Monday Musical Moment: I Hate Music!!! (just kidding)

Justin Langham   -  
Happy Monday!
Wow… this weekend was jam packed full of music!
On Saturday, Andreea and I went to see Houston Grand Opera’s new production of Turandot by Puccini, and at the same time, the Houston Symphony was performing Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony No.2, which celebrated our amazing HSO conductor Andres Orasco Estrada’s last performance… what an amazing night of music between two city blocks! Then on Sunday morning, the Fort Bend Boys Choir graced our 11:05 traditional worship service with their beautiful singing, and on Sunday evening, the Missouri City Chamber Singers presented their Spring program, “Songs of Peace” to a wonderful audience in the Chapel of the Resurrection. My musical palate was definitely stimulated this weekend, and I was reminded again that I am grateful, despite its struggles, to live a life submerged in music.
While thinking about what to talk about for today and reflecting on the weekend’s musical offerings, I arrived eventually at one of my favorite pieces by Leonard Bernstein that is as ironic as it is wonderful, Bernstein’s song cycle, “I Hate Music!”
The short song cycle, “I Hate Music: A cycle of Five Kid Songs for Soprano and Piano,” was composed in 1943 and was premiered at the Lenox Public Library in Lenox, Massachusetts by soprano Jennie Tourel with Bernstein accompanying on the piano. The piece was ironically dedicated to Bernstein’s friend and roommate, Edys Merril, who would utter the phrase “I hate music” in response to Bernstein’s constant piano playing and coaching of singers.
Although the material is written in the character of a 10-year-old girl, Bernstein did not want the performers of this piece to be coy with the material. He said, “The natural, unforced sweetness of child expressions can never be successfully gilded; rather will it come through the music in proportion to the dignity and sophisticated understanding of the singer.”
“I Hate Music!,” the third song in the cycle, is composed in three parts. The beginning and ending sections of the piece are in a free spirit where the child says she “hates music” but “likes to sing.” Bernstein brilliantly writes an angular melody that do not lay neatly into a key to portray the careless singing that children often do. The middle section is suddenly quick where the child explains what she thinks music is, including my personal favorite, “Music is a lot of folks in a big dark hall, where they really don’t want to be at all.” After listening to this song, which is only about 75 seconds long, I hope you will take a listen to the whole cycle!
Isn’t it wonderful how a piece called “I Hate Music” can still remind us how much we actually love it?
Have a great week!