Monday, November 10, 2014

Musical Cravings

In reading the latest post, you might have noticed that I'm pretty fond of dark chocolate. I despise milk chocolate with all the scorn that can reasonably be spent on a mere edible trifle. I laugh in contempt when I see so-called "dark chocolate" with a cocoa content of only 40%. I'm not interested in extra flavorings and other stuff added into the bar. My favorite dessert is pure delicious 85% chocolate - preferably the Moser Roth variety from Aldi's. :)

So far, I haven't described anything extraordinary - many people of discerning taste (and, no doubt, many without) have the same preferences in regards to chocolate varieties. However, I am also one of a rather smaller set of people who likes chocolate to be so dark that it is actually hard to find it dark enough. For example, I have been known on numerous occasions to eat cocoa powder directly off a spoon without anything else added. (Disclaimer: for your safety, eat plain cocoa powder in small amounts and only while holding your breath.) Sometimes, though, even the cocoa powder doesn't seem dark enough. This is why I was so glad to see a new seasonal product at Aldi's for the upcoming holiday season: bars of 100% cocoa bakers' chocolate! It's great stuff, though definitely an acquired taste. Sometimes it tastes like bitter dirt, and other times it tastes precisely like the 85% used to. (The thing is that you never quite know which it will be... until afterwards.)

Is there a point to all this? Of course there is. I always have a point by the end of the post. Keep reading, we're almost to the music part.
The point here is that I, along with any number of other people, enjoy a type of dessert (chocolate). I have a strong preference for a certain variety of this dessert (dark chocolate). My preference is carried to an extreme level, to the point where it is difficult to get the product to match the preference in intensity. Keep all this in the back of your mind, as I'll be coming back to it at the end of this post.

It was Thursday afternoon, October 30th of this year. I was pleasantly placed in my seat at band rehearsal, with my brothers and several friends seated beside and in front of me, our two excellent band directors opposite us, numerous binders full of lead sheets opened to various places, and a banjo beside or in the hands of everyone present. Truly, it was an idyllic situation to find one's self in, and one that I am blessed to be part of on a weekly basis!

It was towards the end of our rehearsal - indeed, just before the very last song. We had worked on Dueling Banjos for some time, and had played a portion of and talked at length over Temptation Rag. Having established the main points to work on over the next week, we enjoyed member choice for the remainder of the rehearsal, playing favorite songs such as Michelle, The Molly Andrew, Redwing, the Armed Forces Medley, and Mysterious Mose. Due to time constraints, this last was to be the final song of the rehearsal. The minutes leading up to playing Mysterious Mose are what I'd like to type about now.

To be quite honest, I was feeling strangely dissatisfied at this particular moment. To be sure, I liked the seven songs of the day well enough, but... something seemed to be missing... I myself was missing something, though without knowing quite what it was... and the absence the important yet elusive element was leaving me with a feeling of profound melancholy.

Gradually I noticed that I would really like to hear a minor song right then. This thought was immediately followed by the remembrance that we had already spent upwards of twenty minutes on Temptation Rag, which should have taken care of this adequately - the tune alternates between C minor and Eb Major, but we had only been playing the introductory minor portions. Also, we had been rooted in minor for much of Michelle, played many minor chords in The Molly Andrew, and were preparing to play Mysterious Mose - with all this, one would think there wouldn't be a need for me to hear another minor piece. But there was. None of these songs were minor enough. Indeed, the thought struck me that, if I were to pick a song to play just then, there was not a single song in the band book that would be minor enough for me at that moment. (Havah Nagilah, which, ironically, is not technically in a minor key, would have come closest to what I wanted to hear; however, even that would not have quite done it.)

The worst of it was that, even as I let my mind wander over all my mental music files, I could not come up with a single song that actually would fill the void. I could not identify a piece that was fully saturated with the absolute minor-ness I so desired. It was horrible, feeling a definite need to hear a particular something, firmly believing that it did exist, but being unable to catch quite what it was.

In a desperate attempt to fill at least part of the void, I began playing the melody of The Zither Man quietly to myself. I first heard this tune at English Jam almost exactly a year ago, and immediately liked it. The rhythm is certainly not a standard 4/4, the chords are minor for much of the time, and the melody has a certain quality to it that is just about impossible for me to explain... especially as I remember it from Mrs. Edwards' playing, with that particular "ickth" of the bow on the string in a solid accent, and Mr. Green taking up a large hand drum with which to reinforce the pulsing rhythm... This little playing of mine at band was nothing like the music described here. It was merely a subdued melody line on three banjo strings, being played as an auditory outline for my mind to fill in in an attempt to satisfy this sudden craving for true minor-ness. It was a poor substitute. Still, it was better than nothing... and I truly could think of nothing better at the time.

