The shrouds of music

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It was 7am and I glanced at the temperature; 48 degrees, a pleasant setting for a morning run through the neighborhood. As I huffed up the biggest hill the voice of opera singer Anna Moffo, singing act III of Verdi's La Traviata powered me up the hill. What a glorious tune and so well performed. It wasn't until she begins to sob near the end of the song that I realized it must be sad. Until that moment I was convinced it was a song of inspiration. Later when I looked at the libretto I understood she's dying of TB, something not unexpected in this genre of Italian soap operas put to music. And I wonder if Verdi was working hard at expressing his actor's grief or was he using the soap opera, so popular in its day, as the vehicle of acceptance for what is a great tune, regardless of intent? I ask the same question of a modern day composer, like Karl Sandberg (Max Martin), Swedish author of another great piece of music, Baby one more time, first popularized by Britney Spears. When you listen to Spear's version of the song it's uninspired and over produced as much of her music is. But this simple tune works for this singer and his guitar. I am not comparing the work of Verdi's masterpiece to that of Sandberg's, but both are simple tunes with soul dressed in very different shrouds. Verdi's used the classic Italian soap opera to gain acceptance and Sandberg's the dance genre, yet I am convinced both can work well outside their casings. Music is an emotional generator that touches us in ways hard to quantify, yet easy to express, regardless of the situation it is presented in.
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Paul McGowan

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