An expression not worth defending: Background music

An expression not worth defending: Background music

Since I’ve had some dental work recently, I’ve had to be very careful about every sound coming out of my mouth. Some sounds will hurt, so I want to minimize that.

That has meant something very unusual for me: avoiding music. I don’t want to sing along and hurt my jaw, or try to whistle and get something reverberating in the wrong place. This may actually break me of my whistling habit. (You’re welcome.) Even my cello has been uncharacteristically silent until today. (Y0u’re welcome, neighbors.)

But the comparative quiet has made me realize how much music just keeps playing in my brain — a longtime comfort when I’m not feeling my best. I have learned a lot of music in my life, and committing it to memory (the British term for what we call memorizing in the U.S.) is often a lifetime commitment.

Maybe that’s why I’ve had it with the expression “background music” and the too-frequent fact of it.

I was raised to listen to music — not just taught by my parents, but in church and in school, in simple classes long before I started lessons. Music is not meant to just cover up the noise of people talking, it is meant to be savored.

I see so many performers shoved into the background — or playing on amplified instruments over conversations that get louder and louder. If my cello and I ever got into that sort of mess, I would be extremely tempted to stop and say “I’ll wait until you can listen,” or, in short, “Shut up!”

(One of my favorite Scots words, wheesht, provides an interesting whooshing to go along with it. As regular readers may have picked up from other posts, it’s the equivalent of “Shut up!”)

Music takes a great deal of effort to learn, as well as to produce. Talking over it, pushing into the background, is insulting to the player or singer and his efforts. Music should be the foreground, not the background!

Sit back, listen and relax. You may learn something that will stick with you for years.

Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.

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  • One could look up the origin of "earworm" (which I had confused with an "earwig").
    I need background music, if nothing else to drown out my upstairs neighbor's air conditional rumbling my ceiling.
    On the other hand, I'm about 40 years too old to recognize much of any current background music, especially if the singer does not enunciate.

  • Oh, I need music, too, Jack -- but I get very distracted by it and concentrate on it. The other things are the background.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    On most radio, I can't concentrate. Again, especially if the singer does not enunciate.

  • In reply to jack:

    Our friend Aquinas wired is a good influence on you, Jack.

  • Hi Margaret, thank you for inviting us to SAVOR music, again. There are so many sounds coming at us: commercial advertising jingles, program theme songs, waiting-room "muzak," and "touch screen" instant access to recorded music from anyplace in the world...! It is overwhelming. Today I am going to listen to some music while remembering your words: "Music takes a great deal of effort to learn, as well as to produce."

  • In reply to folkloric:

    You honor me, my friend. Thank you.

  • P.S. Heal well, and soon!

  • In reply to folkloric:

    Thank you. Healing continues, and it will be a good chance to change some eating habits that needed work.

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