Is that really music?


Every generation seems to ask the one after it the same question: “Is that really music?”

I remember my parents saying Rock ‘n Roll would bring on the end of civilization, and probably curdle the milk in the refrigerator. They said it scared the cat, too.

Before that, it was R&B in the ‘40s, preceded by Swing in the ‘30s, and New Orleans jazz in the 1910s. Go far enough back and you’ll hit Baroque around 1600. Nevertheless, it seems everybody loves some kind of music, no matter what kind it is. So, what is it?

Miriam Webster’s dictionary has a definition that’s almost too stuffy to repeat, but here it is:

“The science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity.”

That’s why almost anything can make some kind of music for somebody. Consider these:

  • Back around 1936, somebody who called herself the Flyin’ Fiddler invented an instrument that made an appearance in the Popular Science Monthly magazine. She strapped a cello to a tuba and called it a “Cello Horn.” The sound made by bowing the strings came out of the tuba. The sound was somewhere between strings and brass, which is hard to imagine sober.
  • Then there’s the Pyrophone Organ, AKA the Fire Organ or the Explosion Organ (seriously). It was powered by combustion, either propane and gasoline. The explosions forced exhaust down the pipes to make (musical?) sounds. Skip the front row seats!
  • And maybe the strangest of all, there’s the Australian-invented, Cross-Grainger Kangaroo-Pouch Tone-Tool. It uses rolls of paper and a series of oscillators to make a sound some people say is like a series of tuned air-raid sirens going off. Try humming that tune.

I guess we all have our favorites, and the music of everyone’s life is unique to each. Henry David Thoreau once famously said,

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

Yet, some music is so great, and performed to match its greatness, that almost everybody is moved and inspired by it. And the performers – the composers, musicians, and vocalists – who create such beautiful music, become loved and admired by everyone.

This week, the Jamestown Gazette’s guest contributing writer, Stephanie McCraw, invites all of our readers to come downtown and enjoy the outstanding music and musicians of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, joining the award-winning Jamestown High School Marching Band and A Cappella Choir in a fund-raising event for the benefit of our remarkable student musicians of Jamestown.

We also promise nobody will play the once infamous Zeus-aphone. It plays music with million-volt lightning shot out of a Tesla coil. The music (?) has a shocking effect, a most terrifying listening experience.

The Buffalo Philharmonic is more inspiring, a not-to-be missed opportunity last seen in Jamestown sometime in the middle of the last century.

Plato said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

Enjoy the performance. And while you’ve got your very own copy of the Jamestown Gazette in your hands just now, enjoy the read, too.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.