The final presidential debate is gone at last. But I keep thinking of phrases (and ideas) I heard again and again:
Disaster... total disaster!
I didn't say that.
(S)he said that.
Did not! Did so!
As I watched the debate, I could hear some answers coming before the questions were finished. (The unpredictable ones? Oh, I'll keep you guessing on that. Sigh.)
The more I think of it, the more the repeated answers feel like recognizing a piece of music I've heard, or played, dozens of times.
Try this: What comes after "O'er the land of the free" in the national anthem? (Did I even need to mention the national anthem?)
Repetition makes a message stick -- not only in music, but in political speech. Candidates on both sides and all levels are aware of this, just as aware as teachers of music and other subjects.
When I'm trying to learn to recite something, I practice it again and again, even reading it to my mirror. I work on pieces I want to play on my cello by listening first, if I can get a recording, or by simply trying over and over again.
On the other hand, when I have practiced something so well I know it thoroughly, I can go for months without playing or reciting it, but when I need it, it's there. In the case of playing cello, it's at my fingertips.
The candidates know that repetition works, or they wouldn't be using it so much. They're drumming it into our minds, to change the musical metaphor a bit.
So how did we get into such a mess?
You do remember the primary elections, don't you?
That's when the candidates were testing how they sounded, practicing their stump speeches on new audiences. If we weren't paying attention yet because we didn't like to listen to "rehearsals for the real thing," this is the result: the two least-liked major candidates in U.S. history.
It looks to me like the next time around, the parties should put together a voter awareness drive to drum up interest in the primaries.
Maybe musical imagery would help: Be the first on your block to pick out a candidate! See the whole cast in rehearsal!
Rehearsal for what? We don't know yet, but help find out!
Next time, U.S.A., let's do better than this mess.