Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Musical metaphors

With the exception of a post about a dubious advertising campaign that I had to take down in response to a cease and desist order, my blog post that has generated the most comments (and certainly the most ire) is one about my dislike for opera. I like to revisit it occasionally, if only to add accelerant to the flames.

On Sunday I was driving back to sunny Swindon from darkest Southampton and happened to have Classic FM's chart show on, which featured a couple of operatic numbers and it struck me that there was a very useful metaphor to be had for the nature of operating singing when compared with my own favourite singing form, Tudor/Elizabethan/20th Century church music, in the manner of ice cream desserts.

Operatic singing, I would say, is like a visit to Pizza Hut's Ice Cream Factory (R). As well the gooey, sweet icecream, you can pile on the hundreds and thousands and marshmallows and Smarties and sauce to make something that is over-the-top, dramatic and altogether remarkable, if a little predictable. Listening to a piece by Byrd or Palestrina by comparison is like taking on a Heston Blumenthal ice cream. It's a sophisticated taste, and frankly a lot of people probably won't get it. Not only is it subtle but it can shock you by putting things you would never expect together (musically speaking).

The important thing here is that both are, in there own way, appealing. Neither will work for everyone, though more people are likely to get the Ice Cream Factory approach. I'm not saying I'm a convert. But I think I understand the appeal better now. And life would be boring (and not like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates) if we all like the same things.


  1. Indeed life would be boring if we all liked the same things. You have explained why I find opera troublesome.

  2. Ha! You're a brave man to revisit this issue, Brian. Opera lovers tend to be a volatile bunch. And to add some flame...I have always noticed that men are the most likely to become all passionate and emotional over opera. Not women. Do you think it's because men find opera a safe and impersonal place to show their emotions?

  3. Based on my ice cream analogy or metaphor or whatever it is, perhaps it's because men tend to have less sophisticated tastes...