Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Turn-of-the-century tunes can be awesome

Dear Muse,

 Is there any decade of music you hate? For me, the answer would seem pretty simple: anything from before 1930. The recordings of music from the 1920s, and particularly the 1900s and 1910s, are ugly. Scratchy, screechy, murmury, tinny, sour, creepy - having these ragtime strains bombard my ears positively makes me cringe.

However, laying my great-grandmother's ashes to rest in her family tomb in New Orleans over Thanksgiving Break gave me food for thought on the subject. She was born in 1905; she grew up with the music I consider "an earache." So she must not have minded it. I tried to wonder whether I could look at such melodies as appreciatively as she - and then I remembered Tintypes.

What is Tintypes? A 1980 musical revue of popular songs from the beginning of the 20th century.  But when the cast belts out those old and forgotten tunes, they seem so awesome. Makes me think,"Hey! Maybe turn-of-the-century music isn't so bad after all!"

Of all the cast members, Lynn Thigpen is the best. Her voice is a wow! She should have been the female protagonist in Purlie; at least her voice would have diminished the overall obnoxious sound of the cast. (This coming from a girl who doesn't mind the children's chorus in Matilda, mind you. I'm very particular in what I choose to dub obnoxious.) By the way, did you know that she was in Tootsie, the movie version of Godspell, and that kids' show Bear in the Big Blue House? I wish she was still living.

The biggest enjoyment of all (for me) is being able to listen to the full musical on a phonograph record. Ironic, isn't it? This is one instance in which I'm grateful that my family owns a record player. (Of course, having a dad who's a history professor who collects old music helps too.)

I can forgive the scratchiness of the record in this case.

Still, if there's one thing I take issue with, it's the musical's pacing. The cast seems so anxious to cram as many songs as possible into the show that they zip from one melody to another, scarcely pausing for breath. (That's why there doesn't seem to be much of a plot.) Heck, Tintypes fits 8 songs into 9 minutes! What other musical does that?! You barely get used to one song before you're thrust into the next! Pay attention, or you'll find yourself struggling to catch up!

I've attached a Youtube video clip from the show so that you can get the gist of what it's like. Although you might not get some of the references they make (such as "airship"), this is like learning history the fun way. And why not? Heaven forbid that people forget the era my great-grandmother lived in! The past isn't meant to be shoved out of your mind so that it can collect dust in a cobwebby corner of the attic. It's necessary to maintain awareness of the faded and long-distant past, and even celebrate it - which is just what Tintypes does.
                                                    'Till next time,

P.S. See how many musical numbers you can count in the video.   ^_^

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