, CD collection at hand, playing songs in the pre-selected order I had chosen, and pointing out to Win what I consider to be the compositional strengths of each one: the chord changes here and there, the harmony in that line, the surprising elide from major to minor key, and so on. Of course, with his symphonic background, he would probably point out that, compared to So-and-So’s “Prelude in E Minor” or whatever, we were still listening to nothing more than child’s play. But that’s OK. It would have been a fun exercise and another opportunity to tighten the bonds of friendship.