Inside looking out: Please don’t rain on my sunshine
I feel sorry for people who feel a need to criticize the beautiful things of artistic creation that are meant to bring us enjoyment. Sometimes I think they look for that one “aha” moment so they can appear smarter than those of us who missed that one bit of imperfection that is in everything created for our delight.
Said with great humility, I have educated myself to achieve a master’s degree, and with all that academic learning behind me, I can honestly say that my teachers taught me how to understand poetry, literature, art, music and nature but never how to “feel” emotion in any one of them.
Recently, the Angel City Choir sang “Africa” on “America’s Got Talent.” When the song was over, my eyes were pushing back tears and I actually applauded from my couch in the living room.
Then I went on Facebook expecting a long list of complimentary posts. There were plenty who praised the performance, but a few people had found fault in what most thought was a brilliant rendition of a popular song. If they feel they’re entitled to offer their negative comments then I then feel entitled to counterpoint some of their remarks.
“I was disappointed in the way the show kept focusing on the judges instead of the performers,” said one post.
Actually, I believe that is a valid point, but is that all you can say? Did you listen to their voices? Looks like you closed your ears and only opened your eyes.
“As a singing professional who’s been in choruses all my life, I didn’t think this was anything special.”
Now wait, I thought our attention was supposed to be about this choir and not about you. Pat yourself on the back for impressing me with your credentials, but no thanks for raining on my sunshine.
Someone wrote, “I couldn’t understand what they were singing.”
OK, I get that. I can tell you the titles of 20 or so songs that I like yet I have little idea what the lyrics are. The beautiful sounds of voices and not knowing the words of a song can still be quite pleasing.
“The only reason this choir did this was for a resurgence in their popularity.”
Well, shame on them. Aren’t all entertainers trying to be popular? To gain the fame, you still have to kill the performance. If this choir was scheduled for a concert around here, I’d go — and contribute to the “resurgence in their popularity.”
“Too much going on. Too many people drowning each other out.”
Next time you can ask the director if each choir member can sing a solo instead of this confusing group effort so as to simplify the performance just for you.
Many of the negative posts were from proclaimed experts in the music field. Their condescension of this choir was a discussion of musical analyses, only relevant to those educated in the technical qualities of vocal performance.
Their academic dissection of the event reminded of the scene in “Dead Poets Society” where the teacher, played by Robin Williams, tells his students to tear out the pages of a text book that explain how poetry should be analyzed.
“We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” He could have added music to his list.
I recall a movie critic describing the pitch in Williams’ voice in that scene as “annoying and stupid” and I had thought that perhaps this critic night have been having a bad day. I can just imagine someone saying that Martin Luther King was overly dramatic when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
An academic analysis of a musical performance is like you telling me that your culinary knowledge has taught you that the sauce and the cheese of a pizza I’m eating don’t complement each other while I’m saying, “Man, this tastes good!”
Now I know there is value in constructive criticism of anything, but if it’s offered to depreciate what fills many people with joy, I think some things are better left unsaid unless they are privately exchanged between the naysayers.
I look at the beauty of the stars at night with great pleasure so don’t sit next to me and tell me that these spiritual lights of the universe are made up of hydrogen and helium gases with extremely high temperatures. You can analyze all night long. I’ll keep staring up into the sky and wonder.
You might take a rose from my garden to a laboratory to discover how it grows in perfectly layered geometric petals. I will be impressed with your newly found knowledge and your need to find answers to scientific questions.
But while you take pride in your wisdom about the geometry of the rose, I will inhale its scintillating fragrance, and while feeling its effects, I’ll go inside and listen to a little Lionel Richie on my iPod.
Rich Strack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.