In a spirit of full disclosure, I am not a musician, nor have I played one on TV. I’ve never been in a band, either marching or Rock. I've never played an instrument, (chopsticks on the Piano notwithstanding). So, I am not a musician. That having been established, I do like most forms of music, some more than others. I do not consider that noise performed by street thugs and emanating at high volume from every car stereo driven by a teen, to be music so it shall not be discussed further. Like a lot of the readers of this blog, I cut my teeth on the Rock Bands of the ‘70s and being from Texas, I do listen to a bit of Country. My daughter thinks my whole musical repertoire consists of Jimmy Buffett, and truth be told, I do like his songs. (In further spirit of full disclosure, I do not own, nor have ever worn, a coconut bra or grass skirt.)
All of the above genres, with the exception of that which shall not be called music, are listened to by me when I’m in a specific mood. Meaning, there are times, Daughter, when your Dad does not listen to Jimmy Buffett. There is one genre, however, that I will listen to anytime, anywhere, or in any mood, because I know where I will be when it’s done. That genre is classical, and not just any classical music, but typically classical music of a martial nature.
During the summer growing up, the meeting place for kids at Webb AFB was the swimming pool which didn't open until noon. Mom would only allow us to watch TV starting at 10 AM and we had to be out of bed by 8. (Never did figure out whether there was method to what appeared to be madness.) This schedule left a hole in trying to figure out something to do. The family had a Hi Fi Record Cabinet and the folks had a decent selection of albums from the Era, Sinatra, Martin, Como etc. They also had one that I always played. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, but this version had Cannons! I played that every day and, again I am no musician and certainly not an orchestral conductor, but I would wave my hands and conduct that music like a mad man. On the flip side of the album was Beethoven’s “Wellington’s Victory” which not only had cannons, it had muskets. It nearly broke my heart when I dropped the needle on the album one morning and scratched it, ruining it.
Fast Forward 30 some odd years, I’m at the final stage of my Air Force career and am serving time at the Northern Virginia Penitentiary for wayward Fighter Pilots (AKA the Pentagon), and it’s July 4th. We've decided to go watch the fireworks, but we’re going to watch them from the bluffs on the Pentagon side of the river. One of the local FM stations is broadcasting the musical program being conducted by a Marine Orchestra. They will be performing the 1812 Overture, and they brought 105mm Cannons to add to the show. It was phenomenal! Fireworks going off, Cannon’s being fired and the Overture being played.
One doesn't have to know much about the Napoleon’s Russian Invasion to get a good sense of what happened just by listening to the music. Very dark and foreboding at the beginning, obviously things are not going well for the Russians. Increasing tempo and volume towards the middle, something climactic is occurring as the battle has been joined. Cannon’s firing and the music actually sounds like people running, followed by the jubilant bells signifying victory. This piece, no matter what my mood, always gets me pumped up. And, yes, I still wave my arms like a madman, even after my Daughter, who did play in a marching band, says my tempo is off and the direction is not understandable. Who Cares?
Borepatch yesterday blogged about Leonard Bernstein and Ode to Joy as it was played when the Berlin wall fell. Ode to Joy was sung at our wedding, so it also has a special place. I listened to it and then thought I’d like to hear the 1812 again. Went to YouTube and Lo and behold, with cannons.
A week or so ago, Sarge had a posting where the comments shifted from whatever Sarge was talking about to Winter TDY accomodations. I had offered up a Quonset hut at Chitose AB Hokkaido Japan, with a single coal stove with no coal as our quarters during a deployment there during winter. The purpose of the deployment was to determine if the JASDF (Japanese Air Self Defense Force) could support a deployment of USAF F-15s. The actual deployment will be the subject of a future story. This subset will involve classical music. Suffice it to say, it was cold, at least the first few days until we could convey the fact there was no coal. Much molar cooling by my counterpart (think hissing, which we interpret as a mean gesture, they intend it as a cover for embarrassment). There was coal that evening, but not much sleeping had been done. I had a Sony Walkman with me and I’d also brought some portable speakers. So I decided, since we all had the same briefing time, I’d roust the lads with a rousing version of William Tell Overture, keyed to play at the first appearance of the Lone Ranger. Well, the overall morale impact wasn't quite what I was hoping for, but it woke them up anyhow.
Couldn't leave a post without some gratuitous flying photos and a war story. (Buck was hoping I’d leave out my usual salutation, but….) So…There I was*, leading a 12 ship of Eagles in a pre-strike sweep for a 16 ship of F-16s.
|Source US Air Force|
The 26AS had their entire fleet of F-5s sitting alert on Clark waiting for the word to scramble and defend Crow Valley from the Yankee Air Pirates. We've all hit our tankers and are full on gas. It’s push time and I move the flight out to line abreast and start a climb. Contrail level is in the mid 40’s, so shouldn't be a problem for what we’re going to do. As we start the push, I switch the Eagles over to a different frequency on our #2 radio and, just as we hit the contrail level, switch on my Walkman which I've got jacked into my mike cord. Hit play and Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie blasts out. Here we are, pulling 12 cons from a 24 mile wide formation of supersonic fighters, playing Wagner over the Aggressor squadron common frequency. Life is sweet! Racing towards the merge, the F-5s are airborne, I kill the music and switch the formation to our tactical frequencies. Sort and lock on, we've got all the F-5s targeted (it is an incredibly useful although completely unrealistic advantage to take off from the same field as your adversary) and they’re all coming up to meet us Eagles and show us some love. As we get to firing range, still in the cons, I radio out the code word. 12 Eagles drop Chaff and execute a split S down to the 20s. The F-16s who were in trail with us, just below the cons and in the jamming vector from the EA-6B, had a field day with the F-5s.
Can't listen to Ride of the Valkyrie without thinking of that ride. The painting at 9:30 sums up how I felt.
What's your favorite classical martial music?
What's your favorite classical martial music?
*It's a war story!