My outline of a melody was as short-lived as it was ineffective. I glanced upwards briefly at the end of the A1, and noticed with some surprise that Mr. Joe appeared to be watching me. I returned my gaze to the banjo neck, willing my fingers to move, as it were, and tried to play less audibly, thinking that perhaps I had been too loud in spite of my intent to play only to myself. A split-second of reconsideration later I realized that, oh, he had been looking towards me because I was supposed to be doing the song intro! Another quick glance upwards confirmed this realization through a slight nod from Mr. Joe; I broke off mid-line in the A2 and set my fingers as quickly as possible into the Dm-5 position. Thankfully, the Mysterious Mose intro is fairly simple to do, so I had an easy return to reality after having been oblivious to the remainder of the room for those few moments.

Altogether, this little scene made for an interesting experience. It's certainly amusing to look back on afterwards! From all outward appearances, I may well have been zoned out, in a different world, not paying an ounce of attention. However, having forgotten that I had the intro for this particular song, I was merely waiting for the room to quiet down and for someone to begin playing - and, while waiting, was attempting to relieve a most pressing need for a minor melody to hear. It's pretty funny, when you think about it. :]

It took a few hours, but later that evening I finally remembered a recording that would have filled this void if I had thought of and had access to it at the time - the equivalent of bakers' chocolate, if you will. The Mannheim Steamroller album Christmas 1984, track 10, which is the second version of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen on the CD. The strong beat, the powerful chords, the deep piano notes, the stirring violins, the excellent use of the horns, and most of all the magnificent minor-ness... love it.

Now to tie this in with the beginning paragraphs: I, along with any number of other people, enjoy music. I have a strong preference for a certain variety of music, namely, minor melodies. My preference is carried to an extreme level, such that sometimes it is difficult to find music that is minor enough to satisfy me.

And now the question is: have you experienced anything of this sort before? Primarily I'm asking about the need to hear minor music, though if you can relate to the liking for super-dark chocolate that's great too (and you should read the footnote* at the end of this post). Is there anyone else who sometimes suddenly feels a consuming desire to listen to something in a minor key? If so, which songs do you gravitate towards? Do you listen to recordings, or play them yourself? Comments are welcomed!

*If you can somehow understand why someone would actually want to eat cocoa powder and/or bakers' chocolate, you may be magnesium deficient like I am. We know of a good source of magnesium taurate supplement capsules to help with that if you're interested. :]


Christian said...

I understand about the cocoa thing, you are trying to choke people, trust me, it works.

Zoë said...

All too well. You did see the disclaimer, right?

Christian said...

I am dead, because I just tried your Goofus idea smart pants

Christian said...

you made up the word minor-ness


Zoë said...

{cracking up right now}

I can make up words if I want to! No need for you to get all frumious about it... ;P I tried typing it as "minorness", but Blogger underlined it as a misspelling (and it doesn't look good like that anyway).

Q said...

Perhaps you've just become more trendy than you realize: .... If you want, you can view the original article at around 12 dollars.

For an interesting overview into musical moods (fugues?) see Andrew Pudewa's article at :

And if you think that maybe music can save the world, like Beethoven or Suzuki, then see .

Q said...

Also: a favorite of mine is
You'll have to endure 12 seconds of commercial, but I think it's worth it.
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by JSB (Minor is in the very name, so it has to be very Minor, correct?!)

For something very different, see (hint: Toccata played on stemware)

Zoë said...

Perhaps - definitely more popular, if the sudden increase in comments is any indication!

Thank you for the article links! I especially like the one by Andrew Pudewa.

The videos you included are phenomenal! The organ recording is... amazing. Surely it would be still more impressive to hear while actually standing in an elaborate cathedral such as the one pictured. That is one intricate room. And the video of the glass harp is simply mesmerizing. It somehow looks unreal... like those sounds couldn't be produced by merely touching the tops of the glasses. The skeptical side of me wishes very much to see it in person. (Well, as does the musical side... but that's a given.)