Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I am watching the long Ken Burns film on jazz - specifically the part about one of America's absolutely top musicians: Louis Armstrong. The narrator mentioned that Armstrong, back in the 1920s, used to blow his audience away by hitting as many as 50 high Cs in a row.

Yikes. I paused the DVD. Fifty trumpet screeches in a row? What Am I Missing?

As though circling down a drain, my memory descended back to the mid-1950s in Eau Claire, when the choral director of that town's Congregational Church, a rather large and imposing man with a deep bass voice, was browbeaten by my mother into auditioning my 8- or 9-year-old self for the youth choir. The imposing fellow took out his little harmonica-shaped pitch-finder, blew a middle C, and followed up by singing that note. Hearing it, a bass note so low it seemed to come from the very depths of the earth, I responded with a squawk as low as my young voice box could produce.

"Middle C" it was not. More like the distressed moo of a cow. I flunked the audition, big time. I sensed my failure then, but my reprieve was only confirmed for sure when my mother never brought up the issue again.

So why do I like music so much? Call me bewitched, bothered and befuddled.

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