This Explains Everything, Jim Used To Play Drums

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

People who pretend to be intellectuals annoy me. They are the snobs who praise Mozart, Chopin and Rachmaninoff endlessly but have never even seen any of their paintings. (I wish I had written that brilliant line. Someone else did and I borrowed it)

I happen to like classical music, there’s nothing strange about that, millions upon millions of people do. I listen to it all the time on Spotify, but I also like jazz. I quite often have one or the other on quietly as background music when I am reading a novel or writing some of my deathless prose – this isn’t some of it by the way.

A funny thing about music, without really noticing it music can, and often does, affect your mood. You don’t notice whatever you are listening to is cheering you up, depressing you, or relaxing you so much you drift off to sleep. When you wake up your book is on the floor and the ice in your drink has melted.

One afternoon I was reading a book by David Baldacci. I like his books because he kills bad people by the thousands. (I don’t think I want to meet David in person, one smart-ass remark and you’re a goner)  For some reason I put the book down thinking I would finish it later. I just felt tired and a bit melancholy. I’m sure you’ve had the feeling, one minute you are as happy as a lark and the next you feel like stepping in front of a train – well maybe not that melancholy, but kind of sad like you were the time your aunt was picked in a police raid and everyone in her rooming house was taken away in the Paddy Wagon. When you saw the raid on the National, you were glad she didn’t wear that much rouge and lipstick the time she came to your house for Christmas dinner.

I didn’t know what changed my mood that afternoon but then it dawned on me; it was the music softly playing in the background. I had been listening to Rainy Day Jazz. I don’t know which bar one particular number was recorded in but it certainly wasn’t during Happy Hour. I think it was likely 2:00 in the morning when the bartender was loading the regulars into a cab.

On the other hand classical music doesn’t depress you. Depending on the composer and his or her composition, you may feel like doing a spritely dance, sing Hallelujah with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, or ride with the Lone Ranger and Tonto to the stirring William Tell Overture.

Believe it or not I am going somewhere with this.

One afternoon Mary and I were listening to Mozart and Mary asked me if my band played any of his works. What she forgot was the only band I was ever in was the ODCI Bugle Band and we only knew three or four marches and even then only a few bars of each. I hate to say this but we weren’t all that good. I’m sure that confession will upset the few other members still alive, but even they have to admit we weren’t exactly the Musique du Royal 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Armed Forces. To start with we weren’t chosen for our musical ability but the teaching staff used the time-worn system of pulling names out of a Grey and Simcoe Forester’s beret. I believe much the same system is used even today by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra but with a different hat. We had no sheet music and wouldn’t have been able to read it if we did have.

I was a drummer but we didn’t have the modern, crisp-sounding drums that bands march to today, ours were made of some sort of calf-skin stretched over a small rain barrel and tightened with ropes. On a rainy day these precision musical instruments quickly became a mush and the march-step couldn’t be heard by the guy beside you let alone by the five hundred troops tripping and stumbling along beside you.

Cadets were compulsory in the early 50s, after all it was only six or seven years after the Second World War and there was always the chance Stalin might launch a strike force from Centre Island in Toronto and the ODCI Cadet Core would be Canada’s first line of defence. Had we been we’d all be drinking Stolichnaya vodka.

I think I will put on some Mozart and dream about that for a while.

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