Reconsidering Boarding Music

Recently I boarded a plane flight. As I put my carry-on into the overhead bin and settled into my seat, I focused on the music that was playing during the boarding process and found myself wondering who made the music selection . . . and why.

The music–if you can call it that–was a kind of tinkly, tuneless, ethereal background noise. It was the sort of allegedly “soothing” and “relaxing” (but in reality, kind of annoying) music that you would associate with yoga or a massage, rather than boarding a plane. As music goes, it was worse than the kind of generic offerings you hear on an elevator ride.

Why would you choose this kind of music to facilitate the boarding process? Are airlines worried that passengers these days need to be calmed down as they are grabbing their seats? I would think that the opposite is true, and it would be better for all concerned if we jettisoned the dreamy music and went instead with some sounds calculated to encourage boarders to move with a greater sense of urgency and get their butts in their seats.

I’d like to see some experiments done on this. Which music produces the speediest, most efficient boarding process: the tinkly random crap they were broadcasting on my flight, or, say, some selections from the early Beatles, starting with Twist and Shout? Playing Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos might incentivize passengers to move with the clock-like precision conveyed by baroque music. Or if you really want to get people moving, how about the Bee Gees’ Staying Alive and K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s Get Down Tonight? And, just to make it interesting, why not test Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water or Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused, just to see how some heavy metal affects passenger movement?

It’s well past time to get a bit more scientific about airplane boarding music, and to make some selections specifically geared toward the ultimate goal: an on-time departure. Dreamy massage music just doesn’t cut it.

BOOM

Yesterday we drove over to the Brooklin Inn to listen to a performance by BOOM — the Baroque Orchestra of Maine.

480Heidi Powell, on baroque violin, and Max Treitler, on baroque cello, performed two sonatas by Georg Freidrich Handel and two familiar pieces by Archangelo Corelli, and Ms. Powell also performed a beautiful solo piece, the Passacaglia in G minor for solo violin by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, that I had never heard before.  The concert took place in one of the central rooms of the Brooklin Inn with an audience of about 40 people — the kind of intimate, up close and personal setting that was the normal performance venue when baroque music was the prevailing music of the day back in the early 1700s.  It was a wonderful performance of my favorite genre of classical music, which Ms. Powell and Mr. Treitler made even better by providing some interesting commentary to introduce each piece, talking about the differences between baroque instruments and their modern counterparts — and even answering a question from the audience.  I should add that, after the BOOM performance, we had a very fine dinner thanks to the Brooklin Inn kitchen.

It’s pretty cool that this part of Maine has its own baroque orchestra — but then again this area is full of surprises and interesting things to discover, and there are lot of people out there who have a passion for classical music generally and baroque music in particular.  When I thanked Ms. Powell after her performance and asked whether there was a BOOM website where we could make a contribution toward future performances, she said there wasn’t one, but we could send an old-fashioned letter and she’d let us know about future performances via postcards.  It’s an example of the kind of old-school, off-the-grid approach to the modern world that you often find in this area — well-suited to a group that performs vintage music with authentic instruments.

Happy Bachday

Today is Johann Sebastian Bach’s 328th birthday.  He was born on March 21, 1685 in Eisenach, in what is now Germany.  Today, Sirius XM marked the occasion by playing all Bach, all the time, on the Symphony Hall channel, and it made my commutes to and from work delightful indeed.

It isn’t difficult for Sirius to program all Bach for a 24-hour period, because Johann Sebastian was astonishingly prolific.  He wrote hymns, church music, concertos, cello suites, cantatas, and organ music, among other pieces.  He also was an accomplished organist who also played the harpsichord, the violin, and the viola.  His works helped to define the distinctive baroque style of music that prevailed in the early 1700s.  Interestingly, Bach’s works apparently fell out of favor after his death, and his compositions did not become highly regarded until the early 1800s.  Now, of course, he is generally regarded as one of the greatest composers in history, and his music is a staple of every classical radio station around the globe.

I love Bach’s pieces, and my iPod is filled with dozens of his compositions.  His works are so rich and expressive of a mood that it makes me wish I had met him to see whether his personality matched his music.  Bach’s compositions are vast and intricate, but at its core there is a certain radiating peacefulness.  If you’ve had a tough day and want to unwind and calm down, Bach is a good choice.  You can quickly get lost in his complex, intertwining melodies and the serenity that comes from well-ordered music that suggests a well-ordered world.

Like Clockwork

IMG_2887I like clockwork.  We have a bunch of old clocks, pocket watches, and wall clocks in our home, and I treasure every one.

I love the intricacy of the clocks.  I love the brass fittings, the old glass, the differently sized gears, and the precisely calibrated, finely polished pieces of machinery that allow you to accurately account for time if you just keep the clock wound properly.  I imagine the clockmaker and watchmaker sitting at a cluttered desk, wearing some kind of magnifying glasses, scrupulously putting the pieces together and carefully tightening the screws.

Whenever I see an old clock, I think of baroque music.  The intricacy and precision of Bach and Boccherini and Albinoni seem well suited to provide the soundtrack for clockwork.